Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic
January 27, 2014
A helpful guide from the Center for Disease Control on dealing with the impending zombie apocalypse. Seriously.
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. And if you're anything like me, you've got yourself a zombie plan.
(Cut to a clip of the game Red vs. Blue)
Grif: There's two kinds of people in the world, doc: those who have a plan prepared for when the zombies take over the Earth, and those who don't. We call those last people "dinner".
Linkara: Yes, in the unlikely event that there's no more room in Hell and the dead begin walking the Earth, you need to have an emergency plan. Whether it's having the equivalent of a bomb shelter's worth of provisions or a place to retreat to, it's essential for surviving the zombie apocalypse.
(Cut to footage of one of the most famous zombie movies ever, Night of the Living Dead)
Linkara (v/o): Me, personally, I've got a few. First plan is to head to the nearest Walmart. Assuming the place hasn't already been ransacked, me and any other survivors I know will establish a small posse and assume control of the Walmart as a base of operations. Walmart has everything you need: food, furniture, guns, and forms of entertainment to while away the hours when the dead aren't trying to rip our your intestines. Step two of that plan is start actively hunting the zombies.
Linkara: The mistake that 99% of zombie movies make is that they assume a siege mentality, bunkering up and hoping someone is going to come and rescue them. And of course, rescue never comes. The problem is not just gonna go away. (points to camera) You have to be part of the solution, which means finding zombies and killing them!
(Another clip of Night of the Living Dead is shown)
Linkara (v/o): Just remember what happens in zombie movies. It's always the guys who are actually hunting the zombies, the posses and vigilante groups who are surviving... unless it's a stupid pharmaceutical company that also builds crap like Nemesis, but there's really no plan you can make for something like that. Point is, the zombies are not just gonna go away. They need to be stopped if civilization is going to return. Backup plans include heading either farther north or farther south; farther north because the zombies will freeze...
Linkara: ...whereas I, a resident of the Midwest, am completely immune to freezing temperatures...
Linkara (v/o): ...or farther south, since eventually, the zombies' bodies will bloat, decay or explode in the hot sun. I personally prefer the colder option, since if you're dealing fast zombies, the cold will then slow them down.
Linkara: Buuuut, of course, this is just a hypothetical scenario. (holds up index finger) However, lives are saved by making precautions in the event of the worst possible outcome. So thank goodness for the United States Center for Disease Control, which has their own recommended plan for this scenario.
(Cut to a shot of the CDC's plan for the zombie apocalypse: "Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic")
Linkara (v/o): And that's what we're looking at today, my friends: a digital comic put out by the CDC all about what to do in the event of a zombie apocalypse.
Linkara: So let's dig into "Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic" and see what the government says we should do (voice turns ominous) when it becomes the Night of the Living Dead.
(AT4W title theme plays, and title card has "Incubo Sulla Citta Contaminata" by Stelvio Cipriani playing in the background. Cut then to a clip of the 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead)
Linkara (v/o): In all seriousness, this comic actually found its start in a blog post for the CDC. Rear Admiral Ali S. Khan, the director of the CDC's Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, used the analogy of a zombie apocalypse as a metaphor for the then-upcoming hurricane season and any potential pandemics that could hit. The idea was that a zombie attack really isn't all that different from a flood, earthquake, or other disasters that could strike, and so the recommendations were pretty much the same. The blog post attracted a huge response from people, actually crashing the CDC's website in May of 2011. In October of that year, the CDC then put out this comic as a free PDF, which is where we are now.
(Cut to a shot of the cover)
Linkara (v/o): It's hard to say if I should be evaluating the cover, since it's not like this was meant to be sold in stores. Subsequently, the artwork is... not great. It's government funding, so I'm not exactly expecting Alex Ross here, but the art for the whole comic is pretty amateurish, sorry to say. Still, the cover gets the point across: zombies. Although, with the pointed ears on some of them and the pale skin, they actually look more like the vampires from 30 Days of Night.
Linkara: Yeah, sure, you release a guide on a zombie pandemic, but how is that gonna help us when the vampires attack? (points to camera) Get your head in the game, CDC!
Linkara (v/o): We open in a suburban neighborhood, though no idea in what city.
Woman: I get to pick the next movie! That one's going to give me nightmares.
