Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Walking Dead: Graphic Novel vs. Television Show

I'm going to be honest right now. This argument of "the book being better than the *insert alternate medium here*" is an overplayed argument that diehard fans will take to the grave. I did my independent for my B.A. on the injustices that happen when transitioning the graphic novel form of Watchmen into a film. I could make this whole argument 35 double-spaced Times New Roman font, toss it into the English Department at the university and call it a focused example of modern literature, examining the delicate nature of crossing boundaries. But this is my blog.

     So, instead I'm going to aim at the very fixed and crucial positive/negative points between one medium versus the other. Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead series is one of the best Zombie literature series available on the market. The best part: it's still going and it's not deteriorating. The graphic novel (not going to use the term comic because of negative connotations) is collected in many different forms. There are the single issues, the frontline of what's being released as the most recent copies; the volumes, which are six issues collected into one paperback piece; the books, which are twelve issues collected into one hardcover piece; the omnibus editions; which are twenty-four issues collected into a slipcase; and the compendium, which are forty-eight issues collected into a single paperback piece. I have amassed every volume edition of The Walking Dead that are currently available, only missing two issues to date, and I have only positivity towards the series.
     The storyline is a capturing experience that grabs viewers from the very beginning, taking Rick Grimes into a hellish world that both alters his character and creates a new type of hero, being one who offers to be the scapegoat of sins, but the protector everyone desires in a zombie apocalypse. Characters in the graphic novel are usually developed throughout action, dialogue and even expression, the true sign of a great artist. It takes the time to reveal character in each person, showing how a world full of undead beings can bring out the best and worst in people. The two sided coin is shown through character development influenced by zombies: are people reacting towards a society that has no law, rules or restraints? Are they merely changing because of the outside influences or are they merely revealing their true selves? Utter monsters and redeeming saviors are created throughout the story in The Walking Dead, and I'm not referring to the zombies in any case.
     With the success of the series, AMC greenlighted an adaptation of the graphic novel. A lot of excitement was first to be abound. I admit myself, the first episode of The Walking Dead (AMC) was spectacular and true to most aspects of the graphic novel's first issues. But obviously, like family prodigies and siblings, if you hold something in high regard by comparing it to a predecessor, you set yourself up for eventual disappointment.
     The television series The Walking Dead began with an accurate representation of the graphic novel, only changing a few minor details (zombies in hospital were kept in the room in the TV show; they chased Rick out in the book...etc). The show sets up a small point of view with Morgan, who Rick meets in the same fashion as he does the novel, showing Morgan's remorse for his lost wife and his fatherly instinct of his surviving son, Duane. Morgan sits on his top floor, aiming down his rife scope at what used to be his wife, shaking and breaking down as he tries to squeeze the trigger, but cannot bring himself to do the deed. The first episode was truly breathtaking. What followed the first was like falling down a hill, smashing into rocks with your face and eventually landing in a quarry full of dogshit, where the dog responsible immediately finds you and vomits directly in your mouth.
     Episodes 2 through 6 both took creative influence over the series, adding in and removing characters, morphing storylines and needlessly tossing things around. I had no idea who some of the characters were because of the fact that they were never in the graphic novel and dialogue was subpar. Carol's husband appears, they make him abusive, and eventually gets eaten by the same swarm of zombies that take Amy's life and through infection, Jim's. During this attack, I counted at least two-three people being chewed to god damn pieces that I had no idea were even alive until they were screaming to death. As a matter of fact, half the characters are transparent. Why? One thing the show lost that the series was famous for was character development. Characters that appear in the show that don't appear in the graphic novel's storyline you could easily mark with an expiry date. Reason being, they aren't explored at all. I don't want to make this spoiler-littered, so I'll basically say that some things that should have already happened haven't, and other things that have happened made me wonder if I was watching a lame 80s action movie.
     There's a terrible amount of what I could write about concerning the problematic nature of the television show, but the main umbrella issue that encompasses a bunch of the other smaller issues is that the television show is picking and choosing instead of remaining with a consistent continuity. To clarify that, the creators of the television show are taking some elements of the book and following it verbatim, taking other elements and vaguely following it, and completely fabricating some elements and distorting the prior two categories. The problem with this is that it's an injustice as an adaptation. If you want to create a television series of The Walking Dead and wish to use creative license, why don't you set it apart from the original by making a sidestory of some other area? Probably because it wouldn't grab viewers. Instead, taking the original series and morphing it causes to lose some of the most redeeming features the book was well known for.
     Other issues of the television show slowly deteriorating in quality include the fact that actors aren't always signed on for the whole show. If actors drop out, and the show was, in a hypothetical sense, following the graphic novel series almost verbatim, then you've lost a character and now have to kill them off, or blatantly replace them with an unfamiliar face. I suppose televised directors also demand a fair amount of drama, more than the book already contained in fair portions, so they've kept a certain character in wish I kept hoping would die. But no.
     Ultimately, it does not thrill me to watch the television show. It doesn't capture any features of the graphic novel that it should and can also be boring at certain times. Queue scene where everyone stands around and conspires like kids in high school about "how that guy got bitten" and what they want to do, which takes a fair amount of the show. The last episode completely threw the series in a god damn loop. They explain the virus, introduce a character, throw out the quiet black woman and the new character (Cheddar, because this show wasn't already cheesy enough), and then all the characters escape an exploding building 80s action style-esque. Which is alike of the ending to the Street Fighter film, a guilty pleasure and horrible deformed lovechild of the video game movie genre.
     I recommend picking up the series if you love Zombie-lore, because if you haven't read it yet, you have no idea what you're missing. And if you want, watch the first episode of The Walking Dead (AMC). But only the first, for the love of god. If you watch anymore, then it's your own damn fault and you're a glutton for punishment.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Zombie Game that Aims to Redefine

