As explained in Dan O'Bannon's classic 1985 punk rock zombie film, Return of the Living Dead, rigor mortis starts in the brain and then it spreads down to the internal organs and finally settles into the muscles. It's a metaphor for infection that artist Jason Thompson has borrowed in "The Map of Zombies," an awesomely gruesome infographic charting hundreds of different types of zombies from film, television, comics, literature, video games, and more that would look right at home in a copy of Gray's Anatomy. Or, at least, gray skinned anatomy.
Unlike a vampire or a werewolf, a zombie isn't a particular species of monster, but more of a genus. Sure, you've got the classic, lumbering, flesh-eating corpses of George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead series, but there's also the fast-moving, brain-eating zombies of Return of the Living Dead, the classic voodoo zombies of I Walked Like a Zombie, the rage-infected plague victims of 28 Days Later, and heck, even space zombies in movies like Tobe Hooper's Life Force. How to keep track of them all?
On his Kickstarter, Thompson writes: "As a horror fan, when I hear that something has 'zombies,' I want to know: are they fast zombies or slow zombies? Viral zombies, supernatural zombies, or alien-invasion zombies? Headshot zombies, living zombies, or writhing-severed-limbs zombies? Crazed, unreasonable people who are alive but act 'zombie-like'? Voodoo zombies, cannibal zombies or rotting Etruscan curse zombies?"
Good questions, all. In The Maps of Zombies, the combined genus of zombii sapien is broken down in a helpful flowchart to help you identify particular types of walking corpses. As the infographic helpfully explains, the first question you must ask a possible zombie is whether or not a shotgun blast to the chest kills it. If yes, sure, it could be human, but it could also be a living zombie, as seen in movies such as I Am Legend. Better shoot first to make sure.
If you shoot someone in the chest and he or she doesn't die, congratulations, there's no ambiguity anymore: definitely a zombie. But what kind? To find out, you must next try shooting the zombie in the head. If it dies, you've got a standard Romero zombie, but if not, things get more complicated. The zombie could be a zombie ghost, as seen in various Japanese horror movies. It could be an unstoppable zombie killer, a la Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th series, a zombie that can only be killed through gelatinization (as in Peter Jackson's Dead Alive), or even a mutagenic alien corpse-parasite disguised as a zombie, as in EA's Dead Space games. There's even a branch for Edgar Allen Poe's zombie from The Facts in the Case Of M. Valdemar!
All in all, Thomson counts over 350 unique species of zombies spread out across the popular media of the last century, and he's catalogued them all in one 24x36" poster inspired by vintage medical illustrations. The Map of Zombies has already reached its funding goal on Kickstarter. It should be available for purchase from Thomson's online shop soon.