Thursday, April 5, 2012

Book Review: Marvel Essential Tales of the Zombie

Once again were venturing a bit far from the truth-in-advertising. Tales of the Zombie was never an "essential" Marvel Comics series by any stretch of the imagination. Heck, they were just happy to use the word in a magazine-size book so they could get past the
Comics Code Authority ban on even using the word "zombie" in a comic book.

Marvel Comics took a liking to horror comics back in the seventies, after two decades of making do with giant monsters, aliens and, of course, super-heroes, after the Seduction of the Innocent controversy that took the teeth and artistic flair out of EC Comics and pretty much banned straight forward horror comics that weren't adaptations from literature. Ghost Rider, Son of Satan, Tomb of Dracula and the Frankenstein Monster were just the most visible of this onslaught of creatures of legend.

The black-and-white magazine line that Marvel started allowed their creators to do more adult-oriented stories. Savage Tales, Vampire Tales, Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu and the like were all fairly popular, especially where people could actually find them. I know I rarely every saw and issue of any Marvel magazine except for Crazy on any of the newsstands near my hometown. One bookstore seemed to stock them infrequently, but since they usually had a full line of four-color comics, I didn't really care much at the time. I didn't really start reading many horror comics until I was a lot older.

This Marvel Essentials volume reprints all ten issues of Tales of the Zombie, along with some related stories from the first two issues of Dracula Lives. Roy Thomas, Steve Gerber, Doug Moench, Tony Isabella and Chris Claremont all provide scripting for this volume, and John Buscema, Gene Colan, Bill Everett and Pablo Marcos are among the many artists in it. Most of this was in black-and-white to begin with, and is properly atmospheric.

The titular zombie in these tales is Simon Garth, a businessman who caught his gardener trying to have his way with Garth's wife. The gardener got his revenge in a voodoo ceremony, where he killed Garth and later brought him back to serve him as a zombie. Naturally, he lost control of the zombie and Simon Garth started wandering from one situation to the next, serving whoever had the twin of a voodoo amulet that he wore.

Besides a Simon Garth story, each issue of Tales of the Zombie usually had a fairly good reprint from the fifties or sixties, along with several other new horror tales, usually voodoo-themed. Brother Voodoo made a few appearances, both in stories and in text features. The long text features are also reprinted, including one on the movie Night of the Living Dead. The two Dracula Lives stories feature the Lord of the Undead against the voodoo queen Marie Laveau.

Simon Garth actually got his final rest in issue number nine, following the sacrifice of his former secretary and voodoo initiate. He reverted to a living human being for 24 hours, getting the chance to set his affairs in order and get some revenge for closure. The following issue was to have had another story about Garth, but scheduling problems prevented it (the artwork was stuck in Guam), so the final issue of Tales of the Zombie was filled with tales of other zombies, along with Brother Voodoo.

Essential Tales of the Zombie is, I have to say, an enjoyable read. A current reader will have to remember that these are tales of classic zombies, not the Romero-inspired, brain-eating undead of current cinema. Simon Garth is a character more along the lines of the Frankenstein Monster, with almost as much pathos as that legendary figure. The artwork is good, the stories are fairly well written for the genre, and the price tag ($16.99) is not too dear for a volume of decent horror stories, if you're a fan of that genre, that is.


by Rich Meyer

If you name a comic book character from the last 70 years, you'll probably find a question about them - from Thor and the X-Men, to Superman and Batman, to Little Lulu and the Pink Panther. There are questions about almost every genre of comic book - superhero, funny animal, teen, horror, war, humor. 

This quiz book has 1,001 questions (and answers) for the most neophyte of fans and questions that will probably stump a few of the experts!

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