Van Lente Goes Undead in "Marvel Zombies Halloween"

Fridays on CBR mean Axel's In Charge.

Welcome to MARVEL A-I-C: AXEL-IN-CHARGE, CBR's regular interview feature with Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso!

This week, a meeting of the minds is taking place in New York...and keeping Marvel's Editor-in-Chief well occupied. Let him tell it like it is!

"Hey, folks. I'm currently unfolding my brain, which was twisted into a pretzel at our semi-annual creative summit. We have great things in store for you in coming months, and we'll be telling you about them soon. In the meantime, here's a feature about an upcoming series by Fred Van Lente and Allessandro Vitti that is near-and-dear to this Zombieholic's heart!" - Axel

Every year kids of all ages look forward to Halloween. It's the one time of year where it's socially acceptable to don a costume in public. Adults attend costumed parties and parades, while children dress up in their elaborate guises and go door to door trick or treating for candy. So on Halloween it's not unusual to see people wearing costumes that make them look like ghouls, ghosts, or even super heroes.

What happens though in a world where real ghouls wear costumes every day? Is the spirit of Halloween still alive in a reality where masked zombies regularly munch on the few remaining humans in the world? This October Van Lente and artist Alessandro Vitti will answer those questions and more in the special holiday themed one-shot, "Marvel Zombies Halloween" which he describes in detail below!

The following interview was conducted by CBR Staff Writer Dave Richards

CBR News: Fred, you wrote "Marvel Zombies 3-5," and you also contributed to the "Marvel Zombies Return" miniseries, which means you're the most prolific author for this particular franchise. So did you always mean to do another "Marvel Zombies" project after "Marvel Zombies 5," or was there something about this project in particular that made it especially appealing?

Fred Van Lente: I definitely got a little burnt out there at the end of #5. There are only so many different ways super heroes can eat each other. [Laughs] So I sort of needed to refill the tank.

Cover art by Francesco Francavilla

What inspired me to come back was that this is very much a holiday special comic. In many ways I'm writing this for my wife who has a scary love of holiday specials. She forces me to watch them with her especially during Halloween, Christmas, and Easter. It doesn't matter if it's animated, live action, or stop motion. We'll watch them all. So this is kind of for her. It's a fun, little, gory, one-shot horror story.

One of the fun elements of the "Marvel Zombies" franchise is that it can literally go almost anywhere and tackle almost any kind of genre. So where are you taking readers in "Marvel Zombies Halloween"?

The franchise is known for being really over the top and focusing on the insane idea of zombie-infected super heroes. And in the past, we've done stories with martians, robots, knights and many of Marvel's monster characters. So for our Halloween one-shot, we're doing more of a "classic" zombie apocalypse story about a woman and her son. The kid has grown up in a zombie apocalypse universe and when Halloween rolls around, he wants to go trick or treating. He's heard about it and read about it, but his mom doesn't think it's a very good idea because they're surrounded by zombies.

So he asks her, "What's the purpose of us staying alive during the zombie apocalypse if we never get to have any fun? What's the point of just surviving?" He then sneaks out on Halloween night and goes Trick or Treating in a Spider-Man costume and events spiral from there. It's a horrific but sweet little tale.

Who is your point of view character for the story? The boy? The mother? Or will you follow the perspective of both characters?

I'm not going to reveal that. They're both equally important though; perhaps to the Marvel Universe, perhaps not. I love "Twilight Zone" style twists, and there's definitely some of that going on here.

So is this essentially a mystery story, where initially readers won't know the exact identities of the main characters or when this story takes place in the established "Marvel Zombies" chronology?

Exactly. If I revealed those things, I would give away the game, but I can reveal that this is going to really focus on Marvel's kid and teen heroes; Avengers Academy, Runaways and even Power Pack. You'll see more gruesome versions of these teams than we're used to seeing. It's sort of what "Lost Boys" did for vampires.

Plus, there's even a surprise appearance at the end of the story by a Marvel character I've always loved, but for various reasons have never been able to include in a story. Their appearance in this is particularly apropos. It's another horror-themed Marvel character that I've never been able to write.

From what you've described, it sounds like a classic EC Comics style horror tale more than the typical Marvel Zombies story.

I imagine that most people reading this know that Ray Bradbury recently passed away. One of my favorite books, which really influenced me as a kid growing up, is one of his lesser known works. It's called "The Halloween Tree." It's this very intense kid's story, obviously set during Halloween. Another one of my favorite books that he did was "Something Wicked This Way Comes." Those stories are both big influences on this one-shot. It's sort of "Marvel Zombies" meets the, for lack of a better phrase, suburban magical realism that Bradbury brought to a lot of his horror stories. And obviously EC ripped him off a couple of times for stories. [Laughs] So I can totally see how you would make that connection.

We've talked about story and characters, so let's wrap things up by talking about your artistic collaborator on the book. Alessandro Vitti is bringing your script to life. What do you feel he brings to this particular story as an artist?

Alessandro and I did a back up series involving teen heroes in "Fear Itself: The Home Front." So I think that's why he was chosen for and this and is such a good fit. Alessandro also brings a great youthful quality to the story, which is important because of the various characters involved.

The exterior of "Marvel Zombies Halloween" will feature some pretty striking imagery as well, as seen in our exclusive first look at Francesco Francavilla's cover.

Francesco did a great job with the cover. I'm thinking there's something to be said about impulse buys in comics. We need more of those, and I'm a sucker for these holiday special comics. People are going to walk into the store during the last week of October and see Francesco's cover, and this thing is just going to jump off the racks at them. They'll get a fun, beautiful-looking comic that hopefully captures the spirit of Halloween. To me, that's the whole purpose of a holiday comic. It's something to get people into the mood of the season.

Have some questions for Marvel's AXEL-IN-CHARGE? Please visit the CUP O' Q&A thread in CBR's Marvel Universe forum. It's now the dedicated thread for all connections between Board Members and the Marvel Executive staff that CBR will pull questions for next week's installment of our weekly fan-generated question-and-answer column! Do it to it!

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Tags: marvel comics, francesco francavilla, fred van lente, axel-in-charge, alessandro vitti, marvel zombies halloween

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