Spores Prom of the Dead zombies Dave Dwonch, Santiago Guillen
Spores: Prom of the Dead is a new take on zombies inspired by a real-life zombie fungus, Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, that compels ants to seek out favorable environments before it sprouts up from their head. The spores aren’t the only ones growing so are the heroines of this coming-of-age story. Christina and Erika are BFFs who must navigate the trials of friendship, love and mean girls during the zombie apocalypse.

Creator Dave Dwonch (Vamplets, Cyrus Perkins and the Haunted Taxi Cab) describes it as “The Breakfast Club meets The Walking Dead.”

The Prom of the Dead is the first of three volumes in the Spores graphic novel. And it’s being released exclusively on Kickstarter. Dwonch explains why you should sink your teeth into this zombie story “that is not a zombie story at all!”

Picking Dwonch’s brain

The story takes place in upstate New York. It also seems to be set in the past, though that might just be due to the locale. Why did you choose this particular setting?

“Prom of the Dead” is set current day, but I can see why you’d think it’s set in the past. I have a deep romanticism about Upstate New York. It just seems like the most peaceful place on Earth. It’s so close to everything, but feels remote, almost timeless. One of my gripes about the zombie genre, slow moving zombies in particular, is that I don’t believe that the infection would spread in a way that would threaten all of humanity. By starting it at a private school I’m able to play in that microcosm, and have fun without worrying about the bigger picture just yet. It felt right to set the outbreak there. There are plans for two more “Spores” graphic novels, but by the end of “Prom” you’ll fully understand how these monsters become a global threat.

Which clique do the main characters belong to and how will that factor into their odds of survival?

Christina, Cooper and Erika are sort of those mid-level average kids that populate the school. They pretty much stick to themselves, flying below the radar. They’ll be thrown into a situation where they have to cooperate with the popular kids to survive. I’m hoping that I’m writing them all realistically; they all have skills and ingenuity that comes with kids their age, but as you might expect, it’s their varying emotional intelligence that puts them at risk. Catastrophes bring out the best and worst in everyone, and this won’t be different. So… odds of survival? Slim on all accounts!

Breakfast Club presented adults and teachers as real-life monsters. Are they friend or foe in the zombie apocalypse?

One thing my fans know of my writing is that I love to flip scripts. Much like my work in “Infinite Seven” and “Cyrus Perkins & the Haunted Taxi Cab”, nothing is as it seems. Prom will prove that EVERY character will surprise you. I’ll let the readers judge who the real monsters are.

Zombie fiction likes to gloss over the source of the zombie virus. Night of the Living Dead only hinted at the cause being radiation from a Venus satellite. However, Spores seems to have a more definitive answer, namely a type of Ophiocordyceps unilateralis fungus. How much do you delve into the science of zombies?

Science was never my thing, but the zombie fungus has held my imagination for years. Because “Prom” is the first part of a trilogy, it serves as more of a launch pad, with the science being delved into deeper in the next volume. The ideas get much bigger as we move forward!

There have been other zombie stories set in high school such as the movie Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse and the anime & manga Highschool of the Dead. These usually rely heavily on comedy and fan service. How does Prom of the Dead stand out?

When I decided to write “Prom” I knew I wanted to use Ophiocordyceps unilateralisas the inspiration, but in doing so, I opened myself up to an otherworldly explanation as well. Not to give away too much, but this isn’t your typical zombie story. In fact, it’s not a zombie story at all!

Yes, there are funny moments, but also some very terrifying beats as well. For me, “Prom of the Dead” is much more akin to “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” It’s about surviving in a world that’s being taken over by an intelligent, malignant hive mind. Hopefully readers will be into my take on survival horror!

Spores Prom of the Dead zombies Harbinger Dave Dwonch Santiago Guillen

Zombie graduation

The last preview page reveals the zombies will evolve into something else. Dwonch calls the second phase of the infection “The Harbinger.” The spores appear to wear their human hosts like a mask before expelling their tendrils toward the sky. They go from looking like Leatherface in Texas Chainsaw Massacre to John Carpenter’s The Thing. Those terrifying faces are courtesy of Santiago Guillen, a former caricature artist. And it will undoubtedly look even more gruesome in color.

If you prefer old school horror, you can get an exclusive black-and-white first issue as a reward in the Kickstater campaign. Dwonch promises there will be no reprints and the rest of the story will be released solely in trade paperback form. Adding to the collectible nature are a series of signed nude covers, as in logo free and black-and-white. There’s even an add-on for a variant cover by Dan Mendoza (Zombie Trap, Dollface).

Fortunately, you don’t need to bring a date to the dance but you must pick up your ticket to the Prom of the Dead on Kickstarter by Thursday 3PM, October 5.