5 Zombie Questions: Dale Halvorsen

By: Mandy J Watson
Posted: 26 April 2016
Category: Features
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Dale Halvorsen, who until recently was better known for his award winning cover-design work under the pseudonym Joey Hi-Fi, has been collaborating with writer Lauren Beukes and artist Ryan Kelly on the horror comic Survivors' Club. He discusses luring apocalypse survivors to Table Mountain, fending off a zombie Lauren Beukes with bad movies, and what he thinks is the best zombie film ever made.

Dale Halvorsen is one of the local guests at the inaugural FanCon Comic Con Cape Town, which is being held at The Lookout over the weekend of 7/8 May. For the past year he has been collaborating with Lauren Beukes on Survivors' Club, a dark comic series inspired by horror films from the 1980s and 1990s, which is being published by Vertigo.

5 Zombie Questions: Dale Halvorsen

He is probably better known, under the pseudonym Joey Hi-Fi, for his work as a book-cover designer and illustrator. He started out designing the cover for Maverick, a non-fiction exploration of notable South African women, written by Lauren Beukes in 2005 that has now been re-released with updated content, as well as additional entries by Nechama Brodie.

Next was Lauren Beukes' Moxyland (he's done three covers for that book over the years), followed by Zoo City (for which he won a British Science Fiction Association award), two editions of The Shining Girls, and Broken Monsters.

5 Zombie Questions: Dale Halvorsen

5 Zombie Questions: Dale Halvorsen

5 Zombie Questions: Dale Halvorsen

In the meantime his career exploded and soon he was designing covers for authors such as Chuck Wendig, Nnedi Okorafor, Charlie Human, Richard de Nooy, Marianne de Pierres, and Tony Ballantyne (to name a few), and winning a few more awards along the way.

It was only natural, however, that Halvorsen's close collaborations with Lauren Beukes would eventually lead to comics. Their first foray was a one-off large-format comic titled Confirm/Ignore, written by Beukes and illustrated by Halvorsen, that was later sold as a limited-edition poster. Next the pair collaborated as writers with American illustrator Christopher Mitten on Chum, which appeared in Vertigo's Strange Sports Stories #1 last year. For this Halvorsen was credited as "Dale Halvorsen", rather than "Joey Hi-Fi", which he's now reserving for his illustration and cover-design work. They then began work as co-writers of Survivors' Club, again for Vertigo under Shelly Bond, with art by American comic-book artist Ryan Kelly, colours by Eva de la Cruz, and lettering by Clem Robins.

5 Zombie Questions: Dale Halvorsen

Survivors' Club tells the stories of six characters who all grew up in the 1980s, each of whom had a paranormal experience in 1987 that changed their lives. Thirty years later, while trying to navigate life as haunted adults who are trying to put their pasts behind them, the horrors begin to manifest again, leaving the characters to figure out if there is any escape. The core of the manifestations revolves around a video game that has an agenda of its own.

The series draws on the writers' love of horror films, pop culture, and video games. (Not-so-fun fact: somehow, at some point, this led someone to declare that Dale Halvorsen is a video-game journalist, a label he has been struggling to eradicate ever since. (I'll repeat: Dale Halvorsen is not, and never has been, a video-game journalist.)) The series was originally intended for a long run but has been cancelled by Vertigo and the last issue will be out in June.

"It definitely wasn't intended," Dale Halvorsen says. "I was hoping we'd get at least 36 issues so we could do a six issue arc for each character, which was our original thinking. Sales unfortunately dropped off and we were 'Firefly-ed' as I call it. Thus the nine issue run. The good news is that we got nine issues to wrap up the story (often you only get six or seven issues) so we trimmed and changed some of the story and wrote a (hopefully) satisfying finale for our characters. It feels like the first season of a TV show. I believe in September Vertigo Comics is releasing a nice, thick trade paperback. If sales are good and maybe with some TV or film interest, Survivors' Club might yet claw its way out of an early grave, which would be amazing. There are still so many stories to tell and horror to explore in the world of Survivors' Club."

5 Zombie Questions

"Boss Fight", issue seven of Survivors' Club, which is out this month, features a special kind of video-game brain-addled zombie horde that's out to get, well, anything in its path, including two of the story's protagonists who just happen to be in the way. This results in a supernatural showdown that's one of the highlights of the issue as the action ramps up heading to the conclusion in issue nine.

With zombies now in the mix it was time to ask Dale Halvorsen five zombie questions.

5 Zombie Questions: Dale Halvorsen
Above: The zombies featured in Survivors' Club issue seven. The Easter eggs in the text are by the writers, Lauren Beukes and Dale Halvorsen, the art is by Ryan Kelly, the colours are by Eva de la Cruz, and the lettering is by Clem Robins.

Question 1: You're known for your love of pulp horror and have drawn a lot of your inspiration for Survivors' Club from all the movies you've consumed over the years. What do you think is the best zombie movie that has ever been made?