     A Zombie game, only known under the project name of Class 3, (Class 3 being the initial launch stage, working out any bugs and issues, then releasing a final version, known as Class 4) is being released by Undead Labs sometime soon in 2011. With the help of Microsoft Game Studios, the game is aimed to be released on the Xbox Live Arcade. The game is planned to have an MMO playmode, as well as a 1-2 player solo or cooperative main game playmode. The most interesting thing I find about the game that stem from the developers' comments is the level of respect and understanding that is expressed by them about the zombie genre. Jeff Strain of Undead Labs told 1up ""We all go to zombie movies like Zombieland and come out afterwards and have a beer with our friends or significant others and kind of sit around and say, 'What's your plan?' Strain continued relating his own personal experience and interest in the Zombie genre, and emphasized that "We want to create the definitive zombie survival experience . . . It hasn't been done yet, and we think that there's a tremendous game there to be made, and we want to be the ones to make it."
     Undead Labs aims to do what most game developers and companies who have released Zombie-related games have not yet managed to pull off: creating the actual experience of surviving a zombie apocalypse. Zombies could be seen as a subgenre of the survival-horror genre, but can stand as its own genre, since Zombie films, books and games do not always incorporate a theme of survival, mostly depicting undead massacres, creative murders of rotting dead corpses, and escape. Looking back at the Resident Evil game series, in particular the earlier games, such as the first, second, and third games. Those games stood mostly as the survival-horror genre: they scattered ammo so it was sparse, made every enemy a potential threat, and created a startling experience, not knowing where the next enemy could strike by using fixed/static camera angled environments. You could say the games were Zombie games, which was true for the most part; however, classifying the game, it would fall under survival-horror. Most would wonder why, and it's because, primarily, the game uses few zombies. Other creatures included lickers, hunters, giant creatures (shark, crocodile, snake, plants, etc), and a number of other mutating creatures. It isn't a zombie apocalypse, but a massive biohazard outbreak, that doesn't always primarily create zombies, but other beings. Sure, there are a number of films that originate the cause of a zombie outbreak to be a biohazard of some sort, but those perspectives usually aim to create a main focus on zombies, lots and lots of them.
     In the case of Undead Labs, I certainly hope they are true to what they say. The game, if focused on the key aspect of surviving a zombie outbreak, not tearing through it by massacring the slaughters, but feeling helpless if you were surrounded by hundreds, would prove to be an innovative game to say the least. I'm certainly going to pick this one up to see if it can man up to the hype provided by Undead Labs.

