Night of the Living Dead 1 TP Fantaco Original Story by George Romero 1st print


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Night of the Living Dead #1
Published Nov 1991 by FantaCo

Black and white art by Carlos Kastro with Eric Meheu. Original story by George Romero. Adaptation by Tom Skulan and Eric Stanway. This isn’t a straight retread of the Romero film, the comic adds a bit of characterization and some interesting twists.

Based on the original story by George Romero and John Russo. Adaptated by Tom Skulan and Eric Stanway. Art by Carlos Kastro and Eric Meheu.

When the dead suddenly rise and begin to stalk the living, a small group of survivors find themselves trapped in a rural farm house. As the threat outside mounts, tensions within the house begin to rise and before this night is through, man may prove to be more monstrous than the monsters.

Based on the iconic horror classic.

McKie the Moose World (a thinly-disguised Disney World) is being overrun by mindless zombies created by the radiation of a mind-control beam left over from the Strategic Defense Initiative, now in the hands of a rogue C.I.A. faction called “The Black Room.” Unfortunately, the president’s daughter is enjoying a bit of recreation just as the zombie horde attacks. This scenario is ample grist for political satire as well as over-the-top zombie mayhem. Rik Rawling’s art is an intriguing combination of horror and humor styles in this campy homage to an archetypal film.

George Romero’s 1968 low-budget horror film, Night of the Living Dead has become a classic of the genre. Although inspired by the movie and possessing the same title, this comic series is not an adaptation of the film. In fact, only the presence of zombies and the similar method of their creation, are elements that these two entertaining distractions share.

Cover price $4.95.

At a time when George A. Romero, John Russo, Russ Steiner, and the other shareholders of Image Ten were getting ripped off by decades of unauthorized prints, VHS, and DVDs of NOTLD, the creators went out of their way to legitimize their hold on the property. This drive to retake creative ownership resulted in two 1991 projects: The Night of The Living Dead remake directed by Tom Savini and the FantaCo comic book adaptation written by Tom Skulan and illustrated by Carlos Kastro. While critical response to the film remake was mixed (although fan response has been universally positive despite cuts made to appease the MPAA) there is almost no reviews or information on the FantaCo comic. I’ve seen a few small tidbits, interviews with Skulan and Kastro and such but nothing in-depth so here’s the information I’ve managed to find in the course of researching for this review.

The FantaCo adaptation was published in 4 issues from November 15th, 1991 to October 15th, 1992, with an additional prologue and epilogue published afterward as shorter ashcans/oneshots. FantaCo started life as a mail order service and comic book store in Albany, NY run by Tom Skulan and eventually got into small-scale publication and distribution. The majority of their output were oversized art books or compendiums of horror trivia, episode guides, the kind of things cluttering dealers rooms at any genre convention, but they took a leap into respectability with their take on NOTLD. Each roughly 30-page issue was chock full of nightmarish black and white imagery painted by Kastro with dialogue either taken wholesale from the film or gently adapted by Skulan. Issue 0 (appropriately titled ‘Prelude’) introduces the major characters of the film shortly before the beginning as they have their first encounters with the undead and provides some additional context for the infected space probe. The epilogue (‘Aftermath’) follows a bitten woman as she attempts to board the last plane out of New York and sets up the original sequel series Night of the Living Dead London, written by Clive Barker & Steven Niles with more painterly art by Kastro. As a nice bridge between series, Aftermath works, but as a finale to the NOTLD story it makes no sense.

Adaptation-wise, Skulan’s text doesn’t reinvent the wheel but takes more of a movie novelization approach, adding a few narrative extensions here and there that make sense within the story but probably would never have worked in the film. There aren’t any surprises here but there are some interesting beats that help iron out some of the characters’ rough edges. The real draw to the series; however, is Kastro’s art – a thick mélange of midnight blacks, streaks of thick white bone, and the gray tones of a nightmare. As fantastic as they are, the art can be hilariously inconsistent – often within the same issue but especially in the last quarter. When Kastro brings his own flare to scenes lifted directly from the film he can conjure up some of the most disturbing imagery this side of Goya or Franz von Stuck’s The Wild Chase. Likewise, when left to his own devices and unfettered by narrative necessity he can excel in creating a suffocating mood of nihilistic darkness; the problem comes when he has to balance characters and action with his evocative style – resulting in some terrible art where the ghouls breakdown into smudges of gray with fingerpainted skull faces. Even with the somewhat subpar final volume the art just drips atmosphere and blood – strongly reminiscent of Stephen Gammell’s ink washes in Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark. In all honesty, Kastro’s art is really the biggest selling point. If you’ve seen NOTLD hundreds of times you know the story, you know the characters, it’s the presentation of that story and those characters in this style that really provides the hook to this series. Bonus points for the absolutely nightmarish painted color covers to each volume.

The series didn’t have a huge run back in the day and, as far as I know, was never collected into a trade paperback so it can be difficult to find individual volumes in good condition but far from impossible.

Near mint, 1st print.