We’ve all seen them. The attractive girl at the shop with a retro style that’s all her own. The laid back young man at the bar with the perfectly tousled hair, faded tee and keen grasp of history or politics. That group of friends in the restaurant booth that seem to have stepped out of a Sisters of Mercy concert. The men and women with enough style, sensibility and confidence to set them apart from the crowd, no matter where they may be. They’re the people that you sort of wished you knew. That seem almost too cool for everyday society.
That’s because they’re not people. They’re monsters. At least they are in the surreal world of iZombie, the quirky Vertigo comic on which the new CW series is based.
Written by Chris Roberson and drawn by Michael Allred, with sharp colors by Laura Allred, iZombie, much like the show it inspired, is not your typical zombie tale. The comic tells the story of Gwen Dylan, a young zombie working as a gravedigger and living in one of the cemetery’s tombs. Unlike traditional zombies, Gwen isn’t a rotting, lumbering corpse. She’s paler than average, but as long as she consumes at least one brain a month, she looks and acts more or less normal. She holds a job, has friends, goes on dates and lives a pretty typical life, outside the cemetery brain-eating thing. In fact, you could argue that she lives a cooler than average existence. A gothy, stylish young woman who works as a gravedigger? Tell me that’s a person you wouldn’t want to know more about if you met them in a café!
It can’t go unmentioned that the iZombie show, as more than a few fans have pointed out, has made some fairly big changes from its source material. (To learn the reasoning behind this, be sure to watch our exclusive interview with Executive Producer Rob Thomas.) However, the heart, soul and tone of the comic are all still intact. The show’s protagonist, Liv, is also a young, female zombie who must eat brains to maintain her humanity. Like the comic, when she eats them she experiences the memories and personality of the person whose brain she consumed, and is often then compelled to help them in some way. There are also show storylines that are also clearly inspired by aspects of the comic, but by and large, they’re each their own unique experiences deserving of your attention.
One key difference between the two is the existence of other supernatural beings. It’s unclear if things like vampires, werewolves and ghosts exist in the world of the show, but they absolutely do in the comic. Gwen’s two best friends are a ghost and a were-terrier, another key character is a reanimated mummy, while a gang of female vampires serve as early adversaries. This may seem like a kitchen sink approach, but the creators make it work with an early discussion that effortlessly and believably explains how it’s all possible:
Explanations aside, the concept works because all of the iZombie characters are fully formed and believable. They may not all seem like people you know, but if not, they’re people you want to know. They’re unique, quirky and cool, but not so far removed from the everyday that we can’t relate to them. Roberson has an unbelievable talent for writing realistic, flawed characters that still hold great appeal. We understand their motivations, even the villains, yet the rules of the world mean almost anything is possible, and even fully understanding a character doesn’t mean they can’t still surprise you.
Of course, we can’t write about iZombie without writing about Mike and Laura Allred’s art. Just about every page of iZombie is a colorful piece of pop art that’s fit for framing and display in your home or in a trendy café. Splash panels are frequent and gorgeous. Textures are used to set memory flashbacks and other supernatural elements apart. Characters are drawn in a diversity of races and body types that look far more realistic than what we often see in Hollywood blockbusters, yet still look sexy. In short, if you’ve never experienced a comic drawn by the Allreds, iZombie should be seen as a must read for this reason alone.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that part of iZombie’s appeal is its self-containment. Unlike other important Vertigo titles, its run was fairly brief—only 28 issues. The story is complete and collected in a series of four volumes. You can read it all in a day or a weekend, if you were so inclined. Best of all, there’s never been a better time to dive in. Vertigo just released a special edition of the first issue that’s only 99 cents. It’s now available at your local comic shop or as a digital download. If you want to grab the first volume, IZOMBIE VOL. 1 DEAD TO THE WORLD, it’s also readily available. Or if you’d like to dive completely in—or perhaps just complete your digital collection—you should take advantage of our upcoming iZombie Digital Comic Sale. It starts next Tuesday, March 17th (the same day the show debuts!) and will feature every single issue of the series on sale for 99 cents as well as a greatly reduced cost for all digital iZombie e-books. Look for it in the DC Digital Comic Store.
So have you read the iZombie comic? Let us know what you think of it below in the comics. And be sure to come back tomorrow for more great iZombie-themed DCComics.com and VertigoComics.com features!