In SURVIVORS' CLUB, the brand new classic horror-inspired Vertigo series, six drastically different people are mysteriously drawn together in the present day after surviving some spooky stuff that went down in 1987. Now, all grown-up and understandably mistrustful, this club of survivors will have to confront their demons… of both the personal and possibly supernatural nature.
Chenzira played a mysterious arcade game that almost opened the gates to hell in South Africa in 1987. And she has the scars on her hands to prove it. Now, she’s convinced the evil video game is back and she’s the only one who can stop it.
Simon is a Z-list celebrity on the horror circuit, the real-life survivor of a haunted house possession that has been turned into a mega movie franchise.
Alice is an orphan heiress with a double life. She’s beautiful, arty, a little cold maybe, living in a big house in the Hollywood Hills all on her ownsome. Or, maybe, not quite.
Kiri is a process server who still carries the curse she brought with her from Japan and the school where children were disappearing.
Teo has a weird mark on his neck and uses his job as a paramedic to watch for signs of another “outbreak”. He’s the skeptical Scully to Chenzira’s Mulder, but what’s with the bugs?
Harvey…well... People have a habit of dying around Harvey thanks to his very special imaginary friend, Mr. Empty.
Below, Survivors' Club artist and co-creator Ryan Kelly shares some previously unseen character sketches as well as his insights into their look and personality. How do you design a diverse and damaged cast of characters that also feel instantly relatable? Read on and find out...
Chenzira is someone that takes ’80s fashion seriously, so I designed her adorned with lots of accessories and little pieces of pop culture iconography. She's smart and stylish, but she's not really trying. Everything she wears is her way of paying tribute to classic video games, whether it's earrings, buttons on her jacket, or stickers on her laptop. I work hard to show a lot of internal struggle on her face because she bears the burden of her past as well as the stress of bringing the Survivors’ Club together to solve their present day mystery.
Simon is my favorite character at the moment because his life history bears the most surprises and it shows in his face and body language with each new reveal. When Simon was first introduced to me, he seemed really one-dimensional and he didn't appeal to me much, but now he's the most interesting character to draw. He's not always arrogant and cocky. He has a fragile side like no other character, and I love switching it up and having him looking really haunted and disturbed. I wanted his face to resemble a cross between Corey Feldman and Bono, and his apartment and style of clothes to be a nod to ’90s edgy goth like The Crow.
Alice is very pretty, but to me, her beauty is just the surface layer to a deeper, more surreal double-life she leads. She's very prim and proper, and she sports an endless selection of doll-like dresses. Dale and Lauren have a lot of great ideas about her fashion, and they often send me reference for dresses and boots and things. Her style is very much a part of her personality...or one of her personalities...and her "perfectness" plays a stark contrast to the new, rag-tag group of weirdoes she's now hanging out with.
Kiri was great to design because she's so odd. She looks normal, but the way she acts in the story is so bizarre, and I just love using her design to express her behavior. Her "hoodie" is her most signifying element. She's constantly tugging at it, pulling it, and burying her face in it whenever she's bored or anxious or even...yes, talking to it. I also really appreciate Dale and Lauren introducing a character with a different body shape than most comic book women. She's so guarded and weird, and I love drawing the weirdoes.
Teo's design is the one that changed the most from Dale and Lauren's original offering. It wasn't a huge change, but it was enough to make me interested in drawing him. As an artist, you have to be comfortable with a character's design, because you're going to be drawing them a lot. I wanted Teo to be handsome in an unconventional way. I was always thinking about Nicholas Hoult for his general face structure. But Teo is Puerto Rican, so it was important to show that. It was critical for me to have him always wearing his paramedic uniform to show that he's just getting off work or often on on-call duty.
I wanted Harvey to look like the normal, all-American guy but somehow things aren't right with him. I like to design him looking somewhat child-like, like he's still locked inside this mentality of a kid doing what his dad says. It's good to draw him looking very basic and unadorned, which greatly contrasts the other members of the Survivors’ Club, who show off their personalities in their clothes. I like to design him as an empty palette...and empty is the key word with Harvey.
SURVIVORS' CLUB #1 by Lauren Beukes, Dale Halvorsen and Ryan Kelly is now available in print and as a digital download. We'll soon discover what Chenzira, Simon, Alice, Kiri, Teo and Harvey were doing in 1987, but to learn what the Survivors' Club creative team was up to during that fateful year, click here.