Phoenix Comicon: Department of Zombie Defense (DOZD) – Keeping the undead down

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The Department of Zombie Defense
DOZD Members (L-R) Special Agent Josh Heilner, Commander Michael Gonzales, Special Agent Cameron Beach, Special Agent Shane Painter, Commander Shaun Hayes

It seems that there is a zombie at every turn this weekend at the 2012 Phoenix Comicon, but attendees needn’t be afraid as the ever vigilant Department of Zombie Defense (DOZD) team is on hand to serve and protect the valley’s signature pop culture event. Their motto – “If it’s dead…we’ll kill it!

The DOZD was founded in 2009 by friends and Department of Corrections co-workers, (DOZD Commander) Shaun Hayes and (DOZD Commander) Michael Gonzales, when they wanted to come up with something fun to do that could also help raise money for charities like the Wounded Warrior Foundation.

The zombie defense group is celebrating their third Comicon event this year and their organization has grown to over 200 members, whose backgrounds are as varied as military veterans, local authors, police officers and a city land surveyor. Commander Hayes said that in the beginning, some of his co-workers thought the group was “kind of dorky” until they came out to one of their events, now many of those same people are DOZD members and have embraced the fun community spirit the team enjoys.

The Department of Zombie DefenseThe Department of Zombie Defense’s mission is, “eradication of zombies and defending the human race…one bullet at a time.” But it really is all about having fun, even for the zombies, which was evident at Thursday’s Comicon opening night as the group faced sporadic surprise zombie attacks in between photo ops with excited fans.

Even though they enjoy themselves, the DOZD members also practice military-style discipline and speak with a mix of warlike lingo and traditional undead euphemisms, using terms like walkers, targets, ghouls and to “bug in” (to take up shelter) or “bug out” (to leave your shelter). When asked how the Phoenix heat might affect the behavior of zombies, Special Agent Josh Heilner said, “The heat actually prolongs the decay and because of the low humidity it causes a mummifying effect.” Extended zombie life sounds like bad news for the valley of the sun.

The Department of Zombie Defense
The Department of Zombie Defense

The group has a strategy for survival that can easily be adapted to “real world” scenarios. DOZD Special Agent Shane Painter has even written a book on survival techniques, The Urban Survivalist Handbook. Special Agent Painter also teamed up with DOZD co-Founder, Commander Shaun Hayes, to write KE-12: Featuring the Department of Zombie Defense, a fictional account of how the zombie apocalypse might go down here in the Phoenix area (SPOILER ALERT – It starts in Mesa.)

You can learn more about the DOZD, including member bios and weapon preferences, on their web site at They are actively recruiting new members who want to protect and preserve public safety in the zombie uprising and co-founder Commander Michael Gonzales encourages you to, “Join the good fight!

DOZD provided Comicon security for World War Z author and zombie expert, Max Brooks, during last year’s con, and they also escorted 4500 zombies during the convention’s Zombie Walk (they expect 8000 walkers this year.) The group has a full agenda of events planned for this year’s con, including:

  • Prepare for the Zombie Apocalypse with DOZD: Friday 10:30am – 11:30am
  • Jeopardy – Zombie Style: Friday 12:00pm – 1:00pm
  • Zombie Walk: Friday 7:00pm – 8:30pm
  • Zombie Beauty Pageant: Friday 9:00pm – 10:30pm
  • Brain Eating Contest-Round 1 (16yrs & Older): Saturday 10:30am – 11:30am
  • The Great Zombie Debate (Slow or Fast): Saturday 12:00pm – 1:00pm
  • Brain Eating Contest- Round 2 (16yrs & Older): Saturday 4:30pm – 5:30pm
  • Brain Eating Contest-Youth (15 and Younger): Saturday 6:00pm – 7:00pm
  • The Walking Talking Dead: Saturday 7:30pm – 8:30pm
  • Brain Eating Contest – FINAL ROUND: Saturday 9:00pm – 10:00pm

Read ALL the Nerdvana 2012 Phoenix Comicon coverage HERE!



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