Or at least they did… this past Saturday, May 29th at my little piece of comic shop heaven here in San Francisco. Yeah sure, I know your comic pimping amigo promised I'd do a Monday morning update last week, but after spending several days sorting through literally hundreds and hundreds of photos from the Remains Zombiefest I knew a simple Monday update just wasn't going to satisfy. And I say fuck being unsatisfied.
Anyone could tell that it was going to be an amazing weekend even as the last rays of California sun disappeared right into the Pacific Ocean, just a few dozen blocks down the street from the Isotope's front door. With voodoo tunes oozing out into the night time air and the sky burning in reds and purples, the first of the bodies began shambling in the front door. As expected, each attendee was already animated by the opportunity to meet the comic personalities behind "Remains," Steve Niles and Kieron Dwyer. But what made this a truly unique evening amongst the endless array of unique nights of San Francisco was the strange and eerie talents of Doctor Jared Guenther, who was on hand with a mission to re-animate all willing subjects and return the spark of life to the lifeless.
With the goal of shaping the twilight atmosphere into the perfect ambiance for the undead, Doctor Guenther and his assistant had spent much time during the sunlight hours transforming what once was a comic book lounge into an arcane laboratory, with bloody arms and severed heads of his less fortunate test subjects on display. I could do more than to sit by as the Doctor of un-death prepared my comic store for an evening of bloody work. With a smorgasboard of brains to sample and the various tools of his trade on hand, the re-animating physician in the white lab coat rubbed his hands and readied his fingers to practice his dark art…
The night's festivities featured a classic array of Hollywood horror archetypes. Let me introduce you.
Since the event, I had the opportunity to interview Doctor Guenther, to shine an inside light on how he creates his creatures of carnage. But before we find out what lurks in the dark corners of this mad doctor's brain, let's witness some of his handiwork.
I was lucky enough to sit down with Guenther over a glass (or two) of bourbon for a truly bizarre interview…
Comic Pimp: If you'd be so kind, I'd be interested in knowing a little about your background, Doctor Guenther. How long have you been doing zombification?
Doctor Guenther: Zombification? There is no zombificating going on here! Do I look like some kind of voodoo priest? Vhat I do is re-animation! Ze re-animation of ze dead is serious business! One cannot simply grind up ze frog und shake around ze chicken and hope to bring ze dead back to life. Dumkopf! Mind your tongue, I vill not tolerate such ignorance! Vhat vas your question, again? Ahh yes, my background. I grew up in a small village in Germany vhere my papa vas ze local practitioner of medicine. After ze questionable disappearances of a number of ze local children my family was forced escape persecution und flee to ze less judgemental wilds of Canada. As a youth zhere I studied ze anatomy of ze neighbourhood pets and made many discoveries zat conventional sciences vould not allow. I dreamt often of zat vhich is verboten und longed to one day perfect my dark processes und demonstrate zem for all to see. But, you know, Canada is cold so I moved to California for ze sun und also ze pretty girls.
Comic Pimp: No argument there. When it comes to pretty girls, the SF bay area is certainly an embarrassment of riches! So how long have you been practicing these forbidden arts? Do you have any formal training?
Doctor Guenther: I have dabbled in zese "Forbidden arts" as you call zem all my life. I remember even as a junge kinder zat I vould apply electricity to ze testicles of squirrels zat had "fallen" out of ze trees in our backyard. But it has only been ze last year or so zat I started reproducing my experiments professionally.
As I have had no formal training, I tried to get accepted at ze Academy but zey all laughed at me and called me mad. Vell, zey wont be laughing so hard vhen an army of ze undead comes knocking on zere door, will zey? Mwahahahaha... Uhmmmm... Could you edit zat last part out?
Comic Pimp: No problem! So… where were we? Formal training?
Doctor Guenther: As I said, I have had no formal training. All zat I learnt came from reading ze ancient texts of ze masters such as Herr Tom Savini und Herr Dick Smith. Zere groundbreaking discoveries und experiments vere all I needed to stimulate my itching brain. Also ze vorld vide veb is very helpful.
Comic Pimp: What else is a Doctor such as yourself proficient at? Are there other fields of macabre craftsmanship that you are involved in?
