See what I did there?
You may not, if you’re only familiar with Diana Rowland’s book series, starting with My Life as a White Trash Zombie. Or if you’re only familiar with the new show on the CW, iZombie, loosely adapted from the Vertigo comic book series, iZOMBIE.
Or, of course, you may still be clueless, but that’s okay, I’ll explain everything.
Back when I was still book blogging at Calico Reaction, I ran a book club. Every month, I’d choose a theme and members would vote on books that fit said theme. In August of 2012, the theme was Kick-Assitude, and the book club selection was Diana Rowland’s My Life As A White Trash Zombie. The super-pink cover had originally put me off when the book came out in 2011, but the premise was too good to ignore: a woman who gets turned into a zombie, survives, but has to take a job at the morgue in order to get a steady supply of brains in order to not only stay alive, but look somewhat normal. How cool is that? SUPER COOL. I had a lot of fun reading, and put the sequels on my wishlist for a day I wanted to binge.
Fast forward to now: the CW network just debuted a new show based on a Vertigo comic book series. Female-lead, zombies, humor, looked like fun. But I wanted to read a few reviews before I watched the pilot on Hulu, and here’s what I learned:
A woman gets turned into a zombie, survives, but has to take a job at the morgue in order to get a steady supply of brains in order to stay alive….
My first thought was to compare the comic series release date to Rowland’s release date. Both debuted in 2011, so one clearly didn’t copy the other***.
But further digging into the television adaptation revealed this: it’s an adaptation in name only. In the comics, our heroine is a gravedigger.
The brain boggles.
I did some more Googling, but apparently this isn’t a big deal. Sure, there are comments on various sites that talk about the show from people who have read the book and are pointing out the similarities to Rowland’s work, from people who are wondering why they didn’t just adapt her series instead. And I found brief mentions on Rowland’s Facebook that she is aware and that lawyers are involved. Unfortunately, the CW can afford more lawyers than she can.
Now, let’s make one thing clear: I’m not a lawyer and I’m not saying there’s an infringement of copyright. I’m not taking the CW’s side here, mind you. I’m referencing THIS, and it boils down to the fact that ideas can’t be copyrighted, no matter how original they are. There’s also a lot of unknowns here: whether or not Rowland’s book was seen in the writer’s room, whether or not it was obvious they were using it for “inspiration,” whether or not Rowland & Co were shopping the rights and CW was considering the rights and then passed, only to suddenly come out with this show, which on surface appears to be adapted not just from the comic book series of the same name, but also Rowland’s series.
I repeat, there are a LOT of unknowns. This may be more of a Fables vs. Once Upon a Time situation, wherein the concepts are eerily alike at first glance, but ultimately very different in execution, rather than a Gravity vs. Gravity situation, where there is a clear line between sold rights, studios, and how the movie was ultimately produced.
And let’s make another thing clear: the law is WEIRD, and things that seem OBVIOUS aren’t so obvious in court, and verdicts can be frustrating as hell.
So instead of standing on a soapbox and crying that the CW/Rob Thomas have stolen Rowland’s idea — and don’t get me wrong, the similarities, on the surface, make my stomach turn, despite the fact that the genius idea of a zombie working in a morgue is one that I think many people might land on eventually — I’m doing something else.
I’m making sure people in my small spec of the internet are aware.
I’m asking that people who like the idea of zombies working in a morgue to check out Diana Rowland’s work. Because let’s face it, there is CLEAR audience overlap between Rowland’s series and the television show. If you enjoy one, you’re likely going to enjoy the other. I haven’t seen the CW pilot yet, and I suspect I’ll hunker down and do that soon. I may change my mind about the situation: after all, I originally scoffed at the Gravity vs. Gravity situation, because I’d read the book, didn’t care for it, but adored the movie and didn’t see the similarities until they were pointed out to me, until I saw the line from rights sold to the studio to where the final film ended up.
But it just bugs me that so far, no entertainment site has picked up on the similarities. While I’m not entirely sure why I expect them to KNOW, it still irks me to no end. I admit I’m biased, and I’m Team!Rowland, even if this ends up being such a thing where there is no need for teams and both properties can co-exist peacefully and feed off of each other (pun intended) in a good way by boosting each others’ markets.
And that, besides awareness, is the ultimate point of my post. Rowland’s work is fun, so if the below premise sounds entertaining, ignore the all-too-pink cover and give it a go. And then check out the CW series, if only to nitpick the hell out of it. Or vise versa.
Angel Crawford is a loser.
Living with her alcoholic deadbeat dad in the swamps of southern Louisiana, she’s a high school dropout with a pill habit and a criminal record who’s been fired from more crap jobs than she can count. Now on probation for a felony, it seems that Angel will never pull herself out of the downward spiral her life has taken.
That is, until the day she wakes up in the ER after overdosing on painkillers. Angel remembers being in an horrible car crash, but she doesn’t have a mark on her. To add to the weirdness, she receives an anonymous letter telling her there’s a job waiting for her at the parish morgue–and that it’s an offer she doesn’t dare refuse.
Before she knows it she’s dealing with a huge crush on a certain hunky deputy and a brand new addiction: an overpowering craving for brains. Plus, her morgue is filling up with the victims of a serial killer who decapitates his prey–just when she’s hungriest!
Angel’s going to have to grow up fast if she wants to keep this job and stay in one piece. Because if she doesn’t, she’s dead meat.
***Edit: So thanks to some intrepid friends who did more digging than me: the Vertigo comic series, iZOMBIE, actually came out in 2010, practically a full year before Rowland’s My Life As A White Trash Zombie did. Again, I see this as a non-issue and negligible. 1) I don’t contend there’s an issue between the comic series and Rowland’s books. 2) When the comic series debuted, it’s likely Rowland’s book was already at the publisher. 3) Sentient zombies, which both properties feature, isn’t at all the issue for me. Hell, if you want to add sentient zombies, there’s Warm Bodies to throw into the mix. No, my contention is the female lead who’s a sentient zombie AND who works in a morgue in order to get brains, the latter of which isn’t in the comics from what I can tell — but it is in the television adaptation.