Returning to a concept he created with artist Ashley Wood, IDW Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall pens the four-issue "Zombies vs. Robots Aventure" beginning in February. "Aventure" (not "Adventure," as Ryall is quick to point out - "Ash likes the French feel of the title.") is composed of three 8-page stories per issue, with art by newcomers Menton Matthews III, Paul McCaffrey, and Gabriel Hernandez, with covers by Wood. CBR News caught up with Ryall to discuss the new series, the absurdity of zombies fighting robots, and writing comics with a sense of humor.
Following the original "Zombies vs. Robots" series, Ryall and Wood upped the ante with "Zombies vs. Robots vs. Amazons." But readers who missed the previous two books should still be able to follow "Aventure." "Well, you see, in this world, there are zombies, and they fight robots. Alright, actually, there's now more to it than that," Ryall joked.
"It really did start that simply - Ash just said, 'Hey, you should write a book where zombies fight robots and I'll draw it.' And I said, 'Okay.' And then I had to figure out how to try to make it more than just that.
"So at its core, the book - which has so far consisted of an initial series, a follow-up that brought in Amazons, and a few prequel stories that looked at how things went wrong in the first place (all were just compiled and released again in a book I coined 'Zomnibus,' which also collected a couple other unrelated zombies tales," he continued.
"Alright, with that initial plug aside, the series essentially started at the end - it was a world overrun by zombies, with only some robots left to try to deal with the problem. And one tiny human infant that the robots tried protecting in order to restart the human race - and they failed. So we've moved on from there.
"But really, all people need to know going in is that zombies fight robots."
The three stories that make up each issue of "Zombies vs. Robots Aventure" are titled "Kampf," "Masques," and 'Zuvembies." "'Kampf,' painted by Menton Matthews III, is our big war story," Ryall told CBR. "It's set in the early days of the war, where the military has assembled a crack squad of humans and robots to face the threat. And it takes a darker turn than any other 'ZvR' story we've done so far."
Ryall continued by saying that "Masques" picks up from the previous prequel stories. "'In that story, scientists develop a gateway to anywhen and build a big metal suit to allow them to survive going into the gateway (doesn't work). Here, a maintenance guy finds the plans for the suit, gets some robotic help to build it, and then ends up half-assedly fighting zombies. Paul McCaffrey's handling the art on it, and it's the most fun of the three stories, really. Although 'fun' in the 'ZvR' world usually means 'unexpected death.'
"Finally, 'Zuvembies,' the third story, takes place in Haiti and a small group of survivors' efforts to use black magic to develop their own resistance to the zombies. I wonder if that works better than anything else so far in this series…"
"Zombies vs. Robots Aventure" was originally solicited for a June 2009 release with Wood on art, but was ultimately reconfigured to feature the talents of the several new artists drawing Ryall's stories. "When Ash had to limit his involvement on the book to just covers, we made a point to find guys who did very different things than what he did on the book - I love the idea of new artists creating new robots, and these three have really blown me away," Ryall said. "Menton's painted style is very different from Ash's work, and his designs for some robot troops and a group of superhuman soldiers is just phenomenal. So good, in fact, that after seeing them, a couple of characters got a stay of execution since I decided I want to see them again. McCaffrey's detailed work - it reminds me of Tony Moore's work in places while still feeling unique - is so fun and expressive. And Hernandez, who did The Veil for us before, knows how to really bring an atmosphere to his pages like few others."
In previous series, the answer to "who would win between zombies and robots?" has been "nobody," and Ryall suggested fans should expect similar levels of disaster in "Zombies vs. Robots Aventure." "The great thing about this series for me so far has been that it's not about who wins. Because, at the point where it's just zombies and robots left fighting, humans have already lost," the writer said. "More interesting to me is finding new and different ways to see the plans to stop zombies go wrong. Ultimately, one thread I've tried to weave into all the 'ZvR' books is the idea that man's hubris is what's led things to go so awry. So all these new plans to develop inhuman machines to do the fighting for us, or building robotic suits, constructing gateways to other time periods… it all ends up in comeuppance.
"The ridiculousness of the idea is what works for me - I mean, zombies need human brains/flesh to survive, robots have neither, so the sheer idea of throwing them together is a pretty limiting idea on the surface," Ryall continued. "Which I like, since it forces me to really take the stories in interesting directions.
"Translation: I could tell these stories for years and years, I have so many ideas."
Between this series and the upcoming "Weekly World News," Ryall continues to display a taste for outrageous humor comics. "With all of these projects - those and 'Groom Lake,' which was also filled with my attempts at black humor - I do always try to stay wary of telling a good story first, and developing the characters, but that's just the way my head works in most cases. I mean, I certainly don't think I'm a humor guy in the way of someone like Evan Dorkin, or even Peter David or Brian Lynch, but I do like weaving in general ridiculousness," Ryall said. "I either hit the zenith or nadir of that with 'Weekly World News' (haven't plugged in a while now, so let me mention that issue 1 is in stores on January 6), but even then, there's an undercurrent of sadness and heart with the characters."
When pressed for other humor comics writers he enjoys, Ryall cited a few from the darker edge of the comedy spectrum. "Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis, and Mark Millar all often show some vicious wit, and I really like that. I don't know that their books ever qualify as outright humor books (well, 'The Pro' might), but I love dry and dark wit, so anyone who can bring that out in their stories is going to work well for me," he said.
"I also like guys with arch senses of humor, like Petter Bagge and Daniel Clowes, but also people like Thom Zahler, whose book 'Love and Capes' is something I really wanted to publish here because it's so sweet and funny without ever being crude," Ryall continued. " I'm sure I'm forgetting many right now, but one who transcends the rest is Sergio Aragones. I adore that man with every fiber of my being. Now I just need to convince him to do a second 'Weekly World News' series with me…"