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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #263

Welcome to the two-hundred and sixty-third in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous two hundred and sixty-two

Comic Book Legends Revealed is part of the larger Legends Revealed series, where I look into legends about the worlds of entertainment and sports, which you can check out here, at legendsrevealed.com. I’d especially recommend you check out this installment of Olympic Legends Revealed to discover the fascinating history of just how it came to be that China (a country of roughly 400 million people at the time) sent just a lone athlete to the Olympics in the first year China participated in the Olympic Games.

This week is a special theme week, let’s say in honor of AMC’s upcoming Walking Dead TV series. All the legends this week are related to ZOMBIES!

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: A Marvel (well, Atlas) comic had the first (or if not first, extremely close to first) example of flesh-eating zombies!

STATUS: Appears to be True

The progression of zombies in popular culture is fascinating. Once just a minor corner of the pop culture world, zombies are now so popular that they’re likely neck and neck with vampires as the MOST popular horror concept, and that’s saying a lot, as vampires are really, really, really, REALLY popular.

In any event, zombies come from the Afro-Caribbean tradition of voodoo. But IN the Afro-Caribbean tradition, zombies were literally just dead people who walked among the living (usually do to some sort of spell). They did not eat people.

Meanwhile, a separate tradition existed for centuries of the “ghoul.” Ghouls did, indeed, eat people.

H.P. Lovecraft helped to expand the popularity of zombies and the walking dead, in general, during the early 20th Century.

One of his more famous stories, “In the Vault,” probably contains the first example in pop culture of a zombie biting somebody. But in the story, the living dead guy seems to be biting the other dude just in an attempt to inflict pain, not because of any general flesh-eating desires (of course, we don’t know that for SURE, as the whole “those cuts you suffered when your foot broke through that coffin? Those are BITE MARKS!” thing was the twist ending of the story). First published in 1925 (in Tryout Magazine), the story eventually got published in Weird Tales in 1932…


EC Comics definitely had a lot of zombie stories AND ghoul stories, and it was likely based on those stories that George Romero revolutionized the zombie in popular culture with his 1968 film, Night of the Living Dead.

In that film, Romero (also clearly using Richard Matheson’s take on vampirism spreading like disease – also similar to HG Wells’ Things to Come – and causing a sort of post-apocalyptic society in the classic novel, I Am Legend) established the idea of flesh-eating zombies as THE take on zombies from there on in.

Interestingly enough, the zombies in Night of the Living Dead are never actually identified as such in the film. They’re called ghouls at one point, but never zombies. Still, that is what zombies have become ever since.

However, in a 1952 Atlas (Marvel before it was called Marvel) story in the pages of Adventures of Terror #12, Stan Lee and Bernard Krigstein (drawing in a style designed to ape Marvel’s star artist of the time, Joe Maneely) gave us “Horror in the Graveyard.”

The only copy I have of the story is a reprint of the tale over two decades later, in the 1970s Marvel comic, Crypt of Shadows, which is a problem because after the Comics Code was developed in the mid-1950s, zombies were specifically banned from appearing in comic books, and the term “horror” was discouraged for use PERIOD (and banned from use in titles of stories or comics).

So “Horror in the Graveyard” became “Ghouls in the Graveyard”….

after he kills off his friends, the twist…

Luckily, the great website, The Krigstein Archives, has a copy of the original. Here, you can see the pages that were changed…

So yeah, Marvel had flesh-eating zombies nearly two decades before Romero popularized the concept in Night of the Living Dead!

Now, were they the FIRST use in popular culture? I can’t say for sure, but if they were not the first, they were pretty darn close!

Thanks again to The Krigstein Archives for the pages! I seem to recall that SOME reader suggested this – but I couldn’t find any record of it, so I might have just imagined that. If someone DID suggest it, please let me know and I’ll give you your proper credit!

COMIC LEGEND: Roy Thomas created “zuvembies” to get around the Comic Code ban of zombies.

STATUS: Enough False for a False

As I noted above, the Comics Code, as originally written, had a ban on the use of zombies. Well, in 1971, it was changed for the first time ever, changing restrictions on depictions of drugs (from “banned” to “not banned”) and vampires. Here, the relative novelty of zombies hurt them, as there was no great tradition of popular fiction to reference, unlike there was for vampires.

In any event, here were the new clauses….

General Standards – Part B

1. No comics magazine shall use the word horror or terror in its title. The words may be used judiciously in the body of the magazine.

[Footnote: The word horror or terror in a story title in the body of the magazine has been ruled to be an injudicious use, and therefore is not permitted.]

2. All scenes of horror, excessive bloodshed, gory or gruesome crimes, depravity, lust, sadism, masochism shall not be permitted.

3. All lurid, unsavory, gruesome illustrations shall be eliminated.

4. Inclusion of stories dealing with evil shall be used or shall be published only where the intent is to illustrate a moral issue and in no case shall evil be presented alluringly nor so as to injure the sensibilities of the reader.

5. Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, or torture, shall not be used. Vampires, ghouls and werewolves shall be permitted to be used when handled in the classic tradition such as Frankenstein, Dracula, and other high calibre literary works written by Edgar Allen Poe, Saki, Conan Doyle and other respected authors whose works are read in schools around the world.

6. Narcotics or Drug addiction shall not be presented except as a vicious habit.

So when Roy Thomas re-launched Strange Tales in 1973 (picking up with #169) by debuting a character named Brother Voodoo, well, it was going to be some trick doing a character in the voodoo tradition and NOT using zombies.

