George A. Romero adds to 'Dead' empire in comic series
05:00 AM, Oct 03, 2013
Start spreading the news: George A. Romero’s undead are taking a bite out of the Big Apple.
After invading a rural Pennsylvania farm, the Monroeville Mall and the Florida Everglades, the iconic horror director is taking his zombies to his hometown of New York City for the first time with the Marvel Comics 15-issue miniseries Empire of the Dead, debuting in January.
“I could never afford to shoot there,” Romero, 73, says with a laugh.
It’s still the major metropolis everybody knows but a few years into its zombie apocalypse. Some things have reverted to a prior state there are sheep grazing in Central Park’s Sheep Meadow. Yet there are strong social and political elements: The mayor is one of the main characters and a female member of the living dead starts to show some real smarts.
There also is a major twist on Romero’s horror oeuvre that he’ll reveal at New York Comic Con Oct. 10-13.
“It’s a comic book, which means we don’t have to go out and shoot the stuff,” says the Night of the Living Dead filmmaker, who wrote a 300-page Empire screenplay that is being put to page by Marvel and artist Alex Maleev. “You can let your imagination run wild and do pretty much anything you want, assuming it’s within the bounds of decency.”
Contrary to misconceptions, Romero’s zombies never ate brains (“They’d have a hard time cracking the coconut”). But in past films there have been hints that some of them have smarts, including Bub in Day of the Dead and Big Daddy in Land of the Dead.
One of the big questions he asks in Empire: Could zombies coexist with humans if the undead became more intelligent?
“These zombies are starting to show sparks of real care and concern for each other,” Romero says. “I’m not going to go all the way to Omega Man where they take over the world, but I’m having a lot of fun with it. We’ve got some new rules and new characters, and we’re taking it in a completely different direction.”
It’s huge for Marvel to be putting out an original three-act zombie story from Romero, according to Marvel editor in chief and admitted “zombiphile” Axel Alonso.
“World War Z, The Walking Dead everything grows out of a genre he single-handedly created,” Alonso says. “He’s been mining this landscape for decades now, and he always finds a way to look at it through a different lens and say something new about the world against the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse.”
All of Romero’s films have been about the stupid mistakes mankind makes and the ways we cling to old ways of doing things when something needs to change. While Empire of the Dead isn’t an extension of those movies, it’s still a reflection of life and violence on the streets today.
“It’s basically Chicago or Detroit. The city isn’t destroyed, but it’s just running on its engine, corrupt and no holds barred. It’s a little bit like the Old West,” says Romero, a lifelong fan of comics.
“That’s what I’m talking about now. There’s hardly any morality anywhere, except of course for our heroes.”