“Respect My Craft” – Max Brooks

In this consumer-based industry, it can be easy to forget the years of hard work that the people in the business put in. Behind every panel, it takes a skilled writer, artist, inker and colorist to make the product complete. Behind each scene goes hours of preparation. Hush Comics’ weekly article “Respect My Craft” will dive into the history of these comic book and pop culture greats that will hopefully give a new perspective on how the men and women behind the pen (or stylus) contribute to the collective awesome-ness of the nerd world, or at least give you a reason to invest in their work.

 

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Click on the link to take you to all of our Denver Comic Con 2014 “Respect My Craft” articles

 

Name: Max Brooks

Profession: Writer

Notable WorkWorld War Z, Zombie Survival GuideHarlem Hellfighters

“One time I was doing some radio press in Utah and this lady called up and she said, ‘I’m living in a trailer with my four kids and now I’m afraid of zombies and I don’t know what to do!’ And I said, ‘Lady, if you’re living in a trailer with four kids, you’ve got bigger problems. Don’t worry about the zombies.'” –Max Brooks

 

Max Brooks was born May 22, 1972 to Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft. He graduated from American University’s film school in 1994, after having also attended Pitzer College as a History major and spending a semester at the University of the Virgin Islands. Mel Brooks is a name that should sound instantly familiar to anyone who has watched older comedies. He was an actor/producer in such films as The Producers, Spaceballs and Robin Hood: Men in Tights. Anne Bancroft was a name that I didn’t recognize immediately but after looking at her work, realized just how big she was. Anne Bancroft played Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate, a role for which she won a Golden Globe for best actress, and a film that is preserved in the national registry for its cultural significance. You could say that their son had quite a bit to live up to.

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In his early years, Max worked as a writer for Saturday Night Live, and according to interviews, had written the manuscript for The Zombie Survival Guide even before working there. It was during his time at SNL that he met a book publisher that was willing to put the book out there and get it published. What initially was touted as comedy book slowly but surely started to be seen for what it actually is. With sales that were initially slow, Max decided to do a few interviews and lectures to prove that this book was the real deal and that it wasn’t making fun of its core audience. After people started realizing that this book was amazing, it shot up The New York Times Best Sellers list and eventually selling over a million copies while being the publishers most requested back cataloged book.

After the success of his first book, he followed up with World War Z, which was met with high praise. World War Z was immensely popular and spent weeks of the Best Sellers list. The novel remains one of my favorites of all-time, and it’s just as socially conscious as it is entertaining. From the Middle Eastern relationships to American non-interventionism, the underlining political tones were all on-point. These books made Brooks not only an acclaimed writer, but the new spokesman for the undead.

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This book was so popular, in fact, that it was picked up for a movie adaptation. After these two successes, they were followed up by a graphic novel that was a follow up to the Survival Guide, called The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks. Max Brooks wasn’t content to just be a writer, he has also acted in TV show such as Roseanne and 7th Heaven. He also has a career in voicing animation and has done voice over work for various cartoons such as Batman Beyond and Justice League. He has been handed the torch for the undead (even though Romero is still writing books), even representing zombies in the Deadliest Warrior special, “Vampires vs. Zombies.” Spoiler, zombies win.

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Latest work is the Harlem Hellfighters (review to come), a fictionalized account of an all-African American military squad during the First World War. They were set up to fail and ended up being some of the most decorated soldiers of the war. This is where his degree in History really shines, because he is able to take stories that actually happened and show the world the true bravery of this unit. Even though some of the people will be renamed as not to upset the families, everyone in the story is either real or based on a real person.

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One of the most interesting things about Max Brooks is that he is dyslexic and yet still managed to write one of the most popular zombie novels of all time. While a kid in elementary school, he was initially frustrated that he had such a hard time reading, but it was his love for history that actually saved him and allowed him to push past it.

 

None of the media in this article belongs to Hush Comics; it all belongs to their respective properties (NY Times, Spike TV, Broadway Books). Join us tomorrow as we continue our countdown to Denver Comic Con with comic book artist, Colleen Doran, famous for SandmanWonder Woman and more.

World War Z Review

Movie Review – World War Z

Genre – Horror/Sci-Fi
Director – Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball, Quantum of Solace)
Cast – Brad Pitt, others
Alluring element – A film adaptation of one of the best sci-fi/thriller books ever
Check it out if you liked – World War Z by Max Brooks, The Walking Dead, I Am Legend

SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):
Plot – 8
Acting – 9
Representation of Genre – 9
Cinematography – 8
Effects/Environment – 7
Captivity – 8
Logical consistency – 8
Originality/Creativity – 7
Soundtrack/Music – 9
Overall awesomeness – 9

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After a long-delayed release, the film adaptation of Max Brook’s award winning book, World War Z, finally managed to infect theaters June 21st. The rights to make the movie were initially won by Pitt’s production company, Plan B, in a bidding war between Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio in 2007, but the production of the film was caught up on a multitude of issues including five different screenwriters and going $50M over budget (the budget for this film was almost as high as Man of Steel‘s). Perhaps the most absurd hang-up was when Hungarian police confiscated “weapons [that] included hand guns, machine guns, high-precision sniper rifles, hand grenades and a large quantity of high-caliber ammunition” due to a miscommunication with Customs. Even through all the drama off-camera, the Pitt crew were able to put together a thrilling film that has you on the edge of your seat for the entire ride.

