One Story author Scott Snyder (“Happy Fish, Plus Coin” Issue #14) and master of horror Stephen King are teaming up with artist Rafael Albuquerque and Vertigo comics to produce a new monthly comic book series named American Vampire. In a time where zombies and sea monsters are appearing in classic literature, Snyder and King are reinventing American history to create a new mythology of vampire. King writes about the first American vampire, Skinner Sweet, a strong, fast, and gun-toting cowboy. Snyder’s vampires inhabit the decadence of the Jazz Age, embodied by Pearl, an ambitious starlet. The American Vampire series is being launched this month by Vertigo.
I had the opportunity to ask Scott Snyder a few questions about his project.
While vampires are culturally experiencing a “rebirth” (so to speak), was there a specific inspiration to create American Vampire? I find the choice of setting (the American “Wild West” 1880s and the “Screaming” 1920s) very interesting. Was this choice a specific counterpoint to current popular vampire depictions, or did you have other reasons?
It wasn’t specifically aimed at being a counter-point to current vampire trends. I came up with a few years ago, actually during a previous wave of vamp stuff – Blade and Underworld and Queen of the Damned – and I just started getting sick of seeing vampires in the same old way: these leather and trench coat, slick sort of club-goers or aristocracy. They were always brooding on some gargoyle overlooking a city in the rain or something. All gloom and gothic style. Everything greenlit that eerie way – Matrix vampires. And so I started thinking back to the vampires I loved the best as a kid – the creatures in Near Dark and Lost Boys – vampires that seemed part of the world around me. The vampires of Salem’s lot – your neighbors, people you know, your loved ones, turned into these real, fear, mean creatures. So I began to play with this idea of a vampire that walked the landscape I love, the plains, the west, and it occurred to me that even cooler would be to invent a new breed of vampire – a new species indigenous to North America?
From there the concept just took off: why not have a genealogical tree of vampires from different time periods and locations around the world? We could create a secret history where the vampire bloodline, every once in a while, hits someone new, from somewhere new, and makes something new – randomly mutate and create a new species.
So I started developing a story around this character named Skinner Sweet that I thought would be the penultimate first American vampire. He’s this sociopathic outlaw in the Old West who gets turned accidentally and becomes the first of this new species, with new powers, new weaknesses. He thrives in sunlight. He’s got different fangs, different claws…
Did you have any specific writers or artists (or films) that inspired you?
Sure. Stephen King, obviously. Salem’s Lot is a favorite book of mine. But also Kathryn Biggelow’s Near Dark, The Lost Boys, Nosferatu… I’m a huge vampire fan.
One of the ideas behind American Vampire that I found compelling was this idea that vampires evolve (so that the vampire characters develop distinctly “American” powers and appearance). Was this something that evolved as you worked with Stephen King on the story lines or did you originally start with this idea in mind?
I started with it in mind, but having Steve writing on the series brought a whole new level of Americana to things. He’s a treasure trove of American folklore and history. He added a ton to Skinner’s story, his background, the whole series. The whole thing is exponentially better for his involvement. After all, he’s the guy responsible for making American iconography scary! The small town (Needful Things). Your beloved family dog (Cujo). Your first car (Christine). Your good old dad (The Shining)… He takes things that are central to the American imagination and makes them murderous and terrifying. He turns them against us.