In the world of comics, the zombie genre has become a very popular one. Writer Steve Niles explored a world over run by zombies in the post-apocalyptic “Remains” with Kieron Dwyer, but in the January debuting one-shot from Image Comics, “Pieces For Mom: A Tale of the Undead,” Niles takes a different approach to telling his latest Zombie story.
“Not to knock anyone who’s doing this – and I’ve done it myself with ‘Remains’ – but everyone’s read the survival story at this point,” Niles told CBR News. “So, for me I wanted to play with some other themes within a zombie world and add an extra layer. With ‘Remains,’ the subtext was about relationships and how difficult they can be and what causes jealousy and how two people who absolutely hate each other can still be jealous. Things like that. With ‘Pieces for Mom,’ I really wanted to play with the family dynamic because I felt if a situation like this did ever happen, I think it would be something like this. Just because the world has ended, it doesn’t mean you’d stop fighting with your brother.”
In “Pieces For Mom,” teenagers Derek and Mike are on their own. Mom’s still around, but she’s locked up in a second room because she’s been turned into a zombie. Dad’s lost out in the world somewhere and presumed dead. So, the kids have to fend for themselves in a world that’s just gone made. “Really it’s the story of a broken family in a post-apocalyptic world over run by zombies,” said Niles.
Zombies have changed and evolved over the years. In recent films the mindless, shambling zombies of the past have been replaced by sprinters and runners with an insatiable appetite for human flesh. We’ve also seen zombies who can’t talk and some who can. Adding to the dangers Derek and Mike face, in the world of “Pieces for Mom,” all zombie types are represented. “It’s a very unpredictable world of zombies,” said Niles. “You could be walking by a zombie thinking you have a shambler on your hands, when suddenly he comes bolting after you. You just don’t know.”
Niles said that in addition to falling in love with this story, his other motivation in writing “Pieces for Mom” was an interest in working with the artist on the one shot, Andrew Ritchie. “I’ve worked with a lot of artists and let me say Andrew’s stuff is so freaking creepy,” said Niles. “I remember asking him to create a t-shirt design a while back and when he submitted his design my initial reaction was, ‘We can’t do this. Children will see this and start to cry!’ [laughs] So, I really wanted to do something that would get Andrew out there, with the hope of generating more interest in both of us working together again.”
Niles takes an interesting turn in having this zombie story told through the eyes of teenage boys and realized once he finished that there might be more to this idea. “When I originally started writing this story, I thought it would be another chapter of ‘Remains,’ but ‘Remains’ didn’t really take off as much as I’d hoped and everyone got busy doing other stuff. But, I want to do more. As soon as I got into ‘Pieces for Mom,’ I felt it really worked and moved along nicely. I’m thinking of tackling this subject as a novel. I’m in talks to right now to write my first original novel (outside of the Cal novels, which I guess are considered underground).
“I like writing from a kids perspective. It’s very unique and brings lots of possibilities to the table. For instance, the brother’s ability in ‘Pieces For Mom’ to still be so incredibly self-centered despite everything else going on around him. That’s a trait of kids. It’s not a bad thing. When you have a self-centered character who’s an adult, he’s just the prick in the story. But in this, you think, ‘Well, that’s kids.'”
Considering zombies have been so well mined in comics with many more zombie comics to come, a creator might think twice about tackling the genre considering the sheer number of zombie comics available. But Niles had no trepidation when crafting “Pieces for Mom,” in large part due to the work of his artistic collaborator. “I think Andrew’s art stands above the rest and helps make this book stand out,” said Niles. “It’s so disgusting! It’s probably the most disgusting thing I’ve ever published and I just love it.”