Zombies in the City of Culture

The walking dead have Derry~Londonderry in an Uproar

2013 has brought a lot of new visitors to Derry~Londonderry for the art, the theatre, the music and the…zombies? They might not be traditionally associated with the City of Culture, but thanks to the efforts of Uproar Comics there has been an influx of the walking dead lately – in the pages of the Zombies Hi comic.

Artist Kevin Logue and writer Danny McLaughlin describe Uproar Comics as a ‘hobby they turned into a career for love’. Although for Logue it was a love that came later in life than most. Unlike McLaughlin, who read ‘the old Batmans’ as a child, Logue only really developed an interest in comics once he started making them.

‘Danny and John (Campbell, Uproar Comic’s inker) loved comics and suggested we could make our own,’ he remembers. ‘I loved art and storytelling, and comics let me do that.’

With zombies?

McLaughlin laughs. ‘It was easy.’

For the first nine months of their collaboration, back when it was just a hobby, they worked on ‘huge epic ideas that were totally beyond our reach’. It was only after they’d taken a couple of comic book courses, thanks to Verbal Arts Centre and the Earheart Festival, that they realised they needed to cut their comics to suit their cloth.

‘Everyone knows about zombies,’ Logue explains. ‘People know what they are and they know what the rules of the genre are. That means we could hit the ground running.’

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Besides, once the artistic team started work they realized that the zombies functioned metaphorically as well as pragmatically. The themes resonated with the siege history of Derry~Londonderry and the zombies functioned as metaphors for Northern Ireland’s political troubles.

‘Horrors from the past,’ Logue points out, ‘that keep coming back no matter how deeply you bury them.’

It also allowed them to make the most of the city of Derry~Londonderry and its history, turning it into a character in its own right in the story. McLaughlin points out that, ‘places like New York and London are the stereotypical places to set a story, but why not Derry~Londonderry?’.

With Issue 7 of Zombies Hi out and 8 underway, Uproar Comics are about a third of the way through the 24 issues they predicted it would take to tell their story. McLaughlin explains that they have had the story plotted out in its entirety from the beginning, but admits their ‘organic approach’ to creating the comics has lead to a few unexpected changes.

‘We know all the plot-milestones we need to hit,’ he says. ‘But how we actually get there can change.’

Logue points out Zombies Hi character Vaughn as an example. Originally just a face in the background with a few lines, the audiences were so interested that Uproar gave him a much more prominent role to play than planned.

‘If the audience want it,’ McLaughlin chimes in with a laugh. ‘I say, we give it to them.’

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That creative freedom is why none of the Uproar creators have ever submitted their work to big-name comic book houses like Marvel, DC or Dark Horse. They want to tell their own stories – to evolve the format to include scripts and short stories – not just work on other people’s ideas. Besides, McLaughlin points out, ‘the last thing you want is an editor hanging around telling you what to do!’.

That independence, however, means that Uproar has to be creative with more than just their storylines. In addition to publishing Zombies Hi they create comics on commission as well, in the past working on an Amelia Earhart comic with Derry~Londonderry author Felicity McCall, a comic highlighting the services of City Cabs and an educational comic for a mental health charity.

amelia

‘Comics do have a stigma, people think they are dumbed down,’ Logue says. ‘So it can have a real impact when they are used to discuss serious issues. And they are accessible to everyone.’

McLaughlin agrees, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words.’

Uproar is also planning to introduce two new comic lines in 2013 – a steampunk fairytale called Leap and a hard-boiled noir detective series – that will hopefully utilise their new app platform.

‘We also want to move into animation,’ Logue explains. ‘Everyone knows Uproar for our comics, but we want to cover all digital content.’

So it sounds like even once its Zombies, Bye – Uproar comics will still be going strong.

Go to Uproar Comics website to buy back-issues of Zombies Hi or get your very own zombified portrait.