Sunday, 31 May 2009

How to Draw and Fight Zombies by Ben Dunn

I recently bought this book "How to Draw and Fight Zombies" by Ben Dunn mainly because of the subject but also because I am trained as a graphic designer. The title intrigued me. Not only is this book going to tell me how to draw zombies, it is also going to tell me how to fight the critters. Hell, what's not to like? Bring it on, I said!
This is a softback book measuring 215mm by 277mm and is 128 pages long. It is split into six chapters - Introduction, Know Your Zombies, Know Your Comrades, Know Your Weapons, Know Your Vehicles and Final Notes.
Introduction. This covers tools of the trade - pencils, erasers, pens, brushes, markers, nibs, ink, rulers, templates, curves and compasses. Next are two pages showing the Basic Body and the Basic Bones. In other words, the correct proportions of a human body (male & female) and the skeletal structure showing all the bones. Get these right and you're well on your way to success. The final part of the introduction is a brief tutorial on using layers in a program like Photoshop. This is something I've never done but I'd like to try out sometime.
Know Your Zombies. Aka "What's eating you?" Here we come to the meat of the book. The author shows examples of some of the most common (and a few uncommon) types of zombies you might encounter as well as discussing their strengths and weaknesses and talking about illustration techniques. What I particularly like about this book is that a variety of artists have been chosen to illustrate it so you are not lumbered with just the one style of artwork. For example, some people love Manga style artwork, others loathe it. If you do like Manga then you're covered. If not, don't worry, there is sure to be someone else's style whom you admire. Each type of zombie featured in the book is shown in a variety of stages from a very rough pencilled outline to the finished product. The inbetween stages are not too big a jump that leave you asking "how did he get from there to here?" The 10 zombies shown are the zombi, the comet zombie (male & female), the supernatural zombie, the revenant zombie, the apocalypse zombie, the possessed zombie, the parasite zombie, the experimental zombie and the chibi zombie.
Know Your Comrades. This chapter, the longest in the book, shows a mix of character types and occupations of typical survivors found in a zombie apocalypse setting. Again, a variety of artists have been chosen to illustrate the examples and each example is shown in at least four different stages of development. The 16 characters chosen are the benevolent scientist, the mad scientist, the lab technician, the reporter, the special agent, the SWAT trooper, the nurse, the soldier, the couple, the burnout, the jerk, the coward, the everyman, the damsel and the sportsman.
Know Your Weapons. This begins the section of the book with the sub-heading "The Comprehensive Guide to Zombie Vulnerabilities." (It isn't! It is far from comprehensive!) This short chapter shows how to draw the following weapons - the assault rifle (AK47 shown), the shotgun (12 gauge Mossberg 500 shown), the flamethrower, the revolver (.357 Ruger SP101 shown), the automatic pistol (.45 Colt Model 1911 shown), explosive devices, the chainsaw, the torch (that's a flaming torch not a battery operated device) the sword and a page showing three improvised weapons - the hammer, the baseball bat and the axe. As I said, a short chapter, but if you know how to draw one automatic pistol, for example, then you ought to be able to draw any automatic pistol. The technique for drawing weapons is what really counts here.
Know Your Vehicles. This chapter is even shorter than the last one and features just 3 vehicles, namely the four wheeler (a 1978 Ford Bronco with a 351 V8 engine), the eighteen wheeler (a 1970's Freightliner truck) and a helicopter (a Bell Huey 212). As usual, each illustration is shown in various stages of development from rough outline to finished product.
Final Notes. This has the subheading "Helter Shelter" and it shows 6 possible locations that may be used as a place of refuge (two abandoned houses and a remote island) or avoided like the plague (a city centre, a shipwreck and a prison island) when Z-Day arrives. These six illustrations are all the finished article and do not show the differing stages of development.
The artists featured in the book are Fred Perry, Rod Espinosa, David Hutchison, Kelsey Shannon and Joseph Wight. Their styles vary quite a bit, which is definitely a good thing. The writing, by Ben Dunn, is in an easy to follow, laid back style. There is a lot of good advice in the book and it made me want to get back to drawing again. Sadly, with so many figures to paint, buildings and scenery to make and loads of other distractions I don't know when I'll find the time, which is a shame, as I used to enjoy drawing. Not many people may know that I once illustrated a book of short stories about vampires. It was called "Darkling, I Listen" by Valentina Nightingale but I doubt very much if it is still in print. As for "How to Draw and Fight Zombies" this is a wonderful book. The "how to fight zombies" part is of debatable quality but the "how to draw" part is first class. My only criticism of the book is that it left me wanting more, especially on the chapter "Know Your Zombies." I could have happily waded through 128 pages of zombie illustrations. The artwork throughout is in black and white, which works well for most of the illustrations. It is published by Antarctic Press and retail cost is $19.99 but you can buy it for a lot less than that from somewhere like I got my copy from Red Hot Comics for just £12.50.


  1. Nice review, Vamp. I can't even draw a straight line, and I've always been envious of those who can draw. I flipped though my share of "how to draw" books with longing, but it's just not my skillset. This does seem like a mighty odd subject for a drawing book, but I bet it will sell decently. I hope if you decide to draw some zeds you'll share a few examples with, eh?

    Artist that you are, have you seen the comic book series Walking Dead? I don't know if anybody's reprinting it in the UK, but maybe you can get the compilation books through Amazon. The art is truly impressive, especially the amazing variety of zombies, and the story is deep and engrossing. Even if you're not a comic fan, you owe it to yourself to check it out just as a zombie enthusiast.

  2. Ah, John, you have touched upon a subject very dear to my heart, namely, The Walking Dead series by Robert Kirkland. I don't buy the comics, instead I buy the graphic novels. It is cheaper in the long run but means I must wait six months between each "fix." A review of the series is certainly on the cards. The Walking Dead is easily the best comic series on the market. As for sharing my work, I will certainly do that if ever I pick up my pens and pencils again. Mind you, I could always show some of my past work. Nice to have material for future blog articles, lol!