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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Name: Max Brooks
Notable Work: World War Z, Zombie Survival Guide, Harlem 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Sandman, Wonder Woman and more.