There’s so many ways a person can die, and I’ve found myself a little obsessed by how a fella might look if they decided to get up and walk around post-mortem. Not only is it a basic human curiosity about death and the delicate biology that squishes around inside of us, but I draw the undead too, so studying the skull beneath the skin has become a profitable endeavor. Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life, they say. If I could draw dead things until they day I die, I’d be set. (And check out Annoying Zombies, a puzzle game for which I did the art!)
Zombie types are as diverse as the people who they once were. You have your typical slowly-shambling zombie horde, those smart and frozen zombies left over from Nazi Germany, and those zombies whose quest for flesh just makes them really big jerks. You can forgive a zombie whose mind has been reprogrammed to feed on an animal level, but those guys who are smart enough to use weapons are also probably smart enough to come up with some kind of alternative food source that doesn’t incorporate your delicious face. Them’s jerk zombies, and we’re not a fan, because they’re also the scariest.
If you’re a zombie collector, you have a lot of options to sate your undead lust. Sideshow Toys crafted a rather excellent line of highly-detailed 12″ zombie figures, simply called “The Dead”. On the other end of the scale, Jazwares continues to produce their S.L.U.G. Zombies in the style of cartoonish, zombified, all-green army men which often reference pop culture in unexpected ways. If you’ve ever wanted a dead Hulk Hogan, this is where you’ll find him. Legally, that is. The most diverse line of zombies, however, is the licensed Walking Dead line of Minimates from Diamond Toys — based on the ongoing comic series, not the TV show. Sorry, you’re not going to get a Daryl Dixon here just yet.
Zombies aren’t anything new, but they’ve been able to etch out a unique place in the forefront of pop culture after a few years of vampire-themed movies have been able to slowly romanticize the movie monster. Sure, movie monsters have never really left the screen, but they’ve also suffered through a lot of unfortunate dollar store schlock – which is awesome on a different level, but has done no favors to monster love. Robert Kirkman was able to craft something that zombie-lovers everywhere have been dying to experience: an open-ended zombie survival epic.
Zombies, by their very nature, shouldn’t just appear at the beginning of a movie’s reality and disappear at the end. The zombie is an epidemic. You can’t cure it in the span of a few narrative hours, but you can survive it, and the more of this survival experience that’s depicted in the story at hand, the better. The arduous, ever-gnawing terror of a zombie onslaught should be dragged out over years. The Walking Dead, in both comic and TV form, is the perfect vehicle for a survival epic in the truest sense.
Diamond Toys have released three waves of their Walking Dead Minimates, divided into three 2-packs per wave, with an additional chase 2-pack with a character variation. They’ve also released a handful Toys ‘R’ Us-exclusive 2-packs, featuring main characters paired with a zombie (which have skyrocketed in price), and a couple of other frustratingly rare packs of figures. They’re all great figures, and they even incorporate original body sculpting to describe decaying bodies and rotting flesh, but there’s one reason that Walking Dead Minimates are especially perfect: they’re reconfigurable.
By their nature, Minimates are easily taken apart. In order to change figure accessories, you’ll often need to pop of a head, arms or legs to fit something into place. Most figures come with alternate body parts so that, say, Rick Grimes (above) can be displayed with or without his hat, with his police jacket on or off (aided by an additional pair of un-jacketed arms), wearing a sack of weapons, or holding a number of tiny guns. That’s a whole lot of variety for a single 2″ tall figure, and because most of the figure’s forms are flat and printed, there’s no messy sculpting to get in the way. It’s pure linework, and it’s graphically beautiful. When you get to the zombies, which have no distinct personalities, you can switch any part and have a completely new zombie to skulk around, aimless and hungry. Even cooler is the fact that you can pop a zombie face under your Marvel Ant-Man’s helmet and you have a zombie Ant-Man, in perfect continuity with Marvel’s own zombie universe stories. It’s actually a very cool way to get figures which weren’t exactly produced or licensed. We know where you’re going with this, Diamond. Zombies everywhere, to hell with your licensing.
Character gets killed and turned into a zombie? Switch out the faces. Done.
To the average observer, this might look like the bloody regurgitation of the same thing, but to the zombie connoisseur, each one of these is a rotten snowflake. Zombie A might be missing its left eye, but when Zombie B is missing its right eye, that’s a completely different story. If people with scars are inherently interesting, ex-people with entire parts missing or actively falling off are the most interesting people on Earth. They’d have stories to tell, if their mouths weren’t full of someone else’s teeth, or they still had lower jaws.
Minimates are a perfect vehicle for something which is at its best en masse. The sameness of form, the ability to buy a whole lot of ’em without spending too much money, and the ease at which most parts can be switched out is hugely appealing. We’re still a bit off from getting a li’l Merle and a li’l Daryl, until the licenses between the comic and the show maybe, just maybe, converge, but three waves of zombies and zombie survivalists is a pretty fair, and excellently-crafted, collection for now.
C. David is a writer and artist living in the Hudson Valley, NY. He loves pinball, Wazmo Nariz, Rem Lezar, MODOK, pogs, Ultra Monsters, 80s horror, and is secretly very enthusiastic about everything else not listed here.