RIP, Comic Book Artist Al Feldstein: Creator of the Modern Zombie

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The man who single-handedly shaped the look of the modern zombie has passed away. That would be legendary comic artist, writer, and editor Al Feldstein, who died yesterday at 88 years old. The name might not be familiar, but Feldstein’s daring and groundbreaking work served as the starting point for the look of every monster in every zombie movie. Which, of course, also mentions zombies in shows like AMC’s The Walking Dead.

Feldstein got his first big break as an artist and writer in the 1940s with a publishing company called EC Comics. EC was among the first to publish some of the best loved pulp and horror comics with titles such as Weird Science, The Vault of Horror, Shock SuspenStories and Tales from the Crypt. That image above was drawn by Feldstein for a famous issue of Tales from the Crypt and is so iconic that it influenced an entire generation of horror fans and became the standard model for the shuffling undead hordes that would follow in his footsteps.

Unfortunately, horror comics became an unnecessary scapegoat for juvenile delinquency and even the target of a federal investigation.  EC was forced to scale back most of their comic book titles and a lot of Feldstein’s horror work dwindled as a result but he weathered the storm and helped shape the company’s famous publication MAD Magazine. He oversaw production of the humor magazine for 28 years before retiring in 1984. MAD may be the most famous name attached to Feldstein’s work but that one image of the famous quicksand zombie has more reach and influence on popular culture than even the most iconic shot of Alfred E. Neuman’s gap-toothed grin. So thanks Mr. Feldstein for sticking an image in our young minds that still keep us at night.

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