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Max Brooks Q&A: See how 'The Harlem Hellfighters' earned their name

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In The Harlem Hellfighters, World War Z author Max Brooks resurrects the heroics of World War I’s mighty 369th U.S. Army Infantry Regiment. The titular all-black unit faced appalling bigotry: They were forced to train in hostile South Carolina, issued broomsticks instead of guns, and eventually dumped on the depleted French Army because the American Army had no intention of letting them fight side-by-side with white soldiers. Undaunted, they volunteered for the most dangerous assignments and soon became one of the most decorated — and feared — Allied fighting units.

Brooks, the 41-year-old son of Mel Brooks and the late Anne Bancroft, has been ruminating on this story for three decades. When his screenplay was repeatedly rejected, he partnered with artist Caanan White on a graphic novel instead. Less than 48 hours after the finished book made the rounds, Sony picked up the movie rights for producer Will Smith. Brooks dreams of a big-name cast like that of 1962’s WWII classic The Longest Day. But he’s also cautious. “Whether this movie gets made or whether it doesn’t, the book lives,” he says.

Click below for an extended chat with Brooks, as well as art from The Harlem Hellfighters, available April 1:

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'World War Z's Max Brooks visits hell on Earth in 'Shadow Walk' -- EXCLUSIVE

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” — Psalm 23

Max Brooks takes the fantastic extremely seriously. In 2003, he published The Zombie Survival Guide, a meticulously researched how-to manual to manage everyday life among the undead. Three years later, he wrote World War Z, an oral history that became the basis for Brad Pitt’s hit movie about the zombie apocalypse. So it’s no surprise that the author who treated zombies with a historian’s eye for detail had a somewhat similar approach to Shadow Walk, the new graphic novel he created with writer Mark Waid (Daredevil) and artist Shane Davis (Superman: Earth One). The Valley of the Shadow of Death is a Biblical reference, long assumed to be a metaphor, but Brooks was tasked to create a world where such a place really existed.

In Shadow Walk, a team of soldiers and academics are sent into a mysterious hell-hole that American grunts have stumbled upon while fighting in Iraq. Within its borders awaits one nightmare after another, and the crew is tested in every way: physically, mentally, spiritually.

Brooks checked in with EW before the book goes on sale on Wednesday, Nov. 27, to discuss how this collaboration came about, what he loved about working for Legendary Comics, and whether Shadow Walk has a future on the big screen. Click below for an interview and six exclusive pages of Shadow Walk. READ FULL STORY

'World War Z' scribe Max Brooks' 'The Harlem Hellfighters: A Graphic Novel' cover revealed -- EXCLUSIVE

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They may not be crazed zombies hungry for brains, but it’s still probably a good idea not to mess with the soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment. The stars of World War Z scribe Max Brooks next project, The Harlem Hellfighters: A Graphic Novel (out April 2014), are the soldiers of one of the most decorated regiments of World War I.

Illustrated by Canaan White, the graphic novel centers on the real 369th Infantry Regiment, an African-American regiment from Harlem, New York that fought throughout France during WWI. Stepping away from the zombie lit scene, Brooks shares the often overlooked story of these soldiers nicknamed the Harlem Hellfighters.

Ready to fight through hell with the Harlem Hellfighters? Sound off in the comments below!

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