Dawn and I both share a deep regard for cuteness where cuteness Should Not Be. She goes further than I do in finding abominations to be somehow adorable, cooing over such horrid things as lobsters, zombie horses, and of course, the man she married… but I admit to a dark appreciation for those who can take a concept like a decaying corpse and make it seem somehow cuddly.

To judge by the huge pile of plush, huggable Cthulhu dolls offered up (and purchased) every year at Comic-Con, we are not alone in this aesthetic. A cuddly Cthulhu is one of the definitions of irony: an “incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs.” Not rain on your wedding day, so much as running into the Grim Reaper on the pickets at a Pro-Life rally. As a concept, it’s wrong. It’s bizarre. But such ideas fascinate me, and, dare I say, give me warm fuzzies to think about, with or without a Great Old One to hug.

There’s a reason those old PSAs from the 50s and 60s instructing kids about nuclear war have been parodied so much down the years since. They were slapping a happy face onto one of the most horrible fates mankind ever came close to inflicting on itself, and looking back on it the irony was so palpable that we wonder why little Timmy never raised his hand to ask, “Ma’am, exactly how the heck is getting under my desk supposed to protect me from a fireball that wipes out the city?”

But if not for those cheerfully incongruous films, with their bright cheery music and announcers who sounded like they’d spent the morning snorting candy canes and mainlining maple syrup, we might never have had such wonderful things as Vault Man from the Fallout series. I wager that’s because science fiction writers are often fearful that what they’re coming up with is too far “out there” to really resonate with an audience, so it’s simultaneously comforting and horrifying to be able to point to real-world examples that weren’t even meant as a joke. I remember back when I first broached the idea of zombie-based cosmetics and there were protestations along the lines of “BLECH!” — or more succinctly, that it was inconceivable that people would ever put that stuff on their faces. All I had to do in response was link an article on the ingredients already used in modern make-up, and point out the whole Botox trend, besides. Botox is poison. You poison your face. If zombie products could get rid of someone’s wrinkles, does anyone really think that at least a segment of the populace wouldn’t go for it?

Well, in any case, these are the reasons I enjoy the little “media interludes” for Zombie Ranch, where Dawn and I can showcase horrible things occurring in an adorable and cartoony manner. While always hinting that somewhere behind all the toothy smiles, there’s still quite a lot of teeth.

Plus, Chibi Frank. I’m guessing Frank will be highly, highly unamused if he ever sees that.