Thursday, August 11, 2011

Why "Cool" Premises Can Be Dangerous

Let me ask you something, dear reader. Look at the following premise:

"After zombies take over the Earth, vampires must protect the last surviving humans so they can live off their blood."

Sounds pretty sweet, eh? Would you read a story based on this premise? Or watch a movie or TV series based on it?

I'd wager that the majority of those reading this would be interested in that book. That's actually sort of a problem. Allow me a moment of your time to explain... See, nerd culture (if we can call it such) goes crazy over "cool premises", especially if there's an element of Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot, or Cool vs Awesome. It makes sense, on some level. After all, two things that are cool, when combined, should be doubly-cool. And, when done right, a story that involves multiple "cool" ideas combined can be great. Cowboy Bebop is about cowboy bounty-hunters in space, and it's awesome. The first few Marvel Zombies stories (superhero zombies) was hilarious and very worth the money. I could probably go on, but really, there aren't that many more worthwhile examples, other than Star Wars (Space Western with samurai wizard monks, pirates, and robots) the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and probably Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, or at least I'm told.

The problem is that far too many of these types of projects rely far too heavily on their concept, almost as if the concept alone makes something worthwhile. It almost seems like this attitude makes the writers lazier, unwilling to put forth the effort to make the work worthwhile. Films like Van Helsing, the Underworld series, Sucker Punch, Aliens Vs Predators, Snakes on a Plane, and the second, third and fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movies are examples of this. So is the new movie Cowboys and Aliens, which is a boring, by-the-books Western movie that is predictable as all hell. No one would see this bland piece of crap if it didn't have aliens as a stand in for Bandits or Injuns, and if it didn't star the new James Bond and Indiana Solo. That's part of what got me thinking about this. The other is the concept I started this thing with.

Vampires defending humans against zombies for the mutual benefit of all parties (except the zombies, of course) is the concept behind the webcomic Last Blood by Bobby Crosby (writer) and Owen Gieni (artist). It is apparently going to be made into a movie (the fact that they found a director just a couple of weeks ago is the reason I'm going ahead with a review of a 4 year old comic). If it does make it to the big screen, I hope to Crom they drastically stray from the source material.

Now, don't get me wrong, the source material isn't completely worthless. It is deeply, deeply flawed, however. The flaws come primarily from the fact that Bobby Crosby clearly doesn't care about telling a good story. He cares about showing that this concept is "cool", and explaining how awesome it is. Whole conversations are simply exposition, which might be OK once in a while in a long narrative, but the entirety of Volume 1 is 113 pages, and the sheer amount of exposition used is staggering for that short a space. And it's quite necessary, because B. Crosby isn't a very good writer, but he's come up with some interesting and ingenious ideas aside from the brilliant premise. Specifically, the relationship between vampires and zombies. See, in this world, a vampire that doesn't drink blood for 65 years becomes a "schaemiac", meaning that they lose some vampiric powers but become, essentially, a harder-to-kill intelligent zombie that controls every zombie they make.

Wait, did I call that ingenious? I meant to call it "stupid as hell". I mean, the idea of zombies being controlled by some outside force is actually pretty scary. Making that force a vampire could work. Making it a zombie-vampire thing and making the actual infection happen this way is goddamned idiotic. But, it's a fast, lazy way to advance the plot while reinforcing the "clever" twist of the First Vampire, who coincidentally is the great-grandfather of one of the human characters. Oh, and there's another schaemiac, who's the great-grandfather of one of the other human characters. Isn't that a strange coincidence? It's almost contrived, I'd say.

Nearly every aspect of the writing aside from the initial concept is done amateurishly. The characters are either moderately likeable Mary Sues like Matheson and April, or boring one-dimensional characters like the former pro-wrestling vampire named *sigh* Rage. The work itself feels rushed, like the story should have taken a few more chapters to be fully realized. Oh, and you know what the cure for vampirism is? VODKA. (To be 100% fair, I looked around and found one of Bobby Crosby's many, many insane rants at his critics where he said that the cure was just in vodka bottles because the most brilliant doctor ever vampire Addison Payne had a lot of them, but there is nothing in the comic that I found that suggested this.) I honestly feel dumb for buying and reading the comic (I got it off the Comixology iPhone app after mostly liking the free first issue, not knowing I could have read the whole stupid thing online legally and for free.) There are a few points where he does get it right, like the actually-well-done first issue and the old man shooting hoops with decapitated zombie heads, but part of me thinks that someone else wrote those scenes for him. Perhaps Bobby's big brother Chris?

And yet this comic has a following, and may end up being made into an actual movie by the same company that made the Ring, the Butterfly Effect and A History of Violence. Why? Because it's such a cool concept that, if it's made, nerds will flock to it in cinemas, even if critics hate it. This will have a dedicated fanbase, like Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus or Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter.

So, nerds, don't you think it's time we developed a bit of discernment?


  1. I don't see this as a fulfilment to any part of my challenge and therefore irrelevant

  2. I want you, Ben Dobson, to make a difference and then report in your blog. You provide a lot of opinions, time to make a difference rather than just complaining.