Luckily, Thomas had an idea and the Comics Code was happy to oblige him in his loophole.

Rather than using zombies, Thomas introduced the concept of ZUVEMBIES!!

They made their debut in Strange Tales #171 (written by Len Wein with Thomas involved in some aspect of the writing, possibly just as little as the “zuvembie” idea, I honestly don’t know)…

The term was then used in a few different comics throughout the 1970s at Marvel, including Werewolf by Night…

and the Avengers…

However clever the idea by Thomas was, there is a misconception out there that he CREATED the term. He did not, he just appropriated its usage for comic books.

The legendary Robert E. Howard coined the term in his classic story, “Pigeons From Hell,” which first appeared in the May 1938 edition of Weird Tales…


Howard used the term to describe a female zombie.

Being a big Howard fan, Thomas seized the term as his loophole term for zombies to get around the Comics Code.

And it worked!

Luckily, eventually the Comics Code would realize zombies are not really all that big of a deal. But eventually would not come for more than a decade, which would lead to some rather odd situations, like our next legend…

Thanks to reader Vinnie B. for suggesting this one!

COMIC LEGEND: An issue of ‘Mazing Man was released without Comic Code approval because of the appearance of zombies in the comic.

STATUS: I’m Going With True

I recently did a Year of Cool Comics post on the 1980’s cult classic, ‘Mazing Man, by Bob Rozakis and Stephen DeStefano.

‘Mazing Man was a fun, lighthearted comic about a wacky “superhero” who was just a rich short guy who wore a superhero costume and helped his friends in his Queens neighborhood with various “dilemmas” (almost always, the “dilemmas” would be stuff like “we forgot to cook dinner” and he would be sure to show up with take out, stuff like that). The comics also heavily featured his friends and their friends and family. The main narrator of the comic was his best friend and roommate, Denton Fixx, a comic book writer who looks like a dog.

In any event, in a notable early issue of the series, Denton has writer’s block, so the various characters pitch him story ideas, and each story idea is a different genre drawn by a different notable comic book artist. Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Denys Cowan, Kurt Schaffenberger and Joe Orlando all contributed stories to the issue (which had a framing device by regular artist DeStefano).

Well, here’s Orlando’s contribution…

And yep, the Comics Code rejected the comic because it had zombies in it!!!

Can you believe that? A comedy comic in 1986 getting rejected from the Comics Code for THAT!

So DC just released it sans Comics Code.

Reader Tony C. noted that he asked Bob Rozakis about this incident awhile back and Rozakis did not recall it.

In any event, three years later the Comics Code was changed once again (the 1989 revisions are actually their most recent revisions) to just drop all the horror stuff pretty much entirely.

Thanks to reader Vinnie B. for suggesting this one, also! Vinnie is a helpful fellow! And thanks to Tony for mentioning Rozakis not remembering it – if anyone knows this one to be false, let me know!

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comics Database for this week’s covers! And thanks to Brandon Hanvey for the Comic Book Legends Revealed logo!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is cronb01@aol.com.

As you likely know by now, in April of last year my book came out!

Here is the cover by artist Mickey Duzyj. I think he did a very nice job (click to enlarge)…

If you’d like to order it, you can use the following code if you’d like to send me a bit of a referral fee…

Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed

See you all next week!

98 Comments

I had forgotten about Roy Thomas’s use of zumvembies. Not to be nitpicky but I thought the story by Robert E Howard “Pigeons from Hell.” I’ve been meaning to track down the Howard work but I recall being frightened by the adaptation of the story on the Boris Karloff anthology series called “Thriller” , with Brandon de Wilde as one of the brothers that spends the night in the deserted plantation. From the synopsis of the Howard work, it looks like the TV episode was pretty faithful to the original.

Nah, that’s a fine pick-up, Iron Maiden, I changed it to the proper title. Thanks!

Hmmm. Y’know, I’m a huge Lovecraft fan (been reading him for nigh unto 4 decades now), & I’m also a huge zombie fan (at last count, I think I’d watched no less than 229 zombie flicks, 90-odd percent of them within the last 6 years) … but this is the first reference I’ve ever seen to “In the Vault” as incorporating “probably … the first example in pop culture of a zombie biting somebody.” I’m gonna have to think about that one.

Not that I’m doubting you, but is that observation an original one, or have you seen the point made elsewhere? Not saying you’re wrong, just — again — that I’m going to have to ponder it. (Probably depends on how, or whether, one distinguishes between “walking dead” & “zombies.” The latter are all the former, I’d say, but not vice-versa. Otherwise, I guess the Frankenstein Monster would be a zombie, which is a position hardly anyone would take.)

So if we just had the comics code back we wouldn’t have to read any more comics about zombies?

No, Dan, not an original thought on my part. I’ve seen it mentioned a number of places.

Here’s one chosen utterly at random (well, as random as picking one of the first things that pop up when a I google “Lovecraft In the Vault zombie” can be)

http://thehogshead.org/h-p-lovecraft-and-zombies-3687/

“Not that I’m doubting you, but is that observation an original one, or have you seen the point made elsewhere? Not saying you’re wrong, just — again — that I’m going to have to ponder it. (Probably depends on how, or whether, one distinguishes between “walking dead” & “zombies.” The latter are all the former, I’d say, but not vice-versa. Otherwise, I guess the Frankenstein Monster would be a zombie, which is a position hardly anyone would take.)”

Yeah, one of my friends was doing a term paper on Zombies, and he said the same thing.

