Saturday, May 4, 2013

The force of zombies: Best of 'Star Wars' and the walking dead

If you’re a regular reader, you know we have a penchant for zombies. But what if you combine zombies with another of our favorite things, like Star Wars? Oh, it exists and it’s pretty damn awesome. So in honor of May the 4th which celebrates all things Star Wars, here are some cool ways the zombie and Star Wars worlds have collided.

Kids books
The first mention of the combo we could find was from 1997 when the 12-book young reader series, Star Wars: Galaxy of Fear by John Whitman hit the shelves. The series was meant to be something of a Goosebumps for Star Wars and starred Tash and Zak, two kids who escaped Alderaan's destructionThe first six books revolved around an Imperial weapon called Project Starscream. In the second book, City of the Dead, the story is set on the planet Necropolis, where superstitious inhabitants believe if the dead are not respected, they’ll come back. In the book, mad scientist Dr. Evazan (he doesn't like you) conducted experiments to re-animate dead tissue. The zombies here have characteristics of both classic voodoo zombies who are subservient but freshly dead, but there are also elements of rotting, shambling, mindless Romero zombies. And yeah, Boba Fett shows up to kick ass.

Fan art
Artists like Matt Busch (who did an amazing series of classic Star Wars posters with a zombie spin) can lure you into an Internet force cave of the undead. It isn't hard to find fan-created work that marries these two beloved genres (take a look at Pinterest or Tumblr), and the best part is how good so much of the work is.

In Joe Schreiber's 2009 novel, the first canon Star Wars horror novel, an Imperial prison barge happens upon a derelict Star Destroyer drifting in the backwoods of space. A search party boards the ship, only to return infected with a lethal virus that reanimates the dead with a helluva appetite. Along with some familiar faces, two brothers, an Imperial prison guard and a kindhearted medical officer have to fight their way through hoards of the undead (which exhibit the ability to learn and fire blasters). Schreiber also followed up Death Troopers with the prequel novel Red Harvest. In this, the experiments of Darth Scabrous involve the use of a black orchid to reach that Sith goal of immortality. The result is a nasty case of The Sickness which is spread through body fluids and bites and some nasty, gory zombies that can’t be killed by destroying the brain. The Death Troopers were also included in a Star Wars Galaxies game download in 2009.

Separately, zombies and  Star Wars are two of the most dominant cosplay themes at most cons. However, mash-up costumes of the two are becoming more prevalent. Instantly recognizable, they may not be the most original cosplay but it's sure as hell fun.

Honorable mentions of technically non-zom zombies in Star Wars universe:

  • The supernatural ghost zombies in Dark Horse Comics 2003 Star Wars Tales #17, in Steve Niles' "Planet of the Dead Story" starring Han and Chewie.
  • The parasites that infect and reanimate corpses (but don't cause them to eat humans) in the Kathy Burdette's "Gathering Shadows" short story appearing in 1999's Tales from the New Republic.
  • The brain worms in Star Wars: The Clone Wars episodes "Legacy of Terror" and "Brain Invaders," which turn dead Geonosians into soldiers controlled by a hive mind.
-Aaron Sagers, Larissa Mrykalo