What the world needs now is morevampires. That's what it wants, anyway. What it really needs are more inventive and interesting vampires. American Vampire, a new series fromVertigo, provides just that. The horror series "imagines vampires as physiological creaturesthat have evolved over time and that change when their bloodline hits a newpopulation," explains Scott Snyder, series creator and writer.
In this mythology, the type of vampire weknow and love, what Snyder calls "the nocturnal, stake-through-the-heartvariety," are just one strain of vampire. There are many others, though, withdifferent abilities and characteristics. The type that takes center stage hereis a fiercely all-American version, and, in something of a coup, Stephen Kinghas signed on to write its origin story.
This new type of vampire has itsstart in the 1880's, when an outlaw named Skinner Sweet is infected, and thevampire bloodline takes a new evolutionary step, creating what Snyder describesas a "meaner, tougher vampire, one with rattlesnake fangs and long, spiderlikeclaws." King has written the Skinner story, which will appear in the first fiveissues of the series, alongside Snyder's story-line of a young silent film starnamed Pearl. King wasn't originally slated to write for the series but whenSnyder approached him for a blurb, he was more than enthusiastic, saying he'dbe interested in writing a few issues. Snyder and Vertigo agreed, of course,and the result is King's first foray into comics.
Snyder's first story-line is setin Hollywoodland of the 1930's. His main character, Pearl, is a young starletliving in a ladies' boarding house and acting in her first big film, a D.W.Griffith-style production called "Atlantis". As Snyder describes it, Pearl goesto a party at a producer's house one night and "bad things happen." She's leftfor dead, but Skinner, who's been lurking around her boarding house, decides tomake her undead instead. This familiar old Hollywood story makes such a perfectbackdrop for a vampire story that it's almost surprising that it hasn't beendone before. The story will include a wealth of detail about the period,including settings in speakeasies, Malibu and at the Hearst castle, and references to thestimulus money and public projects that were part of Depression-era America.
Snyder is the author of a shortstory collection, Voodoo Heart, whichcame out to widespread praise in 2006. He's currently at work on a novel to bepublished in 2011 by Dial Press, TheGoodbye Suit, and he also teaches writing at Columbia University and SarahLawrence. He's always been what he describes as "a die-hard comics fan" though,so the move from literary fiction to comics was a natural one for him. Of hiscollaboration with King, Snyder can't say enough. "It was incredibly inspiring to work withhim," he says. "He wrote five scripts in the time it took me to write two, andthey were so rich. He could have done something in skeletal form, but he wrotedetailed descriptions of how things should look and what's happening in thepanels."
Rafael Albuquerque, whose previous work includes Superman/Batman for DC and Crimeland for Image Comics, is drawing the comic, andSnyder appreciates the collaborative nature of the work they do together."Writingfiction can be so lonely, it's just you in a room, but with the comics, itfeels like you're part of a team. When we're working, I'm communicating withMark [Doyle, series editor], Rafael, and Stephen daily."
Each season of the series will take place ina different decade of American history and Snyder promises that each will delveinto the historical context. "We'll try to consider the time period and thinkabout what aspects of the American character are monstrous or heroic," saysSnyder. Those characteristics in vampire form give readers a lot to lookforward to.