Thanks! I’ve read an inordinate number of books & articles about zombie flicks & such (let’s be honest — in the book department, at least, *one* is probably an inordinate number ), but unless my memory is totally gone (always a possibility, of course) I swear I’ve never seen that assertion before.

I love the blurb in the bar-codeless box on the ‘Mazing Man cover.

“Green Lantern #200 is a Very Special Issue!”

Would that be the issue where Hal and Pie-face go to Mr Carlson’s bicycle shop?

Hmmmm. To “go to Mr Carlson’s bicycle shop” must be some sort of extremely off-color euphemism that I’m not familiar with.

Kids these days …

I’m unsure if you’re joking, as well, Dan, or if you honestly don’t get the reference. But just in case, it’s a reference to a “very special episode” of Diff’rent Strokes, where the local bicycle shop owner was trying to molest Gary Coleman’s character, Arnold, and Arnold’s friend Dudley.

Actually, I wasn’t joking. I’ve never seen an episode of Diff’rent Strokes in my life.

Yeah, don’t get me wrong, I would never assume somebody watched Diff’rent Strokes, I was only unsure because the episode has sort of transcended people who have even WATCHED the show itself to become just this giant symbol of tacky “Very Special Episodes” from TV series, when shows try to be topical and thought provoking and people just remember the hackiness of the episodes, like, in this instance, the bizarreness of the boss from WKRP trying to molest a little kid.

So I gathered. Basically, though, if the old (does it still exist? I haven’t gone there in years & years) “Jump the Shark” site didn’t hit on it as an example of the horrid species known as “Very Special Episodes,” I would never have picked up on it. Or, as noted previously, my memory could be going.

I’m really digging the art on that Weird Tales cover.

And, man, that ‘Mazing Man story…it’s amazing that it can make the CCA look tyrannical and completely toothless at the same time.

Tom Fitzpatrick

June 4, 2010 at 10:29 am

Does anyone think that Kirkman’s Walking Dead would be able to pass the Comic Code Authority?

Ha ha ha!

>Howard used the term to describe a female zombie.

True, but it’s a little more than just that:

“A zuvembie is no longer human. It knows neither relatives nor friends. It is one with the people of the Black World. It commands the natural demons — owls, bats, snakes and werewolves, and can fetch darkness to blot out a little light. It can be slain by lead or steel, but unless it is slain thus, it lives for ever, and it eats no such food as humans eat. It dwells like a bat in a cave or an old house. Time means naught to the zuvembie; an hour, a day, a year, all is one. It cannot speak human words, nor think as a human thinks, but it can hypnotize the living by the sound of its voice, and when it slays a man, it can command his lifeless body until the flesh is cold. As long as the blood flows, the corpse is its slave. Its pleasure lies in the slaughter of human beings.”

I remember when I was a kid, I had that issue of Werewolf by Night and that Avengers issue. I was probably 8 or 9 years old. I remember thinking “Why don’t they just call them Zombies!?!?!?!” It was years before I found out why. Good thing there was a comics code to protect me!!!!! (just kidding!)

Brian Hancock

June 4, 2010 at 11:07 am

If memory serves, All Winners Comics #1 had Captain America and Bucky fighting zombies. That was from 1941.

You remember correctly, Brian.

Just to add supplemental material, “Pigeons from Hell” was recently given a comic book adaptation/sequel from Dark Horse : http://www.darkhorse.com/Comics/14-789/Pigeons-from-Hell-1

I didn’t get the specific “Mr. Carlson’s bicycle shop” references, but “very special” has long been a euphemism for horrendous “uncomfortably topical” TV sitcom episodes, so I mostly got it.

AMC – American Movie Classics – is doing a series about zombies? That’s just… odd. (I WANT MY REMEMBER WENN! *Ahem.* Sorry about that.)

I remember being confused as a kid by “zuvembies”, too. (Was it a special kind of zombie?) I’d ever seen a zombie movie then (I never even got to see King Kong until I was about 11), but at least I had Famous Monsters of Filmland to show me all the great monster/creature movies I longed to see!

Say, any chance you’d consider reworking the intro to these posts? When looking at the index, there’s no way to know which column is which (save by date & #) because the tag lines are identical in every single one. (Or at least get the tags to display different lines?) Gets really hard to find items from past columns…

Gets really hard to find items from past columns…

Searching the archive should help, no? That’s how I find older posts when I want to reference them.

[…] Comic Book Legends Revealed #263 | Comics Should Be Good! @ Comic … […]

Why are zombies so popular these days? At least vampires have that “sexual desire euphemism” angle to them (not that I care for it either) but flesh-eating? I hope it’s not a case of “unhealthy fantasies” (like the recent Committed column mentioned); I’d hate to think some people fantasize about eating human flesh. *urgh*

Anyway, while I don’t care for the genre I don’t hate it either- what I mind is how they even bring it into mainstream comics. Did something like Marvel Zombies really need to happen? With even ghoulish versions of Power Pack? God.

And of course, DC had to rip that off in Blackest Night (trade “eats brains” for “rip out hearts”- same difference.)

I hope this fad fades soon.

I love the line “He’s a scientist, but not an intellectual or anything.” Oh, Reagan, what hath you wrought?

Drusilla lives!

June 4, 2010 at 1:16 pm

“EC Comics definitely had a lot of zombie stories AND ghoul stories, and it was likely based on those stories that George Romero revolutionized the zombie in popular culture with his 1968 film, Night of the Living Dead.”

Sorry to disagree with you once again Cronin, but that’s not where Romero got his inspiration for the “Living Dead” movies IMO. In fact, they bare only a passing resemblance to those old comics… which really don’t have much to do with flesh eating zombies.