Linkara: (as the person the woman's addressing, exasperated) Look, they gave me the wrong movie, okay? I would never seriously rent a Baby Geniuses movie!
Man: Oh, you're such a baby, it wasn't that scary. You know that kind of stuff would never really happen.
Linkara: (as this man) I mean, the Enterprise crew defending a bunch of space Amish, and Picard falling in love with a bland woman who can suspend time? Who'd believe that?
Linakra (v/o): We meet Todd, Julie, and their dog, Max.
Linkara (v/o): Todd and Julie are... brother and sister? Boyfriend and girlfriend? I don't know, it's never really established, other than the fact that they live together. Either way, they must have been having a movie night since Julie says she's gonna go to bed while warning him not to stay up too late. As such, Todd turns on the news.
News anchor: Stay tuned for Channel 2 Nightly News.
Linkara (v/o): Aaaand two panels later...
News anchor: In other news...
Linkara: (as news anchor) In other news, news reporters no longer start with a news story, they just immediately go into other news.
News anchor: ...several people have been hospitalized after a strange virus began spreading rapidly through the Southeast... Scientists haven't identified the virus yet, but symptoms include slow movement, slurred speech, and violent tendencies...
Linkara: (as news anchor) Uh, this just in: it's not a virus, it's just convention goers who have not gone to sleep yet.
News anchor: The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that people distance themselves from anyone displaying these symptoms. They are also recommending families gather emergency supplies and make plans in case they are asked to evacuate...
Linkara: (as news anchor) For some reason, a viral epidemic that has gotten to the point where emergency supplies and evacuations are necessary is considered (makes "finger quotes") "other news" and not a headlining story. (beat) And now, sports.
Todd: Emergency supplies, evacuation... What's going on Max?
Linkara: (as Max, in a Scooby-Doo-type voice) What the hell are you asking me for? I'm a dog!
Linkara (v/o): With the threat of an epidemic on his hands, Todd decides to check the most reliable place for up-to-date accurate information: the Internet! And of course, it reports that it's a zombie virus, because as we all know, the Internet is the best place to determine when a zombie plague is happening. What? There was that one cannibalistic guy who was reported as a zombie a while ago, because crazy cannibals and zombies are the exact same thing. Then again, I think Todd has bigger problems on his hands. His foot is abnormally shaped with bizarre toes. It's like a solid lump of flesh. Still, Todd checks the CDC's website, which provides him an emergency preparedness kit. He prints it out and starts seeing what he can gather up. He starts pulling out random bottles and jars from his cabinets.
Narrator: Next, the pair go down to the basement.
Linkara: Thank you for that narration. I would have never guessed that (shows off the panel showing the narration) this panel meant that they were going down to the basement without it.
Linkara (v/o): Todd has gone down here for an old battery-powered radio, and I'm actually quite glad the CDC list does include it. Just because something is a bit more primitive, doesn't mean it isn't still useful. The list is pretty damn nifty, actually, though I would separate stuff based on necessity vs. convenience items. For example, it includes games and activities for children. Sure, it's nice if you're gonna be holed up somewhere, but it's not really a need-to-have. The kids can be mind-numbingly bored for all I care as long they're safe. I also am iffy about personal hygiene items. If there's a hurricane coming, I don't think brushing my teeth is really all that big a deal in the grand scheme of things. Also, the dog in this panel looks like its head has been replaced by a floppy-eared rabbit. And it's carrying a duffel bag in its teeth. Hell, we then see the dog carrying dog food so that it has supplies, as it says on the list. Apparently, Max is some kind of dog savant and understands what's happening. With all the emergency supplies gathered in a box, which appears to include a beach ball for some reason, Todd checks the news.
Linkara: Unfortunately, the channel was on CNN, which was trying to make everything sound more exciting and newsworthy, even though all that was happening was that a car drove by.
Linkara (v/o): They hear a loud thumping noise and both Todd and Max say, "Huh?!" Wait, the dog said it, too?!
Linkara: (incredulously) Max is a talking dog?! You know, CDC, it doesn't inspire confidence in your scientific knowledge when you portray dogs talking.
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, Todd writes off the thumping sound.
Todd: Maybe we should take a break from the horror movies Max, I'm acting like Julie, jumping at every little noise.
Linkara: No, when there's an actual zombie apocalypse happening, you are well within your rights to be paranoid about any loud noise. Also, why the hell haven't you woken up Julie yet? She might want to know about this!
