Finally, A Vampire that Really Sucks…

Move over Bill Compton. Step aside Edward Cullen. There’s a new sheriff…er, vampire…in town, and he’s not a conscience-addled downer either. Skinner Sweet, the preeminent bloodsucker in the American Vampire series is as vicious a vampire as you’re likely to find. The product of Scott Snyder’s imagination and fueled by the twisted vision of Stephen King, this is a comic book series that restores the bite to the vampire genre that has, while not necessarily de-fanged, been dulled as of late.The first chapters of the American Vampire series have been gathered into a beautiful hardback collection by Vertigo Comics. The first volume includes five chapters, each of which tell two stories, one by Snyder and the other by King. Snyder’s tells of Pearl Jones, an aspiring actress in the silent era of Hollywood. Her life is irreversibly changed while attending a party at a producer’s mansion when a group of vampires attack her. Yet another vampire, Skinner Sweet, comes to her “rescue.” King’s story tells the origin of Skinner in the wild west of the 1880s.

Thus far, American Vampire is built on a series of dualities. Of course, we have the human/vampire tension, but there is also tension within the vampire ranks. There are two types of vampires here, those who roam at night and those, like Skinner, who have evolved and fear no sunlight…or anyone or anything else for that matter. These different vampires also embody the differences between Old and New…Old Europe and the New American West. Skinner represents a push back against the wealthy land owners and industrialists that have grown fat on the seat…and blood…of their workers. He, however, has no sense of justice, just good ol’ revenge and a set of plans only hinted at in these early chapters.

Snyder draws brilliantly on recent American history, especially film history. 1920s Hollywood provides a fresh backdrop for the narrative…think of the Bill/Lorena flashback in Season 2 of True Blood before Bill began feeling guilty for indulging in the pleasures of (the) flesh. Part of Skinner’s “evolution” involved being trapped for a number of years in a coffin buried under a lake. His shock over new developments (he thinks a movie theater is some new type of whore-house and he refers to automobiles as horseless wagons) reveal just how fast and drastically things changed at the turn of the century.

Volume One also features a forward by King, and, in the afterward, Snyder hints at things to come as the story shifts to Vegas in the ’30s and then on to the ’40s and World War II. That Vegas series has already run and will be collected into a trade hardback version at the end of May. The first issue of the World War II portion releases on Wednesday. This first volume also includes preliminary sketches, cover variants (below), and script-to-page examples.

As far as vampires go, they don't come any tougher than Skinner Sweet.