Romero’s take (at least IMO) is more a twisted take on Erwin Schr?dinger’s ideas on the age old question of “what is life” and how he tried to reconcile life as a form of “negative entropy.” It is Romero who turns this concept around and gives death the role of “sucking order” from the living world to support it’s existence… well, that’s at least how I see it. This was a new concept which I don’t think exists in the EC horror comics (if it does, it’s not fully apparent… at least not to me).

Kamino Neko —

>>I’m really digging the art on that Weird Tales cover.

The second one, I presume you’re talking about. (Not that anything is wrong with the first one, but it’s not nearly the standout that the second one is). I assume it’s the work of Margaret Brundage, whom I’ve seen pulp art aficionadoes cite as “Mistress of the Sleek Nude.” Those females aren’t nude, but they’re certainly sleek.

“Zuvembies”… heh… Freaking dumb Code

Sijo, I always saw Zombies as bringing up a concept ALL humans are uncomfortable thinking about: Cannibalism!

Unless you count the rare shark or wild animal attack, we don’t have any natural predators that eat us. We’re at the top of the food chain!

So its a bit disturbing when you think of fellow humans, possibly people you once knew, wanting to take a bite out of you.

I had forgotten that Werewolf By Night’s name was Jack Russell. Now I have to forget it again.

Dan – yes, I mean the second – the first apparently failed to load for me when I read the article first.

Thanks for the artist’s name!

I also think zombies touch on people’s fears about the essential fragility of the structure of society, as well as the fear of problems that technology is useless against.

Basically, it’s not so much about the eating of people, it’s about suddenly finding yourself alone, with nowhere safe to go and no one to call for help, while all our fancy modern devices are useless to help. It’s the epitome of the apocalyptic scenario.

The whole eating people thing is just the cherry of horror on top of things. If it was just about being eaten, the stories would involve just one zombie. There’s a reason why it’s always hordes of the undead coming to get you.

Cory!! Strode

June 4, 2010 at 2:24 pm

I would like a check on that last one…for some reason I remember a statement in CBG from DC at the time at the code symbol had fallen off the cover art, and it was actually approved. Maybe I’m thinking some other book, but I remember something like that happening at the time.

Cory!!!
My guess is that you’re thinking of STARFIRE from DC in the mid 70’s. The first issue had no code….and it did INDEED ‘”fall off” as was stated in a later letter column….and was approved by the code after all.
Man…I loved “Mazing Man….just because of how unique it was……would love to see DC collect it into one place…..

James (as well as Sijo & Snikt Snakt) —

>>Basically, it’s not so much about the eating of people, it’s about suddenly finding yourself alone, with nowhere safe to go and no one to call for help, while all our fancy modern devices are useless to help. It’s the epitome of the apocalyptic scenario.

For me, the real source of horror with zombie stories is the idea that the people one knows & loves could somehow be rendered coldly soulless but still functioning, like machines or feral animals. (The fact that they harbor ill intentions toward one, up to & including cannibalism, is, as James puts it, “just the cherry of horror on top of things.”) That’s why I’m at least as big a sucker for alien-possession or -duplication type scenarios (a la Invasion of the Body Snatchers) as I am for zombie flicks.

I’ve had nightmares along those lines off & on since at least my mid-teens (before I’d ever seen Body Snatchers or more than 3 zombie flicks); that sort of horror just resonates to my very core, for whatever reasons.

“Why are zombies so popular these days? … *urgh*”

I think it is because people look around as they go through life and see an ocean of shambling morons around them. Zombies are just on click up from that.

I remember thinking the “zuvembie” name was just stupid. They’re zombies! get over it!

That’s the same way I felt about the term “Maggia” that I remember mostly from Spider-Man comics.

Did Marvel refrain from using the term Mafia out of fear of the mob? Or of anti-defamation leagues? Or was it part of the Code that you couldn’t use the term.?

Oh, and Seabury Quinn is the most awesome name since Max Power.

i agree with Sijo with the hope that this trend fades rapidly. i was sick of it when it started.
At least it saves me money,
DFTBA

The Mutt —

>>Oh, and Seabury Quinn is the most awesome name since Max Power.

Not only that, his day job was editing the funeral industry magazine Casket & Sunnyside!

Brian from Canada

June 4, 2010 at 4:51 pm

I disagree Snikt, and so would George Romero.

Romero recently linked zombie films to comments about society. Nowhere is this more apparent than when you take a look at Dawn Of The Dead, which is really about the spread of American consumerism. Once it hits, it can’t be stopped, and those that survive have to rebuild society beyond the survival instinct.

Survival’s also a theme in alien invasions and disasters. But with disasters, the cupboard’s pretty bare — there’s only so many times you can destroy Paris before we get that we’re screwing up the planet. And as for science fiction, you need a cool alien to invade, something special effects houses aren’t really getting.

So you get zombies. And with ghosts now creeping out of videotapes and white noise just to make us crap our pants, and werewolves pretty much de-fanged (up to and including the new one) as just animalistic until shot, zombies also get the prize slot of being next of kin to vampires, which are really hot…

and not scary. Seriously. Does Robert Patrick scare anyone? Other than with weakness in his acting? Same goes with other tv vampires.

At least with zombies, they stay evil all the time. They’re out to gross and frighten — and, most importantly, eat bullets, flames, cars, or whatever else we can toss at them. Zombieland turns it into the amusement of killing; others turn it into a cautionary tale of medical mishap; but always it’s about mutilating walking bodies and feeling no remorse because, well, they’re dead.

bernard the poet

June 4, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Different Strokes and that sitcom with Burt Reynold’s girlfriend, both ran episodes about child molestation.