Doctor Guenther: I have ze abilities to perform many different transformations to my human subjects. Re-animation of ze deceased is merely one aspect of my skills. I can also summon ze demons, bring on ze ailments or disfigurements und even cause ze rapid aging. Upon ze request I have even been known to procure ze human remains und bodily sections.
Comic Pimp: No request here! I don't need any bodily sections so let's just stick to the interview. Now I know that his isn't your first reanimation event, why don't you tell me about your other experiences?
Doctor Guenther: In ze past I have mostly been known to re-animate only for family und friends for special occasions. Hallowe'en is alvays very popular vith ze gemein. Zhat is vhen zey decide zat my practices are amusing und zey choose to accept me as long as zey believe zat my operations are "temporary" or "illusions". Let ze fools believe vhat zey vill.
Now zat ze entertainment community has discovered vhat I can do for zere dreary productions I have seen an increased interest in my skills. Zis year I brought extreme sickness to a young fraulein in ze short film "Marburg" as vell as delivered many painful deaths to ze actors in "Accidents Will Happen". Most recently I vas involved in ze sold out smash hit EVIL DEAD: LIVE vhere I turned many actors into bloodthirsty demons. Also vith zat production I constructed ze main giant demon. A creature so big zat it had to be built from ze ground up starting vith ze skeleton und ending vith ze hair.
Comic Pimp: You did a fantastic job on the in-house zombification during our Remains Zombiefest, very impressive to see it being done right before your eyes. What's the most challenging aspect about doing live zombification?
Doctor Guenther: Dumkopf! Vhat do you zink? If one of zose undead Satansbraten gets ahold of you. Vhat do you zink it vill do? Take you for dinner und ze movie und zen maybe ask you for a nightcap? Nein! It vill chew your arm off und zen burrow into your belly for der nachtisch! Vhat did I tell you about ze dumkopf questions?
Comic Pimp: Uh… what was it like re-animating world-famous comic creators like Steve Niles and Kieron Dwyer?
Doctor Guenther: Ze subjects of Niles und Dwyer vere very eager to undergo my process. Herr Niles felt zat if he could think like ze undead it vould give him a new perspective on ze writing of such parts in his books. Herr Dwyer on ze other hand believed zat if he couldn't make enough money as an artist zen a life as an undead circus sideshow attraction could be very profitable. Of course zey perhaps didn't realize that to re-animate them it vas first necessary to end zeir lives. Zey looked momentarily concerned as I swung ze hammer but any worries zat zey may have had vere kaput as soon as I re-animated zem und gave zem zeir first taste of brains.
Comic Pimp: I'm sure many of my readers are interested in doing something like you do for a living. What are some of your favorite resources that helped make you the man that you are?
Doctor Guenther: I find zat ze works of George Romero und Lucio Fulci are very inspring as well as informative. Also inspiring are ze books Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman, Hellboy by Mike Mignola und zis new book Remains by Herrs Niles und Dwyer. Zose two know zombies und they know them well.
Comic Pimp: Now that the Zombiefest is over, what's next for you?
Doctor Guenther: Zis month I shall be re-animating hordes of corpses for a music video. I'm presently experimenting with different forms of electric shock to create ze motion of dance within ze undead. Mostly it vorks but occasionally ze zombies catch fire and zey create a fire hazard. Let me tell you zat is certainly something you do not want. A flaming zombie may sound like a refreshing tropical cocktail but it's really just an accident waiting to happen.
Comic Pimp: Are your skills available to other comic shop proprietors or for stage productions or for the filmakers out there? How can people contact you?
Doctor Guenther: Ja, of course. I am available for all your transformation needs. From death and re-animation to mild wounding I can service ze entertainment vorld. Examples of my results can be seen at www.1000faces.com or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let me send out a 'thank you' to those who made this night so truly special:
Steve Niles and Kieron Dwyer, the men of the hour and two of the best special guests a store proprietor could ever hope for. The amazingly talented Jared Guenther for his special effects wizardry. The lovely Nikki and Anita, the hardworking Isotope staff, and of course everyone who came out to enjoy our event!
If you are interested in seeing more Zombiefest pictures Steven Niles photos can be found here, Kieron Dwyer's photos can be found here and Doctor Guenther's photos can be found here.