Welcome to the next entry of this Yuletide Points of Light. Last week, I divulged into A Christmas Carol and mentioned its many adaptations. Today’s entry is one of them, a recent comic adaptation of the last few years. However, this version adds in one of the more recent modern literary trends, with frightening results. With that, I present Marvel Comics’ Zombie Christmas Carol.
While this story follows the basic outline of its source, it adds many new elements. England is in the grip of a zombie plague, with the people attempting to barricade and placate the ‘Hungry Ones,’ inside hospitals and workhouses. Unfortunately, the endless hunger of the zombies has drained resources, causing those in charge to beg for funds from Scrooge. He of course, recants, but is later visited by the zombified remains of Jacob Marley, who says Scrooge has a hand in both starting and ending the plague. The Three Sprits (suffering from the zombified world) show Scrooge how his past actions have played in the zombies creation, the current horrors, and the dark future that awaits. Scrooge eventually realizes that his abandonment of basic human kindness and belief in his fellow man is the very source of the ‘greed’ that infects the world, and it is only be reigniting that belief that he can save it.
What Writers Can Learn: Morality, Horror Elements
To begin with, I want to stress that this version DOES exist, and is not a fanfiction. Second, that despite what could be a rather gory and ludicrous story, this version still manages to capture the overall theme of Dickens’ novel. Of course there still IS gore and violence, but it serves as the backdrop for Scrooge’s redemption. The writers still use them well however, as they emphasize the darker nature of greed and selfishness that Dickens wrote against. And just like the novel, the comic shows Christmas under attack by these dark forces, not only through the zombies, but through the very Spirits themselves.
As I mentioned, each of the Sprits is affected by the horrors affecting their holiday. Christmas Past retains a feminine form with a connection to Scrooge, but is presented as a ragged corpse bride constantly dying and returning to life (a nod to the past itself, always leaving but never fading). Christmas Present begins much the same, but as he travels with Scrooge, his joy is slowly changed to melancholy and madness, as he shows Scrooge the happy world he should have entered into, and the world of death and endless hunger he is in. This version also contains the often-cut scene of Ignorance and Want, who literally spell the end of Christmas Present. Christmas Yet to Come, already a fearful specter, is little more then robe and jawbone, as he shows Scrooge a horrific zombie apocalypse where Bob Crachit’s beloved family devour him whole, Tiny Tim is damned to wander the earth, forever hungry, and Scrooge himself is shown a grave with a not quite dead occupant. Because of all these horrific twists, the often worn message of the story gains new and frightful resonance, even more so when Scrooge sets out to correct the world
Scrooge himself is shown with far more moral dilemmas then money. We see that his greed comes from an early misfortune of his youth, that hardened him to believe that man can never help his fellows, only starve them of love and life. As such, he has spread this sickness to other men and women, causing the very zombie plague his world is engulfed. This is an intriguing mix of Dickens’ original character and modern zombie elements, made more so by the revelation that Scrooge also carries the cure within him. His nephew Fred, originally a minor character, is given a major life, as he seems to carry a cure as well. (Spoilers Ahead!). It is through him, and his deceased mother, Scrooge’s beloved sister, that we learn the light of kindness and generosity is the only way to cure the zombies. When Scrooge ignites that within himself, we are again shown Dickens’ morals, but in an entirely light. For now, that basic human kindness and belief in goodness is enough to bring rest to legions of unhappy, hungry wanderers and save the very world. There are few who could read such a story and not look at their actions a bit differently as the holidays roll around.
Zombie Christmas Carol is a unique twist on a classic story, which would appeal to any who enjoy zombie gore and violence. However, it still retains the high minded ideals that Dickens originally set down, along with the requisite darkness and horror a good zombie story should have. The idea of love and goodwill restoring the dead is also a fresh, if slightly heavy handed spin, which seems to have gained ground in Hollywood (the film and novel Warm Bodies explores similar ground). While this is cannot be recommended for children, adults and teenagers looking for a fresh version of a Christmas classic should certainly pick up this volume.
