In October, DC's Vertigo imprint will begin releasing new titles at the rate of one new #1 every week. Among the first up is a new series that plays on the tropes of '80s horror movies, bringing together survivors of 1987 slasher film-type experiences to battle a new threat in the present-day.
Co-written by horror novelist and Fables universe alum Lauren Beukes, the book might sound like a bit of a parody, but the creative team promises a dark horror story that will take the characters in a whole new direction from their '80s movie roots.
Beukes is working with writer Dale Halvorsen and artist Ryan Kelly on the title, which is one of 12 new series Vertigo is launching this fall. Newsarama talked with Beukes and Halvorsen to find out more about Survivors' Club.
Newsarama: When I hear the description of these characters, they sound very familiar! Are you guys fans of 1980's horror movies?
Lauren Beukes: Busted. We so are! Although Dale has infinite tolerance for all horror movies and I can only handle the really good ones. I grew up on Fright Night and The Goonies and Nightmare on Elm Street and The Lost Boys, and it’s really fun to pay twisted homage to those classics.
The high concept of Survivors' Club is: What if the ‘80s horror movies were real, and where are those kids today?
Dale Halverson: I’m still going to get you to watch Basketcase, Lauren. For many, the ‘80s along with the ‘70s was a golden era for horror films. A lot of those films from then are deeply ingrained in pop culture. We all know the story of The Exorcist, A Nightmare On Elm Street and Friday The 13th and so on. They have almost become our generation’s fairytales. We draw a lot on that mythology in Survivors’ Club, but we take it in unexpected directions.
Nrama: Utilizing these horror movie characters is such a fun idea. What inspired it?
Halverson: I was re-watching Child’s Play and I thought about how an experience like that would scar you for life. Perhaps literally. I started wondering what happened to all those kids from horror films after the credits rolled? What would they be like as adults? What if they escaped but failed to defeat the monster or demon? What if they joined them or became them?
Nrama: So then the two of you started working on it together?
Beukes: We’re old friends and collaborators. Dale’s day job is as an award-winning cover designer for Joey Hi-Fi, and he’s done all my book covers since my first-ever book. He told me the idea, and we started bouncing it around, working out which horror tropes we would riff off and who the characters might be.
I pitched it to Shelly Bond, Senior Editor at Vertigo, and she loved it and started assembling our monster squad including artist Ryan Kelly, colorist Eva de la Cruz and letterer Clem Robinson and cover artist Bill Sienkiewicz.
Halverson: For years we’d been talking about doing a comic book together. All it took was years of arcane rituals in the basement of Lauren’s house in an attempt to summon the right comic book concept. It was totally worth our souls. Right, Lauren?
Nrama: OK, so can you give us some idea of what happened to these characters since their 1987 experiences?
Beukes: Horrible things mostly. It’s tough living with your personal demons. They’ve all been terribly scarred by the experience, physically and emotionally, but it seems that there might be something that connects them.
Chenzira is convinced that the killer video game she played as a kid is back and that it might hold the clue to what happened to all of them as kids.
Halverson: Chenzira teaches a course on video games at a college. Her experience in 1987 has become her obsession. She's kind of the "Indiana Jones of Video Games."
Simon is dealing with being a z-list horror celebrity because there has been a successful movie franchise based on the haunted house of his childhood. Alice is an orphan heiress living with a dark secret. Kiri uses her job as a process server to deal with her demons. Teo’s encounter with his cannibal neighbor in 1987 led to him becoming a medic. Harvey still lives in the shadow of his childhood trauma.
Nrama: And at some point, they come together, right? Why?
Beukes: Chenzira’s united them. She’s discovered that they all had something bad happen to them in 1987, that they’ve all been drawn to Los Angeles, and that there were others, but they’re dead now.
They’re the only survivors. They all have their own mysteries they want to solve.
Halverson: Or in some cases, don’t. There are secrets aplenty.
Nrama: And therein lies the story, right? What challenges do they discover and face?
Halverson: The challenges are their personal demons, but also the greater threat that connects them all.
Beukes: They all have their own agendas for getting involved in the Survivors’ Club, ranging from the sinister to the heroic.
Chenzira, for example, wants to make amends for what she did trying to shut down the killer video game that was opening the gates of hell, and try to prevent it from happening again.
Alice… Alice is playing along like a cat toying with a grasshopper.
Nrama: Ah, so it wouldn't be accurate to describe them as heroes?
Halverson: They’re anti-heroes. We joke about how this is a crazy horror version of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.
Beukes: But that’s the big question. Are they survivors? Or the chosen ones?
Nrama: What's the style of this comic book — humor, horror, adventure, dead serious?
Beukes: It’s capital-H Horror in its most evolved multi-tentacled form, which means sometimes it’s creeping dread and disturbing imagery, sometimes it’s shock and gore, but it’s always human and there’s a vein of humor and wit running through it — because that’s how we confront the darkness.
Nrama: And you're working with Ryan Kelly. How does his art contribute to the overall comic book experience?
Beukes: Ryan Kelly’s art is beautiful and creepy and has such emotional range. I love his choice of perspective and the life he brings to the characters. You really feel them.
Halverson: Most definitely. It would just be words on a page with manic scribbling if it wasn’t for Ryan Kelly. 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 elevate them to something special.
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell fans about Survivors' Club?
Beukes: That we’re working with a terrific team: Eva de la Cruz on colors, Clem Robins on lettering, Inaki Miranda’s doing the art on the guest issues and legend Bill Sienkiewicz on covers.
Halverson: We are incredibly lucky to have Bill Sienkiewicz doing the covers for Survivors’ Club. They are beautiful and terrifying. As for story. Expect the unexpected.