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NUM-INOUS COMICS PT. 2

This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

ALMOST GOT IT: TWO-FISTED ZOMBIES (1973)

Though most of the undergrounds lacked the polish of the mainstream comics, some of them were noteworthy for throwing out weird nuggets of symbolism-- in other words, "near myths," like the ones in Rick Veitch's first published comic book, TWO FISTED ZOMBIES, from Last Gasp Comics.



The title sounds like an unholy union between Harvey Kurtzman's well respected war comic TWO FISTED TALES and a George Romero movie, but in his COMICS JOURNAL interview Veitch describes it as "sort of influenced by Kirby and CREEPY"-- the Warren magazine being the primary place where the artist first encountered artists who achieved some measure of fannish renown at EC Comics. Veitch mentions Al Williamson, Frank Frazetta, and Roy Krenkel, and if I had to guess at what art-styles he was meshing together for ZOMBIES, I'd say it looks a lot like Kirby married to Krenkel. 

Though there had been other post-apocalyptic films with zombie-like mutants, notably 1964's THE LAST MAN ON EARTH and 1971's THE OMEGA MAN,  there certainly weren't the embarrassment of zombie-riches seen in current pop culture. Following a six-page prologue in two goons murder a "Christian" in order to make him their undead slave, the reader encounters meets the tyrant Flogiston, who commands a vast realm in which he sacrifices the bodies of countless dead to a great pit, in the name of "Einstein, god of destruction." The backstory then tells us that this radical reconstruction of Earth came about due to the mutations spread by "radioactive death," which also led to the renaissance of "the black arts" and various forms of wizardry.

The grotesque protagonist Flogiston is the closest thing this heavily ironic tale has to a "hero," for the night after his latest sacrifice, he's attacked by an assassin sent by another tyrant, Drago. Some particularly Kirby-esque action follows, and one wonders if Veitch was reading THE NEW GODS at the time.



Drago shows himself a dirtier villain than Flogiston by booby-trapping the latter, throwing his body into the death-pit, and then trying to rape Flogiston's wife. However, in a conclusion more in line with Al Feldstein than Jack Kirby, Flogiston and the other dead people resurrect for no stated reason, crawl out of the pit, and destroy Drago and his men, essentially tearing down the remnants of this empire of death, which is compared early on to that of the "Pharaohs of old."



Though TWO FISTED ZOMBIES is anything but deep, it does show a free-flowing pleasure in grotesquerie; in a world dominated by death. It isn't complex enough to be a mythcomic, but because it does have the makings of one, I choose to label it a "near myth."


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