This week, I was intending to continue with my Publishing series, but this particularly entry has required some additional information by an associate with greater experience. Therefore, today I will continue with my Genre Top 5, focusing on a current trend in writing- zombies. While I generally prefer zombie tales to the vampire and werewolf tales of the last few years (I’m looking at you Twilight), this doesn’t mean every zombie story is perfect. Some are little more than rip offs of classic films like Night of the Living Dead, with more gore and splatter then storytelling. What’s worse, many authors don’t try to take the idea of the zombie and infuse it with new ideas, like different settings or even humor. So I’ve list the best of the zombie novels I’ve read, which succeed because of the different takes they give the undead.
5. Hebert West, ReAnimator– H.P. Lovecraft
4. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies– Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
This was the first zombie novel I picked up, and I can say all my interest in the books come from this one tale. For literary buffs, it is an adaption of the classic Jane Austen tale, but places the Victorian characters into a minor zombie apocalypse, which has forced the five sisters to undergo intense self-defense training in the far East. However, the story never loses its Victorian feel or manner (the zombies are even referred to as ‘hungry ones’ to make things more civilized) and while Elizabeth Bennett is now resolved to slaughter the zombies of England, the book keeps intact her family’s dilemmas and her complicated courtship of Mr. Darcy. An excellent adaption that makes the classic novel easier to swallow for those not romantically inclined.
3. Night of the Living Trekkies– Kevin David Anderson and Sam Stall
A zombie story for the sci-fi crowd, this novel makes the zombie plague the result of alien parasites, who rapidly infect the crowd of a Star Trek convention in a Houston hotel. The story is filled with plenty of references for fans (the main character is named Jim Pike, an anagram of two Enterprise captains, and the chapters are named after classic and appropriate Trek episodes), and moves at a quick pace. But what truly makes it work is not just how well the references work, but also the surprising depth behind it. Pike is a Iraq War veteran dealing with severe fears from his time in war; he is terrified of taking responsibility for the lives of others, but is forced to do so (and reignite his Trekkie past) to save his sister and the few human guests left in the hotels. It is a story of personal growth mixed with phasers and brain-eating, and every aspect works brilliantly.
2. Deck Z– Chris Paulson and Matt Solomon
A historical zombie thriller, this takes the undead aboard the most tragic ship in recent history, the RMS Titanic. Thankfully, this is not a parody of the popular movie, but the tale of a post WWI German scientist who discovers a zombie creating substance that he hides above the ship to keep it from falling into the wrong hands. Unfortunately, an assassin causes the substance to leak and spread about the ship, just as the iceberg comes into view. While the concept alone will likely attract those hoping zombies will eat Celine Dion at some point, the story works because it doesn’t allow itself to delve into parody. The ship and events surrounding it are simply the background for a fast-paced story with enough historical accuracy mixed with zombie plague. Taking real figures like Captain Edward Smith and making them zombie hunters is effective, while the main characters hope to use the substance to cure disease makes him sympathetic and understandable. An excellent seafaring horror tale that James Camereon might’ve wanted to look at.
1. Apocalypse Cow– Michael Logan
An award winning zombie tale (it is the first recipient of the Terry Pratchett Prize), it focuses on cows and other animals in the UK being infected with a zombie-esque disease that also resembles mad-cow disease. While the premise is certainly silly sounding, the story works because the author expands the idea by having other animals infected (imagine every animal in America suddenly going mad and hungering for flesh). The human characters also work wonderfully, as each one has some relation to the outbreak- a slaughterhouse worker, a rebellious vegan teenager, and a reporter looking for the next big story. Their story mixes in both humor and heartbreak as they attempt to escape to safety while saving and losing members of their families and friends. It feels like a story that’s ready to be turned into a film, and I would eagerly pay money to see that happen.