Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Midtown Comics' First Book Club with American Vampire's Scott Snyder

Last Friday, the IGH team went to check out Midtown Comics' first Book Club featuring Scott Snyder, the creator and writer of American Vampire.

If you haven’t read American Vampire, then you have been missing out. Debuting in March of 2010, the first arc follows the lives (unlives) of Skinner Sweet and Pearl Jones.  

Skinner Sweet was an outlaw in the Wild West (1880’s), who was accidentally turned into a vampire by a European vampire named Percy. This is an important fact because when Percy’s European blood mixed with Skinner’s American blood a new type of vampire was born. While all the new attributes of the American vampire are not known, we do know they are impervious to sunlight, which makes moving around more convenient.

Later on, in the 1920’s, Skinner saves the life (sort of) of Pearl Jones, who had been attacked by a group of the European vamps. Skinner turns Pearl and helps steer her towards the beings that hurt her. While Pearl does wreck some bloody, bloody havoc, she proves herself to be different from Skinner Sweet in that she is not all about causing chaos and murderous killing sprees.

Which leads us into the talk with Scott Snyder. One thing Scott mentioned was he felt that Skinner and Pearl, while not two sides of the same coin, were definitely different but bonded together. Skinner is more representative of the fierce, wild, rebellious individuality that is a very American ideal and Pearl is more personable and admirable and accepting of what is and making the most of it.

Other highlights include:

The light bulb moment when Scott got his idea for American Vampire came about when he was in the Lower East Side and came across a die cast of a confederate soldier coming out of his grave, zombie- style. It got him thinking and soon, American Vampire was born.

Scott is a huge vampire fan, but not of the more romanticized and less frightening vamps like Twilight, though he did say he respected Stephanie Meyers for doing something different with vampires (making them heartthrobs). True Blood is a little more his taste, but he feels the scariest type of vampire is the one who you know but don’t realize is different. Your neighbor, your best friend, your co-worker, or your spouse – any one of them could one day turn around and try to drain you and that’s far scarier than the exoticism of the True Blood vamps or the sparkly Twilight vamps.

He also wanted to get back to the old school days of vampires being less tech savvy and more vicious, hands on killers. He talked about how in the 90’s a lot of the vampire movies were more Matrix-y or like Blade and he wanted something more like The Lost Boys. Basically, he wanted scary.

Scott talked a lot about his admiration for Stephen King, who wrote five issues detailing the origins of Skinner Sweet. “Steve” King originally was going to write a blurb about American Vampire, but he liked everything so much he wanted to write an issue but he wasn’t sure they would let him because he’d never written a comic. Scott quickly assured him they would want him. What was supposed to be one issue quickly turned into five, which also ended up giving American Vampire its concurrent storylines.

Scott said nothing but nice things about Stephen. He told a funny story about how the editors suggested certain changes and Stephen replied with an email titled “Why All Editors Should Die.” [Side note: Scott said really great things about the editors. He takes their notes seriously, and he spoke of how important they are.] Scott also said he would love to get Stephen’s scripts online so everyone could see how deep and complex they were.

When asked about distinguishing American Vampire among a vamp-heavy market, Scott spoke about how originally he and artist Raphael Albuquerque – who will be listed as co-creator starting with issue thirteen, wanted to market it as anti-Twilight and True Blood, so Raphael created two posters, one with Skinner Sweet standing over a bunch of dead bodies with the tagline, “This isn’t your little sister’s vampire.” and another one featuring Pearl with the tagline, “I don’t fucking sparkle.” A different marketing approach was chosen but I really hope they release these posters because I would buy them in a heartbeat.

The reason the Old West was chosen to kick things off is because it is a very American timeline, but Scott wants to explore other times. A World War II story is coming up, the 50’s will be explored, and he also talked about looking further back such as to Roanoke or exploring the origins of the Carpathian vampires.

Scott wants to look at how these new American vampires affect the vampiric world as a whole because he views the American vamp as another branch of the vampire family tree. What are their new powers as well as weaknesses? He also talked about examining the various vampire group around the world. 

He knows how the book will end but not what will happen on the way there.

The characters and emotional arc are what’s most important. He likes when the emotional content hits you a few moments after the events have unfolded. It’s truer to real life and a good reflective moment resonates better.

And finally, Skinner Sweet is NOT based on Kid Rock. His DNA consists of Elvis with some Kurt Cobain. And as an audience member pointed out, Lost’s Josh Holloway would make an excellent Skinner Sweet.

Overall, it was a great night. Scott was very open and gave a lot of insight and fun facts. The audience asked intelligent and thoughtful questions, including our own Getsuyobi, and our hosts, Thor Parker and Zoe Gulliksen made sure everything ran smoothly. The only slightly negative comment I have about the evening is Thor and Zoe never introduced themselves. I was familiar with their names but I was not aware of who they were, and I know I wasn’t the only one. They did such a good job, I wanted to thank them but I felt a little uncomfortable approaching them without knowing their names. To find out, we resorted to asking TheCBGuy who they were.

American Vampire Vol. 1 is now out in stores and if you are “trade waiting” like me, Vol. 2 (the Vegas cycle) will be out around May 2nd and Vol. 3 will arrive later in the fall. [Trade waiting was Scott’s term. I’d never heard it put that way before and I love it. He’d prefer you go out and buy the single issues, but if you can’t, get Vol. 2. You won’t regret it.]

Next month’s Book Club will feature Guerillas by Brahm Revel. We’ll be there. Hope to see you there too.

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