My first concern when seeing the full preview trailer for the film was that it is nothing like the book. One of my favorite novels of all time, Max Brooks’ World War Z is a collection of short stories that explain, piece by piece, how the war against the zombies began and ended (I won’t go into too much detail; I will post a book review soon). The movie, however, was very linear, as it followed our main character, Gerry Lane (played by Brad Pitt), as he searches the world for the origin and cure of the zombie disease. I originally imagined World War Z would take the form of a TV miniseries, with each episode giving the opportunity for the complete story to be told in great detail. A film medium doesn’t really allow for that deep exploration that does the book justice. I hate to turn into one of those people who criticizes movie adaptations from books as being not as good as the original material, so I will try my darnedest to keep my thoughts about how it compared to the book to a minimum and just focus on the movie.

This is Detroit, before the War.
This is Detroit, before the War.

That being said, World War Z is terrifying. The zombies remind me very much of the infected in I Am Legend, with rigid movement and exaggerated facial tweaks, as well as a penchant to move like stampeding wildebeest. This throws all zombie logic out the window. Watching The Walking Dead religiously gives me an inkling of hope that, if forced with the pending zombie apocalypse, I could maybe survive. I could hole up in the West Georgia Correctional Facility, and clear it out with my buddies in phalanx. Things might not be that bad. Well, after watching ten minutes of World War Z, that idealistic mindset was sent crashing and burning to the ground. With the commencement of the apocalypse, you can truly sympathize with the characters stuck in the middle of it. There is a prominent sense of panic that is maintained for the entirety of the film. Perhaps the most impressive feat was that this was all done while boasting a PG-13 rating; there is limited blood and hardly any gore. While it probably could have benefited from more graphic biting/turning scenes, World War Z makes a strong case for “less is more.”

Brad Pitt takes up a majority of the screen time, but he’s not the only character that makes an impact. Everybody that he and his family interact with has fear and distrust in their eyes. Above all, they all panic quite realistically and do very stupid things when faced with mortality. It’s a breath of fresh air in a genre that forces everybody into cliche big speeches before being killed off in dramatic and allegorical fashion (“A FUCKIN SHARK ATE ME!” – Samuel L Jackson from Deep Blue Sea). All characters are believable in their actions, letting the film scare you instead of letting the characters telling you what to be afraid of. Conversely, the zombies were heavily CGI’d. I would have liked to see more make-up and less computer animation. While the incredibly freaky speed and power of the zombies makes them scarier, it takes away from the realism of the environment in World War Z that makes it so daunting. The pace of the film is very fitting. Lane travels around the world in search of the origin of the disease, and a possible cure for it. From New Jersey to South Korea to Israel, you never feel like you get a moment to catch your breath. By the time the film had reached its climax, I was certain we were only half-way through. It was stimulating throughout and ended on a fairly high note, which is refreshing for a movie set during the end of the world.

So remember when I talked about not trying to compare it to the book earlier? I totally lied. Max Brooks’ masterful novel left the writers so much room to build on. Perhaps the best part of the book to me was the systematic deconstruction of the human way of life. From the military to politics to neighborhood watch, the novel gave a very realistic and frightening portrayal of what it would look like if our fragile reality was blown to hell. I personally feel like the movie suffered from streamlining everything to show Lane’s adventure instead of choosing a more varied approach. That’s not to say that all was lost in translation. The reference in Israel to the “Tenth Man,” the North Korean solution and the referral to zombies by American soldiers as “Zeke” were well-placed tributes to the book. There are also subtle nods to The Walking Dead when Pitt’s character offers a Dale-like solution to prevent the spread of immediate bites, as well as a few additional Easter Eggs I challenge you to find. A lot of references allude to stories in the book, but they’re often left hanging on the tip of Z‘s tongue. Really, though, you can’t get away with calling this a World War Z movie without the Lobo, without Yonkers, and without the rest of the bat-shit craziness that the world comes to once they hear the fat lady sing.

When it comes down to it, World War Z offers the latest and greatest zombie action flick since 28 Days Later (I know, not technically a zombie movie; get off my back!). It will keep you in your seat from start to finish, and it feels like a genuine attempt at showing how screwed and unprepared everybody is for a full-scale rise of the dead. A lot of the soul of the book was lost in the translation of having one protagonist. But what Z lacks in range, it makes up for in gruesome sincerity. The human condition is documented well amongst the CGI’d swarms of zombies. I would recommend that you lurk your way to theaters to see this film if you are a fan of zombie movies, thrillers or Brad Pitt.

Hey girl, you should run.
Hey girl, you should run.

Written by Sherif Elkhatib