Linkara (v/o): They hear another noise, causing Max to start growling. Todd, in his infinite wisdom, decides to open the door instead of looking out a window. As a result, a cat quickly zooms inside. Fortunately, it's not a zombie cat, but a neighbor's cat named Snowball. Todd writes it off as the neighbor, Mrs. Clements, accidentally letting the cat out. But then again, Todd's head is shrunken and his neck elongated, so I don't know if we can trust his judgment here.
Narrator: Just then the dull sound of shuffling and moaning can be heard from outside.
Linkara: Even though we've used sound effects at least three or four times now, we decided it would be better to just inform you of what sounds are happening. It really helps the horrific atmosphere if we tell you instead of show you.
(Cut to a man with an Australian accent, played by Lewis (almost like Mick Dundee from Crocodile Dundee) walking past the comic shelf, holding a bow and arrow)
Aussie Guy: PUSH THAT CART! (sees camera) Oh, we'll be right back. (walks off) THE CART'S MOVING THE WRONG WAY, YOU BLOODY WANKERS!
(The AT4W logo appears in the corner as we go to commercial; upon return, the sound of blood spurting is heard, and the Aussie guy returns)
Aussie Guy: Ha! Not so smart with your brains outside your head! (sees camera) Uh, we're back now.
(He leaves, laughing, as the AT4W logo appears in the corner. Cut back to the comic as the review resumes)
Linkara (v/o): And indeed, our wise hero opens the door once more and spots Mrs. Clements, who has clearly become a zombie. He tries to talk to her, but since she's in zombie mode, he's not getting through. The cat runs out, and Todd, whose arms have expanded into a more muscled form... Perhaps Todd is the Hulk? ...shoves her back outside and slams the door before she can attack him. Julia is awakened by the noise, but now she's clearly emaciated, judging by how thin her arms are compared to the rest of her body. Todd brings her up to speed with the help of the news reports.
News reporter: Quarantine efforts here in Raleigh haven't done much to contain the spread of the virus. Over half the city is now infected and new cases are showing up throughout the Southeast. Back to you in the studio, Samantha.
Linkara: You know, I've made this joke before, but considering how casually the news is treating this, (strokes chin) I really have to wonder how the police are interpreting this.
(Cut to a clip of an episode of The Simpsons)
Police Chief Wiggum: We think we're dealing with a supernatural being, most likely a mummy. As a precaution, I've ordered the Egyptian wing of the Springfield Museum destroyed.
(One policeman is destroying a glass case containing a mummy and then starts whaling on the mummy itself. Other cops have started a bonfire of Egyptian artifacts. One throws a painting of what looks like the Mona Lisa on the fire)
Wiggum: Nice work, Ed.
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): The Governor is urging people to stay in their homes while the CDC works with local health departments on a vaccine to the plague. Todd suggests that they sleep in the living room... and then switches off the TV and instead puts on the radio. The radio is an emergency tool in case you lose power. You really shouldn't be wasting its batteries if you don't need to. And of course, the epidemic is spreading, as the radio reports. Hospitals are being overrun, and warnings have gone up in dozens of counties.
Linkara: Aaand unfortunately, it's here that we have a bit of a logical problem with the story: why aren't they readying weapons, too?
Linkara (v/o): That was a critique lobbied at the original blog post, that it didn't talk about weapons they should be using in the event of a zombie apocalypse. But the CDC's response was equally logical in that case: they're a health organization. They don't give recommendations for how to kill things, only how to survive in disease epidemics and emergency situations that would require emergency supplies. And that's all well and good for a blog post that's only trying to use it as a metaphor... buuuut this is a story with characters who are supposed to represent real people with an actual clear and present danger in front of them. Yeah, the emergency supplies are a good first step, but even if you don't supply recommendations for weapons, in the story, the characters should be smart enough to realize that they will need WEAPONS IF THE ZOMBIES ATTACK!!
Linkara: (gestures toward himself) Hell, even I'm prepared for that! (holds up a huge bat lift) You think I own a bat lift just for funsies? (points to edge) Stabbing points on the edges, (points to front) and blunt force in the front, and the thing is actually surprisingly light and easy to handle. But even then, I still have other, lighter and small weapons in case I get too tired to use this thing.
