Now available at book stores everywhere from Sterling is award-winning author and Chicago native (I like him already) Jeff Busch’s “Zombie High Yearbook ’64”, a book that literally blew Ryan Daley’s mind. Before posting this review, I quickly hit up Amazon and ordered myself a copy.
Printed in blood-spattered black and white, this tribute to high school yearbooks of old is hilarious in its attention to period detail even as it celebrates the 1960s “afterlifestyle.” The civil rights upheavals of the early ’60s saw the dawn of a new, all-inclusive attitude for the nation’s youth, whether living or life-challenged. Jeff Busch captures this dynamic moment in an all-American zombie high school, when a generation of young revenants looked forward to a brighter tomorrow, filled with college, career, and family. And brains-lots and lots of brains….
As zombie-themed pop culture has slowly cannibalized the new decade, it has become increasingly difficult to tell the difference between blatant zombie cash-ins and the real zombie deal. Somewhere between the eerily legitimate World War Z and the glacially-paced hucksterism of AMC’s The Walking Dead lies Jeff Busch’s uncannily realistic Zombie High Yearbook `64, a flagrant zombie cash-in that still oozes so much damned creativity, it’s an essential addition to the coffee table of any true Zombie Lover.
Artist Jeff Busch has copy-set the book in a haunting black-and-white, and having seen my father’s high school yearbooks from the same era, I can attest that Zombie High Yearbook `64 looks exactly like the real thing. Busch has devoted sections of the yearbook to every aspect of zombie high school in the 60s, from “Clubs and Organizations”, to “Student Personalities”, even a macabre “Athletics” section, each staggered with loads of candid zombie photos. Many pages, like “Social Events: Enchantment Under the Earth” or “Support Staff: Disposal Detail” are spattered with clever, hand-written zombie captions. (One of my favorite pages is titled “Samhain Festival”, and features photos of several undead students gathered around a bonfire, with the sloppily-written caption reading “Oops! Too close,” as the bottom photo reveals that a few of the zombies have been inadvertently set ablaze.)
Although I thoroughly enjoyed Busch’s book, I was still left with a couple of questions. First, considering the subject matter, why did he choose to set the book in black-and-white rather than glorious, gruesome color? Second, if you insist on setting your zombie yearbook in the mid-60s, why not 1968, the year Night of the Living Dead was released?…..But with a book this cool, who am I to question Busch’s creative instincts? Much of his black-and-white imagery is unquestionably beautiful.
In any case, I flaunted Zombie High Yearbook `64 at a recent poker night, and everybody in attendance seriously dug it. Two friends immediately ordered it online. Simply put, if you’re someone who loves this sort of shit (and you know who you are), it’s the sort of insanely clever tome you NEED to own. Admirably genuine and profoundly amusing, it’s a masterful piece of zombie gimmickry. As zombie Principal Irwin DeBold states at the close of his sentiments, “Si vos reprehendo is edo caput capitis primoris!*”
*”If you catch them, eat the brain first.”