Vertigo Comics are synonymous with incredibly dark and mature stories thanks to writers like Garth Ennis, Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, and Neil Gaiman. As of late, the mature publishing imprint of DC Comics has been doing its best to recapture those old ideals in a bold new publishing platform.
That continues this October with Survivors Club. It follows a group of kids who have survived horror movie like scenarios, throughout the 80’s only to have to regroup in the modern day to fight an even bigger evil.
One was possessed by a poltergeist. Another was trapped in a haunted house. A third had a killer doll. Ever wonder what happened to these children of the 1980s? Find out in SURVIVORS CLUB, a new series cowritten by renowned horror novelist Lauren Beukes and award-winning cover designer and illustrator Dave Halverson, with art by Ryan Kelly (NORTHLANDERS).
We here at Bloody-Disgusting had the opportunity to chat with series creators Lauren Beukes and Dave Halverson about taking iconic 80’s horror ideals and dragging them back into the spotlight.
Bloody-Disgusting: Survivors’ Club seems to pick up with the tortured remnants of protagonists from horror movies, what was the inspiration to tell this story?
Dale: I was re-watching Child’s Play (a favourite), I thought about how an experience like that would mess with your head. I started wondering what happened to all those kids from horror films after the credits rolled? What would they be like as adults? Talk about emotional scarring.
Lauren: Dale pitched me the idea and we started playing around with it, working what horror tropes we wanted to riff off and subvert. It’s been great seeing the characters evolve. Some of the most straightforward characters have turned out to be the most twisted, like Harvey, who represents the slasher genre. I don’t want to spoil anything, but his story is weirder and more gut-wrenching than we expected it to be.
Bloody-Disgusting: What is it about a group of survivors that made you want to tell this story? How are they uniquely suited (or not suited) to take on the reoccurring occult horrors of your universe?
Lauren: It’s a running theme in my novels, from Zoo City to Broken Monsters – how we’re haunted by the things we’ve done or what we’ve lived through. Horror is very intimate, very personal. It has to be or it’s just empty jump scares. All our characters have found different coping mechanisms. Some less savory than others.
Dale: I’m fascinated by how events and choices in our lives shape us as people. What we take from childhood into adulthood stays with us. And sometimes our personal demons are harder to escape than any fictitious monster. I love this quote by Dr. Robert Baker (a psychologist and skeptic ‘ghost buster’) – ‘There are no haunted places, only haunted people.” Our survivors are VERY haunted people… some literally. It probably wasn’t a good idea for them to get together.
Bloody-Disgusting: Tell us a little more about your six protagonists? Each of them seem to come from a very specific horror influence, were any of them based off a particular hero from a particular story? Was the reference to the 80’s specific?
Dale: The idea was that each character would represent a genre of horror. We both grew up on a blood-soaked diet of ‘80s horror films. Almost everyone knows the story of The Exorcist, Nightmare On Elm Street, Friday The 13th, Fright Night and so on. In their own way they have become our generations fairytales or mythology. We draw a lot on that mythology in Survivors’ Club – but subvert it in interesting and unexpected ways.
Lauren: The story follows six main characters: Chenzira, Simon, Alice, Teo, Kiri and Harvey who all survived some horrifying events in 1987…Chenzira grew up in Soweto, South Africa, where she played an arcade game that opened a gate to hell.
Simon is dealing with being a z-list horror celebrity. The haunted house he grew up in inspired a successful horror film franchise, but cut him out of the profits. Alice is an orphan heiress with a dark secret in the attic. Kiri fled Japan to escape a curse… only to find that some things you always carry with you. Teo has a weird obsession with bugs and a weird bite on his neck, and Harvey has a very special imaginary friend who wants him to do bad, bad things.
Bloody-Disgusting: There is a certain rawness to horror comics that provokes you into reading further, how did you embrace your own fears onto the page, and how did you experiment with the medium of comics (where the reader is incredibly active in their own demise – via the page turn or otherwise) to channel the scares?
Dale: We usually ask what scares us? I call our writing sessions ‘Creepy Playtime’. Where we try to freak each other out. We’ve tried using the page turn to continually do something unexpected. Using what readers know about horror genres – then pulling the rug from under them.
Lauren: And then you realize the rug is made from human skin stapled together like one of those ‘80s patchwork leather jackets! We’re always asking ourselves how can we make this different to what you’ve seen before, how can we ramp this up a level. We’re our own toughest critics, but along the way we’ve come up with some pretty awful things. Fun, wonderful, twisted awful things.
Bloody-Disgusting: Does the horror in Survivor’s Club come from the characters or the situations?
Dale: Both. Each character is in a way their own horror story. Their own mystery. Each trying to escape, live with or forget about the horrific events of their childhood. When six of these characters get together, bringing their personal demons with them – all manner of horror is sure to follow suit.
Bloody-Disgusting: In what ways has Ryan Kelly added to the story? What is it like working with him? And how has his style influenced your storytelling as the series continues to move forward?
Lauren: I love his framing and his choice of shots. He tilts the scene off-kilter, which is very unsettling, but it’s the expressiveness he brings to the characters that really drives the creepiness home.
Dale: Ryan is our Lament Configuration. We hand him a square box and he opens a portal to another dimension. We’re continually surprised by what nightmarish things he comes up with. He also has an amazing artistic range for us to draw on. For example, we wanted to do something different with the flashbacks to 1987. So Ryan has used his gorgeous ink wash style to make them something special.
Bloody-Disgusting: We’ve all had that overwhelming first exposure to horror as a child, what was your moment? Can you remember when you lost your innocence, and how does that relate to your experience telling the story of Survivor’s Club?
Lauren: It was “Night On Bald Mountain” in Disney’s Fantasia when all the demons come home to roost. I found it equal parts terrifying and mesmerizing, like the covers of the horror movies in the video store, which for some reason are always, always right next to the kids’ section. I also loved the darker fairytales, like Baba Yaga, the gruesome Greek myths, and a British girls horror comic called Misty left a lasting impression on me until my dad confiscated them all because he thought they were a bad influence.
Dale: From a very young age the VHS box art of horror films & the covers of Stephen King novels were like the irresistible Call of Cthulhu to me. Much to my religious mother’s dismay. The honour of my lost innocence goes to The Thing. I rented it so many times from our local video store that it had to be ‘retired’. There is something terrifying about the monster that hides in plain sight. And how little it takes for us to turn on one another and become
Check out some exclusive character sketches from the series, and make sure to pick up Survivors Club #1 on October 7/2015.