Linkara (v/o): This is especially true if Todd and Julie have been watching horror movies. Even Night of the Living Dead had a brief scene where they talk about weapons to use against the zombies. But whatever. I get that that's not what the comic is trying to talk about, but I'm just saying, a zombie plague may be similar to other epidemics, but it's not the same. Different rules and tactics have to apply. Anyway, part one of the story concludes with Max waking up Todd a bit later to alert him about the sheer number of zombies walking around outside. In addition, the TV is only picking up static. The radio reports that things are getting worse. People need to stay in their homes, and if a family member is exhibiting the symptoms, they need to be isolated in a secure area immediately. Part two is of course included in the PDF, with my point being exemplified on its cover by a horde of zombies crashing through a window and attacking people. It's several days later now, and we're at the CDC headquarters in Atlanta. We meet Dr. Chang and Dr. Greene, and while the weapons thing I brought up isn't very realistic, we do have something a bit better with this, that they haven't been sitting on their hands for the last few days. They've learned a lot about the zombie plague, including that they've mapped out the virus' DNA and figured out it's a highly mutated form of the flu.
Linkara: I think when it starts causing you to crave flesh, attack people and possess no cognitive intelligence, it's a bit more than just (makes "finger quotes") "a highly mutated form" of it.
Linkara (v/o): They've also named the virus: Z5N1. Not a particularly interesting name for the virus, but this is why they're scientists and not marketing. Personally, though, I prefer to take the leetspeak version of it, and I'm now going to call it the "ZANY virus". Oh, and another thing, since this wasn't made by normal, common people, I'm not surprised to see that they screwed up the word balloons. Dr. Greene asks if they know the source of the virus, but the answer to that is not in the word balloon below it, but on the next page. Speaking of, they haven't been able to figure out where the virus started, but they are making progress on a vaccine. They're modifying a vaccine usually used for the seasonal flu to target ZANY, and it's making progress, but it's going to take them another week to distribute the first batch of vaccine.
Linkara: And this goes for all you dumbasses out there who think vaccines are bad! Do you want to become a zombie?! There's your incentive, dammit! Oh, and for all the other legitimate reasons to get vaccinated, but mostly for the ZANY zombie plague!
Linkara (v/o): Greene starts calling up the distributors to let them know about all the supplies they're gonna need to ship out, but first I think he should have his neck checked out. It's elongating from his body like a giraffe. We also get a brief cameo by Rear Admiral Khan, the guy who wrote the original blog post. That's gotta be embarrassing if he wrote up the blog post in the comic universe, too. We cut to Todd and Julie, who are still holed up in their house. They're running out of food and naturally haven't left the entire time since this has been going on. However, the radio comes on and reports that the CDC is urging people to either stay in their homes or, if they have to leave, to head for a designated safe zone. Vaccines will be distributed at the safe zones as they become available, and they start listing off safe zones for various areas.
Julie: Do you think they have food at one of those safe zones?
Todd: They must. Why else would they tell people to go there?
Linkara: Oh, there's food there. It's just not for you guys. They've decided to give in to the zombies.
Linkara (v/o): Also, what the hell is it with this comic and people's necks? Is that one of the ZANY side effects? They hear about an elementary school near them that's a safe zone, and they decide to make a break for it, packing up some remaining supplies in bags and getting Max on a leash since they want to bring him, too. They even wait until the least amount of zombies are near the house before they do it.
Linkara: I'll say this about the comic: aside from the weapons thing, the characters are actually acting smarter than in the average zombie movie.
Linkara (v/o): Then again, most zombie movies assume that the apocalypse will just happen everywhere at once and so quickly that all scientists and local authorities will be completely overwhelmed and overrun within an hour, so whatcha gonna do? The two make it to the car, but zombies have already spotted them and start approaching the car. Unfortunately, some horror cliches just can't be avoided, and the car has trouble starting. It does eventually get going, but it seems the reason why it was having trouble is because it's out of gas. The fuel light comes on, so they have to drive recklessly to get there.
Julie: Do me a favor and try not to hit any them...? [sic]
Linkara: Why the hell not?
Linkara (v/o): Also, "hit any of them". Thanks for the typo, government-funded comic. Our heroes manage to make it to the school just in time as the car putters out in front of the place. What's more, the Army's in charge of the safe zone and are actually acting intelligently. They lock up the place at dusk, since the zombies seem to be in lower numbers during the day than at night, and they screen people before they let them into the general population of the safe zone to make sure they're not infected.
