Scott Snyder always joked that American Vampire would never go to space.
But he was wrong. For the next American Vampire: Second Cycle story arc starting in September, readers are being teased by three words:
Vampires. In. Space.
Now that the first, fast-paced story arc for American Vampire: Second Cycle has hit its cliffhanger ending, Snyder and co-creator/artist Rafael Albuquerque will take the comic's characters into the midst of the Cold War and space race from the 1950s and '60s. And although August's issue #5 will feature a flash back to show an origin for current villain, the frightening Gray Trader, the pace will quicken again in September, with many fan-favorite American Vampire characters and concepts making a return.
Although Snyder is one of the most successful current writers at DC Comics — from his best-selling work on Batman to Superman Unchained — American Vampire launched the writer's comic book career in 2010 when the Vertigo title was first released with co-writer Stephen King. Featuring Albuquerque's art since the series launch, American Vampire explores the concept that vampire DNA can evolve into new species — from the traditional European kind that stay out of the sun, to the more modern American vampires who thrive on sunlight.
Newsarama talked to Snyder to ask whether we'll really see vampires in space, what's coming next for Skinner Sweet (after last month's surprising ending) and what other American Vampire characters show up next.
Newsarama: Scott, you've teased in the story and in the solicitations this idea of "vampires in space." Are we really going to see some American Vampire characters go into space?
Scott Snyder: You're going to have to see. It's totally crazy. I've always said they'll never go to space. And what I meant by that is, they'll never go to the future and be in space.
But then I started thinking about the '60s space program, and from the '50s, all of the stuff like, you know, Chuck Yaeger breaking the sound barrier, and the Mercury missions, and the Apollo and the Gemini.
And it's so fascinating — that moment, the mixture of paranoia and optimism at the same time — that I knew we'd have to do something with it. I would rather go that way then go to, you know, Woodstock and that stuff, right off the bat. I lean toward this kind of stuff.
And Rafael loves the space program as well.
So we were like, we've got to start talking about the space program, paranoia, Cold War, Area 51 — all this kind of stuff that comes about in the late '50s and mid-'60s, that ramps up this fear that's stoked up about the country splitting apart.
Nrama: Before that, in August, you have the origin story for the current villain, the Gray Trader, right?
Snyder: That's right.
Nrama: How in the world does the space program fit with the Gray Trader, who's more linked to folklore about demons and the Devil? One seems far removed from the other.
Snyder: Well, it does, but the paranoia, I don't think does. The idea with the Devil and the Gray Trader — the Gray Trader isn't actually the Devil. The Devil is this sort of Beast that he protects.
But the Gray Trader is the greatest trader in the history of the human race, essentially, and his mythology dates back very, very far, and is one of the big secrets of American Vampire.
What happens is, he's the mouthpiece, he's the tongue for the Beast. And when the Beast is in the ground, in a certain place, and forms a cavernous area that people associate with Hell when they're taken down to it, which is why the myth of Hell begins in the first place.
It's very, very hard to find him and get rid of him.
And he starts to win people over, and they become part of an organization. And being this organization, they infiltrate places in the land where they exist. And why we don't know about them is one of the big mysteries, because they've done terrible things. And not only terrible things secretly, but they come out of the ground.
They're monsters, they're demons, they're humans — they're all minions of this Beast. And there's a reason we don't remember.
So this paranoia — not knowing what you're up against, but knowing that it's infiltrated the American landscape, both geologically (because it's in the ground) and also because they're traders, they're agents within the VMS, within the government, that secretly are part of this organization. That paranoia, to me, speaks very much to the Cold War and the space race, and that sense of, you know, are the Russians after us? Are they going to do something terrible to us? And all that fear of nuclear obliteration.
Nrama: With American Vampire: Second Cycle #5, you have another artist who seems to be bringing a different flavor to that issue.
Snyder: Yeah he is. That issue has a lot of stuff in it, touching on Houdini and H.P. Lovecraft, and it focuses on a character we last saw in issue #34, Gene Bunting, who's the bookkeeper for the VMS, and is the one person who believes this Beast and the Gray Trader are out there.
And he's hunting to find where it as installed in the ground, if it was.
And it goes back to a story about how this thing might have gotten into the ground, in the mining days. And it's a lot of fun.
And we'll see my favorite car — a car they confiscated from Travis Kidd during their last run-in with him. And it has all kinds of James Bond weapons in it. It's pretty cool.
Nrama: The story we saw in the first four issues of Second Cycle was a very fast-paced four issues.
Snyder: It was fast-paced. Yep.
Nrama: And scary too.
Snyder: We wanted to hit the ground running and do a very quick story. We don't want to linger.
And we want you to be scared of him. We don't want to explain him.
It's the first time we haven't done a very self-contained arc, where you learn about the monster, the monster's taken down, etcetera.
This is very much more like this thing is growing and building in the ground.
Nrama: It seems like they're regrouping now, but we saw at the end of the last issue that Skinner has a problem (in an attempt to stay somewhat spoiler free). And Pearl is at a very different stage in her life. Can you tease what's coming up next for the characters, and what readers will see in upcoming issues? Will we see some things come back into the series?
Snyder: Yeah, you're going to bring back the idea of the Council, of the Ancients. You're going to see Felicia, you're going to see Gus, you're going to see Calvin.
Bixby is back, the head of the VMS under Felicia — kind of an L.A., Johnny Unitas figure who I love.
Travis is the only one that I can say, we have a special story coming up with him, so he's not in this arc. But he's coming in a really fun way.
But if the first arc was kind of a fast-paced one, this one is more of a "Ghost War," you know? Or a "Blacklist." A five- to six-issue arc that really changes the landscape of A.V. again, and you see things click forward in a big way.
And with Pearl and Skinner, that relationship is the spine of the series. And I think that he made her because he hoped that he'd make her bad.
But I think that in this part of the series, in some ways, he's the one that's going very, very dark. And I think it turns and becomes more about her bringing him back, and her saying, maybe you made me to do good? As opposed to you making me to make me bad.