Rex, Zombie Killer: Some dogs don’t go to heaven

Rex, Zombie KillerThe Walking Dead television series started up again this Sunday evening, but as you kicked back in your easy chair enjoying the latest undead drama, did you think to ask yourself, “Where are the animals?” No one has ever really addressed what happens with people’s pets when the inevitable zombie apocalypse hits. That is until now, with Rex, Zombie Killer (Big Dog Ink), an upcoming comic book by writer Rob Anderson and artist DaFu Yu.

Rex is an ultra-smart Golden Retriever whose intelligence has been engineered in a “special” laboratory. The story surrounds a group of animals, including a Pitt-Bull, a Corgi, a cat with an attitude and a sign-language speaking gorilla who carries a baseball bat. The incredible crew must make their way through zombies, evil humans, and other not-so-nice animals, to get from California to a secret bunker in Nevada and find Rex’s human – and hopefully safety.

“I’ve always wondered what happens to pets when the zombies arrive,” explains writer Rob Anderson. “And I’ve always loved stories that show the heart and tenacity of animals, like WE3 and Homeward Bound / The Incredible Journey. This is a story I’ve been wanting to tell since at least 2008, because it combines three of my big passions: animals, zombies and comic books.”

In this first issue, the action starts up right away and never really backs off. There are a couple of interesting flashbacks, especially regarding the Corgi, that helps to establish character, but in this first book we don’t learn how this group came together. The lack of origin though in no way detracts from the fun of Rex, ZK, it just leaves you wanting more.

Rex, Zombie KillerThe art is very well done, but there is noticeably quite a bit more detail in the creatures than in the dog characters, and artist DaFu Yu has said that, “From an artistic standpoint, I love drawing monsters, and zombies fit in that category. I’m already detail-oriented in my style, but I go a little crazy when I draw zombies!”  Colors by Kevin Volo make the pages snap and blend well with Yu’s meticulous monsters.

While on the surface it may sound like just another book jumping on the zombie bandwagon (wait – ‘Zombie Bandwagon’ is a great idea for a book), but Rex, Zombie Killer is a very will written and engaging story that goes far beyond just a simple gimmick. Writer Rob Anderson does an excellent job of getting into the heads of his animal characters and bringing them to life in a way that is believable and that elicits compassion from the reader.

I asked Mr. Anderson a few questions regarding his upcoming book:

I love the mixed genre approach and feel of Rex, ZK, and I noted the nods to WE3, The Incredible Journey and The Walking Dead, but how did Kenji the Gorilla end up in the mix?

Well, when you mention WE3, The Incredible Journey, and The Walking Dead, you’re listing things I dearly love. And that’s the bottom line for how Kenji got into the mix as well. From when I was a young kid reading comics, I’ve been a fan of anything with a gorilla in it, from Planet of the Apes to that DC Special on Super-Gorillas reprinted in the ’70s.  That may also have something to do with my later fascination with those real-world language projects where people raised primates in captivity and attempted to teach them sign language. I’m a huge believer in the “write the book you’d like to read yourself” school of writing, and so if I was going to write about “animals-raised-by-humans” fighting zombies, there HAD to be a sign-language-speaking gorilla in it!

In Rex’s world, animals communicate with each other and all seem to speak and understand a common language. Do you think a communicative bond of some type really exists between animals?

Well, it would be nice if it were true, but honestly, I don’t think so. That sort of communication is a common conceit of “animal” stories, so it is part of Rex, Zombie Killer. I do think a lot of communication and understanding beyond what we commonly perceive can occur though. A dog can understand quite clearly whether you like him or not, and whether you’re a stable person or not — perhaps even faster than another human could — even if he doesn’t understand your literal words, right? 

You wrote great animal characters for this book and their personalities are very well thought out and portrayed, but my favorite character is Buttercup the Corgi. You have perfectly captured the heroic naive nobility of the little breed. I’m guessing you are a Corgi owner, or have had lots of Corgi experience?

Ha! Guilty! I do have a Corgi mix and some of her personality has definitely slipped into Buttercup. And I own a cat as well. Buttercup is still very separate and distinct in a lot of ways, though, from my Corgi mix. I spent several years volunteering at an open access, no kill animal shelter before I moved away, and I worked with many types of dogs.  So all the animals — except for Kenji the gorilla, of course — are sort of amalgamations of some of my favorite breeds and types.

It is mentioned at one point that the dogs cannot bite the “rotters” for fear of turning themselves. Will we see zombie animals at some point in this story? What are the rules in Rex, ZK regarding the plague? Can it affect any animal?

Yes, animals can be infected in the world of Rex, Zombie Killer. In fact, in the zero issue, which was mainly available only at a few conventions last year, there’s a reference to a dog named Rascal having been infected. Therefore, all the animals in Rex’s little pack are in grave danger. As for whether zombie animals will pop up later…without giving anything away, it sure seems likely, doesn’t it? 

This book is being called a one-shot, but there are plans for more stories. Why not an ongoing series? After the release of #1 in April, how long will fans have to wait for the follow-up?

Rex, Zombie Killer is a one-shot mainly due to the tough market right now for Indie books, and the fact that an on-going indie book just didn’t seem financially feasible right out of the gate. The whole creative team would LOVE to continue the story — we have much more story to tell. It’s a tough reality, but the reaction of fans and the sales will probably determine how much more and how soon we’ll be able to publish the next Rex tale. So for anyone interested, please do contact your local comic shop and pre-order! That’s so crucial in this market, for creators, publishers, and retailers. 

We put our hearts into this — and tried to give great value for the price, with 50+ full-color pages for $3.50 — so we hope people get a chance to check out the book!

Rex, Zombie Killer is an original new chapter in the ever-growing undead mythos, and as an animal lover, adventure fan and apocalypse enthusiast, I loved this book, and I think you will too. It will be available in April 2012, but ask your local comic store to order it now from the February Diamond Previews catalog, and you’ll have something really fun to look forward to.

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