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Marvel's Essential Tales of the Zombie, reviewed.

Before Romero's re-invention of the zombie into the flesh craving, brain eating automation we know and love today, the typical animated corpse was more subdued, reminiscing about the good 'ol days while dealing with the Voodoo shenanigans responsible for its undead resurrection.

Such is the case of Simon Garth, Marvel's leading zombie during the horror comics rush of the 1970s. Read on for our review of Marvel's Essential Tales of the Zombie.

Graphic Novel Review: Essential Tales Of The Zombie

by Barry Harter

Essential Tales of the Zombie may sound like a masticating Marvel monster title, but the stars here are more the old-school shambling, working 24/7, in-need-of-a-union creatures, rather than the revamped George Romero flesh eaters.

That said, of all the Essential books, Zombie is my favorite. Part of its charm lies in the memories of after hours Saturday nights in front of a flickering 13" black and white television with the rabbit ears pointed just right to catch Count Gore DeVaul broadcasting on UHF 20 out of Washington DC. Or sleep overs at my cousins' near Pittsburgh PA, with Chilly Billy serving up a creature feature straight out of Famous Monsters of Filmland.
Essential Tales of the Zombie

Part of Marvel's Essential line of budget B&W comic book collections, Essential Tales of the Zombie contains over 500 pages of undead storytelling.

Though these years seemed to stretch out like a cat in a sunbeam, they were short lived, but still greater in number than Zombie that ran 10 issues with one annual of reprints.

The Essential's other appeal is the near page-for-page reprint of the originals.

Zombie is a direct result of Stan Lee's love of magazines and the Comics Code Authority of America established in the 1950s. When the self-governing body imposed a mandate on what was obscene, horror titles either fell in line or by the wayside. Atlas and DC changed format and took the teeth out of terror with anthology books before jumping on board with Hollywood's newfound BEMs that menaced the mid west.

When Lee reinvented the super hero genre, horror returned to the shadows as mystery men in spandex replaced them.

It was also about this time Warren Publishing began working outside the CCA's reach with Creepy and Eerie, black and white magazines giving a nod to the EC titles of a decade before. Others joined the pack and soon horror titles began peppering the magazine racks in legion. As sales increased with lurid covers often more interesting than their contents, comic publishers began to decry the double standard.

The CCA relented in the early 1970s with DC retaining its anthology books and Marvel working with a more serial format. But, not before testing the magazine waters.

Initially there was Dracula Lives and Monsters Unleashed. With a more mature look and higher price tag, stories took on a adult theme. Rather than explore relevant issues, most took a lower road and began showing more skin. For the most part hair and shadows hinted at a pubescent boy's dreamland, but a gratuitous butt shot was often a favorite every so many pages.

Essential Tales of the Zombie - interior artwork

Simon may not take after his Romero counterparts, but you can't have a good horror story without someone having a flesh craving.

For most of Zombie's run, the talented Pablo Marco handled artistic chores rendering robust women in issues two through six and returning for issues eight and nine with the help of Ron Wilson.

Steve Gerber scripted most of the stories fresh off scribbling advertising copy for Madison Avenue. Gerber became Marvel's premiere supernatural writer most recognizable for his work on Son of Satan, Man-Thing and the muck monster's spin-off Howard the Duck. The author was very verbal in his dislike of the horror genre, but handled the job, taking Zombie's alter ego Simon Garth from New Orleans coffee magnate to shambling Bill Everett nightmare.

Co-plotted by Gerber and Roy Thomas with layouts by John Buscema and finishes by Tom Palmer, number one begins with a flourish of voodoo ritual with a flashback to Garth's origin and transformation into the Zombie and back to a monthly quest for revenge and understanding.

A loveless man more intent on fattening his bank account than fulfilling the intentions of his lovelorn Creole secretary or spending time with his daughter, Garth is zombified and the resulting eight issues tell a tale of a man who finds his soul only after losing it.

It ends with a "one-more-day" scenario in which Garth regains his humanity for 24 hours to witness his daughter's wedding and make verbal amends to his estranged ex-wife.

While Zombie is the head liner, each of the magazines feature B backups of short fiction and sensationalized info-articles on the occult, zombies, and all things creepy and crawly, as written by some of Marvel's more notable mainstays like Chris Claremont and Doug Moench.

One of the real gems is an article by Tony Isabella introducing Brother Voodoo, then set to begin a five-issue run in Strange Tales. For some reason, the storyline involving the Black Talon actually ends in Tales from the Zombie No. 6.

He returns for a one-shot story in No. 10 when Marvel scrambled to fill the missing 30-page Zombie story that was somehow diverted to Guam prior to print.

And though Zombie deadends there, an advertisement at the back of the book previews issue 11 slated to hit the stands March 11, 1974.

Whatever the reason (though, when money fuels the engine, poor sales are usually the culprit), Zombie ended with issue 10. Garth was laid to rest until October 2006 when Marvel dusted off their moldering monstrosity for a four-issue mini-series.

Five out of five voodoo dolls for a collection that will have you growing one of those Bela Lugosi White Zombie Fu Manchus.

Five Stars

Rated Parental Advisory (Ages 15+)
ISBN 0-7851-1916-7
First Printing 2006

Collecting material from Tales Of The Zombie #1-10 and Dracula Lives #1-2.

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