The father of the zombie genre – George A. Romero – died on Sunday July 16th after what the Romero family described as a “brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer”. He died peacefully listening to one of his favorite songs and with his wife (Suzanne Romero) and daughter (Tina Romero) at this bedside.
With the release of Night of the Living Dead in 1968, Romero gave birth to the zombie genre. Prior to Night of the Living Dead, horror movies primarily focused on the “Universal Monsters”, that is Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Mummy and the like.
With the help of his co-writer John A. Russo and the creative team, Romero managed to get some prints made, handle their own marketing and promotion as well as host a premier night that took place on Halloween. Critics panned the $114,000 movie (initially entitled “Night of the Flesh Eaters”) but audience-goers loved it and the fan base rapidly grew. Romero proved that you don’t need a massive budget to make a good scare. He proved to everyone that his idea was viable, that despite the critics and negativity that there is truth and reward in pursuing your dream. There is a good message in there for all horror fans, fans of zombies, of Romero and – really – a message and lesson that anyone can take who has their own dream to push forward.
“Night” went on to become a gargantuan franchise which included films like “Dawn of the Dead“, “Day of the Dead“, “Land of the Dead“, a “Dawn of the Dead” remake in 2004, “Diary of the Dead” and “Another Night of the Living Dead” and another “Day of the Dead” directed by Hector Vicens that is currently (as of mid-2017) set in pre-production according to IMDB. Outside of the franchise but still within the genre, Romero is also credited with 1973’s “The Crazies” as well as 2010’s “The Crazies“, “Season of the Witch“, “Creepshow 2” and more.
Marvel Comics, IDW Publishing and Avatar Press have also published numerous comic books and graphic novels based upon his work. In 2004 DC Comics published a 6 issue miniseries called Toe Tags which was written by George Romero and featured art by Tommy Castillo (who himself passed away on June 23rd 2017). A five issue miniseries called Land of the Dead was published by IDW in 2005 which was written by Chris Ryall. Then, starting in 2014, Marvel Comics published a successful run called “Empire of the Dead” in 3 part part volumes (Act I, Act II, Act III). Empire of the Dead was picked up to become a ongoing horror television series but is currently listed as “In production”.
Romero’s work will, ironically, live on much past the man himself. The impact he left on horror fans, and movie fans and comic book fans alike will be with us as the genre he created is here to stay.
May all the zombies of the world say “Braaains” in his honor. Rest in peace, Mr. Romero.