Imagine waking up dead with a thirst for blood only to realize your family, who passed away years earlier, may now share that same, twisted fate.
Or what about being sentenced to hard labour – tree planting, specifically – in the isolated forests of Northwestern Ontario with a shady cast of characters just as the dead no longer die and blood becomes a highly sought after resource?
Immortality is there, but at a horrible cost. Do you become a villain or a hero? Do you become a monster or a super human?
These are the origins of Nowadays, an ambitious 300-page zombie graphic novel by writer Kurt Martell and artist Chris Merkley. And while the zombie-genre might have reached near oversaturation in almost every medium, the Thunder Bay duo are attempting to explore it from a unique perspective.
“In every zombie story you’ve ever seen they’re not characters they’re just the plot device that makes the characters do something. They scare them and run away or they kill them,” Merkley says.
“I wanted it to be more than just running away from monsters,” Martell says. “The idea is more tragic if we were actually in that zombie’s head. In our book, (zombies) talk, they walk, they run, they drive cars.”
Story continues after video ...
WARNING: The following video may contain violent content not suitable for all viewers.
They also think and make choices, which allowed both the author and artist to explore morality in a world without death.
And unlike authors like George R.R. Martin and Robert Kirkman, who have created world’s where fan-favourite characters lose their heads or get shot through the heart, Martell has created his universe so that death is only the beginning for some characters.
“That’s what I love about it is that we have characters that you may fall in love with and they may get killed but they come back as facets of themselves,” Martell says.
“We don’t have to write anybody off they just continue on a different path.”
In fact, both Martell and Merkely say that some characters only really come alive after they’ve been killed.
Taking a page from Night of the Living Dead Part 2, rather than usual zombie lore the characters can only be destroyed through fire.
That’s only discovered after characters attempt disposal methods outlined in conventional zombie stories. Some are scared of the fact that they’re now undead, while others relish in the new found immortality.
“You’re going to think twice before you smash a zombie in the skull after reading this story,” Martell laughs.
Martell started writing the fiction in 1999.
He figures he’s gone through 15 drafts since that time to get the story right.
Merkley, on the other hand, has been on board since 2009.
The pair received an Ontario Arts Council grant to start making the book. Since then, he’s spent thousands upon thousands of hours drawing for it. His style takes background photographs, over 10,000 of them taken from Thunder Bay to Beardmore where the story takes place, and inks the characters on top. He Then he scans the altered photographs into Photoshop to add colouring.
“It’s incredibly labourious,” Merkley says adding he spent 16 hours a day sometimes working on the art. “It looks really good but it’s stupid to do… thank God I have a wife that’s very supportive.”
“It’s awesome,” Martell adds.
Now that the book is complete, the pair need help to make it come alive.
They are trying to raise $20,000 to publish 2,000 copies. To donate, visit this website.
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