Mmm, Brains…Hart & Meugniot Snack On "Zombie Monkey Monster Jamboree"

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If there are two things genre fans love, it's monkeys and zombies. The adorable little creatures are good for wild shenanigans, touching moments, and instances of extreme brutality. Zombies have the brutality down and allow for lots of pretty people to dress in skimpy clothing while gracing our movie screens. Put the two together and well…it might just be nerd heaven. Actionopolis hopes to take you to heaven a bit early, with their latest project "Zombie Monkey Monster Jamboree," as part of their young readers line of illustrated novels. CBR News caught up with writer JJ Hart and artist Will Meugniot, who were happy to get into the nitty gritty of this book, including it's origin.

"The title and basic premise came from Shannon and Patrick of Actionopolis," Hart told CBR News. "They offered it as a possibility and it was, as you can imagine, irresistible, like a draw to a royal flush when you're already holding four of the cards. Shannon asked me to write it, and I agreed, slotting it into my schedule as soon as I had a few spare hours off the mountains and out of the trees. Laptops can track mountain lions with you, but it's hard to deliver a manuscript from the wilderness."

For Meugniot, getting involved with the project seemed like a natural decision after working on superheroes in the second "Ultimate Avengers" animated project. Looking for something new, "Zombie Monkey" seemsd like a natural. "Being a sucker for undead lower primates, how could I decline?" Meugniot told CBR News. "The Monster Jamboree part was just a bonus."

If that "Monster Jamboree" part of the book's title didn't convince you that this was a project that strayed from the beaten path, the group's diverse main cast should be enough convincing for you. "Skeeter McGill is the new leader of the Basilisk Patrol, leading them on a campout for the first time. Things go bad," teased Hart. "In the Basilisk Patrol are: Kyle, athletic, accomplished, and obnoxious; Lane, Kyle's sidekick and echo; Gas, fat and flatulent; Hari, who loves rocks; Sam, who has collected almost every merit badge the Wild West Scouts offer; and Mustafa and Josh, who are so Sam-like (except for the merit badges) that it's hard to tell them apart.

"The adult scout leaders, who are immediately separated from the Patrol, are Glenn and Paul. They try to find the boys. Things go bad."

While a fan of all the characters, the artist admits that he's enamored with one in particular. " I'm particularly fond of our "husky" hero, Gas," said Meugniot. "It's a rare kid who can fight zombies with his natural – ahem – emissions."

Whether or not you're a fan of zombies or monkeys, it's hard to deny how insanely fun the combination of the words sounds when put together. Just say it: zombie monkeys. And in Hart's case, that's all he needed to do to know this was an idea that he couldn't let go. "You just said it. Zombie Monkeys. Cute little balls of brain-eatin' fur. Except in this case they're not so little," said Hart. "Seriously, I love most mammals, some insects, lotsa birds, the occasional sea creature, and even, when they're not too annoying, a human or three. But monkeys come in near the top of my list. Who wouldn't, given the opportunity, write a monkey book? And the fact that they're zombies just makes it that much sweeter."

Meugniot's experience on a lot of popular animated programs, from "Spider-Man Unlimited" to every X-Men animated program in recent memory, and a variety of storyboarding jobs, such as his work on "Return Of The Living Dead III," helped in his work on this book. "Having been exposed to a wide variety of art styles over the years made it easy to come up with a unique look for the kids. Also, animation has forced me to learn how to draw quickly and depict motion in interesting ways."

Both the scribe and artist praise Actionopolis for its all-ages oriented initiatives, as well as the creative freedom offered by the Komikwerks imprint. "How many people would toss you a concept like 'Zombie Monkey Monster Jamboree' and then get out of the way to let you tell it? I've been around that block a few times, and I can tell you that the answer to that question is Not Many," said Hart. "But these guys want to publish great adventure stories for kids of all ages, and they've figured out how to do that."

Those are sentiments echoed by Meugniot, who said, "I'm a big fan of people who actually go out and do things. I admire Shannon and Patrick beyond words for their courage and conviction in launching Komikwerks and Actionopolis. Besides, it's fun to do projects with no interference."

width="136" height="190" alt="" align="right" border="0"> width="136" height="190" alt="" align="right" border="0">Speaking of projects, both creators are keeping might busy, though Hart is quite smooth at not revealing anything. "I've been giving some thought to a solo trek down to Chiapas, Mexico to pick up some fresh coffee beans," said Hart. "The dog might go too, but the duck doesn't like the water down there. Or if you meant book projects, well, there are always more of those on the way. A fella's got to make a living, right?"

Meugniot is a bit more open, with some high profile projects on the way in industries outside comics. "My big life-consuming project at the moment is directing the first 'Dragonlance' DVD movie for Paramount," he revealed. "The 'Ultimate Avengers 2' DVD for which I directed about half the sequences is just out. Additionally I have an environmentally-themed superhero series in development with a Korean studio for possible European release. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for that one, too."

Don't count on the boys of "Zombie Monkey" taking too much time off if you thrill to their adventures, as Hart hopes you will. "The boys of the Basilisk Patrol are itching for their next grand adventure. Who isn't? Maybe when I get back to this side of the border," Hart said.

Adds Meugniot, "By the time JJ's back from Mexico, I should be back from my Zombilogical Expeditions in India and rarin' to go."

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