PORT RICHEY — The players gathered around a folding table and studied the bright pink and green cards in their hands. Matt Holden explained the rules.
“We are a group of zombies trying to run a fast food restaurant and compete for one brain,” Holden said. “The goal is to get your work done and go home.”
The group played their their fast hand and exchanged friendly jabs while they competed for the brain in the middle of the table. They had an hour to kill before the clock ticked upwards to 12 midnight, signaling the official release date for the the newest issue of “The Walking Dead” comic book series.
Yancy Street Comics, at Gulf View Square, got permission from the publishers of the comic three weeks ago to release the new issue, “All Out War,” at midnight, eight hours before the official release time. They celebrated with a zombie-themed release party, complete with various undead card and board games, brain cupcakes, eyeball candy and tombstone Rice Crispie treats.
The store also offered 25 percent discounts on certain merchandise and raffled off tickets to Universal Studio’s “Halloween Horror Nights,” which features a “Walking Dead” haunted house and scare zones this year.
More than a dozen variant covers of the new issue, plus a couple re-released issues with new cover art, graced the shelves of the comic store’s “New Release” section. Walking Dead enthusiasts snagged their favorite covers and lined up at midnight to check out at the register. Many clutched dozens of other comics in their arms.
Scott Show was one of dozens of “The Walking Dead” enthusiasts who came out to buy the latest copy of his favorite comic series. He planned on reading it that night.
“I never read comics and then a friend got me an issue for my birthday last year and I loved it,” Show said.
The release precedes the season premiere of the television series with the same name. On Sunday, millions of viewers are expected to tune into AMC to continue watching as a group of Zombie Apocalypse survivors fight against not only the undead, but the living.
In April, Forbes reported that the Season 3 finale of “The Walking Dead” was the show’s most-watched episode ever, drawing 12.4 viewers and making it the highest-rated show that night. The show was also the No. 1 program of the week among the 18-49 demographic.
The comic, which inspired the popular show, is a monthly black-and-white book series following Kentucky police officer Rick Grimes, his family and other survivors.
The first issue ran in 2003 and in 2010, the series received the 2010 Eisner Award for “Best Continuing Series” at San Diego Comic-Con International. The television series premiered the same year on AMC kicking off a large line of merchandise and novels under the same name.
While zombies have been popular in the horror genre lateely, Yancy Street Comics co-owner Steve Baginskie said they play second fiddle to the stories of human triumph and tragedy that are often seen in zombie-filled plots.
“You get to know the characters and then in one panel, they are snuffed out,” Baginskie said.
The monthly comic retails for $2.99 and Yancy Street sells many of the back issues and graphic novels. The store is next to the Dillards.
The television show starts at 9 p.m. on AMC Sunday.