I'm out for the weekend, so I probably won't update for a bit. But to give you a taste of what's coming up in the future, this is what I plan on reviewing:
The Dead Series, George A. Romero's (Night, Dawk, Day, Land, Diary, Survival)
Return of the Living Dead Series (5 films)
Satircal/Comical Zombie Films (Shaun of the Living Dead, Zombieland, a few others)
28 Days Later versus 28 Weeks Later

If anyone can suggest any films that I should cover, games or books (will be some time, a lot of reading for uni to do), feel free to comment and follow! I love 'em all the same! 


Thursday, February 17, 2011

This Looks Promising...

A game that's been in development for quite some time and has managed to catch my interest once again: Dead Island. Due to complications and postponing, the year of release was bounced around quite a bit. Now that Pegi18 ( has a grasp on it, the year that appears at the end of this more artistically portrayed video shows "2011." Reading up on the game on their Facebook page ( shows information that the game is going to be mainly focused on first-person melee combat, have a four player co-op, weapons customization, set in an open world, use RPG elements for character development, and of course, zombies. Sounds promising, but hopefully they don't make this game like other zombie games already on the market and focus on breaking into true characteristics of the zombie genre, such as survival, socio-cultural deformation and making instant life-threatening decisions.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Upcoming Zombie Titles to Look Forward To...

Sorry, I've been busy lately! I'm planning on reviewing some retro to newer zombie games in the next little while, but I've been tied up with university. For the moment, I'm just going to list a few of the titles I'm really looking forward to in this year and 2012.

Escape of the Living Dead: You can call it torture, but I'm going to put myself through another one of the new Living Dead movies. Necropolis and Rave to the Grave were poor and terrible, and I'll probably list a review for the whole series in a few different blogs.

Evil Dead 4: Should have probably left it at a trilogy. It could provide to be a great movie, but they've really got to impress me on this one to get me to even budge.

A Few Brains More: Sounds like a parody of "For a Few Dollars More," you know, the Western series. I'll probably love the cheese factor in this after playing Undead Nightmare for Red Dead Redemption.

Cell: For me, Stephen King Films are a hit or a miss. This one's based on one of his newer books that I've yet to read, where the signal emitted from cell phones cause a mass mutation of zombies. A little cliché to imply technology is creating lazy people and metaphorical zombies, but this could be awesome.

Zombieland 2: 3D: I loved the first one, because it was like a Zombie Survival Guide with just the right amount of cheesiness. Hopefully they can keep up the good work.

There you have it! Some of the titles I'm looking forward to, but needless to say, I try to watch any movie with Zombies in it. Gotta love 'em. Signing off.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Two Birds, One Stone: Reviews of Two Unsatisfactory Zombie Films

This will be my first blog post, so allow me to introduce myself. I am the Pop Tart Fine Diner. You can say I am a connoisseur of the trashy things in life, but one man's trash is another man's treasure. I do reviews from time to time, video games, films, books, you name it. But to whomever happens to read, I hope you enjoy. Feel free to comment on anything.

     I've watched several zombie films, ranging from metaphoric examples of what society could become to the downright cheesy and gory deaths. I usually prefer the previous over the latter category, but I enjoy both kinds of zombie movies all the same. The hype of a movie doesn't affect how I will enjoy or perceive it: it's all a matter of how well the director portrays the atmosphere, culture, people and zombies in the films.
     Anytime I go to rent a movie, being bored on the weekend or procrastinating from writing another paper, I usually just look around for anything zombie-related. The cover of a film doesn't ever dissuade me from picking it up. It's pretty evident that "judging a book by its cover" is something that you really shouldn't do with films--but you'd probably end up being right either way with some films. In particular, these two.
     I ended up renting the tribute/homage Night of the Living Dead Reanimated and Wolf Wolff's Beast Within, probably better known to a Western audience as Virus Undead. The two films try to persuade viewers in both synopsis and comments on the movie covers. Reanimated emphasizes that the film is a homage to the original Night of the Living Dead, using several artists to recreate scenes from the original film. Beast Within bears the statement "Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds meets Outbreak" on its movie cover to sell itself, with no indication of who originally spoke it. If true, both films should hold some very profound artistry and enjoyable content, thrilling a viewer with familiar yet new material that they would hold dear to the original. Sometimes the originals should be left alone and I believe these two films to be proof.