You have got to be joking.

@wrecksracer:

I remember when I was a kid, I had that issue of Werewolf by Night … I remember thinking “Why don’t they just call them Zombies!?!?!?!”

The lead character apparently wondered, too. Check his dialogue in Panel 3: “You mean they’re zo—”

Nice bit. Following the letter of the Code, while hanging a lampshade on it.

And don’t forget Peter Parker’s infamous encounter with Skip in a school handout.

my guess on maggia vs mafia is that marvel wanted a word they could own.

Different Strokes and that sitcom with Burt Reynold’s girlfriend, both ran episodes about child molestation.

You have got to be joking.

No, I meant that the actor who played the boss on WKRP was the molester.

I look forward to reading Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed each week, but I think the last legend about ‘Mazing Man should be changed to a “false”. I originally thought it was true as well, but when I asked Bob Rozakis about it back when he was writing a column for another comics website, he couldn’t remember any problems with the Code objecting to anything in that issue, and suspected it was inadvertently omitted. You can find the column in question here:
http://www.comicsbulletin.com/bobro/102012196563826.htm
Right under the “FEEDBACK ON PAST COLUMNS DEPARTMENT” headline.

Good thing Maytag makes such high-quality domestic appliances. It would be bad PR for them to have the news talk about how their repairman is molesting people’s kids while on the job at a customer’s house.

I just cant see that goofy Mr Carlson molesting kids.
Les Nessman on the other hand….

Does the comics code matter anymore?

jjc —

>>my guess on maggia vs mafia is that marvel wanted a word they could own.

It didn’t matter one way or the other, really, since J. Edgar “Mary” Hoover went to his grave insisting there was no such thing as organized crime in the U.S.

I just searched the art of Margaret Brundage, whom I’d not heard of before today.

Wow.

She was also the basis for one of the Prometheas in Alan Moore’s Promethea.

Interesting variety of opinions on the appeal of zombies.

My own take is that they are a mix of comment on the fragility of society (showing how badly it can now stand with small, isolated communities) and the fear of being the target of the hostility of the majority.

It is worth noticing that zombie films and other media include such cliches as the person who is infected but does not want to admit it, the search for safehouses, the paranoia due to wondering who may reveal himself as a zombie next, and the despair due to the loss of so much that is dear.

Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, remarkably, has had several issues literally without zombies, including the last few. Before that their latest notable antagonists were a group of non-zombified people who lost themselves terribly to despair. It’s Romero’s social comentary turned back towards the post-zombies society itself.

Andrew Collins

June 4, 2010 at 11:08 pm

I’m with Mr. M here. I had never heard of Brundage either, but after Googling her name, I immediately came up with dozens of Weird Tales covers that I had seen before (I’m a big Conan fan) and feel bad now that after all these years, I had never known her name. Her artwork is just amazing and very unique in its style and presentation. Great stuff.

In all fairness, it is blood the ghouls are after (like vampires) and not flesh (or brains). A minor distinction. And it is unclear if they even actually consume the blood.

Travis Pelkie

June 5, 2010 at 1:43 am

I was wondering how ‘Mazing Man fit into this. I forgot the one “Writer’s Block” story. That’s a good issue, and the whole series is awesome. I’ll have to look at the cool comics piece about it. And if I see Rozakis at another Ithacon, I’ll try to ask more about this. Looking at the cover, it seems obvious the code symbol is intended to be on there, but that could have been pre-production layout, and possibly it just fell off. But it could have been designed in advance and then was removed due to being rejected.

I just got that Strange Tales 171, because I wanted to read a Brother Voodoo story, and it was a quarter. Wowie, I didn’t know it was the intro of the term “zuvembie”!

I like how on that Avengers page, after Scarlet Witch says “A zuvembie!” there’s instant silence. You think they’re all going, “WTF is Wanda talking about? Zuvembie?” Do you think maybe no one was really surprised when she snapped in later years?

Dan Bailey I think has a good observation that the peak of zombie horror is reached not just when we are surrounded by, in effect, crazy homocidal strangers who want to kill and eat us (which is also the abstract situation in, say, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or the Howling), but when our friends and family members join this horde. These are the moments Romero (the Shakespeare of zombies) usually held back as aces up the sleeve to be played late in the movie: the little girl killing her mother, and Barbara’s brother showing up as part of the mob that breaks into the house in NOTLD, or Flyboy’s return at the end of DOTD. Even when such things happen earlier, they still pack huge punches (e.g. Roger’s return in DOTD. The destruction of zombie Roger is one of the most powerful moments in the whole series, notwithstanding it happens off-screen)

It’s been interesting to see the rise of zombie popularity over the decades. There was a boom in the early 80s, that perhaps enchanted a generation of kids who have since grown into today’s movie-makers. VCRs were achieving saturation penetration around then, too, making much easier for people everywhere (not just in big cities with art-house cinemas) to see relatively obscure and/or older movies and so nourish a taste for a particular genre.

Tastes in horror (as all else) are cyclical. It’s just zombies’ turn at the moment, again (though never before have they had the mainstream budgets to the current degree). There was a time, post-Halloween, when the masked slasher was the premier boogie man for years. In the wake of the flood of (almost always vastly inferior) imitations, he became unfashionable for a while before being revived by the self-reflexive Scream series, but now seems again out of fvaour. I can remember when werewolf movies were the fad, or devil-children, and vampires (after being top of the tree all through the 60s) practically vanished from our screens for a long time. Fright Night used some of Scream’s self-reflexive tricks on the vampire genre a decade earlier.