Linkara: This feels so weird. Where's the asshole military guy who goes crazy with power? Where are the elitist jackasses trying to prevent poor people from getting treatment? Where are the paranoid morons who are (makes a shooting motion) shooting at anything that moves? Why are they acting like actual human beings instead of stereotypes?
Linkara (v/o): But yeah, simple blood test clears the three, and they get their own cots in the gym, which has been converted into a shelter. And of course, they brought the radio with them, which gives out the reports that the vaccines are on their way to the safe zones. Unfortunately, the trucks with the vaccines start arriving at sunset later that week. As such, the zombies arrive and overrun the guards. Aaand they get overrun because the military suddenly became stupid.
Soldier: We can't just shoot them. These are our fellow citizens!
Linkara: Um, no! They're zombies! They wish to eat your face! You're allowed to fire in self-defense! Hell, go for the legs if you're that concerned about keeping them alive!
Linkara (v/o): And yep, the zombies charge through the window, just as we saw on the cover. Todd and Julie make a run for the lab area of the school, but a zombie grabs onto Todd and shoves him to the ground. And... then... Max crawls all over him and he... Wait, he wakes up?! What the hell?!?
Linkara: (incredulously) IT WAS ALL A DREAM?!?! OH, COP OUT BULLCRAP! ...Wait, why did his dream have a subplot about people at the CDC headquarters working on a vaccine?
Linkara (v/o): Hell, this took place over the course of several days! He dreamt all of that?! Even when I have dreams like this, you can't compress that much time into a dream! But yeah, he wakes up next to his couch as Julie comes down, woken up by lightning from outside. Todd tells her about the zombie dream.
Julie: Ugh! You and your scary movies. See, this is what happens when all you watch horror films!
Linkara: She's right, you know. After I watched Amityville Horror 3, I had a terrible nightmare where I was bored to death.
Linkara (v/o): And again, "this is what happens when you all you watch are horror films"! Typos, you're soaking in them! However, the TV is still on and reporting that there's a bad thunderstorm coming their way. They head to the basement, and Todd digs out the radio as before.
(The ending theme from Nightmare City plays as the words "The Nightmare Becomes Reality..." appear on the screen)
Todd: I've been thinking... we should really make an emergency kit in case something happened. What if we were stuck in the house or had to evacuate? We need to have a plan!
Linkara: (dramatically pointing to camera) This means you, audience!
Linkara (v/o): And so, our comic ends with Julie agreeing that after the storm passes, they'll make all the kits and plans he wants, but that next time, she's picking the movie.
Linkara: Unfortunately, the movie she picked was Twister. You can guess what happened next. Anyway, this comic is... okay, for the most part.
Linkara (v/o): Its primary flaws are in the little, stupid things, like the military refusing to shoot or them not getting weapons or in the bullcrap "it was all a dream" ending. And of course, the artwork is really damn amateur, but I've always said that you can forgive crappy artwork as long as the writing is solid and the artwork not too distracting. However, aside from all that, the characters make good decisions; the message about making a plan is not really that hammered in, more just utilizing common sense in the face of a disaster; and it feels much more realistic than a lot of zombie movies that try to create artificial conflict for no reason other than the need for drama.
Linkara: But yeah, give it a read and consider what (points to screen) your plan is in the event of a zombie apocalypse, because you can actually plan for dealing with it. (beat) Less so in the case of a robot apocalypse, but (shrugs) hey, there's only so much you can do. (gets up and leaves)
(End credits roll)
I'm sure some of you are going to bring up dreams of compressed time, but the amount to have transpired and witnessed that we've seen in the comic, AND the cutaways to other people, makes no sense for this all to be a dream.
Subsequently, I love how Todd even dreamed an alpha-numeric codename for the zombie plague.
(Stinger: A message is displayed, which Linkara reads...)
Linkara (v/o): "We hope you enjoyed reading this fictional story. It's meant to be both educational and entertaining. Now that you've seen the importance of being prepared, take the time to put together an energy kit with the items included in the checklist on the following page. You'll be ready for any kind of disaster, even zombies."
Linkara: In the event that your emergency kit gained sentience and tries to murder you... well, you're out of luck.