from ‘Zombie Variations’ by Tom Comitta and George Pfau

comitta cover

Over the past year artists Tom Comitta and George Pfau have been working on a book, Zombie Variations. The book dissects, inverts, repurposes and unpurposes popular and unpopular zombie narratives. The variations are many: tongue twisters, palindromes, anagrams, ekphrasis writing, concrete poetry, rebuses, ligatures, diagrams, paintings, sequential art, sound poetry scores and a remix of the U.S. Department of Defense’s official zombie preparedness plan.

One chapter of Zombie Variations will contain a rebus dictionary and poems made with these rebuses (a poem and partial dictionary are included above). All of these rebuses pull the body out of words: words like FACEt, naPALM, wARMS, mASS, LEGal and so on. Many of the rebus poems focus on contradictions between what is seen and heard, borders of officially demarcated realities, hybrid identities and historical violence done to the body.

Another variation featured above, called “Eight Fields Surrounding a Village,” plays with the history of the contemporary hashtag (#). The symbol was first called an “octothorpe,” which referred to “eight fields surrounding a village.” Drawing connections between these fields and the traditional zombie movie scenario of zombies swarming a village, this visual sequence stages a narrative inside the octothorpe.

Works in order of appearance: 1. MY DNA YER WAR (Ligature Rebus); 2. Ligature Rebus Key; 3. Disarm; 4-7. Eight Fields Surrounding a Village (Or a History of the Hastag); 8. VZ139-POX: The End of Baseball / VZ140-POX: The End of Tennis; 9.Optimum Ego + Ego Art Fact (Anagrams); 10. Raw War (Palindromes); 11. Peace of Pie; 12. Night of the Living Dead (Ekphrasis); and 13. Night of the Living Dead (Rebus)


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George Pfau’s artwork examines historical and pop-cultural framework of “zombie.” Recently he has exhibited visual art at SFMOMA Artists Gallery in the Bay Area; the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts in New York; and Gallery 400 in Chicago. His slide- show-lecture “Zombies, identified” has been presented at art galleries and universities across the U.S. In 2013-2014 his work was reviewed in publications including Vice Motherboard, Fast Company, i09, Boing Boing, Kotaku, AV Club, Art Threat,, Art Practical and Esquire Russia. Website:


Tom Comitta is the author of ◯ (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2013), SENT (Invisible Venue, 2014) and ___ _____ __ _______ (Aggregate Space, 2014). From 2011-12, he co-wrote and co-conducted nine operas with The San Francisco Guerrilla Opera Company. In 2012, he staged National Novel Writing Night Month (NaNoWriNiMo), a futurist improvement on the write-a-novel-in-a-month contest in which he composed and published novels written in a night. Comitta lives in Oakland, CA where he works as a book designer and facilitates multimedia writing workshops at elementary schools. Website: