American Vampire debuts

“Publishing a series with a fresh take on the vampire mythos would be incredible enough, but adding the talents of Scott Snyder, an exciting new voice in fiction, and Stephen King, the master of horror himself is beyond awesome,” Karen Berger of Vertigo said last fall when American Vampire was announced. “We are thrilled that Vertigo is the home for this special new work, which we’re certain will be a major addition to the timeless and popular appeal of vampire lore everywhere.”

Readers can find out for themselves whether King and Snyder (with the brilliant help of artist Rafael Albuquerque)  have opened a new door to the preternatural universe or just dressed an old one up in bloodier clothing. As it was described in 2009, “AMERICAN VAMPIRE will introduce readers to a new breed of vampire – a more muscular and vicious species of vampire with distinctly american characteristics.”  In the light of the musculature added by the Twilight boys not to mention what’s on display in HBO’s True Blood series, that’s a little hard to imagine. Then again, American Vampire is a comic book, so anything is possible. And nobody’s gone shirtless, yet.

The series which begins with today’s release of American Vampire #1, is told in two story arcs each told by a different writer but focusing on the same new vampire – Skinner Sweet. Don’t let the name fool you. This is no angsty soul playing vampire or worse, human. This is a rattlesnake in, well, rattlesnake’s clothing. And he’s not going to pretend otherwise. Watch out all you psuedo-bad boy vamps. The real McCoy just rode in.

King’s storyline take a stab a Skinner’s origins – and he was no prize as a human, which, BTW was in the 1880’s. In fact, he was a murderer with a taste for other people’s money, particularly if they kept it in banks. Sweet makes the familiar outlaws of the Old West (Billy the Kid, the James boys, etc.) seem – tame and pale in comparison.

“I love vampire stories, and the idea of following the dark exploits of a uniquely American vampire really lit up my imagination,” King said in a 2009 press release. “The chance to do the origin story – to be ‘present at the creation’ – was a thrill. I owe a big thanks to Scott Snyder, for letting me share his vision, and sip from his bucket of blood.”

For those who can’t have their vampires without a little glamor…Snyder’s story arc is set in the Roaring 20’s in what would become Hollywood. Talkies were just around the corner and pretty starlets, like Pearl, were everywhere. Sadly, Pearl takes the conventional path to success, ignoring the sage advice of an unusual (and of course, handsome, if you like your men rough and tumbled with a gleam in their eye and a grin that screams “TROUBLE”) stranger.

It would be easy for these two stories to diverge. The quality and nature of the storytelling is notably different. King’s story grumbles like the train it is set on. Snyder’s story slithers like silk under pearls. Albuquerque’s art is the rich jazz that brings it all together and makes it….

He also sums this new preternatural universe up the best:

“In a time when vampires are everywhere, Scott and Stephen seem to have done the impossible: An original, inventive, and detailed new series. It’s a challenging and exciting project I’m proud to be working on.”

Can’t wait to see what happen in #2.