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Houghton Spills His Guts on “Fanboys Vs. Zombies”

by  in Comic News Comment
Houghton Spills His Guts on “Fanboys Vs. Zombies”

Only in BOOM! Studios’ ongoing comic book series “Fanboys Vs. Zombies” can a post-apocalyptic comic convention organizer be as scary as the walking dead — and smell just as rotten.

Through the first eight issues, writer Sam Humphries and artist Jerry Gaylord have taken a ragtag crew of fanboys and geek girls — known as The Wrecking Crew — through a comic convention zombie outbreak and a nerdy tour of apocalyptic San Diego. But the last issue was a turning point for the series, and not just because zombie-killing gorillas showed up. By issue’s end, the San Diego Convention Center was reduced to rubble and a core member of the Wrecking Crew had walked out on the group. It was also writer Sam Humphries’ final issue of the series, with Shane Houghton replacing him beginning with December’s issue #9.

Best known for “Reed Gunther,” the comedic-action western featuring a cowboy and his bear, as well as BOOM!’s “Peanuts” series, Houghton was Humphries’ first choice to succeed him on the book. Houghton talked to CBR News about taking over “Fanboys Vs. Zombies” and teased big things heading toward the remaining members of the Wrecking Crew — one of which may be a nuclear weapon.

CBR News: So how did you land the “Fanboys Vs. Zombies” writing gig, and how did the handoff between you and Sam Humphries work?

Shane Houghton: Sam took me out to lunch a few months ago and asked if I was interested in taking over for him. He said the book would be completely turned over to me, but he’d be there in case I needed any help or suggestions. Kind of like what happened with him on “Ultimates” with Jonathan Hickman. But things have been really smooth and Sam’s been able to sit back and relax while I drive the “Fanboys Vs. Zombies” ship.

What went through your mind when Sam offered you the book?

My first thoughts about being offered the book is how cool it was going to be taking over a book previously written by a good friend! Sam and I met about three years ago before either of us were very well known as comic writers. We share a similar circle of friends and I think we officially met at a movie night at a buddy’s apartment. We talked comics and it’s been roses and high-fives ever since.

Sam has really exploded this past year as Marvel’s hottest young writer, which is totally deserved because Sam is a rocking writer. Having him so busy on many new projects opened up the world of “Fanboys Vs. Zombies” for me to step in and start messing up some zombies.

What excites you the most about playing in this particular zombie apocalypse?

I’m pumped to slide over from all-ages comedy into a more adult comedy. Although “adult comedy” makes it sound like a weird porn title. I’ve always been a big horror and comedy fan. When I first moved out to Los Angeles, I interned at Ghost House Pictures and read scripts for [“Evil Dead” producer] Rob Tapert. I’ve written a lot of monsters into other books because I really like monsters, but have stayed away from zombies since it’s such a massive beast.

The world created for “FVZ” is wildly awesome. Nerds fighting zombies! The Wrecking Crew are such a fun and relatable group of characters to follow around. I’m super excited about my first arc, which pulls the gang out of San Diego and into some real trouble.

The last issue saw San Diego reduced to rubble and a member of The Wrecking Crew leaving. Can you tease a bit where you’re planning to take them from here?

With Jenna gone, Kurt Kiel, the zombie comic writing super-star, takes the lead. It’s revealed that his expert zombie knowledge comes from talking to his brother who works in a secret compound that predicts, tests and implements doomsday scenarios. Kurt thinks the group should meet up with his brother in Nevada for some answers.

Oh, also there may or may not be a nuclear bomb headed for San Diego.

How expansive are you hoping to make the “Fanboys Vs. Zombies” world? I know there’s also an upcoming flashback issue that takes place in Mexico…

Yeah, it’s going to get pretty crazy. I want to really open up the world and see the consequences. Issue #10 tells the story of what happened to Rob and Burger when they were separated back in issue #5. It’s a great issue for new readers to jump in on because it follows only two characters in a complete story. It’s kind of a one-shot that fits into this arc. I don’t want to give too much away, but that issue is going to be dynamite bananas.

And if BOOM! approves my next story arc, the world of “FVZ” is going to get much, much more expansive.

You’re probably best known for your all-ages books like “Reed Gunther.” Can you talk about what’s it been like writing gorier stuff. Do you think people who have read your other books will be surprised at your take on “FVZ?”

I like a little gore and especially if it’s done with a comedic tone. I don’t think fans of my previous work will be surprised by the writing in “FVZ.” Well, the fans of “Reed Gunther” won’t be. Maybe the “Peanuts” folks will be…

In “Reed Gunther,” we’ve got lots of gross stuff but it’s done with a comedic tone. Everyone loves that, kids and adults. Kids especially like really weird and gross stuff. But if it’s too bloody, it’s deemed inappropriate for kids. “FVZ” has some pretty funny, yet bloody gags. Like in one issue, Kyle accidentally lights his arm on fire and a decapitated zombie spewing blood is used as a makeshift fire extinguisher. Funny, right?!?

If readers like what my brother [Chris] and I did in our recent “Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror” story, they’ll definitely dig “Fanboys Vs. Zombies.”

Jerry Gaylord has done the majority of the art for the series, but would you consider bring your brother and “Reed Gunther” collaborator Chris into the series for a one-off? Will you guys be working together on anything else soon?

Jerry is absolutely incredible and is totally owning this series. He’s got a great sense of storytelling and is super funny. Chris and I are way too busy currently working on some unannounced projects that are going to be super cool. We just did an “Adventure Time” backup story in issue #9 that was also colored by the “Reed Gunther” colorist, Josh Ulrich. As much as I would love to get Chris drawing exploding zombie brains, he’s definitely got his hands full. I think he’s even taking a break from drawing “Adventure Time” covers for a while as well. Jerry’s just going to have to keep plugging away month after month! No rest for the awesome, Jerry!

There’s no lack of zombies in pop-culture these days. What makes “FVZ” stand out from the rest for you?

“Fanboys Vs. Zombies” is a hilarious romp in a post-apocalyptic world where geeks inherit the Earth. You wouldn’t see someone use a zombie as a fire extinguisher in “The Walking Dead.” And if they did, they’d probably have some really serious emotional fallout from that traumatic event. In our series, it’s a goof! Not only is it fun, but the main characters have similar passions and wants as the real-life fanboys reading the book. Plus, there’s nerdy zombies too. Like cosplaying Chewbacca zombies. Awesome.

“Fanboys Vs. Zombies” #10 is on sale December 19.

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