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The art of Zombies

In recent years, Zombie culture has hit an all-time high in terms of popularity with genre fans. We have TV shows like the Walking Dead and I, Zombie in full force, dominating our viewing pleasure. Let’s also not forget the bevy of movies, comic books and video games exploding all over the mainstream recently to help fuel this phenomena we have with the living dead.


At a certain point in time all the rage was for the Vampire, but now that seems to be de-fanged and pushed aside in favor for the legions of decaying flesh eaters grabbing a strong-hold on our imaginations. I can’t quite put my finger on this fascination with the recently deceased, but perhaps it signals our innate fears over the possible extinction of the human race, or maybe they are a symbol of the end times still to come.

Whichever reason it is, Zombies have a long standing tradition in the horror genre going as far back as Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein (that’s if you include the man-made creation as a zombie) and carried throughout many decades following that literary debut.

Which brings us to the main thrust of this article: death is not something we cannot outrun, nor shall it be played out so trivially in silly cinematic zombie outings like Zombieland or Warm Bodies. I prefer the concept to be treated like a brutal fist fight or like a gangland rumble. Returning from the dead is no laughing matter and it should definitely play out that way as a part of our worst fears that needs to be confronted.

George A. Romero certainly knew this to be the case as he brought us on several terrifying altercations of humans battling the living dead. His films made strong social-political points about the nature of humanity, the evils of man versus man and ultimately dealing with the zombie apocalypse. What a concept he had in these series of films, providing a narrative that was strung along during the course of six features.

Now that’s what I call a true visionary. But he wasn’t the only creative individual carving a signature into the zombie zeitgeist. When I was growing up and discovering the world of comic books, I found Deadworld published quarterly through Arrow Comics. This was the first comic book set in a zombie apocalypse and it featured a group of teenagers struggling to survive, evade and ultimately adapt to the changing times around them. Mainly the zombies and a leather clad talking biker known as King Zombie.

What a story this was when it first hit the stands in 1986. I remember it featured b/w interiors and also had some stomach churning painted cover art from artist Vincent Locke. This is indeed the same artist who went on to find infamy illustrating the disgusting album covers for death metal legends Cannibal Corpse, but he first got his start right here on Deadworld. I was a huge fan of his work and got him to sign the first 9 issues he did at a convention a few years after the comic’s debut. I was in seventh heaven at the time and this also inspired me to become an artist too.


I devoured every issue of Deadworld as they came out and quickly tried to emulate his style with my own artwork. I was just a cocky and wild-eyed teenager at the time, loving heavy metal and gorging out on 80’s horror flicks, but that was a special moment in my life and it meant the world to me. I also discovered the artwork of Bernie Wrightson who had just finished rendering a beautifully detailed portfolio of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein in a series of illustration/prints.


Now this just nearly tore my head off when I first laid my peepers upon these ghoulishly delightful b/w illustrations. Bernie had quickly replaced Locke’s work as my number one source for artistic inspiration and it didn’t take long for me to again emulate his style with my own work. I went out and found everything I could get my grubby little hands on when it came to Wrightson’s work and let me tell you he did zombie art as expertly gruesome as Vincent Locke could. In some cases he was more adept at the craft and his images just leapt straight up off the page and grabbed you by the throat, demanding your undivided attention.

You couldn’t get any better than that and coupled with the soothing cacophony of Iron Maiden’s music, I had a running soundtrack in my head to draw too! Maiden added to my budding imagination because they had artwork on their album covers featuring mascot Eddie; another dead guy brought back to life! As far as I was concerned he was a zombie of the highest order and it also helped that I was a huge metal fan to boot. Bringing these two sources together made total sense to me and this is how my formative creative years began to take shape.

So as you can see, zombie culture seeped into my brain at a very young age. Even now, well into my adult life I can still appreciate a good zombie film, comic book, album cover or action figure. In fact speaking of action figures one of the exciting new projects currently in development at HMS is something that is near and dear to my heart; customizing my own series of zombie dolls/action figures to push as a line on the HMS website.

In the past I have drawn and painted many images of zombies (some have even shown up here as the sketch of the day), but I feel it’s time for the process to evolve. So without further ado, we’ve decided to use this space to bring you an announcement of sorts. We have the HMS Zombies invading with a unique line of custom made dead heads – ready to order and purchase as your very own piece of art!

We will have more details to follow in the weeks and months to come, but in the meantime – here’s just a snippet to whet your appetite for the undead!

Kenneth Gallant, HMS

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