Like Disneyworld With Fangs: Should You Be Reading ‘Zombillenium’?
When you look at the sheer range and number of original stories being told in comics form today, it’s hard to imagine a better time to be a comics reader. Online and in print, from all around the world, artists and writers are telling stories with their own voices and styles, and there’s so much to choose from that it’s sometimes difficult to know what to read next. With Should I Be Reading… ?, ComicsAlliance hopes to offer you a guide to some of the best original ongoing comics being published today.
Zombillenium is French animator and cartoonist Arthur De Pins' ongoing series of graphic albums about a horror theme park run by actual monsters... pretending to be regular people pretending to be fake monsters... all as an elaborate way of hiding in plain sight. Published first in France, it's being translated and republished by NBM in English. The third volume, Control Freaks, was just released this summer.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
The world long ago stopped being afraid of, or even believing in, vampires, werewolves, demons, witches and any and all forms of undead, from ghosts to mummies to even the shambling zombies. So what becomes of such creatures? Even the dead need to make a living, and so good old-fashioned vampire Francis Von Bloodt helps found Zombillennium, a horror-themed theme park. Just imagine if The Haunted Mansion took over all of Disneyland and you've got a good idea of what the park is like.
Our point-of-view character is Aurelian Zahner, who Von Bloodt accidentally runs over in town and is then forced to bite back to life and give a job. Repeatedly bitten by Von Bloodt and a werewolf, arguing over what sort of monster he should be, Zahner ends up being something unique: A big, red demon that becomes the park's star attraction.
While Zombillenium gives its monstrous staff a place to go and something to do, it's not an entirely ideal work environment: For one thing, employment is eternal, and being fired means being sent to the fires of hell. It's not that bad though; sure, the human resources manager is a werewolf, but the zombies have a pretty good union.
Zahner tries to acclimate himself to his new existence with the help of Gretchen, a young witch with a skateboard deck mounted on her flying broom stick, who is interning at the park. Office politics, tensions with the mortal townsfolk and the pressures of the many different personalities stuck in the same place and trying to abide by the same restrictive rules offer plenty of opportunity for drama and comedy (and only rather occasional actual horror).
WHO'S IT BY?
Arthur de Pins has an extensive background in animation, and in addition to his work in the field, he has made comics and worked as an illustrator. Perhaps best known for his charming cheesecake illustrations, his previous bande dessinée series include the sex and relationships comedy Péchés mignons (2006-2010), and La Marche du crabe (2010-2012), about a crab rebellion on a tourist beach.
WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL?
Zombillenium has an unquestionably strong premise, and De Pins makes full use of the most immediate and most obvious jokes as they present themselves, but the story pushes in unusual and unexpected directions. Several characters have deeper, darker secrets than might be suggested by what at first glance is a clever sitcom-like set-up, and these characters work their own agendas within the greater framework of the series.
Visually, De Pins' comic is stunning. His designs are all quite cartoony, which only makes it more striking when any of the monsters do something truly monstrous, and every panel manages to balance the depth and detail of a fully-realized illustration with a dynamic sense of motion learned in animation. The creator's background and experience fully inform every page of his series; if you didn't know De Pins was an animator before reading his comics, you certainly wouldn't be surprised to learn that he was after reading.
WHO SHOULD READ IT?
Fans of monsters, particularly of the sort of monsters that have traditionally haunted Hollywood and Halloween (though the characters of Zobillenium are all as fed up with current fads in pop horror --- from handsome, sparkly vampires to omnipresent walking dead --- as anyone else); fans of great comics art, and/or fans of comedy who welcome surprise shifting of gears.
WHERE CAN I READ IT?
You can purchase Zombillenium online, in print or digitally, through NBM's site, or check with your local comics shop. The original French version is published by Dupuis and serialized in Spirou. An animated movie is currently in production.