Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Dead Mag Walking

Posted by Don MacPherson on October 24th, 2012

The Walking Dead Magazine #1
Contributors: Dan Auty, Stuart Barr, Tara Bennett, Bryan Cairns, Dan Bura & Jay Bonansinga
Editors: Toby Weidmann & Martin Eden
Publisher: Titan Magazines/Skybound Entertainment
Price: $9.99 US/CAN

It’s not often I’m sent review material under embargo, but given the huge success of the Walking Dead TV series, the property has become something of a mass-media powerhouse, and the contents of this magazine were meant to be hush-hush until this week. After perusing its pages, I’m really not sure why there was such an emphasis on secrecy, because this magazine dedicated to The Walking Dead in all its forms (and produced by its co-creator) really doesn’t offer any insight into the stories or the pop-culture phenomenon. It doesn’t feature any spoilers of note for upcoming episodes of the TV show or comic book. Its purpose here seems fairly clear: to continue fuelling the money-making machine by celebrating and spotlighting every single piece of merchandise infected by the zombie-genre success story.

The overall tone of the magazine seems to assume there’s a strong audience crossover between the comics and the AMC television series, and I don’t know the readership for the original source material is quite as widespread as the TV viewership. However, that tone could be a purposeful effort to draw the fan of the television series to the comics and collected editions. The unstated but painfully obvious goal of the magazine is to pimp out every possible product linked to the property as possible, not just the comics and TV show. The reader is bombarded with mentions of video games, action figures, statues, food, books, a tour, T-shirts and other apparel, and not just in the context of advertising. In the spirit of Halloween, sales pitches are dressed up as editorial content. It was immediately off-putting.

Perhaps the most irksome feature in this inaugural issue was the one focusing on variant covers, not only for The Walking Dead #100 but for the magazine as well. Celebrating variant covers is disappointing enough, but to title the article “A Century of Fine Art” takes the cake. Personally, I think a more interest art-related piece would’ve been about the strength of Walking Dead pages in the original comic art market.

The aspect of the book to which I was most looking forward was the promised short story, but I had assumed it would be a comics-related piece not unlike the Michonne origin story by Kirkman and artist Charlie Adlard that ran in Playboy earlier this year. Instead, it’s a short prose story by a co-writer of The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor. While I wish there was original comics material in this magazine (and it seems like a lost opportunity not to include something like that for collection at a later time), I welcomed the chance to sample Jay Bonansinga’s writing. It’s a little overdone at times, but he successfully paints quite a picture. He offers up a convincing action scene that turns out to be far more interesting once the focus shifts away from threats to feeble and vulnerable members of a community. The biggest problem with the story is that it’s really not much more than an action sequence. Characterization really isn’t a strong concern in “Just Another Day at the Office.”

The magazine goes out of its way to be positive about The Walking Dead in all its forms, but the property hasn’t been without its controversies. There appears to be no mention of Tony Moore’s recently settled court action against Kirkman over the creator credit and financial windfall TWD represents. In fact, no Tony Moore art appears in the magazine, not even in a feature designed to sum up the entire comic-book series to date. Furthermore, there’s no mention of Frank Darabont’s expulsion from the show’s staff in Season 2, nor is there any discussion of the perceived flaws in the second season (the lack of zombie action, the complaints about Lori and Carl).

The interviews with the likes of Kirkman, Glen Mazzara and actress Danai Gurira are superficial in nature. These are PR pieces, not probing, insightful conversations. The only article that seems to make the most of the access the makers of the magazine should have had or expected is the one about the Season 3 sets, and honestly, I didn’t find it all that interesting. Yes, the prison sets have looked great, yes, but the stories and characters are what keep me riveted. I wasn’t wild about the publication’s sense of design either. Some of the fonts are too small, and the placement of photos and pullquotes interfere with the flow of the pages. 3/10

Follow Eye on Comics on Twitter.