I admit it. I’ve wanted to sneak in the phrase “Meanwhile, back at the ranch” since the comic first started. It’s just so cowboy. It is, in fact, cowboy enough to have its own wikipedia entry stating how cowboy it is.

Also, we just recently went on a tangent to give y’all a first taste of  a new character, and when you want to get back off a tangent, why not go with the classic standards of yore? Some of you might have noticed that our motorcycle lady is not yet listed in the Cast, even partially. We know. Perhaps we have decided to keep you in suspense over whether she will actually be a regular cast member, or a mere plot device on legs? Of course, if you’ve read some of the commentary, Dawn already let slip her name, or at least part of it. Does one give a name to plot devices? Doesn’t that just make it harder if you have to eat them later?

One way or another we’ll be back to our “Desert Rose” soon enough (or soon enough for a weekly webcomic, anyhow). In the meantime, we get to watch zombies being slopped, and you get to learn a few more tidbits about how they work in this particular setting.

I’ve said this now to a lot to people I’ve talked to since I started writing the comic, but I think one of the most important aspects of any good zombie tale is to know what your zombies are going to be like; even if the audience never gets the whole story, you as the storyteller should have the answers. Actually, I’d argue that principle holds for any creative enterprise featuring a monster with a past history to it: are your vampires burned by silver? do your werewolves recoil from holy symbols? And no, I didn’t get those mixed up — depending which myths you come across, they’re considered truths, even if the most mainstream versions we’re used to have them reversed.

The modern zombie mythology is a more youthful exercise, but still has blossomed into several different riffs on the theme in the past 40 or so years. Are your zombies fast or slow? Living or dead? Do they die from a destroyed brain? Can they “survive” being dismembered or decapitated? How does the infection spread? Will they eat anything, or only people? In his Zombie Survival Guide Max Brooks spends his entire first chapters answering all these questions, establishing clearly what his specific vision of the zombie is. Only then can he move on to the rest of the book describing how to deal with them, and for that matter, only then can he move on to writing World War Z. The specific nature of your monsters has an enormous impact on the stories you’re going to tell. I’ve been playing my zombies much closer to the chest than Mr. Brooks did, but then, I have a different story.

Anyhow, I wanted to mention again that last Sunday we were gifted with a wonderful bit of Suzie fan art from DK, the very talented artist for The Becoming. If you haven’t seen the art yet, click here! Both the artist and writer of The Becoming are big fans of Zombie Ranch, as well as being very friendly folk. If you have some more time on your webcomic docket, why not click over and give their own tale a look? They’re just starting on their second story arc, but have already created a lushly fantastic world blending aspects of the Renaissance, Steampunk Victoriana, and other interesting genres and time periods into a unique stage for their characters. Plus there’s a mysterious plague, hints of vampirism… it’s good stuff and I look forward to watching it unfold.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (see how good that works?)… apologies to some of you who may have made comments and never had them show up until just recently. I hadn’t checked the spam log for awhile and it had been a bit overzealous, particularly with shorter entries. We can’t really afford to not let it operate or the comments would be overwhelmed by actual spam, but I’ll try to keep a better eye on it from now on.

One thing that might help if you’re a regular commentator would be registering for the site, which you can do on the left hand side of the page just below the Events listing. Actually, why don’t I just give a link: click here.

That way the spamcatcher shouldn’t nick you for anything, nor should you have to wait on any moderation from our end. Instant gratification! And if that sounds like a sleazy way to get your names on a mailing list, well, truth is we don’t really have one right now beyond our Facebook and Twitter, so that’s where you oughtta hook up if you want the latest. I don’t know if we need an email list above and beyond that. Perhaps I’ll make that the new poll, and see what all of you think.

Happy trails!