Hey guys, Brian here. One of our contributors, Alex Wilson, came up with a piece that helps contextualize TWD’s place in “geek” and mainstream culture. Here’s Alex:
At the age of 16 I stood staring at the end cap of a shelf in my local comic book shop in Nebraska. But little did I know this slight perusal of a book I hadn’t heard of before would turn into a borderline obsession. Growing up in Omaha the geek culture was spread thin between a few comic book shops and an oriental grocery store that sold Japanese Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokémon cards. For the most part, comic book culture was underground.
If I were to return to Omaha, my hometown, I would see a different picture. Geek culture holds a much stronger place in the city. Local bookstores prominently display graphic novels and other geek paraphernalia. People attend the midnight releases of large comic book blockbusters. A rendition of Evil Dead: The Musical was even put on at a prominent local theater.
Why the sudden uptake in acceptance of comic book and horror culture? Why does every city now have a zombie walk? What’s the driving force behind this rapid culture change?
Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead.
It’s hard to deny the overwhelming effect this comic book turned television program has had on the inclusion of those who would have been considered outsiders years ago. The Walking Dead may not have invented horror culture, or zombie culture, or geek culture, but it has given it a fast track to the mainstream. If you had said ten years ago when The Walking Dead was first hitting shelves that this book would become one of the most watched programs on television, you would have been laughed off as delusional. If you would have gone on to assert this television series would be Emmy nominated you would have been run out of town. Never the less, you would have been correct.
The Walking Dead has profoundly changed how the mainstream views a once unknown, undefined, and seemingly terrifying subculture. Comic book fans didn’t have much of a hold on popular culture. Writers and artists just made books for the small niche fan base that read comic books. Geeks were considered lesser than others. “Geek” itself was an insult. In recent years the word has been taken back, used now as almost a term of endearment in many circles.
I remember when AMC first announced The Walking Dead television series. I had people asking to borrow my first 48 compendium. Now that compendium is lost in a sea of people who have borrowed and then subsequently lent it to their friends. I don’t feel any sadness over loosing the hefty priced book, however. I’m just happy others get to enjoy its stories. Whenever someone who currently possess the book tracks me down and asks if I want it back I tell them to just give it to someone who hasn’t read it before.
I can walk into any Barnes and Noble bookstore and find stacks of Walking Dead merchandise, everything from toys to games to the books themselves. Many local comic book shops put up displays specifically for The Walking Dead.
This book has brought zombies and comic books into the mainstream. The success of The Walking Dead has given the film and television industry the confidence to take risks when it comes to geek culture. Ten years ago, if comic book movies or television hit screens, they were hokey, cheesy, and corny. Now these programs and films have hundreds of millions of dollars to work with. Shows like The Walking Dead have shown geek culture cannot only be brought into the mainstream, but can thrive.
Alex Wilson dropped out of cub scouts at an early age after he refused to sell popcorn for “the man.” Since then his life has entered into a downward spiral. He lives in the sinful world of comic books, folk punk, and seedy tattoo shops. You can find him bare knuckle boxing to pay his rent or tweeting about Teen Wolf on his Twitter, @mralexwilson.