The For Zombies concept was hatched during a conversation back in July – the beers that afternoon had a hand in it, I’m sure. On another whim, we’re launching a new line of zombie webisodes. Dear Zombies takes aim directly at Dear Abby as only zombies can, by offering up sage advice from the other side. We have humans and zombies alike read letters into the camera and dispense out zombie wisdom.
We batted the idea around last month, just before the New York Comic Con. I was packing the day before the event. Then, it occurred to me: record people in costume reading Dear Zombies letters. I was already planning on bringing the camera. I packed my trusty mic and I was ready or so I thought.
I’m not one to approach strangers normally, let alone to ask a stranger to read a letter for a zombie webisode. This isn’t a normal situation. Cosplayers, people who wear comic book-inspired costumes, to comic conventions are there to be seen. A well-executed costume can pull quite a crowd. There are more than a few times I had to navigate around an impromptu gathering of photographers circled around a cosplayer. With this in mind, I approached my first few potential participants with camera in hand ready to record on the spot. Much to my surprise, I was not turned down. I managed to get a 60s-era Joker complaining that there’s someone he’s trying to entertain, but doesn’t get the joke and a Supergirl asking for relationship advice, which made it into our first release.
So far, so good.
Then, I tried asking a Captain America and a Batman and struck out. They liked the idea of Dear Zombies – I got it down to a 20 second pitch. They were willing to participate but couldn’t come up with a Dear Zombies letter on the spot. Lesson learned. I need to have a couple of ideas prepared ahead of time and propose them as possibilities or let the cosplayer read off something of their own. Although familiar with some comic book characters and their backgrounds, I don’t have the encyclopedic knowledge of many of those attending the convention. I had some prewritten letters, but they didn’t apply to super heroes. When I spotted someone in a good costume, I had to think on my feet while I worked my way through the crowd hoping to get their attention before they engaged someone in conversation or a spontaneous photography session started. Another Captain America walked into the hall. Knowing something about this superhero after having reviewed a book by his co-creator, I approached with a proposal to complain that he’s having trouble tracking his arch-rival, the Red Skull. Success! And more followed with this technique.
My imprecise estimate has me at about a 75% acceptance rate. The other 25% were either too shy or too busy to participate, with a few noteworthy observations. There was a couple dressed as zombified super heroes. I think they were a zombie Spiderman and a zombie Catwoman. Perfect! I explained the concept and they were looking to take the letter in an R-rated direction. We’re trying to keep it PG or PG-13. I tried to give an example letter,“Dear Zombies, We’ve recently been zombified and are having trouble fitting into the established zombie superhero community. What do you suggest? Signed,
Murdered in Metropolis”
They must have focused on the phrase “having trouble fitting in” and took it personally, as though I was directly accusing them. Perhaps they thought I was trying to dupe them into a film where cosplayers are mocked. They declined and I lost an opportunity.
It’s worth noting that not a single Batman agreed to read a letter. I asked three Batmen and was unanimously rejected. Apparently, the modern brooding image of Batman doesn’t lend itself to frivolity. Next time, I’ll need to find an Adam West-inspired Batman.
We plan on releasing Dear Zombies episodes on a more frequent basis than our For Zombies series. They’ll feature normally dressed humans, cosplayers, zombies and more. Stay tuned!