“Rest easy, comrade. You’re off the clock now. Your shift is over.”
Hello, hello, hello and welcome to the latest edition of Peril In Panels*, this time we’ll be taking on the daunting task of discussing the webcomic Dead Winter by Dave Shabet,
a delightful romp through the zombie apocalypse. My name is Jonathan Kruschack and I’ll once again be your guide to all things comics. I’ll be doin’ my best to show you what stands out from the rest (hey, that’s a good line). And trust me when I say that this is not just another zombie apocalypse story. This is a shining example of a well thought-out, interesting, and over all good zombie story, in a sea of mediocre-to-good ones. But let’s put a pin in that point for a minute and talk about the comic’s plot, characters and creator.
Creator Dave Shabet describes it as follows in a 2011 interview over at Nerdcenaries:
“When I pitch the book at cons I describe it as “a tongue-in-cheek action-adventure comic set in a post-apocalyptic city that has no name,” and I think that about covers it without dropping the Z-word.”
The basic plot of this comic is our main protagonist Lizzie Cooper, a down-on-her-luck waitress with a fancy English degree, a love of poetry, and one Hell of a bad luck streak is called into her terrible job one day after a particularly shitty last shift only to get into a car accident, caused by the fact that the nameless city she’s in is overrun by those damn, shambling monstrosities known as the undead. Along the way she meets up with her rag-tag crew: irritable, nigh-unstoppable hitman and fancy sunglasses enthusiast Black Monday Blues, the ever-so plucky nurse Alice Vassilikos (Lizzie’s best girlbro for life) and Lou Panzetti, a crude, loud, loveable plumber and all around handyman with a mysterious talent for findind sandwiches when there shouldn’t be any. Together, these four meet up and decide to stick together for survival’s sake (and for more sinister reasons,
if you’re Monday) and brave the zombie torn wastelands in search of Lizzie’s lost fiancé,
her parents, safety and to escape her former employer, Frank Mason, who’s gone insane with vengeful, murderous rage. Along with a myriad of other reasons, but that’s enough for now.
Alright, there’s plot, characters and setting out of the way so let’s talk about ol’ Dave, his art and writing and why
I likes ’em all so much.
Now Dave Shabet’s only done one webcomic, this one, and has only been doing it since 2007 so he’s still fairly new at it but damn has he improved by leaps and friggin’ bounds since then.
The man has an oil painting background but the comic’s painted digitally, which was kind of a detriment at the comic’s beginning (no offence meant). He was clearly working out his style quite a bit in the early stages, learning the ropes and such. To put it plainly and crassly: shit was rough. But looking back on it now you can see the basic foundations he was laying out that are still present in his art today. The realistic lighting (though no where near as good as today) and cartoonish, stylized faces and bodies that still maintain enough realism to keep from interfering with the at-sometimes serious tone of the comic and much more. The art nowadays is just a real treat to behold. Especially when Mr. Shabet decides to throw in the occasional animation into a page. Makes it so hard to be patient as I wait for the comic to update but like all good things it is worth the wait. He puts in the time and it’s worth it.
Mostly, the art stays greyscale with hints of colour (red) but occasionally you get really great bursts of colour which I just love. If the thing was in full colour I don’t think it’d work as well as it does, so these small moments really help the whole thing shine.
And man, his hand done typography has improved by immensely! Just thought I’d toss that out there, but the guy does it by hand digitally, which to me seems all the more difficult. Big props to that.
Now as for writing, it’s also improved. And just like the art it wasn’t terrible to begin with but definitely needed some refining, which it received through hours upon hours of work put in by Dave. A tad cliche at times but still enjoyable. And anytime it is cliched it’s very clear that it’s on purpose. And when he bucks convention, even slightly, it’s all the better. This guy can pull off comedy in a variety of forms, within this bleak, serious backdrop of an apocalyptic story without detracting from the tone at all. A real feather in your cap, which he should feel proud of for sporting.
And, he understands the fundamental rule of nearly every single thing (movie, comic, novel, whatever) involving zombies: they are not the main focus. They are ever-present background threats, almost props, really, for characters to be menaced by or to wade through in a path of destruction. These are the classic zombies to, the Romero-style shamblers. They’re slow, one bite eventually turns you, and so forth. And that makes all the difference. Why? Because it’s never about zombies. Night of the Living Dead from 1968 isn’t about zombies. It’s about people, trying to get by, in a world turned upside down in the wake of this new threat. People are the real monsters, as they usually are in any story.
Alright, we talked art, plot, writing, characters and so forth.
Let’s get into some choice, random moments from the series. Enjoy!
That’s all for now, my gentle snowflakes (to quote Lewis Black). See you in three weeks, ya freaks of nature and please: keep it monstrous!
– J. Kruschack
*As a side note, this may be a a very short, less in depth edition of Peril in Panels.
I’m running late on a lot of things and I apologize in advance. Thing’s just didn’t work out on my end and I won’t make excuses it’s pretty much my fault for not being more ahead of things. Sorry, I’ll try to make sure to stay ahead of the game in future instalments.