AMERICAN VAMPIRE Up Close 2: PEARL JONES In-depth
AMERICAN VAMPIRE Up Close 2: PEARL JONES
Scott Snyder understands that some people are tired of vampires.
But then, that's kind of the point of his new Vertigo series, American Vampire.
"We’re so sick of the same vampires over and over again, you know?" Snyder said. "That was sort of the whole idea of the series. It was conceived during that last vampire glut – during, like, Blade Trinity and Queen of the Damned and Underworld – where they’re just so aristocratic and they’re just so pompous in that kind of way where they have those little fangs and they’re all pale and they’re always so, like, 'cool,' going to some underground club at night that’s some weird techno thing. And they’re all wearing sunglasses and leather and Matrix-style clothes, and it’s just – it just got so boring."
In the story, the old-style European vampires still exist, but the bloodline mutates every once in awhile and a new species of vampire emerges. In America, that evolution takes place in the Old West, creating a brand new, remarkably different breed of vampire, with powers that are distinctly American.
As we detailed in the first part of our series on the American Vampire characters, Skinner Sweet is the first of his species -- a strong, ruthless yet sun-loving vampire with rattlesnake-like fangs.
And as far as we know, he's only turned one other person into this new breed of vampire: a young 1920's Hollywood actress named Pearl Jones. Smart and a bit rebellious, Pearl now has the ability to turn into a blood-sucking monster, complete with the powers that make the American breed of vampire so deadly.
For Part 2 of our up-close look at the characters in American Vampire, Newsarama talked to Snyder and Albuquerque about Pearl, whose love affair with Henry continues into the next story arc as her story gears up toward some unexpected developments.
Origin: Pearl's story begins in Hollywood during the roaring '20s. A young actress, her dreams are less related to becoming a rich starlet, but instead focus on making a lasting impression on the world.
"[Pearl's] a young woman who begins her story struggling to make it in the silent film industry," Snyder explained. "Pearl works three jobs just to kind of keep her dream alive, and she’s getting tired when the story begins. But she’d much rather be an extra in a great movie than, you know, the star of a bad one, which sets her apart from her best friend Hattie, who's more interested in stardom. Pearl’s really in it because she’s from a small farm background, and she has this idea of wanting to be part of something lasting and part of something special, part of the kind of world that she saw on the screen as a kid that inspired her -- this kind of beautiful world of fantasy and nightmare."
Pearl's dreams are abruptly ended when she's attacked by the European vampires who run much of Hollywood. "She’s sort of chewed up and spat out by the vampires in Hollywood and resurrected by Skinner as an American vampire," Snyder said. "She goes back and seeks revenge on the vampires who turned her Hollywood dream into a nightmare. She exacts a very fun, bloody revenge on them for the last couple issues of the first cycle."
As the first story arc ends, Pearl leaves Hollywood with her human companion, musician Henry Preston. "They take off," Snyder explained, "with a lot of the money they were able to get from the European vampires they took down."
Powers: According to what has been revealed in the story so far, Pearl is the second American vampire. This new breed has no aversion to wood and thrives in sunlight. She also has claws and a snake-like mouth, with venom that paralyzes her prey. Her only weakness is that her powers fade during a night with no moonlight.
Archenemy: Pearl's friendship with Hattie Hargrove was not what it seemed, and the two had a rather brutal battle in American Vampire #4, exposing Hattie as a formidable enemy. And Pearl hasn't exactly made friends with the powerful European vampires either.
For now, Skinner appears to be an ally, although his intentions weren't always to her benefit, so it's not clear how the two may interact in the future. "He originally intended on killing Pearl," Snyder said. "He created Pearl essentially to cause trouble for the European vampires and distract them and just be a thorn in their side. But then he had every intention of offing her at the end of the cycle. But he doesn’t, because he grows to like her quite a bit. But he doesn’t really make a lot of other American vampires."
"We had a lot of fun designing her," Snyder said. "We wanted her to be almost a little bit bookish and a little bit bohemian – a little bit of her own thing, so that she’s not just some a mold of a pretty, flapper starlet."
Hattie is pale with dark hair and appears a little tomboyish, initially wearing flapper-style clothing that incorporates a men's tie. And she has a black sunflower tattoo on her back.
"In those days, it was pretty racy to have a tattoo, but some people did," Snyder said. "We tried to stay historically accurate. Rafael did an amazing job in terms of sifting through all kinds of McCall catalogs and early posters and ads for women’s clothes. We looked at some of the things that were more about blue-collar girls in Coney Island and looked at different styles to try and find something that really made her stick out as somebody who was a real individual in Hollywood."
Personality: "She’s got a lot of backbone and a bit of rebelliousness to her," Snyder said. "But she really is, at heart, a good person. She’s a little bit more bookish, and a little bit less concerned with, you know, being girly and playing the kind of Hollywood game. She's the kind of girl that has, like, the Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton posters on her wall, as opposed to the big epics. And she's smart."
Plus, she's able to fall for a human male, despite being a powerful, blood-thirsty vampire. It's a twist on the familiar story of human-vampire love, where so often it's a dark, brooding male vampire falling for a weak woman. This time, Henry plays the role of weak human to Pearl's strength and bloodlust.
"We wanted to explore it from the other side. What if she’s the one with the powers and she has this darkness in her?" Snyder said. "There’s a scene in the upcoming cycle where she really discusses this. You get her narration about how tough it is for her sometimes, because there is a pull in the vampire blood no matter how good you are as a human. There is sort of a darkness to that blood, and there is a hunger and a pull."
What's Next: "We tried to leave it a bit of a mystery as to where Pearl and Henry wind up, but you’ll catch up with them pretty quickly in this cycle and get to see how they’ve been living their lives, and whether or not they get dragged back into the violence between humans and vampires, and between vampires and other vampire species," Snyder said.
Beginning with September's American Vampire #6, the story moves to 1930's Las Vegas, right around the time the Hoover Dam is being completed. The series will introduce new characters and evidence of other vampire species besides the line Skinner Sweet has created through Pearl. But the writer emphasized that the focus of the series will still be Pearl and Skinner.
"We had originally thought we would take more of a break from Pearl in this cycle," Snyder said. "But when I finished writing cycle one, I just missed her, and so did Rafael."
Snyder said that while Pearl plays a significant role in the second story arc, she's going to be really central to the story in the third arc. "Right after this cycle, we’re going to catch up with her in a really, really central way," he said, "and with some surprises."
In the second story arc, readers will get a hint of what's coming next when Pearl starts to explore whether humans know about vampires. "In this story, Pearl becomes aware of some of the dynamics, historically, between humans and vampires," Snyder said, "and the question of whether or not humans – or a particular organization of humans – has been aware of vampires for a while, maybe even the last thousand years or so, and has either been at war with them or allied with them. So we introduce that whole aspect of things through Pearl in this next cycle."