      Night of the Living Dead Reanimated began with a scene that prefaced a movie with a man dressed as a vampire, describing the exquisite corpse that was being brought forth to the viewers. I totally understood that this was a homage, tribute and simply a fan-made movie, done for free by the artists involved, but the fact that I was watching a guy who looked like he worked in a gag shop imitate a Transylvanian accent with a generic rubber chicken hung from a noose next to him should have been my first warning. That and the random sponsors that included Demonoid.
      The film had several artists, mostly collected from Deviantart, which was painfully obvious. The first groan of disapproval came at the horribly rendered scene where Johnny and Barbara are standing over the grave in the graveyard. The scene in particular, looked like it was half-assed within ten minutes in Microsoft Paint. The giveaway was the Times New Roman font typed into a crudely drawn semicircle in the background, supposedly representing a gravestone. From then on, my expectations became crushed, like a zombie having its brains bashed in. Although a lot of scenes actually had great artists, such as the penciled animation reminiscent of Aha's Take on Me, charcoal drawings and single extremely detailed sketches, the downside to these better artists was that they were only used for a single frame or discretely to the point where their involvement in the movie could have been anonymous or even unknown. What annoyed me about the more superior art was the camera would often shoot around, shifting rapidly in chaos, trying to recreate some implied locomotion or struggle in a scene. The "3D" supposed "artist," and I use that term for this individual very sarcastically, used Garry's Mod from the Half Life 2 Source Engine in order to create a number of scenes. It might be my hate for Machinima, but that doesn't even strike me as something artistic at all. This could be because the person didn't make any skins (which would have been impressive) for the characters. They simply used what was already there and half-assed it. Another art style that only annoyed me was the amorphous blobs was random crude detail of implied shapes, that inverted the white and black colors rapidly, almost to a seizure-inducing level. The art for the most part, in the film, caused a headache and boredom that wanted me to reach the end of the film as quickly as possible.
      My biggest complaint with the film was that it wasn't exactly clear until the film started that it was meant to be a mediocre parody, which the humor sadly comes from some of the terrible art styles used in the film. If I picked up the movie and knew it was going to be a shoddy tribute using, for the majority, craptastic art in parodied fashion, then I would have been expecting it and possibly enjoyed it a bit more. Honestly, anyone can defend it and call it a tribute or homage, simply celebrating the love of the first film. I understand that. To put it personally though, it's like building a "tribute" model of a muscle car by finding used and rusted parts from golf carts, snow blowers and lawnmowers. Sure, it may get a laugh because of how it looks in the end, or a few claps in the audience for effort, but once someone tries to start the ignition, there's going to be a lot of disappointment--which was my case.

      The other movie I watched was Beast Within by director Wolf Wolff. I'll be absolutely honest, I may have made it anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour and ten minutes into the film, then I turned it off. Why? Well, besides my girlfriend complaining about how terrible the movie was (she was justified for the whole portion of the film that was watched), I just couldn't get into it. It was boring, the characters were deattached from themselves and it seemed like it was overall terribly written. Every single one of the male characters had some sort of hybrid accent that I could not for the life of me figure out where they may have originated. I started to realize that the accents of the male characters sounded like they were all trying to imitate the voice of Sulu from the Original series of Star Trek. The "bullies" were just absolute douchebags for no reason given whatsoever; the "cop" was always seen eating a doughnut and couldn't give any less of a shit when he heard a gunshot in the town; the two girls at the gas station seemed like they were imported Americans who threw a fit over absolutely nothing and the two guys ditch their third guy friend to get laid at the mansion later on. Yeah, seems like legitimate human interaction to me. The movie "put down" when the zombified versions of the former bully douchebags started entering the mansion. Whatever disease/solution was based on battling the Bird Flu had caused the outbreak, turning assholes into even bigger assholes.

Overall, they both ranged from mediocre to garbage. I would rather watch a terrible movie than a boring one.

Night of the Living Dead Reanimated: 4.5/10
Wolf Wolff's Beast Within (First hour): 2.0/10 

This is Pop Tart Fine Diner, signing off.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

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