Rex, Zombie Killer, a look at the zombie apocalypse from the perspective of some above average house pets...and a gorilla, hit comic shops this week. Author Rob Anderson was kind enough to take some time to answer a few questions for us here at HorrorTalk.
James Ferguson: The premise behind Rex, Zombie Killer seems like a simple one: pets in the zombie uprising. It hasn't been done before though. Where did this come from?
Rob Anderson: It came from me literally looking at my pets (and the pets of friends) and thinking “what would happen to them in a zombie apocalypse?” I mean, sure, the easy answer is they’d get eaten. (laughs) But some would survive, some might try to find their owners, just as pets sometimes do in the real world. People tend to underestimate the tenacity of animals. There’s a story there I wanted to tell.
JF: Did you have any pets through your life that became an inspiration for any of the animals featured in the comic?
RA: All the animals (with the exception of the gorilla) were inspired by -- or are amalgamations of -- animals I’ve owned or worked with. Before I moved across the state, I spent a lot of time volunteering at an animal shelter. Brutus, in particular, is based on many pit bulls I loved -- dogs that had such a brave and gentle nature, but hadn’t been treated well in their past life. They just needed some kindness. Rex is made up of a number of Golden Retrievers, and both Buttercup the Corgi mix and Snowball the cat definitely have more than a little of my own pets seeping into them.
JF: How did you come up with the combination of characters for Rex, Zombie Killer? A few dogs and a cat seem like a no-brainer, but then there's Kenji the gorilla.
RA: Kenji really sprung from my lifelong love of gorillas in comics. I’m one of those kids who bought any comic book that included a gorilla. As an adult, I also got really interested in those language projects where primates were being taught sign language. So, if I was going to tell an animal story, it had to include a gorilla.
From the story side, Rex the Golden Retriever is extremely smart, and he knows that if the team is going to survive, they’re going to need some muscle...and maybe some opposable thumbs. As was seen in the short story in the “zero” issue of Rex, Zombie Killer (which was only distributed at a handful of conventions), it wasn’t random chance that Rex sought him out...and the baseball bat wasn’t Kenji’s idea either...
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JF: Zombie stories are always about the humans left alive, but in Rex, Zombie Killer, you've focused on the pets that those people left behind. In many ways, there's more of an emotional connection to these characters than in the Homo sapiens seen in several stories featuring the undead. Let's just say I never yelled at the comic like I do at the TV when watching The Walking Dead. Why do you think that is?
RA: I’m glad you connected with Rex and his pack! I hope other readers feel the same way. Part of it may be the general innocence of animals. They didn’t ask for this mess; they’re just trying to survive it.
Still, the animals are dealing with many of the same issues we’d have to deal with in a zombie apocalypse. What are you willing to do to survive? Can you protect your friends? So there’s that same underlying connection as a human/zombie story, but maybe without as much judging for viewer? (Like, to use your Walking Dead example: “Carl, stop wandering off and poking zombies with sticks!” And don’t get me started on Lori!)
Having said that, I’ve had several reviewers independently mention yelling out loud at the comic, pulling for Buttercup. But I think that’s cheering, rather than frustration. (laughs)
JF: Rex is clearly not your everyday Golden Retriever. Little is touched upon regarding his history in the lab or the doctor that cared for him. Can you shed any light on the background?
RA: As is hinted at in the #1 issue, there’s much more to Rex than meets the eye. He’s so smart -- unnaturally smart -- that he makes Lassie look slow. (laughs) We know he was initially born in an underground laboratory before ending up in California with the scientist who raised him. And there are additional hints that not everyone at that laboratory knew exactly what they had in Rex. I can’t say much more than that without giving away too much of the story! But, he’s extremely single-minded in his quest to reunite with that scientist, even if he has to cross a zombie-infested country to find her.
JF: How did artist DaFu Yu come on board?
RA: We met at a New York Comic Con networking event a couple years ago, and we both wanted to work together. Not too long after that, we collaborated on a short for an anthology title -- Great Zombies in History -- where we did a Spartan 300/zombie mash-up. We had a blast on that, and clearly DaFu could draw the heck out of zombies, so when I was developing Rex, I asked him if he was interested. Lucky for me, he was!
JF: How did the project end up at Big Dog Ink?
RA: That was more convention networking! I met Big Dog Ink publisher, Tom Hutchinson, a couple years ago at Heroes Con in Charlotte, North Carolina. I was impressed with what he was doing with Big Dog Ink, and we hit it off. Plus, we are clearly both dog lovers, so Rex was a perfect match with Big Dog Ink!
JF: This is a one shot, but there's definitely more to this story. How many more issues would you like to release?
RA: Yes, although we complete the “animals vs. zombies vs. bikers” tale in the one-shot, there’s definitely more to tell! At a minimum, I’d like to do at least four more issues, for a total of six (since the #1 issue was double-sized and contained two issues). There’s a larger story, even beyond that, but six issues would cover the first main story arc.
JF: What's in the immediate future for Rex, Zombie Killer?
RA: Right now, we’re just waiting to see how the market reacts to the #1 issue. That will really determine the future for Rex, Zombie Killer. The whole creative team wants to continue the story, so we hope we’re able to return to Rex and his little pack soon!
We'd like to thank Rob Anderson for taking the time to chat with HorrorTalk about Rex, Zombie Killer. The first issue of the comic is available at local comic shops now. You can find a comic shop near you using the Comic Shop Locator at www.comicshoplocator.com. You can find more information on Rex, Zombie Killer at www.RexZombieKiller.com.
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