A city for the “century”
Well, here we are. Comic #100 in the zombie ranch storyline, and the start of Episode 5. I wanted to do something special, both for us and for you. Up until now we’ve kept our locations purposely vague. We’re somewhere in Texas. Now we’re on the borders of Oklahoma, or looking in on a shadowy corporate office. It was time, at least in this case, to take a risk and finally get specific. Though the Z Ranch itself remains “somewhere out there”, we’ve cast our cowboy hat in the ring and declared that there’s no need to Remember The Alamo in the world of Zombie Ranch; this time around The Alamo, and the city surrounding it, never fell.
I’ve had that skyline vista of the last panel, with its contradictory pattern of welcome and isolationism, optimism and invasive authority, in my head for a long time now. Since before the start of Episode 2 I had the thought that San Antonio represented that big Safe Zone people were strutting around in, but we left it generic at that time while I fretted the details to figure out how feasible that might be. Isn’t it one of the sacred tenets of the zombie apocalypse that all major cities must be abandoned and/or wiped away? Certainly one recent book (which we’ve given a nod to in the form of graffiti) was very specific about San Antonio not surviving. How would that possibly work, especially for a bustling metropolis that in modern times is a big tourist destination?
Eventually I got over myself, considering I already have a world here where the dead walk (and are harvested for pharmaceuticals!), and there’s camera drones floating around with no more suspension provided than that of disbelief. Zombie Ranch is already not your usual zombie story, so why couldn’t there be the idea of a city that closed its borders early enough and policed itself effectively enough to get by?
Plus, the details of this particular city just kept drawing me back. The enclosing loops of highways that from overhead reminded me of ancient castles or fortified cities, with their interior palace or keep surrounded by an inner and outer bailey. An image of the Pam Am Expressway where I could envision steel or concrete barriers integrated with the underside to form not only an impenetrable wall, but one that was very easily moved around upon by its wardens. Finding out the San Antonio River doesn’t just flow through the city, it actually bubbles up from deep underground only a few miles from downtown like a sort of gigantic natural well. The city runs its own power company, and is home to major military bases, medical complexes, biotech industries, and a certain broadcasting entity that inspires our own ClearStream Corporation.
Military and biotech? Hospitals? Wouldn’t those be ground zero? Well, think about that. Most of the apocalype scenarios involving these institutions hinge upon them not knowing what they’re dealing with until it’s too late. Not that I’m implying anything sinister here, but the Safe Zone of Santone responded in a lot of correct ways to the Great Plague, in very quick order.
Finally, I suppose I’ll just take cover behind those same rules of cool that allow me to have floating cameras. San Antonio is an iconic city of the Old West, a place many a hero of cowboy fiction passed through, and I want it. More than that, it’s a modern metropolis overlaid on those wild and dusty roots, where the Alamo is laid seige to these days not by Santa Anna, but by tall buildings and 21st century commercialism. All I have to do is tweak that to a starker contrast. So given the choice between Generic Safe Zone A and a place far more intriguing in past, present, and future, I go with Santone. If we’ve gotten some details wrong, I beg your indulgence for fiction’s sake. Trust me, I have to deal with the same thing every time I play a sandbox video game of Los Angeles, and those aren’t even set decades into a post-apocalyptic future.
What can I say? The last time a vision nagged at me like this, it was the start of this whole comic. And that was just a few months, compared to this concept kicking around in my skull for almost two years. I’m thrilled to finally be able to share it, and hope it was a fitting treat for those of you that have joined Dawn and myself on this continuing journey into a Weird New West.