We’ve said it before, but American Vampire is hands down one of the best comics out there right now. As well as our exclusive preview of American Vampire #34 (out Jan 2) below, we spoke to creator Scott Snyder about Stephen King, hardcore monster violence, and - ugh - Twilight.
So far you’ve taken Skinner Sweet from the old west through to the 1950s. Do you think the story is going to get as far as the present day?
It definitely is. We’ve always had a very set plan with the series – the ending takes place in present day. The funny thing about the series is, it’s actually taken us a lot longer to move through the decades than I originally thought because we’ve been having so much fun with characters that have come along the way. It’s become a much more winding road, even though the end point has always been set from the go.
So we won’t see Skinner in the future?
No, there aren’t any plans to take it into the future. People keep saying, “Imagine Skinner, laser guns, in space!” I’m like, alright, I’ll think about it…
You co-wrote the first few issues with Stephen King. What was he like to work with?
He was incredible to work with. There is more to say in the way of positive things about him than I have time for in this interview. When he gets into the world of a story that he enjoys, he writes like a hungry young writer, like somebody who’s on their first gig. To see someone so exuberant and so eager to make the story and the pages work when they are of his stature - and there’s nobody of his stature, he occupies his own place in the cosmos of writers – to me, there is nothing more inspiring. He’s also a jokester, he’s really funny. He would always mess with us, and he’d end the issues with little comments like, “And here’s where Skinner turns into a bat,” and we’d all get worried and be like, oh, we have to tell Stephen King that, that’s not how our vampires work… Then he’d be like, “I’m just messing with you!” So he was a joy to work with on every level.
The current portrayal of vampires in pop culture mostly revolves around emo, love-sick teens. Was your work on American Vampire something of a reaction to that?
What’s funny is, I had come up with the idea a couple years before Twilight, back during the previous glut of romantic vampires, like Queen of the Damned. The problem I had wasn’t even the romantic aspects, so much as the exotic aspect - this notion that vampires are supposed to be these attractive if dangerous “others,” these people that clearly are not us. What I’ve always loved about vampires and all the classic monsters is that they are us - they’re all primal fears about the transformation of the people and the things that you find safety in, into murderous villains. So a vampire isn’t a vampire because it’s some person that comes into town that’s all mysterious, a vampire is scary because they infect your sister, they infect your neighborhood, they infect your town, and those people come back from the dead as murderous creators that want to infect you. I will say that Stephen King really loved the idea for an ad for American Vampire that had Skinner standing on a pile of pretty boy vampires that said, “I don’t fucking sparkle.” But DC shot us down…
In your work so far, we’ve seen American vampires, classic European vampires, some almost animal-like Japanese vampires - what other varieties can we expect?
You can expect all kinds coming up. Issue 34 (the last one before we go on a brief hiatus) will give you glimpses of some of the monsters coming. The second half of the series – we’re at the midway point now - is really going to be all the species that you’ve seen, but also species you’ve seen hinted at in little ways, like Mimiteh, the ancient American vampire in the cave, and all the species that are responsible for myths about witches and ghosts and serpentine creatures and demons, all of them coming together for this huge storyline in the second half where everything is going to come crashing together.
Are we going to see the return of the great old vampires from the end of the Survival of the Fittest arc?
Absolutely, they play a huge part coming up. You’ll see a glimpse of them in #34, then they’re going to come back in a really big way in the second half of the series. All of those vampires are meant to be pieces that are going to come back onto the playing board really soon. And Dracula, too!
As well as American Vampire, you’re currently writing for both Batman and Swamp Thing. Both of those characters have a powerful legacy in terms of the talent that’s been involved with them, do you ever find that intimidating?
I find that intimidating every minute of every day. My wife will tell you, the night before I started writing Detective Comics I was totally paranoid and freaking out, saying, I can’t do this, I’m not good enough. I remember saying to her, I should just call in sick, and she was like, you can’t call in sick for the whole year! So it’s hugely intimidating and paralyzing if you stop and think about what these characters mean to you personally, and what they mean to so many people, and the stories that have been told about them and how good those stories are. At the end of the day all you can do is imagine that you’re writing fan fiction – essentially, write the story that you would be happiest picking up, no matter what. It might not be the smartest, or the best, or the most bombastic or the most cerebral, but at the end of the day, it’s the one you would enjoy more than any other.
There must be a filtering process for that, though, because there is a lot of fan fiction out there that is really, spectacularly awful.
I don’t mean fan fiction in the way of, say, a mash up between Batman and Garfield. I just mean, you imagine you’re writing it entirely for yourself with no pressure from either a company or from fans.
What’s your favorite Batman story of all time?
It’s Dark Knight Returns followed by Year One.
So Frank Miller in general?
I know, it’s tough, because there are so many great ones. But for me, I read Dark Knight Returns in the four issues as they came out, I still have them at my parents’ house. Similar with Year One, I have the four issues and they were so mind blowing - I was only about 9 or 10 when they came out. The idea that someone would do something so daring was incredibly inspiring. It was so bold and daring that it inspires you to be as fearless as you can with the characters.
You’re also going to be working on a Superman series with Jim Lee, right?
Yeah, I am, absolutely. It’s equally intimidating and exciting: I’m still nervous when I email Jim. I was at my parents’ house for thanksgiving and I went down to the basement where all my long boxes are from childhood, and I have, like, a million copies of X-men #1, every cover, every color, every fold out, everything. I took a picture and sent it to Jim saying, “Jim, look…” He was like, yeah, I’ll sign it for you! I’m still amazed that I’m getting to do this. You have to pinch yourself that you get to work with these amazing artists like Greg Capullo and Jim Lee on these characters that you love.
Which other characters would you want to work on?
There are a hundred characters that I’d love to work on. I’d love to work on Wonder Woman at some point - if Bryan Azzarello and Cliff Chiang weren’t doing such a great job, I’d love to go over there and try that pretty soon. I’d love to work on Spider-Man or Captain American - there are just a bunch, characters who were so primally important to me growing up. It’s very strange to look up and be doing it now, it really is. I wish I could revisit my 8-year-old self and just be like, don’t worry, it's all gonna be cool.
Do you think you’ll ever do a movie adaptation of American Vampire?
I would love to see that! I’d love to see it as anything - as TV or movie, I’d go see it as a play or a slam poetry series, that would make me happy. At the end of the day, we’re so happy working on it as a comic that we try to push that stuff out of our heads.
And now, here’s our exclusive preview of American Vampire #34.
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