Exclusive Interview: The Living Dead Gives Rise to NFTs

·11 min read

An interview with George C. Romero on his new NFT motion comic film, The Rise.

On October 31st, there will be two important holidays for fans of blockchain and NFTs -- the lucky 13th anniversary of the Bitcoin Whitepaper and Halloween. The whitepaper marks the start of a revolution in finance and a boom in blockchain development that led to NFTs. Halloween is a frightful chance for the cavalcade of creative NFT projects to make new drops with orange-bedazzled and candy-corn flavored NFTs.

After all, NFTs are the new source of creative expression for the blockchain world. They may as well get to dress up for the holiday.

For example, Uncanny Apes: Ghosts and Ghouls Halloween Edition just dropped a limited release of 665 NFTs of these uncanny primates. The generative project has 102 possible traits in six different categories (backgrounds, ghost or ghoul head, facial expressions, hat or hair, eyewear, mouth/nose props). The project said 50% of their total profits on the first release will be donated to the Save The Children Foundation, a UK-based charity that supports health, education, and disaster relief.

Stacks Art has added 4 Halloween-inspired Funky Donuts, the only spooky donuts out of their giant box of 3,000 NFTs. At the time of writing 1,200 of the NFT series have been “baked” (minted).

Cumrocket is offering a few Halloween NFTs for their newly launched 18+ NFT marketplace. “Just when you thought the porn industry couldn’t get any freakier, CumRocket is hitting the scene,” says company Founder/CEO Lydia Lane.

Spoiler Alert: their Halloween NFTs involve some revealing Halloween costumes.

See also: Benzinga's NFT Release Calendar

Traps, Schematics, and Keys - Saw NFTs

If you’re looking for something a little scarier, some creative projects have put real chilling creativity into their drops.

NFT platform Autograph partnered with Lionsgate and Twisted Pictures to drop some NFTs that celebrate the Saw franchise on Draftkings Marketplace.

The Saw movies are one of the most successful franchises in horror having earned over $1 billion at the box office. Autograph hopes to capitalize on that success with a Halloween weekend drop that features 10,000 collectibles with three drop categories including keys, schematics, and traps. The animated NFTs are meant to reveal the inspiration behind Saw supervillain Jigsaw’s famous death trap puzzles. If you buy an NFT in each category, you are granted access to exclusive Saw content which will be airdropped to your wallet on Halloween at midnight ET.

Saw franchise movie producers Mark Burg and Oren Koules said in a press release:

“Our greatest challenge in each movie of the Saw series has been to push ourselves to bring our audiences something new, cool, and unexpected... These NFTs take the best of the Saw series of movies and amplify them even further as fans can become part of Saw history...”

NFTs and Expanding the Deadverse

Over 50 years ago, George A. Romero horror classic film Night of the Living Dead changed the way we imagine zombines. Now George C. Romero, a veteran director, producer, and writer, has expanded what he calls the Deadverse with an origin story in the form of The Rise.

The story was originally produced as a comic book but has been made into a motion comic film made in partnership with Heavy Metal Magazine. The film is titled: “ A Motion Comic Documentary of Zombies. Family. Art. Counter Culture & Fringe Film Making.” It is being released as NFTs in three parts on Crypto.com.

We interviewed Romero on his art, the Deadverse, and his view on NFTs.

George C. Romero

Night of the Living Dead defined the modern image of a "zombie" -- what is the Rise bringing to the canon of classic Romero zombies? Is this a prequel or an origin story?

The Rise is an origin story, not a prequel. My hope when conceiving it, and that remains today, is that both die-hard, old-school fans as well, as a new generation of fans, will love what we are bringing to the canon of one of the most widely known pop culture creatures in the world.

I have a lot of surprises for fans twisted and rolled into The Rise, as well as a pretty blatant love letter to the work my father and crew did in 1968 as well as many of the entries over the last 50+ years that have expanded on the lore with any success.

From the jump, The Rise has always been as much for Romero and zombie fans as it has been for me, personally.

Heavy Metal, under Matthew’s leadership and in collaboration with the amazing, hard-working team he has assembled including Joseph Illidge, Diego Yapur, DC Alonso, and Saida, has truly been the only place with as much respect to the history of the brand as I have always carried with me.

With regard to additions to the canon, the best answer I can give at this point is that fans will just have to wait and see because we are answering a lot of questions many fans didn’t realize they had as well as many of the top questions that have existed since 1968,” Romero said.

What is your take on the enduring fandom around zombies?

“It’s no secret that I believe the fact that the original “Night” landing in the public domain ended up being a great thing for the lifespan of the ghouls. Growing up in the 70s and 80s was an amazing time for zombie fans, myself included. Everyone with a creative bone in their body was taken by the creatures and what we had was a sort of open-source creature. What I mean by that is that fledgling creators from filmmakers to special effects protégés to authors, poets, and musicians had possibly the most relatable creatures ever created to hone their skills with through backyard films, open mic nights, haunted houses, and everything else out there, without fear of a massive entity shutting them down. Zombies became the sandbox for the fringe and gave creators a nearly blank slate with a very limited ruleset on which to create.

