The author is dead, long live the author.
So there’s a new review of the comic out, courtesy of the fine ladies over at Girls Like Comics. I thought the reviewer had some interesting things to say, particularly the notion that Zombie Ranch could be thought of as one of the ultimate takes on the over-saturation of the zombie genre: the idea of the zombie being commercialized, mass-marketed, and ultimately tamed.
There’s no question in my mind that back in 2009 when I started putting this story together, I was only willing and able to do so because I felt this particular take might have something new to say in the midst of what even then was arguably a crowded market. I had no intent of capitalizing on the trend, because trends are damned fickle things, not to mention they can be a double-edged sword (Alan Kistler outright stated back in 2011 that he refused to look at any review submissions he got that had anything to do with zombies, regardless of other factors). Anyhow, whether the “zombie bubble” collapsed in a few days or a few years, I still figured we had something unique that could outlast it. That was important to me.
But although I certainly haven’t shied away from a certain amount of social commentary in my writing, and I certainly had the notion that zombies were potentially being done to (un)death, I never actually had the intent of thematically equating the taming and processing of our zombie herds (for profit!) with the glut of zombies in popular culture.
Does that make the reviewer wrong? Nope. Actually, it’s kind of a cool interpretation, and it didn’t stop her from recognizing some of the more intentional dramatic and satirical themes I’ve put in. It wasn’t that long ago that I brought up the concept of Death of the Author, where the creator’s intent is not the end-all be-all of a work. It’s a particularly interesting phenomenon in the context of serially produced webcomics, where a fan often is able to just up and ask the creator(s) what they meant a certain scene to convey or even give their own theories on why things are happening or what a character’s motivations are. I’m quite guilty of responding to more than one instance of this with a Word of God in the interest of limiting confusion, and sometimes I wonder if that’s a good habit or a terrible one. Maybe I should be content to leave more things up to interpretation rather than speaking out with a voice of (potentially stifling) authority.
After all, sometimes the alternate interpretations can be pretty interesting stuff.