Illustrator finds her niche with Zombie Flight or Fight

Rachel Petrovicz adds roster of grizzly ghouls to new collaborative card game

When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will be featured on playing cards.

Zombie Fight or Flight is a game of fighting, escaping and somehow staying off the zomb-smorgasbord, featuring depictions of the undead brought to life by North Shore artist Rachel Petrovicz.

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The game’s premise is simple: the usual band of decaying escapees (“They’re coming to get you, Barbara.”) are on the loose. In order to evade the jaws of death, the game’s players must work together. If they don’t, they die.

The emphasis on collaboration makes perfect sense when you consider that the game was created by conflict resolution specialists, Petrovicz explains.
“Instead of hiding your card and side-eyeing everyone around you, you’re working together,” she says.

Having grown up reading the chaste love triangle of Archie comics, drawing zombies was a departure from the “cute cartoon characters” Petrovicz has been sketching into existence since her days at Mulgrave secondary.

“I spent most of my time looking down and doodling in the margins of my paper,” she reminisces about her school days.

After she had her fill of Pop Tate’s Chocklit Shoppe, Petrovicz moved over to Gotham City, where Batman served as her superhero gateway to the worlds of anime and manga.

“That’s what really spurred me forward to get interested in doing it professionally,” she says, describing comic books as the source of most of her inspiration.

After graduating from Mulgrave, Petrovicz attended Capilano University’s school of design – briefly.

“I personally prefer to specialize in illustration rather than design so it just wasn’t the right fit,” she recalls.

Asked if her family and friends were concerned about her career choice after she left school, Petrovicz laughs and answers with one word: “definitely.”

But, she adds, she’s “very self-sufficient and responsible.”

The artist pursued what she calls an “un-traditional and self-motivated career path,” foraging on Craigslist and contacting just about anyone looking for art.

If some would-be comic book writer or video game designer had an idea for a character, Petrovicz would supply a sketch for $10 or $15.

After churning out a  steady stream of whimsy, her bright colours caught the attention of the creators of Amplify Her, a so-far-unreleased comic/documentary chronicling the rise of several female electronic dance musicians.

What was remarkable for Petrovicz is that, after years of trying to find work, work found her.

“(Amplify Her) really made me feel like I was at a place where I could take it a little bit more seriously.”

From that point on, she was a full-time illustrator.

Having spilled ink on book illustrations, comics and video games, Petrovicz was back on Craigslist when she saw an impressive post about zombies. What made it impressive, Petrovicz explains, was the writer’s use of both capital letters and paragraph breaks – something of a rarity on the site.

After online introductions, Petrovicz met the creators and was relieved to find she wasn’t the only woman in the room.

“It’s always really nice to be presented with women in these sorts of scenarios,” she says of that first interview.

She tried out the game and enjoyed it, but wasn’t sure about drawing those grizzly ghouls who always seem to be closing in to seal your doom.

Petrovicz omitted the anatomical detail provided by grisly fare like The Walking Dead and sidestepped Harlan Ellison’s terrifying vision of “…a jostling, slavering horde, clacking and drooling, dropping decayed body parts and leaving glistening trails of worm ooze …”

Instead, Petrovicz’s cranium gourmets falls somewhere between Scooby-Doo and George Romero on the gore scale.

“They’re still stitched together, they’re still dripping from the mouth and they still look a little bit menacing,” Petrovicz explains. “But overall we wanted to have more of a funny tone than a scary tone.”

The humorous, more cartoonish vision won the acclaim of the creators, who immediately recruited Petrovicz to provide illustrations for companion game: Drunken Zombie Fight or Flight.

The games, which raised a total of $18,592 through Kickstarter, are available at negotiationandmediation.squarespace.com/new-products/.

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