Wednesday, December 14, 2011

We Wish You a Zombie Christmas!

During last week's rundown of the midseason finale of The Walking Dead, my co-author Josh Winstead promised he'd put together a Christmas shopping list for that zombie fan on your list. And sure enough, this morning he came through with this brilliant post. Thank you, Josh! I hope it helps some of you finish buying for that person who is always impossible to buy for. ;) And first, I just wanted to post my little zombie present to all of you: a brilliant short film my friend Chris sent me ages ago, where you see the sadness of a man who is turned into a zombie... while wearing a penguin suit.

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the First Annual Last Minute Nik at Nite Holiday Gift Guide of the Scrambling, Shambling Undead. Apparently some moron promised you guys that we would take time out of our schedules during the very busiest and most stressful time of the year to comb the internet collecting items you could easily find for yourselves if you'd just Google the words “zombie crap.” And, well, apparently this moron is me. So at long last, and with perhaps another whole day or two of online shopping left, we finally give you... this. Thing.

I would love to begin with some kind of astute observation regarding the appeal of zombie-themed material, and apocalyptic literature in general, as symptoms of our global instability, reflections of a worldwide popular fear that the whole of civilization could suddenly go off the rails at any moment, but the truth is I don't really believe that. The truth is, I think people like zombies. They're a perfect adversary for the era of the video game, really – a mindless, guilt-free disposable human. One of the reasons I enjoy The Walking Dead so much, both on television and the page, is because the writers always seem to be looking for new ways to challenge that complacency and remind us of the person that came before the bite. Most of us could do with a little reminding of the humanity in our fellow roamers, and never more so than around the holidays, when many of them turn into such hideous ravening beasts.

Of course, you could always do all of your shopping online and avoid the hideous ravening beasts altogether. And that is exactly what this guide is all about! There is a glut of zombie-themed merchandise out there, but we have searched long and hard to bring you only the very best. Looking. Pictures. Of things we've never actually seen. (Or touched. And cannot verify the craftsmanship thereof.) Let's get to it!

First up, we have two pieces of “official” The Walking Dead merchandise. has a number of items available in their web shop, but my favorite of them is the Daryl Dixon action figure. Produced by the always excellent MacFarlane Toys (the same folks that did the LOST figures), Daryl comes complete with a miniature replica of his signature crossbow and even a little plastic string of dead squirrels to sling over his shoulder. Which may be the best thing anyone ever made out of plastic. Whose desk wouldn't be all classed up by one of those?

Next up is the incredibly cool-sounding The Walking Dead board game from Cryptozoic Entertainment. You take on the role of one of the group as they move through Atlanta, collecting supplies and dodging undead shenanigans. The best part is that if you die during gameplay, you get to come back and menace the living players as a walker! What an irresistible addition to family game night.

And since we're talking about officially licensed merchandise, I cannot resist pointing you guys to this link. Gerber Legendary Blades is the official gigantic ass-whipping knife sponsor of The Walking Dead and have dedicated this section of their website to the implements of destruction as featured in the show and available for purchase. Yes, now you can practice your end-of-the-world backhand in the privacy of your own home! Included are Daryl's serrated machete, Lori's monster parang and Glenn's skull-pummeling Gator machete with the wicked hook. Definitely check out the site, as even the sales copy on each item is entertaining.

There's also some crazy stuff going on here, but I'm not sure what these guys do is completely legal. Entertaining, sure, but legal? Well, maybe – this is America, after all... Anyway, the braver among you should check it out. It's kind of like being a fly on the wall in Daryl and Merle's garage.

The more trigger-happy among you can visit O.F. Mossberg &Sons to get full specs on Shane's mean Mossberg 500 Tactical Persuader pump shotgun. The site also includes a store finder to help you locate a sporting goods store, gun dealer, pawn shop or armory near you, just in case you're ready to carry your imaginative play to the next level and actually spend hundreds of dollars on a real functioning firearm. And if you're seriously assembling an outbreak preparedness kit, perhaps I can interest you in Zombie Boot Camp. There is a fantasy zombie-themed day camp now in operation in the lyrically named Droitwich, England where, for 60 quid, you can spend four hours receiving weapons and survival training from ex-military personnel before being thrown into a warehouse full of squibbed-up pretend zombies ready for a thrashing. Sounds like fun to me.

The Center for Disease Control, seizing upon the popularity of the show, have also dedicated an area of their Foundation website to what they are calling the CDC Zombie Task Force. It's really just a clever way to get folks to consider gathering a legitimate emergency preparedness kit for their own home in case of hurricanes or whatever else might be somewhat more likely than a global zombification pandemic, but it's a fun way to do it. They have great Zombie Task Force t-shirts for sale at $12 apiece, too, so go get yours and be official.

