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Wrestlers vs. Zombies

By Staff | Feb 24, 2009

A generation (or so) ago children growing often obtained their first reading experience through comic books that take them up, up and away into a fantasy land just this side of the looking glass. Readers tended to graduate to classics illustrated, illustrated novels, pulp fiction, and more literary accomplishments.

If you have experienced desires to create, whether in the performing arts or in a bound volume, your first reality check hits you right between the contents of your purse or wallet — how do I get my words, images or series of images marketed to an audience?

Danny Boyd, a West Virginia State University professor, filmmaker, and author, started lensing his latest script in Tanana and the Czech Republic. Then, an awesome lightning bolt struck — one that an auteur of less experience may not have interpreted as a stroke of wisdom. Boyd, known for “Chillers” and “Paradise Park,” determined that the idea that pits zombies against wrestlers in a funky fight for control of Charleston’s West side would reach its audience quicker as a graphic novel.

While shooting those scenes overseas, Boyd “could tell the script was talking a long time to come together and we were not getting any younger trying to play semi-superheroes. It was going to take forever [to produce] the movie.”

Co-writer William Bitner, of Cross Lanes, grew up loving comic books and pulp fiction. Once the decision was made to go the publishing route, Boyd recalled joking with writer friends who “want to be filmmakers and I want to be a writer.”

“This is just one more creative outlet from the mad scientist team at [West Virginia] State’s communications department and media studies program that cooks up ideas to get students thinking about new outlets for their story telling skills,” Boyd said.

Their would-be film, “Death Falcon Zero vs. the Zombie Slug Lords,” became a chaotic novel where the governor of West Virginia promises a disgraced former masked wrestler a pardon if he can extinguish zombies plaguing Charleston’s West side with a highly addictive new form of crystal meth, funded by another former wrestler — Sen. Joe E. Legend.

Assisted by an amalgamation of drug dealers, yuppie elite, slum lords, and corrupt local officials, Sen. Legend plans to “infect locally, plague globally.” Death Falcon will need to resurrect his old tag team of has been wrestlers to prevent crystal meth from destroying the West side and the entire world.

“A beautiful thing about moving into graphic narratives … as opposed to film is that if your movie does not get made, you are left with a script. It’s in a box that collects dust. In this day and age [a graphic narrative] can instantly become a terminal product. You see Web comics all the time,” Boyd explained. The professor continued, “now, I can inspire my students [on a method] guaranteed to get your product to an audience.”

However, the filmmaker cautions that the Internet highway has cool stuff but there’s lots of worse than schlock too.

“The problem is how to get the worldwide audience to your product?”  

The cult nature of the product quickly captured space in USA Today. Since then the filmmaker/professor/author has appeared on a British show with the help of Skype, and the nationally broadcast “Legends Wrestling” radio show in New York and Los Angeles.

Interestingly, the success of My Space and Twitter have prompted near A-list television and movie names to try their hands at short form Internet product.

The W.B. disappeared when it merged with UPN, but it reappeared on the Internet as TheWB.com, where you can on demand view series favorites like “Veronica Mars” or “Gilmore Girls,” or check out new series such as “Sorority Forever,” “Rockville.ca,” “A Boy Wearing Make Up,” or “Children’s Hospital.”

However, Boyd believes “the enemies of all entertainment are the major conglomerates. The big guys decide what will get promoted and what won’t.” And, despite the recession trickling its way into the West Virginia hills, the independent filmmaker agrees that “people always need to be entertained,” making film and other productions somewhat resistant to Wall Street woes.

WVSU printed the first batch of the novels. In November, BookSurge, an Amazon.com company, began releasing “DFZ vs. ZSL.”

That brought book reviews from independent film icons. Lloyd Kaufman, president of Troma, which released Boyd’s “Chillers” and “Invasion of the Space Preachers,” called the work a “delightful tale mixing the nostalgia of the Mexican lucador film and print genre of the 1960s with the horrors of today’s U.S. inner-cities. If the Coen Brothers were to write a book, it would be this one,” Kaufman said.

Morgan Spurlock, director of “Super Size Me” and “Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?,” commented that DFZ is what “I’ve been waiting for, a Reese’s Cup combination of chocolate wrestling power and finesse with the peanutty goodness of Zombies. George Romero would be proud.”

Pick up a copy. You won’t put it down even by the three count. They are available in Charleston at Taylor Books, Frog Creek Books, and Cheryl’s Comics (Kanawha City).


Contact Tony at trutherford@graffitiwv.com