'Un-Deadliest Warrior?' Battle show pits zombies vs. vampires

In a nightmare throwdown between the fantasy world's two undead superstars,  Max Brooks knows how it would go down.

"For all of a vampire's physical characteristics, they’re still human beings psychologically," he said. "They still fear. They still doubt.  Zombies don't."

Steve Niles is sure, too.

"My call to arms was  'braaaaaaains' - that's one thing vampires have that zombies do not," he said.  "Vampires, unlike zombies, are very capable of coordinating and pulling off strategies."

Of course, they may both be a little biased. Brooks is the author of  "World War Z," the zombie apocalypse novel currently being made into a movie starring Brad Pitt. And Niles burst onto the horror scene with "30 Days of Night," graphic novels that put a band of unrelenting (and definitely non-sparkling) vampires in an Alaska town where night never seems to end.

Thanks to "Deadliest Warrior," Spike's combat simulation show, we'll find out who's right.

The show, which pits history's most famous warriors against each other to decide through a battery of tests who's ... well ... deadliest, is taking its first shot at a fantasy battle in a season-finale episode airing Wednesday (9 p.m. ET).

In addition to ballistics and medical tests, and a souped-up computer algorithm based on video-game artificial intelligence, the show typically relies on military and history experts to advocate for the opposing sides in matchups between, say, Genghis Khan's Mongols and Hannibal's army.

For this one, Brooks and Niles were called in as the expert advocates. And just because the combatants are fictional doesn't mean the debate was any less heated.

"We did good trash talk," Brooks said. "I'm praying they leave some of that stuff on the DVD."

Niles concurs. "Things got really heated between me and Max sometimes," he said. "Of course, once the cameras were off, we were cracking up."

The brilliance of the episode, both authors say, is that it will be a high-tech, televised version of the sort of arguments horror and fantasy geeks have all the time.

"I would do a whole show of settling nerd arguments," Niles said. " 'Highlander' against Luke Skywalker - you name it. Now, with these simulations, they have a way to measure it."

But first, since this is fantasy, there had to be ground rules. Both sides agreed they'd be studying George Romero's iconic, slow-moving zombies, not the lightning-quick mutations from stories like "28 Days Later." And unlike Niles' fictional vamps (who also made it to the big screen in 2007), these have a working, and vulnerable, heart to go along with the typical fire and sunlight difficulties. (Garlic and crosses are out, though).

Then there are the tests. A strongman hammers a pressure-sensitive pad to help determine whether vampire claws have enough force to crack a zombie skull. A martial artist slashes slowed-down zombies to show how many a hyper-fast vampire could take out before being swarmed. Tactics, personality and the spread patterns of infectious diseases all got due consideration.

"It almost felt like working on war plans in the Pentagon," Brooks said. "We considered every option, and not just the physical. We went into depth about psychology, about how vampires are the science-fiction equivalent of small-unit guerilla troops."

But while the science may be real, this is no biology lecture. Niles says there will be plenty to enjoy for "Deadliest Warrior" fans who howl in delight at the sound of the words "ballistic gel torso."

"If they think the tests on a normal 'Deadliest Warrior' are bloody - that's nothing," he said. "Wait until we see how long it takes three zombies to tear the heart out of a vampire."

From left, Max Brooks, Matt Mogk, Scott Bowen and Steve Niles discuss zombie/vampire fighting strategy as evidenced by the ballistic gel torso.

While the show has already been recorded, neither Brooks nor Niles knows who won. The advocates record two scenes - one celebrating victory, the other embracing (or, more likely, refusing to accept) defeat. They'll learn the results spit out by Slitherin Software's combat simulator like everyone else when the show airs.

There will no doubt be the typical post-result debate about the computer's ruling. But, after the dust has settled and the fake blood has all been mopped up, maybe there will be some room for reconciliation.

After all, Niles is working on adapting "Remains," a zombie apocalypse story he wrote, for Chiller TV. And Brooks says he just finished writing a new short story - about a band of vampires which - get this - fights zombies.

"Deadliest Warrior" airs Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET on Spike. The vampires vs. zombies battle will be the second part of a two-hour, live episode that will also pit the British military's Ghurkas against the French Foreign Legion.