The great has been doing some cool zombie-themed t-shirts in recent months, but because their site only sells each design for one day, we have no way of recommending them to you until it's too late to buy them. Fortunately, however, the artists that contribute Teefury designs also continue to sell the same after the fact, albeit at a higher price, if you know where to look for them. My two recent favorites are the mock Zombie Walk tee by designer rubyred, an awesome homage to George Romero's original Night of the Living Dead, and the terrific Walking Dead comic/show coat of arms style logo on this shirt by WinterArtwork. (For those of you who haven't read the comics, I understand that the presence of the samurai sword in this design doesn't mean anything to you yet. But it will. Oh how it will.)

The dynamite British graphic designer Olly Moss, creator of several posters from the vaunted LOST limited edition runs (including the very best of them, in my opinion, which was the green Saul Bass-inspired Locke wheelchair design), created the following t-shirt that's on sale super cheap at right now.

And, more importantly, it's highly informative. It isn't every day you can buy a t-shirt that might save your life or the lives of others waiting in line with you at the DMV. And, if all else fails, you can always tear it into strips and use it for tourniquets. Reducing blood flow slows the rate of infection, you know.

You can also find a ton of zombie apparel and designs by searching sites like Zazzle and CafePress for keyword 'zombie.' And when I say “a ton,” I mean hundreds, possibly thousands of designs, far too many to sort through for all of the best stuff. So, dear reader, like a true Gen Xer, I've left that step to you.

While we're on the subject of laziness, let's talk about those old-fashioned episodic television shows called books. Perhaps the most fruitful outlet for zombie fans over the past decade has been in print. I would have thought zombie fiction an unlikely genre for mainstream success, but after landslide bestsellers like Max Brooks' 'World War Z' and Seth Grahame-Smith's 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,' it would seem obvious that I'd have thought completely wrong. Now there are countless such tomes on the market in a huge variety, encompassing everything from novels to travel guides, phrase books, survival manuals and even a couple of cookbooks. Yes: cookbooks. I have not had the opportunity to read even a fraction of what's available, but two of my picks from recent years are 'The Passage' by Justin Cronin and 'Boneshaker' by Cheri Priest. Neither are the typical zombie fare, and both will have you reading well past bedtime with extra lights on, I promise.

Also, for the comic-read among us, TWD creator Robert Kirkman has just co-authored its first official novel, titled 'The Walking Dead: Rise of The Governor.' Obviously this is meant to build on the world established in the comics, not just read separately, so those of you who haven't dived into the comics yet have nothing to see here. But for those of you already familiar with The Governor, this is a fun, fun read and provides interesting insight into how he became one of the most twisted villains in comics history.

And with that, we reach what is almost the end of this list. However, we really can't dismiss without at least a few Christmas-themed zombie gifts, right? Well, you may not be aware of this, but despite what would seem to be the perfect marriage of green and red, zombie Christmas stuff is really hard to find. But lucky for you, not impossible. I give you... mistle-toe!

Unfortunately these are completely sold out now, but go ahead and put one on back order for next year. It isn't like you have to worry about it going bad. And if you're desperate for a gift this year, the same shop has these righteous zombie back scratchers.

Fun for the kids! And speaking of kids, it occurs to me that we have failed to include anything for children here. Negligence, begone! Try these on for size:

The “Dismember Me” plush zombie has pull-apart construction so your toy is torn up before the kids even open the package. Comes with extra brain.

The plush zombie monkey is just that – a zombie monkey. For those youngsters who cut their flesh-chomping teeth on the likes of 28 Days Later or are just looking to mix things up a bit with the dichotomy of zombification and cuteness. Well, cute to kids like mine, anyway.

For example, and in closing, I offer the following anecdote:

Several weeks ago, my wife and I started helping our own kids (Jeremy, 7, and Ella, 5) put together their Christmas lists. Last year's lists were instant classics (my personal favorite being Jeremy's order for “a dirt bike that explodes fire”), but what I found most surprising about this year was that once they finished assembling their own individual lists, the two cretins put their heads together and also created a COMBINED list of things that they could both agree everyone wants. This twofold list only had a few items, all circled in a catalog to illustrate: a trampoline (aka “The Splintmaker”), some kind of large bore Nerf-type foam riflery set (with special fragile tchotchke radar), and the pièce de résistance ... wait, let me go get the catalog so I know I have this exactly right. Ok, here it is – it's called the Doctor Dreadful Zombie Lab, and it appears to be a gross-out candy science kit. “Eat bubbling brains,” the box reads, “drink zombie barf,” (seriously, dude), “slurp slimey bugs, plus zombie skin,” with a picture of an eager kid pouring some kind of flaky green stuff into his open mouth. Watch it in action:

I couldn't quite believe that some high-level corporate toy manufacturer thought this would be a viable marketable product until I went to the store to buy one. Much to my surprise, I had to go to six different stores before I found somewhere that wasn't sold out. Guess there's no accounting for taste, even when it comes to zombies.

Happy holidays, everyone! We'll see you in February.

PS – Here's a bonus gift for you. Make one of these to wear Christmas morning, and your kids will let you sleep in for sure!

1 comment:

Christina B said...

Ha! Awesome list, Josh!!

That Walking Dead board game is DEFINITELY going on my list! Thank you!