By TJ Dietsch
Few can claim to have started a genre.
|Empire of the Dead #1 variant cover by Arthur Suydam|
Many would argue Marvel kick-started the modern take on the super hero. When it comes to horror, “Night of the Living Dead” co-writer and director George R. Romero stands out as the undisputed king of zombie fiction. It only makes sense, then, that Romero would team with Marvel for EMPIRE OF THE DEAD, a five-issue limited series with artist Alex Maleev kicking off in January.
“I grew up reading comics and I've always loved them,” Romero says. “The good ones stretch the imagination. Writing a comic book does the same thing for me. It encourages me to explore new ideas and characters that I might not have tried otherwise. I can turn off the part of my brain that's always worrying about how to do things, like how I’m going to shoot a particular scene or how much it's going to cost. Of course, that time may come, if we adapt EMPIRE OF THE DEAD for other media.”
While discussing the differences between working on comics and film, Romero notes that he's always wanted to set a zombie film in the Big Apple.
“I grew up in New York, so it’s in my blood,” he explains. “I’ve never consciously avoided setting a film here. It just seemed appropriate do it now, for EMPIRE OF THE DEAD, which wouldn’t be called [that] unless it was set in the Empire State. I wanted a setting readers would recognize so that I could portray a familiar place in an unfamiliar way."
Romero wouldn't go into great detail about the book's human characters, but he did discuss them in a general manner:
|Empire of the Dead #1 cover by Alex Maleev|
“They’re either heroes, villains, or something in between, but they’re all trying to survive. The heroes are looking for a solution to the problem. Is it possible for the living and the dead to live together in peace? The villains are gathering as much power and privilege for themselves as they can, and sticking it to everyone else. And the people in between are just trying to get by without being killed. In other words, it’s pretty much like the world we live in today."
Previous films like “Land of the Dead” briefly explored the idea of zombies evolving, an idea which Romero will pick back up on in EMPIRE OF THE DEAD.
“Evolution doesn’t necessarily stop just because you’re dead,” he teases.
In one last mysterious moment, Romero talks very vaguely about something targeting humans separate from the zombie threat:
“I promised [Marvel Editor-in-Chief] Axel Alonso that I wouldn’t discuss this until [New York Comic-Con, but yes, I’ve been writing about some new predators in EMPIRE OF THE DEAD, and they’re hungry for the same kind of food as the zombies.”
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