It does seem that specific characters go “stale” in the public taste faster and for longer than their archetypes do. So, it’s a long time since there have been regular Frankenstein movies (in the 40s there was almost one a year for a while), and while we have vampires on screen at the moment, few of them are called Dracula any more.

I agree that watching Gordon Jump as a child molester was freaking weird. I also agree than Richard Sanders would have been a lot more convincing. His Les was a creepy dude. Gordon was too nice a guy for these kinds of roles.

But I wish I could bitch slap the code censors over all these “ghoul” and “zuvembie” scenarios. For the love of Pete…! They ruined Wonder Man’s big comeback with all this rubbish. He’s A FREAKING ZOMBIE, Wanda, you dumb a$$.

“That’s the same way I felt about the term “Maggia” that I remember mostly from Spider-Man comics.

Did Marvel refrain from using the term Mafia out of fear of the mob? Or of anti-defamation leagues? Or was it part of the Code that you couldn’t use the term.?”

I’ve always assumed it was choice #2—Italian American groups protested very loudly about people using the word “Mafia” in fiction. Perhaps a future CBL column?

Seabury Quinn was the most successful writer in Weird Tales back in the day, bigger than Howard or Lovecraft. What little I’ve read of him doesn’t impress me though.

random surfer

June 5, 2010 at 5:53 am

zombies were literally just dead people who walked among the living (usually do to some sort of spell).

That’d be “usually due to some sort of spell.”

Fraser —

>>Seabury Quinn was the most successful writer in Weird Tales back in the day, bigger than Howard or Lovecraft. What little I’ve read of him doesn’t impress me though.

At least Howard got a cover or two (or maybe more … I have no idea). HPL never did while he was alive.

Several paperbacks collecting Quinn’s Jules de Grandin occult detective stories came out in the mid-’70s, & I’m pretty sure I bought at least a couple, but I don’t recall making it more than a few pages into any one volume. His best story is supposed to be “Roads,” apparently a treatment of the Santa Claus myth, & I *might* have that in some Weird Tales collection or other … but I’ve never read it.

Oops — that “Anonymous” is actually me.

As I said, I don’t find zombies particularly worse than vampires or werewolves. What baffles me is their current appeal, because I see them as being so limited in potential. OK, so yes, the concept of the dead rising to kill was innovative- once. And the shock of being attacked by your dead loved ones is understandable- the first few times. But we’ve seen SO many permutations of the same now, and unlike vampires, zombies have no minds and therefore aren’t true characters- you cannot write as well about them as you do other monsters that can be explored as, for example, victims of their conditions. It’s just “braaaains!” all the time. (Yes, Marvel Zombies is an exception, but probably *because* they realized just seeing silent superhero zombies all the time would get old fast.) Blackest Night also got tiresome quickly with its “they just want to provoke your emotions so they can eat them” bit as well. It made all its crossover issues feel very repetitive.

Also, would a zombie apocalypse really happen? Sure, there would be worldwide panic and millions would die, but we *already* have well-equipped armies that would eventually sweep them all away, not to mention world governments *already* prepared to hole up (in case of a nuclear/biological war) who would organize the resistance. It might be the most traumatic moment in human history… but it would not be its end.

John Trumbull

June 5, 2010 at 10:40 am

The thing I find most shocking in this entire entry is that the Comics Code hasn’t updated since 1989.

“Why are zombies so popular these days? At least vampires have that “sexual desire euphemism” angle to them (not that I care for it either) but flesh-eating? I hope it’s not a case of “unhealthy fantasies” (like the recent Committed column mentioned); I’d hate to think some people fantasize about eating human flesh. *urgh*

Anyway, while I don’t care for the genre I don’t hate it either- what I mind is how they even bring it into mainstream comics. Did something like Marvel Zombies really need to happen? With even ghoulish versions of Power Pack? God.

And of course, DC had to rip that off in Blackest Night (trade “eats brains” for “rip out hearts”- same difference.)”

So you complain about the flesh eating component, and then you complain about DC changing it out. I think maybe you just want to complain.

Sijo —

Read enough books (as I have over the last few months, for whatever reason) on actual historical &/or very possible future pandemics, contagions, etc. & a zombie apocalypse doesn’t seem as incredibly far-fetched as one would ordinarily think. I mean, the Black Plague wasn’t the end of humanity, either … but it was about as horrific as anything from George Romero’s wildest dreams.

With that, I’m off to watch the newest zombie flick that I know of, Autumn, courtesy of Netflix.

Just wanted to throw in my two cents to saying that the archive needs to be updated. I tried to find the article with the Superman comic with the ad for ‘do you want to read more stories about black people?’ article with my Droid and it took me forever to find it. A page that just lists the various legends questioned on it and it would be awesome if you could click on the link to take you to the page/legend.

Sijo –

I never was a big fan of zombies, but I think the idea has a lot of potential, even though it’s a simple one. I mean, look at all the answers posted here, is there any other sub-genre that can instill fear and uneasy from so many different sources?

– Fear of death.
– Uneasy about how fragile society is.
– Paranoia that everyone is out to get you (including your family and friends).
– Fear of infection/of becoming one of “them.”
– Uneasy about conformity (that can apply both to consummerist Western society and mobs of religious zealots).

We have here a combo of primal fears.

