Tales of the Zombie #5 (1974)

You’d never know it from the title, but Tales of the Zombie was one of the most thoughtful series of the 1970s. I suppose that makes sense since it was written by Steve Gerber, one of the two or three most thoughtful writers of the ’70s. Gerber managed to find humanity and intelligence in almost everything he wrote, whether it was a swamp monster in Man-Thing, super-heroes in The Defenders or a smart duck in Howard the Duck. Or even a walking undead creature named Simon.
Simon Garth was a businessman who was murdered and then brought back to life as a zombie, Garth was connected via an amulet to whoever held it, and was at their beck and call whenever the person needed them. Garth was strong and could not be killed, so it makes some sort of sense to have a zombie working for you. Of course, he always craved the grave. In this story, Garth’s friend helps him reach the grave, only to have the amulet stolen by a crazy supernatural group.
Gerber actually does a really nice job of portraying the group, depicting their leader as both crazy and legitimately scary. Papa Shorty, their leader, has both a very scary disability and the powers and abilities to go with it. I was actually surprised how much I found Papa Shorty to be spooky – the dude got to me.
But the best part of the issue to me was when Simon Garth found himself back at his old office. Quoting Gerber’s captions:

You belong here, in this very building. And so, you enter. And, as you did so many mornings in the last – in life – you cross the lobby, ascend the stairs. Of course, no alarm sounded in those days! Indeed, there was no noise at all. No one else was here. You always arrived before your employees. And you always came directly here. This was your throne room, Simon Garth. Here, you were supreme. Here, you made decisions that affected the lives of thousands of people. But you never really cared about them, did you? It was the feel of the rich leather against your back…the sight of other men trembling at your anger, hanging on your every word…the heady, exhilarating experience of wielding power, of knowing you were in control. But you can feel nothing now – not joy, not sorrow… but pleasure, not pain. Only a vague sense of loss, and confusion. For you are no longer certain which loss disturbs you most… your business – your family – or your soul. And more, you are not certain any of it matters.

It’s not Shakespeare, but it ain’t bad for comics.


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