Dale Halvorsen: In my opinion it has to be Night Of The Living Dead. It still resonates with me… and creeps me out. Besides kick starting the modern tradition of zombie films it's a brilliant marriage of horror and social commentary. The best horror films share that quality I feel. It's also a rare horror film where a person of colour is the "hero" and makes it to the end. Well, almost. Spoilers kids! For 1968 that was almost unheard of. Even today that is a sadly all too rare occurrence in horror films.

Fun fact. The first time I rented Night Of The Living Dead on VHS it was an awful colourised version where the zombies had green skin! Years later I found a copy of the colourised version in Australia of all places. I bought it to commemorate my first viewing of the film.

A shout-out to The Return Of The Living Dead as well, which I mistakenly thought for many years was a sequel to Night Of The Living Dead! Still, it's one of the best horror comedies out there.

Question 2: Lauren Beukes has previously said [in an interview I conducted with her for Obrigado] that, in the event of an apocalypse, she intends to become queen of the zombies. Do you join the zombies because everything else is likely to be a lost cause or do you secretly join the human resistance because you know all her weaknesses?

Dale Halvorsen: When it comes to the human resistance I fear I'm more Rick Astley than Rick Grimes. Can you "Rickroll" zombies to death? I work and live alone so, in the event of a zombie apocalypse, I can definitely foresee a Shaun Of The Dead type scenario where I wander out in the morning oblivious to the zombies around me - until it's too late of course. If I did survive my morning stroll to the 7-Eleven I would have no choice but to join the human resistance. If Lauren had somehow become queen of the zombies (so many "ifs" here) I do know that zombie queen or not, Lauren has a few weaknesses. For one, I do believe her abhorrence of bad films would survive her transformation into a zombie. Just a glimpse of The Room (starring Tommy Wiseau) or Birdemic: Shock And Terror would be enough to trigger some kind of traumatic flashback brain explosion. Furthermore, I hypothesise *adjusts glasses* that since Lauren is their queen, all zombies would share her weakness. Did I just save the world!? Drops mic.

More likely, it ends with Lauren chomping down on my innards and me doing a bad Tommy Wiseau impression by yelling, "You're tearing me apart, Lauren!". A fitting end I think.

Question 3: A good cover is designed to entice a potential audience into picking up a book and buying it. Along the same lines, the resistance's flag should tempt people to abandon their self-serving causes and join "for the greater good". What do you think the design elements on Cape Town's flag would be to tempt the right kind of people?

Whew. You're not pulling any punches here! I think it would take more than a flag for people to abandon their self-serving ways. If flags hypothetically had that much Jedi-mind-trick influence, here is my pitch. First off, the flag would be rainbow coloured. Everyone is welcome. Second, I'd couple that rainbow with an adorable Internet cat meme. For some reason science has yet to understand, cat memes have an innate power to move people in a positive way. Third, Table Mountain makes a pretty good fortress (albeit a windy one) - "We have a mountain stronghold" just has a nice ring to it when pitching to potential recruits. So I'd weave in Table Mountain. Acceptance. Positivity. Safety. It ticks all the boxes.

(Between you and me, we're just using this overtly positive flag to lull people into a false sense of security, lure them to our mountain stronghold and use them as a food source, right?)

5 Zombie Questions: Dale Halvorsen
Above: Kitten photograph supplied by Dale Halvorsen with no photographer attribution, which means he is going to burn in hell, powers of cuteness be damned!

Question 4: How does having a professional alias help during a zombie apocalypse?

Dale Halvorsen: It doesn't... unless... having a professional alias somehow makes you immune to the zombie virus? If that is the case, prepare for a whole lot of illustrators to survive the zombie apocalypse. Holy. George. A. Romero. We're screwed.

Question 5: This is a maths question so you'll need to show your work/thinking process: how many reporters should be fed to gaming zombies as penance for the endlessly circulating mistruth that you are a video-game journalist?

Dale Halvorsen: Maths! Gasp. Brain immediately explodes.

I believe the answer to that equation is: JUST GOOGLE IT!

I have no idea how that mistruth started. Was it because Survivors' Club featured video-game-based horror? Or that a character we mention in the first issue was a video-game reviewer? Or that Lauren once upon a time reviewed video games? Who knows. I've since added "Definitely not a video game journalist" to my Twitter bio.

I also managed to go though an entire tour of the US and have my surname misspelt at almost every signing Lauren and I did.

I had so much fun with it. Come on! It's on the cover of the comic book!

Dale Halvorsen: Official Site, Twitter
Survivors' Club: Vertigo

Dale Halvorsen is a special guest of the inaugural FanCon Cape Town Comic Con, which is being held at The Lookout at the V&A Waterfront from 7 to 8 May 2016.

Tags: #books, #comics, #horror, #lauren_beukes, #sacomics, #speculative_fiction

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