A few years back I was reading the novelization of the movie “Resident Evil: Apocalypse” (I was bored, sue me) and there was a character in it who spent a solid page contemplating how Marvel comic books had used the word “zuvembie” in place of “zombie” to get around the comics code. This made me look it up and find out it was indeed true.

It’s what popped into my head as soon as I saw the legend for this week.

I also think it’s safe to say that the 1989 revision of the comics code will turn out to be it’s final revision. Outside of Archie and DC (who will publish the its comics even if it doesn’t get code approval!), does any company use it? I think the comics code itself is a zombie now!

A page that just lists the various legends questioned on it and it would be awesome if you could click on the link to take you to the page/legend.

That’s what the archive IS.

When I read that Avengers, I just assumed that ‘zuvembie’ was simply an alternate term from some other branch of Voodoo– Jamaican, perhaps, rather than Haitien.

how is zuvembie pronounced?

Travis Pelkie

June 5, 2010 at 6:02 pm

Yeah, I was gonna ask, Brian, did something happen to the archive? Geez.

To comment on this “Gordon Jump playing a child molester” thing, I never saw the episode myself, but I would say that the episode would seem to “work” better as a “hey kids, be careful” scenario BECAUSE Gordon Jump doesn’t “seem” like a child molester. Exactly. That’s why kids should be careful. Of course you avoid Les Nessman, that’s common sense. But kindly Gordon Jump is who you’d think would be ok. And that would seem to serve the story better.

And was Nancy Reagan actually on an episode of Diff’rent Strokes (why did a show with THAT title have to do the “very special episode” about a child molester? sorry, bad joke), or did she just do “Just Say No” PSAs with the cast? Because Just Say No with that cast apparently fell on deaf ears.

And, uh, zombies, just to get back on topic. Yeah.

Nancy was in an actual episode. I remember watching it.

Good point about Gordon, Travis. My favorite WKRP episode dealt with his son who had been shipped off to military school. It did a nice job of showing us child-like Mr. Carlson’s more serious, paternal side and I was moved by it. (My next favorite ep is the classic “flying turkeys” one, followed by the somber “The Who” concert tragedy. Man, WKRP really was a great series.)

Nancy Reagan was in the Diff’rent Strokes episode where Dudley tried drugs, but she never appeared in anything regarding child abuse. Near the very end of the run, Arnold’s stepbrother Sam is kidnapped by another dude who lost his own kid or something to that effect, though. This was after the move to ABC and I believe it was a two-parter. I remember the TV Guide ad with Gary Coleman and Conrad Bain looking real worried. It had “VSE” written all over it, literally I think.

I think there is confusion about the archives because one lists the subject matter and the other just lists the columns in order with the same description underneath.

I think there is confusion about the archives because one lists the subject matter and the other just lists the columns in order with the same description underneath.

I don’t quite understand that confusion, as there’s only one archive linked above. “Click here for an archive of the previous two hundred and sixty-two” (which takes you to only one archive – the one that lists the descriptions of the legends).

That’s right. The other list isn’t named as an archive, but it appears when one clicks the “Comic Book Legends Revealed” link right under your byline.

Oh, the category listing?

I gotcha.

Well, if it doesn’t say “archive” on it, folks shouldn’t presume it’s an archive, especially when there’s a thing in the article that says “click here for an archive.”

“So I gathered. Basically, though, if the old (does it still exist? I haven’t gone there in years & years) “Jump the Shark” site didn’t hit on it as an example of the horrid species known as “Very Special Episodes,” I would never have picked up on it. Or, as noted previously, my memory could be going.”

Technically it still exists but is no longer worth visiting, existing in name only. TV Guide bought the site, erased the old material, and now uses the site to write bubblegum articles about current shows jumping the shark. It’s the ultimately irony that Jump the Shark itself jumped the shark.

Oh man, get this, it no longer even does THAT! Now it just sends you to tvguide.com.

That’s so depressing.

Ah well, I’m sure the fellow who coined the phrase at least got paid well for it. So good for him!

Travis Pelkie

June 6, 2010 at 12:35 am

Thanks for the Diff’rent Strokes info, Lt Clutch (never thought I’d be saying that). Maybe you know, was that stepbrother you mentioned the one that the phrase “red headed step child” refers to? And was it the kid who was later Budnick on Salute Your Shorts? And did you know the kid who replaced Budnick on Salute Your Shorts is in the band Rilo Kiley?

And I realize from how I typed, I did give the impression that I thought Nancy Reagan was on the child abuse show, but I was just continuing to talk about DS, and moved on to other famous things regarding that show.

Damn, who started this Diff’rent Strokes stuff? VorpalK? Why, man, why!?!

So, again, yeah, zombies. And ‘Mazing Man is great. And I’ve typed too many words with apostrophes in them.

LOL. Yeah, that’s actor/musician Danny Cooksey alright. He’s married and has a child now, which makes me feel really old.

Here’s link to the now-archived original Jump the Shark site:

http://web.archive.org/web/20010119170500/http://www.jumptheshark.com/

I spent many an afternoon laughing my head off at the commentaries and even left a couple of my own. It’s too bad that the owner sold it after it had become such a sensation. TV Guide is the one that deserves to go. Their once indispensable, digest-sized weekly went extinct years ago.

I wrote to Bob Rozakis and Stephen DeStefano regarding ‘Mazing Man during my time on Facebook and supported a trade collection of the series. Maybe DC will get around to it if we keep reminding them.

