Ok, I have a huge confession to make. Before my friend and writing partner, Koji Sakai, suggested the idea of the story, Santa vs Zombies, I wasn’t a zombie fan. I have always been more of a vampire enthusiast when it came to classic horror. So, I guess the first inspiration for me to co-author the original story behind the graphic novel was Koji Sakai, writer, director, producer.
I’ve learned not to say no to Koji. He always has great ideas, so the more I dug into the project, the more I became intrigued by zombies. Being a veteran author, I researched the whole zombie trope to uncover for myself what all the buzz was about zombies. Oh, there were zombie movies and zombie literature in Western literature since the early 1800’s, but most people attribute George Romero’s classic, The Night of the Living Dead, in 1968 as the watershed moment for modern zombie fandom. Seeing The Night of the Living Dead as a young man on some local TV rerun channel well after its original release, I have to admit, I wasn’t impressed. The stiff-legged zombies idling about duck-walking from side-to-side just seemed like bad acting to me. I didn’t get it. BTW, even Mr. Romero in a 2017 interview for Variety admitted that the film was crudely made. Even in those days, $114,000 doesn’t get you great special effects (the movie’s budget was that amount.) So, for all these years I never bothered with zombie movies, books, stories or shops in New Orleans. Then Mr. Sakai came along and I was compelled to look at these creatures more closely. Koji is a life-long zombie fanatic, and he’s a smart, cool dude, so there had to be something to these zombies.
How could I have known as a teen or young man that Mr. Romero’s film had such allegory written into it? I never had a film deconstruction class in my college prep high school. I watched movies to be entertained not to interpret the ‘message’ the filmmaker hit us over the head with. That brings me back to researching for the story of Santa vs Zombies. The second inspiration was the discovery of George Romero’s intent to portray the zombies as an allegory to the immoral events of the communist witch hunts of the Cold War era. And, his embedding the shame of race relations in the movie. These messages blended into the zombie legend made me admire his effort from a new vantage point. That inspired me, big time. I have always wanted my stories to entertain and provide a social message. Zombies can be a great device to symbolize many social ills that plague our society (all puns intended.) Zombies are relentless, have unlimited resources-they keep coming and coming, are distasteful, and multiply with abandon. You can symbolize any number of social conditions and represent them as a zombie. I’m sure as you read this you’ve already plugged in your favorite hated world condition and put them into a zombie onslaught. I won’t reveal here what my zombies represented to me as I was writing them, so have fun identifying the zombies in our story as any of the decaying social norms that you want.
The more I looked into zombies as a horror character, the more I was being hooked on the terror they could inflict. That brought me to another inspiration: their power. As I stated previously, I was always a vampire geek. Vampires had cool powers: super strength, transmutation, flight, and every male teen’s fantasy, they could get any girl under their spell even when they looked creepy, dressed and talked weird. But, zombies swarm. Let’s face it. You kill THE vampire, bang! The scourge is done. But, you kill a zombie, there are hundreds lined up to keep getting you. Now, that’s scary power. I came around to how powerful zombies really are. They might not be as smart as that suave vampire, but they got a lot in the tank that will overwhelm you! The other thing I came to respect about zombie power (Zombie Power? I’m picturing a zombie with a bandana and a raised fist. LoL) was that they are hell bent on an apocalypse. They destroy everything in sight until the world comes to an end, but my old guilty pleasure, the vampire, kills one-on-one and isn’t interested in destroying all of mankind. Let’s face it, if mankind were destroyed, what would be left for the vampires to feed on?
I’m sure I will leave out several other inspirations for Santa vs Zombies but a final one for this interview also addresses: Why Santa? Here again I have to compare my old friends, vampires, to my new appreciation of zombies. Zombies attack and destroy social conventions: neighborhoods, cities, family structure, peace and order, etc. without restrictions. Vampires creep around the edges of society and infest themselves into society to do their dirty work. The vampire comes and goes leaving society intact. On the other hand, zombies tear down society, leaving devastation in their wake. Nothing is safe from zombies, not even a beloved, pure forces of good like old St. Nick. Whereas, vampires are shunned by pure good, such as the image of the Christian Cross that drives the vampire away as does the luscious goodness of garlic, sunlight destroys the vampire and our dear vampire must rest in the day. Zombies on the other hand, have no hesitation to destroy any beloved entity, Mother Theresa, Mohamad, Gandhi, Moses, Confucius, or even SANTA CLAUS! That’s impressive!
There you have it. These are the inspirations that excited me to contribute to Santa vs Zombies. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
ABOUT SANTA VS ZOMBIES
Meet Santa. He’s having a mid-life crisis. He hates his job and wishes he was doing anything else other than being Santa. He’s just going through the motions and that’s why he doesn’t notice the zombie apocalypse until it’s almost two late. Saved by two kids, he at first tries to get back to the North Pole only to discover that his reindeer have been eaten. On the run and just trying to survive, Santa befriends the kids and falls in love with their recently-divorced mother. Soon Santa rediscovers his Christmas spirit and does everything he can to save Christmas for the kids—even if it means his own death.
ABOUT CO-AUTHOR KOJI STEVEN SAKAI
Koji Steven Sakai is the founder of Little Nalu Pictures LLC and the CEO of CHOPSO (www.CHOPSO.com), the first Asian English streaming video service. He has written five feature films that have been produced, including the indie hit, The People I’ve Slept With. He also produced three feature films, a one-hour comedy special currently on Netflix, and Comedy InvAsian, a live and filmed series featuring the nation’s top Asian American comedians. Koji’s debut novel, Romeo & Juliet Vs. Zombies, was released in paperback in 2015 and in audiobook in 2016; his graphic novel, 442, came out in 2017. In addition, he is currently an adjunct professor in screenwriting at International Technological University in San Jose.
ABOUT CO-AUTHOR JOHN MAYER
John Mayer is a well-published author both in fiction and non-fiction with three previous novels, two screenplays and a performed stage play. With over twenty non-fiction books published. His latest, Family Fit: Find Your Balance in Life, which was published by Healthy Learning, one of the world’s foremost publishers of instructional materials for health/wellness, fitness, exercise, sports medicine, and camp professionals.
Mayer’s day job as a clinical psychologist specializing in violent behavior has him consulting to law enforcement regularly. His 10,000 Twitter followers (@DrJohnMayer) (@jemayerbooks) look to his daily tweets for advice on psychological issues. He is an associate staff psychologist for Doctor on Demand (doctorondemand.com ) as well as a provider (Telemedicine) on DoctoronDemand.
Mayer is also a writer for a cable TV series, The System, that is currently in production with the pilot episode completed.