I also believe the current fascination that has grown from the roots of the tree my dad and crew planted more than five decades ago has always, and to some degree will always, center on the relatability of the creatures. Zombies aren’t made through a ritual; they aren’t built, and they don’t have a “sexiness” to them like other creatures. Zombies are the mail carrier, the butcher, your doctor, best friend, parent, child, relative, or neighbor. Plain and simple, zombies are us and I think that is what originally drove fear into the fans. The anomaly, in my opinion, is that they have shed a lot of the terror over the decades and grown into a sort of antihero to which most fans today can still relate on some level.

How do you feel about the modern "running zombie"?

Regarding zombies that run: I believe it was a natural progression for the ghouls over time and while I have no core issue with the concept, I’m a Romero and therefore reserve the right to simply say no comment,” Romero said.

Who will be able to see this new short film? Is NFT exclusivity part of the plan?

“The film is available in 3 parts (750 editions per part) randomly distributed in 2250 surprise packs each containing one part — and 10 editions of the full video are up for auction on Crypto.com as well.

While anyone can watch it on the drop page, what’s exclusive to purchasers of the NFTs is ownership of the limited edition videos that are verifiable on the blockchain. We wanted to make this something that the NFT community could get behind while using the motion comic and narrative storytelling tools we are so equipped with to deliver a one-of-a-kind experience for the fans,” Romero said.

What do the NFTs you’re dropping offer?

“If you hold Part 1 of the Documentary by the drop’s end, you will be awarded digital issues of The Rise Chapters 1–5 ripped from the pages of Heavy Metal Magazine. If you own Part 2 during a snapshot taken on a date and time specified on the drop page, you will be invited to join an incredible group seminar I am doing to talk about The Rise, Comics, and film-making. An exclusive Zoom Lecture Q+A. Lastly, if you hold Part 3 on a specified date and time, then you’ll be sent special edition NFTs, digitally signed by the artist and myself. Oh, and if you are bold enough to bid and win one of the 10 full-length Motion Comic Documentaries in the primary auction, then you get a 1:1 30-minute zoom with me to talk about all things genre. We are pretty excited about how these NFTs create memorable moments for our fans,” Romero said.

What led you into the NFT space and have you had any previous experience with blockchain?

I’ve been a follower of cryptocurrency for quite some time and when Matthew introduced me to NFTs last year, the conversation wasn’t simply “Hey, these are cool things,” it was more of an instant recognition on both our parts of the potential that existed in the space as an exciting new platform on which there is zero horizon.

Our goal for The Rise extends far beyond the comic into a lot of different spaces with some content existing exclusively within a certain market and other content spanning several verticals.

What are NFTs doing for creators in terms of new possibilities?

“While I’m sure there are people who can answer this much more accurately than I can, it’s very exciting to me to see the blockchain as a new frontier for creators. The advancements in content creation tech since the advent of the DSLR and its subsequent boom has seen tech get smaller, ideas get bigger and audiences find broader outlets on which they can seek out, find and own the content that matters to them.

NFTs offer so much to creators in so much as they are a wonderful place for creators to have the ability to push their content out to a waiting crowd of adoring fans while simultaneously giving that crowd the ability to feel a sense of ownership in the entire process. I think NFTs are not only the future of creation and distribution, but an exciting avenue for savvy creators to pursue and achieve their funding goals so that they can continue to grow their abilities and delivery capabilities to a laser targeted audience who is hungry for exactly what they are creating,” Romero said.

Do you have any advice for new creators in the space?

“Yes. Forget everything you ever thought you knew about how content funding, creation, and distribution work. It’s the Wild West and there is literally nothing creators can’t accomplish in this space if they are willing to allow the space to let them see their craft from a new perspective,” Romero said.

Are you doing any other work that builds on the lore of the zombies that are so defined by Night of the Living Dead?

The Rise is the cornerstone of the foundation for the coming Deadverse. We have a lot of things up our sleeve, more in development and announcements that will continue to captivate fans, old and new.


The creative drive behind art and collectibles in NFTs functions a lot like a good ghost story -- borrowing liberally or outright taking ideas from previous work, adding new spins, keeping what’s new and interesting, and cutting away the rest, until you have a completely crowd-sourced folk tale ripped straight from the zeitgeist. Without Braham Stoker’s Dracula, there would have been no Anne Rice Interview with a Vampire, and without Rice there would have been no Twilight. We can assume without some combination of the above, there would have been no Sneaky Vampire Syndicate.

Of course, without Night of the Living Dead, there would be no Walking Dead, or literally thousands of other properties in film, TV, literature, comics, art, and more. NFTs channel the consumers’ consciousness to find what’s popular and relevant -- but in this case the successor and champion of a clear part of the universal canon is choosing to expand his corner of our collective imagination using NFTs as a way to fundraise and distribute his work.

Projects like Romero’s and Heavy Metal Magazine’s The Rise are a solid example of NFTs supporting the work of artists and allowing them to expand their work as they serve new and hardcore fans.

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