Travis Pelkie

June 6, 2010 at 5:30 am

Yeah, I mentioned to Bob when I saw him at Ithacon how they ought to do a Showcase book of ‘Mazing Man. It was 12 issues, plus 3 specials, so it’s a good length. They could throw in the Hero Hotline mini and intro stories from Action Weekly, too, and it’s 21 + issues worth of stuff.

‘Mazing Man 12 has a Frank Miller Dark Knight cover! A Frank Miller Dark Knight cover!!! It must have been an awesome series!!!

They did a Showcase of Eclipso for 10 bucks, do ‘Mazing Man/Hero Hotline, DC. Please?

@Aaron Poehler: My point was that zombies (at least unintelligent ones) do NOT work as characters, and that limits their potential when compared to say, vampires. But sure, go ahead and complain if that’s what you want. ;)

@Dan Bailey: I think there’s quite a difference between a zombie plague and a regular one. Also, the whole “taking over us” idea was already popular in the ’50s with alien invasion movies. I still don’t see anything in the zombie genre that really stands out or has that much potential to be explored. Seriously, everything from Dawn of the Dead to The Walking Dead just feels like the same idea to me, recycled over and over with even less variation that superhero comics. But of course that’s just my opinion.

Re; Jump the Shark “Oh man, get this, it no longer even does THAT! Now it just sends you to tvguide.com.”.

That’s true if you use the traditional URL. I just did a search on Google, and the heavily mutated version still exists under a different URL. So if you want to see what that once fun site has become, go here and watch in horror:
http://www.tvguide.com/jumptheshark/

” ” So yeah, Marvel had flesh-eating zombies nearly two decades before Romero popularized the concept in Night of the Living Dead! ” ”

The Ghouls clearly state they want blood, not flesh…

The key is that at this point in popular culture, ghouls ate flesh (or blood, or whatever) while zombies were just dead people who still walked around like living people. Night of the Living Dead changed that for good – and this Marvel story was an early precursor to that take on zombies (as doing something other than just being living dead people).

Okay, it’s hard to *browse* past columns when they all have the same description. :)

That’s fair enough – but, again, I’d say just go for the archive then. It’s easy to browse and it has descriptions for each column. I went to the archive and searched for “survey” and it took me right to the one about the survey DC did about “black people.”

” ” The key is that at this point in popular culture, ghouls ate flesh (or blood, or whatever) while zombies were just dead people who still walked around like living people. Night of the Living Dead changed that for good – and this Marvel story was an early precursor to that take on zombies (as doing something other than just being living dead people). ” ”

Sure, but that’s no reason not to make the sentence be more accurate by adding (well blood-eating ones at least) to it… :P

[…] on Superman CBR- All Zombies Revealed Marvel Same Day Digital Deadpool Shatterstar Weapon X or Weapon 10 Break the Fourth Wall Fletcher […]

BRIAN!!!! START READING THE COMMENTS IN THIS AICN TALKBACK REGARDING THE LOBO/HITMAN CROSSOVER.

http://www.aintitcool.com/talkback_display/45411

Also, I can concur that the ability to browse your past article archives is complete crap and should be referred to as an “inability to browse your past article archives”.

[…] A terceira e última lenda apontada na coluna é que uma simples história de comédia, leve e direcionada a família, foi publicada sem a aprovação da Comic Code só porque um personagem contava um breve história que continha zumbis. E isso aconteceu mesmo. Foi na revista de ‘Mazing Man, de Bob Rozakis nos anos 80. A história é totalmente inocente e mesmo assim não recebeu aprovação. A história pode ser conferida no CBR. […]

Iggy Pop's Brother Steve Pop

June 11, 2010 at 3:04 pm

“The key is that at this point in popular culture, ghouls ate flesh (or blood, or whatever) while zombies were just dead people who still walked around like living people. Night of the Living Dead changed that for good – and this Marvel story was an early precursor to that take on zombies (as doing something other than just being living dead people).”

That’s a real stretch. If they don’t eat flesh, they’re not “flesh-eating zombies.” Q.E.D.

The argument you’re employing is, “The zombies in this story behave more like Romero zombies than like traditional zombies. Romero zombies are flesh-eating. Therefore the zombies in this story are flesh-eating,” which does not scan logically.

So uh… not to be a corrector… I’m pretty sure you guys got it right about H.P. Lovecraft presenting the first flesh eating corpse… But its not in “In The Vault.” That story does have the biting corpse as stated but in Lovecraft’s “Herbert West – Reanimator” a reanimated corpse is linked to the disappearance of a young girl and when the corpse is found and “killed” it has an small arm bone with a hand still attached clutched in its mouth. This story was published in 1922. “In the Vault” was 1925.

That’s my nit pick.

The End.

I think it says something that, a year after this discussion, zombies are still the “in” thing in pop culture. I actually hope it goes away soon not because I’m tired of zombies, but precisely the opposite. As a fan of zombies, I’m tired of having to wade through ten crappy cash-in zombie products (comics, movies, books, video games, whatever) before finding one good one.

It’s for this reason that I almost skipped Kirkman’s “The Walking Dead”. Thank God I got the first collection as a Christmas gift, because that series is amazing.

I’m a wee bit late on this, but zombies did not originate from voodoo, as it is an amalgam of several belief systems that formed in Louisiana, the Haitian vodun is where zombies originate, which are believed to be people placed in a death like state, stolen away after burial then forced into slavery in their drugged zombie ,.state, there are tales of zombies returning to their families, seemingly being drawn instinctivley home, several of these cases have proven to be hoxes however, so there may be no truth to this. I’ve read way too much about zombies it seems.

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