People love superheroes, and people love zombies. So, by the transitive property, people love zombie superheroes. Or you could just consider how both Marvel and DC have told zombie stories, with the former even incorporating them into their recent animated show What If?
Now, people who love zombie superheroes can get their fix without all those pesky illustrations thanks to Marsheila Rockwell’s new superheroic horror novel Marvel Zombies: The Hunger (paperback, Kindle). In the following email interview, Rockwell discusses what inspired and influenced this story, as well as how it connects to Marvel’s comics, What If?, and the other Marvel novels published by Aconyte.
For people unfamiliar with the comics, or their appearances in the show What If?, who are the Marvel Zombies, what’s their deal?
The premise behind Marvel Zombies is that an unstoppable plague turns superheroes into ravenous zombies, some of whom retain their heroic nature and try to find a cure, while others succumb and are only concerned with finding their next meal.
And then what is your novel, Marvel Zombies: The Hunger about, and how, if at all, is it connected to either the comics or What If?
The premise is basically the same, but where the comics focus heavily on the zombified supers in search of their next meal, Marvel Zombies: The Hunger is more concerned with those heroes (zombified and otherwise) who are trying to fix the problem and save humanity rather than make a buffet of it.
Also, is there any connection between Marvel Zombies: The Hunger and any of the other Marvel novels that Aconyte have published, and in particular yours, Marvel Untold: Sisters Of Sorcery?
If the majority of Marvel’s comics occur in Earth-616 universe, the Aconyte version of said universe is just a bit off from that…say, Earth-618, or something. Similarly, if the majority of the Marvel Zombies comics occur in the Earth-2149 universe, then the working idea was that our version would be a few digits off from that. So mostly the same, but different enough that we could make changes that suited the book narrative without straying too far from the general premise of the comics.
Given that, Sisters Of Sorcery and The Hunger don’t actually occur in the same universe, so there isn’t currently any connection between the characters, even if versions of the same characters do show up in both.
So, where did you get the idea for the plot of Marvel Zombies: The Hunger?
A lot of the plot elements were already mostly determined by the time I got involved, but using Zelma Stanton was my suggestion, because I love writing about witches, and librarians just plain rock. How the characters got together, much of how they interacted, and many of the stops they made along the way were also my ideas, mostly informed by research I’d done on the various characters in their own storylines and comics. One of my favorite things about writing comics tie-ins is finding ways to connect to existing storylines, such as the scene in the book that occurs in the Atlantic Ocean. That encounter already existed in comics continuity; I just took advantage of it.
Tie-in work is always a collaboration between the license-holders and the writer, and it was great to work with folks with such creative ideas. And in writing comics tie-ins in particular, writers are always beholden to the work of the writers who came before us. As they say, we stand on the shoulder of giants.
Tales of zombies are usually horror stories. Well, unless they’re singing and dancing on the Disney Channel. Or fighting plants. Is Marvel Zombies: The Hunger a horror story, or is it something else?
Marvel Zombies: The Hunger is a horror story in that it involves an apocalyptic scenario in which the superheroes who were in charge of protecting humanity are now trying to exterminate it. But a lot of horror writers will tell you that the purpose of horror, in addition to scaring you or grossing you out or providing catharsis, is to leave the reader with a sense of hope, one that ideally carries over into their own lives, to whatever battles they are facing. And that was my aim: to leave readers with the sense that, while our protagonists are facing almost insurmountable odds, and very little goes the way they want or expect it to, in the end, they still have hope that they can ultimately win the battle.
Marvel Zombies: The Hunger is your seventh published novel. Are there any writers, or specific stories, that had a big influence on Hunger but not on anything else you’ve written, and especially not Marvel Untold: Sisters Of Sorcery?
Obviously, the various writers of the Marvel Zombies and other Marvel comics influenced what I wrote in The Hunger. But I also drew inspiration for various parts of the book from such sources as the Cthulhu mythos and the graphic novel Zombie Cop, written by Jeff Mariotte of Desperadoes fame. Full disclosure: Jeff is my husband, but that’s not why I’m mentioning this particular graphic novel; it’s a poignant study in how the main character fights against the slow but inevitable loss of his humanity and rationality as he turns into a zombie after having been infected. I highly recommend it for zombie fans.
How about non-literary influences; was Marvel Zombies: The Hunger influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games?
One relationship in particular was influenced by What If?; I thought it was rather gruesome and would be a nice Easter egg for readers who’d watched that series.
I’m not sure you could write a zombie story today without being influenced in some way by The Walking Dead (the TV series; I never read the comics — bad Marcy!) and its many spinoffs, but my own zombie movie influences tend more towards the Shaun Of The Dead and Zombieland end of the spectrum. Even with Deadpool as a character, The Hunger wasn’t really that kind of book, but I tried to get in a little of that humor where I could. And there’s a little Ted Lasso love in there at the end, too, though it’s pretty indirect.
You also write poetry. Which suggests you read poetry. Do you think writing or reading poetry may have influenced how you wrote Marvel Zombies: The Hunger?
Poetry definitely influences my prose writing. For one, I’m firmly in the Macbeth witches’ camp of spell-casting — rhyming couplets or it didn’t happen! So the vast majority of written spells in both The Hunger and Sisters Of Sorcery rhyme in some way (though not always very well, I’ll admit).
But writing poetry also gives me a love for lyrical language, so I’ll often weave things like alliteration into my sentences (like this one) to give them a different sort of flow or to better evoke a particular feeling. Words are amazing.
So, is there anything else people need to know about Marvel Zombies: The Hunger?
The biggest thing is probably that it’s got a different tone than the comics, and that’s intentional, so if you found the comics a bit bleak (I did), rest assured that you’ll be getting something a bit more hopeful with The Hunger.
Finally, if someone enjoys Marvel Zombies: The Hunger, what zombie novel of someone else’s would you suggest they check out?
Does a book I co-wrote count? Because my husband Jeff and I wrote a book about zombies versus psychopaths, 7 SYKOS, that was a lot of fun, so if folks liked The Hunger, they would probably enjoy it.
If not, I’m still going to cheat and recommend two anthologies edited by John Skipp and Craig Spector: Book Of The Dead and Still Dead. These are older (late ’80s / early ’90s), but were largely responsible for the resurgence of zombie fiction, and include stories by Stephen King, Joe Lansdale, Dan Simmons, and Poppy Z. Brite, to name just a few. Well worth the time to seek them out.