Venerated cult-favourite director George A Romero has died at the age of 77, sparking an outpouring of sorrow from contemporaries and fans alike.

Romero, who is widely regarded as the godfather of the modern zombie-film genre — thanks to his seminal films Night Of The Living Dead (1968) and Dawn Of The Dead (1978), as well as later entries in the Dead franchise — passed away in his sleep on Sunday following a "brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer", according to the LA Times.

Born in New York in 1940, Romero got his start behind the camera shooting commercials and short films before making his feature debut with Night Of The Living Dead, which has endured as a cult classic for half a century and is regarded as the progenitor film for the modern zombie canon that has blossomed in its wake.

Although Romero directed other films, such as 1978 vampire flick Martin, 1982's Creepshow and 1988's Monkey Shines, his career was defined by his trailblazing work with the shambling undead.

His inescapable influence has been felt in countless imitators, derivatives and spiritual successors ever since, including AMC's hit series The Walking Dead and CW favourite iZombie (not to mention the comics that inspired both) as well as Naughty Dog's hugely successful The Last Of Us.

He laid down many of the "rules" for fictional zombies that remain embedded in popular culture to this day, and remained adamant throughout his career that zombies should not run — a point of contention for him with respect to 2004's otherwise surprisingly well-regarded remake of Dawn Of The Dead, directed by Guardians Of The Galaxy filmmaker James Gunn.

Sadness at the news of his passing has been swift to spread online, with fellow creators and notable figures including Gunn, Stephen King, Patton Oswalt, John Carpenter, Zack Snyder, Joss Whedon, Guillermo Del Toro, writer and game developer Zoe Quinn, Psych actor James Roday, comics writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Greg Pak, comedian and writer Mike Drucker, writer and actor Mark Gatiss, director Eli Roth, actress Barbara Crampton, iZombie actor Rahul Kohli, Silicon Valley's Kumail Nanjiani, The Last Of Us writer Neil Druckmann, Jerry Only of The Misfits, author Jennifer L Armentrout and more.

See a selection of statements, and watch a short Vice interview with Romero about the film that started it all, below.