The first time I heard about iZombie was in the bar of the Delta hotel in Montreal in 2009. I don’t think Chris Roberson was actually there, but we were in a bar at a convention so the usual brat pack was assembled and naturally Chris’s name cropped up in conversation. Someone (possibly Lou Anders) had heard that Chris had a deal with a comic publisher for an original series featuring a teenage girl zombie detective. The sense of respect around the table was palpable. Getting a comic deal is great, but coming up with the idea of a comic about a teenage girl zombie detective is just awesome. We all figured that Chris had a winner on his hands.
Having met Vertigo editor Shelly Bond at the Bristol Comics Expo last month I now know how strangely they go about commissioning new titles. Shelly has ideas for books and pitches them to writers she likes. According to an interview at Comic Book Resources she did this with Chris; she wanted him to revive an old title called Gravedigger. Chris went away to think about it, and had an epiphany.
You see, working as a grave digger is an ideal job for a zombie. You have a plentiful supply of fresh brains delivered on a regular basis, and don’t have to kill anyone to get them. That might just help you stay in decent condition. And it does for one lucky zombie girl, Gwen Dylan. The only problem is that when she eats someone’s brains she ingests their memories as well. Some of them have died in unfortunate circumstances, and won’t let Gwen rest until she has sorted their former lives out for them.
There’s a certain element of Scooby Do to all this. Gwen, after all, is a teenager. When not digging graves she likes to hang out in the local diner with her friends. Those friends happen to be Ellie, a ghost who died back in the 1960s and hasn’t yet given up on Mary Quant fashions, and Scott, a young were-terrier. The girls, being girls, call the boy “Spot”, and he, being a boy, is forever trying to get up close and personal with Gwen. Can you imagine, ladies, what sort of a suitor a were-terrier makes? Quite. Down boy, and stop slavering.
That’s not all, because Chris manages to pack even more set-up into the debut issue. We have a few panels that show a pair of vicious undead hunters have arrived in town. They are bound to cause trouble. There’s a vampire girl who doesn’t get introduced. And a few wordless flashback panels from our first set of consumed memories doubtless provide clues as to how the original owner of the brains died. Chris manages all of this setup with a splendid economy of words (a marked contrast to Jonathan Ross’s wordiness in Turf).
The art is by Mike Allred and is both very beautiful and fairly traditional as comic art goes (again contrast with Turf). The same CBR interview has Mike say that he based Gwen’s appearance on a favorite rock star. I suspect that he means Debbie Harry.
Obviously this comic won’t be for everyone. I can imagine that teenage boys will find reading a comic in which the lead characters are teenage girls to be rather difficult. I might worry about teenage girl characters being written by a adult man, but I’m pretty sure that Chris gets Allison to vet his scripts before turning them in. For those of us not addicted to muscle-bound, macho heroes, iZombie is a welcome breath of fresh air. The opening issue suggests that there is plenty of story to be told, and there will be some good laughs as well as drama along the way. I’m looking forward to reading more.