So in case you haven’t been keeping up on the Facebook and Twitter stuff, we proudly announce that as of last week, Zombie Ranch #2 is “on the shelves” for purchase courtesy of Indyplanet.com. This is the full print version and comes directly from their site, which means some shipping and handling charges will be involved, but if you do want to get your paws on it, you can click HERE. Those of you lucky enough to be joining us down in San Diego this July should have the option of purchasing a signed copy directly from our booth, as well.

As for the digital download option I mentioned last week, it looks like that’s still not live yet, but I’ll try to keep an eye on it and announce when it’s available.

Also, Zombie Ranch got to be included as some background scenery in Mark Driscoll’s “L33t”. Check it out!

http://l33t.tuskland.info/l33t/2011/05/09/the-joke-in-panel-3/

http://l33t.tuskland.info/l33t/2011/05/12/the-method/

That’s the news, now for the opinion column. A couple of months ago I was at lunch with visiting frequent commenter (and old friend) Andrew, and amongst other things we talked of Zombie Ranch. I asked him a question that I often like to ask of fans of the series: “Who’s your favorite character?”

He answered, of course, but then did something I hadn’t expected — which was to ask me the same question. I paused, rolling the thought around in my brain… and then, truthfully, I gave my answer.

I don’t have one.

Pondering why that was, I figured that from my perspective as the writer of the series, it felt instinctually unfair to my characters if I were to favor one over another. Maybe that’d be different if I was writing a comic with a single character focus such as “Batman” (I mean hey! His name’s on the book!), but though Suzie is nominally the main protagonist, Zombie Ranch to me is more of an ensemble piece a la “Justice League” or “Uncanny X-Men”. And really, can’t you just tell when a writer gets ahold of one of those ensemble books but has one or two clear favorites out of the group? Everyone else seems to suffer a bit at the expense of the chosen ones.

Are some of our characters more developed than others at the moment? Absolutely, and I’m not guaranteeing everyone will get equal time (poor Zeke sure didn’t), but I’ve been doing my best to present each member of the main cast as a distinct person in their own right, with certain virtues and also certain faults. You the readers are welcome to pass judgment upon them, but I’m keeping my personal opinions out of it. I’m here to tell a story, not preach a sermon.

I don’t know what Alan Moore’s feelings on the subject are, but I have to admit one of the things that I always respected most about his writing was his ability to put his personal politics and feelings aside and just present people in his work. A professed Pagan and political Anarchist, Moore nonetheless can present very right-wing characters such as SMAX or Rorschach as having admirable qualities, while his freedom loving V (with the Vendetta) or well-meaning Adrian Veidt engage in methods or solutions that are highly questionable if not outright horrific. It’s not always the case with his writing, but in many of his works he will present the motives of “hero” and “villain” alike, chronicling their actions — and then he steps back and lets what has happened percolate into the user’s own subjective thoughts and feelings. As his immortal last line of Watchmen informs us: “I leave it entirely in your hands”.

No matter how outrageous the setting, I think the drama of believable people (or people substitutes) is much harder to wrangle than that of a Mary Sue insert triumphing over their latest installment of 2-dimensional straw men in service of whatever the writer’s agenda happens to be. Even in a gag strip that sort of thing can get old, much less an ongoing story — and contrarily, even an epic tale of Good versus Evil like the Lord of the Rings can have its nuance in characters like Gollum, and its constant reminders that the potential for evil can lurk in the purest of hearts.

But do what you will with that observation. I leave it entirely in your hands. :D