The past couple of comic pages have been my opportunity to finally dip my foot into a subject that so far has been only present in my mind, my notes, and some scattered references in the cast summary and world FAQ. Suzie’s bio probably brings it up most prominently:
“The young owner of the Z Ranch is a “Repop”, one of many babies born in the wave of jubilation that accompanied the announced end of the Wars.”
I like trying to think through reasons for things. I always have. I don’t need every last little thing I observe to make sense, but where fiction is concerned I have a particular love for stories and settings that take time to attempt a certain logic to what they’re presenting… the explanation doesn’t have to be given right away, but I always hope for a payoff of some kind down the road.
Now Dawn, on the other hand, is a much more freewheeling soul, with a tendency to draw whatever happens to bubble up from the depths of her brain (if you’ve ever seen the sketch cards she produces at conventions, you’ll know just what I mean). I must tell you, she chafes constantly under my strictures of storytelling, and yet still manages to squeeze in the occasional random element to spite me, as if to cackle “Make sense of THIS, chump!”
Okay, I might be exaggerating a bit. Also, if not for Dawn’s random drawings, the comic wouldn’t exist. Once again I refer to exhibit A, “On The Zombie Ranch“. I cannot claim this did not fit my vision, because at the point Dawn drew it, there was no vision. There was a picture, and once we talked about making a comic story from it there was me, trying to figure out some world in which that picture made sense.
So, yeah, we had a young lady whose profession it is to wrangle things that could doom her in one bite, showing off a whole bunch of skin. Now sure, it’s such a common trope to have your young heroine be scantily clad that many creators would probably have said, “It’s sexy” and called it a day. Dawn would happen to be one of those.
Not me. I had to go and invent a whole speculative, fictional youth culture in an attempt to justify why she might run around like that. Perhaps you might think it a lost cause, bordering on a case of Voodoo Shark. Perhaps you might think it’s a moot point at the present time in the comic, where we’ve (at least temporarily) thrown a duster on Suzie. Perhaps you really just don’t give a damn — it’s sexy, call it a day…
Well, the whole Repop thing quickly blossomed beyond the simple matter of Suzie’s midriff. The esteemed(?) Miss Langhorne may speak of the excesses of the young as if they were something new, but teenagers acting like they’re invincible and engaging in hero worship is a phenomenon that’s repeated itself through countless iterations of humanity. Beyond those basics, though, what would the specifics be like? Well, once it seemed clear humanity wasn’t going to go extinct, once the War against the zombie hordes was declared over, it made sense to me there would be a celebratory baby boom like the famous one in the wake of World War Two. In fact, it made sense that in a lot of cases people would be officially encouraged to have babies given how depopulated of the living the world would have become. Life would be precious. The new generation would be the symbol of final victory over the forces of Evil.
And then, the jubilation would wear off. Some areas might find that their lack of population had been a blessing and new mouths to feed would become an unexpected burden in a new era where the old supply chains no longer existed. Those with adequate supplies might tilt too far in the opposite direction, with parents becoming smotheringly overprotective. Neither situation would be a particularly healthy environment.
But Repops also wouldn’t have had to deal with the worst years of the Plague and the Wars. They wouldn’t remember the world the way it was before the zombies. They would even have been too young to have to deal with the sudden introduction of the news that zombies represented a pharmaceutical (and thus economic) goldmine, which their elders would wrestle with after years of a “destroy on sight” mentality.
I saw a generation raised with contradictory cues that zombies were to be both feared and desired. Where they themselves felt both cherished and resented. Their parents would still seem to flinch from death, even as they pasted its by-products onto their faces… which any teenager would probably view as utter B.S. — so incorporating skulls and other such reminders of mortality into their clothing, or exposing skin, would be every bit as rebellious as an earring or tattoo might have been in days past.
And finally I cross-seeded back into the idea of keeping a “New Old West” influence. Nearly everyone in Zombie Ranch would have some of this aesthetic to their looks, but Repops in particular would combine it with elements of the morbid. Western Gothic, in a way (since “American Gothic” brings older folks to mind). But not necessarily with the somber, mournful implications of what “gothic” styling tends to mean to us. Repops would acknowledge death openly, but want to challenge it rather than imitate or assimilate. To be considered vivid… full of life, living existence to the fullest… is the greatest compliment.
But as much as I can run off at the brain about this, it still goes full circle back to Dawn in terms of bringing the imagery to life. We’ve discussed all of the above, so with that done I feel confident letting her go and seeing what she comes up with… I particularly liked the girl in red-and-black from last week’s comic, with her frilled cape and hint of a bustle, but runner-up is the boy in the t-shirt and trucker hat, even if I do claim the credit for adding ‘NO DEAD CHICKS’.
How well does all this work? How well does it carry through? Those are the kinds of questions that only get answered once it’s out to an audience, no matter how much time and effort we might be spending on our end. But hey, whatever else, I had fun with the thinking.