Prompted by the hit US TV show, there’s plenty of interest in The Walking Dead, drawn by Britain’s very own Charlie Adlard and published by Image Comics. Indeed, it seems comic fans just can’t get enough zombies at the moment, with IDW preparing Infestation, a crossover zombie saga launching next year that will even run in some of their licensed titles such as Star Trek and GI Joe.
What may surprise downthetubes is the fact that the usually straight-laced DC Thomson published a zombie-inspired tale here in the UK, way back in 1979.
Plague 2000 featured in The Crunch from Issue 14 – cover dated 21st April 1979 – until Issue 29, cover dated 4th August 1979.
Set in the year 2000, the story reveals mankind has been decimated by a terrible death plague. Many of those not killed by the plague have become something far worse – ‘The Crazies’, zombified humans determined to kill.
Captain Brett Cantrell is assigned to lead an expedition across a devastated United States to New York to find an antidote for the plague, facing the worst of The Crazies along the way.
While stopping short of calling them zombies, there’s no doubt in my mind that this story must have been inspired by films such as George A. Romero’s The Crazies and, more likely, Dawn of the Dead, released in 1978. Dawn of the Dead would have been a film readers of The Crunch would have been well aware of, even if they had never seen it. (Back then, there would have been no other way to see such a film except at the cinema, and it wasn’t always easy to sneek into a showing if you looked under age).
The storyline might also have borrowed from Roger Zelazny’s SF novel Damnation Alley (which also influenced the original Judge Dredd Cursed Earth saga), which is a much better book than its dire film adaptation might suggest.
Like many British comics of the time, The Crunch drew its inspiration from popular film and TV. Editors would work on the principle that while most of their readers could not actually see more ‘adult’ films like Jaws (in the case of Action) or Dawn of the Dead legally, they would be aware of it and its storyline.
Plague 2000 features on the cover of Issue 21 and 23. The Crunch itself – which features some stories that are quite hard hitting and gruesome at times, which might seem at odds with DC Thomson’s normally ‘wholesome’ image’ – ran for 54 issues before amalgamating with the Hotspur in February 1980.
Such was the impact of Plague 2000, it’s haunted one Crunch reader since childhood, prompting him to try and find out more about the strip on the downthtubes forum. “The artwork kept me buying,” Colin Noble recalls.
IDW’s upcoming zombie epic, Infestation, also has a British element. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning will pen Infestation #1, launching in January 2011. This initial 32-page story begins in IDW’s own Zombies vs Robots universe, where something goes terribly wrong and ultimately infests the worlds of Transformers, Star Trek, G.I. Joe and Ghostbusters with zombies and infected robots.
From there, the story spins ferociously into each of the four properties throughout February and March, and culminates in April’s bombastic finale, Infestation #2.
In February, Transformers Infestation #1-2 and Star Trek: Infestation #1-2 will ship bi-weekly. The Transformers title will also be penned by Abnett and Lanning, with fan-favourite Nick Roche handling the art. Star Trek will be written by mainstay authors Scott and David Tipton and illustrated by Casey Maloney.
• If you know more about the creators of Plague 2000, please let us know!
• More about Infestation here: www.idwpublishing.com/news/article/1415