It's been less than a year since Scott Snyder launched his new American Vampire series for Vertigo, but he's already one of the hottest new names in the industry.
It doesn't hurt that Snyder was singled out by best-selling novelist Stephen King, who was so smitten with the characters Snyder invented for American Vampire that he helped write the series' first five issues. While Snyder wrote stories introducing 1920's vampire Pearl Jones, King supplied the background for Old West vampire Skinner Sweet.
The series, which features art by Rafael Albuquerque, revolves around the idea that vampires can evolve, and because Snyder's vampires were created in the United States, they've developed powers that are distinctly American. What results is a fascinatingly violent war between American vampires and their old-fashioned European predecessors.
When the series launched in March, American Vampire was so well received by fans and critics that Snyder was soon approached by DC Entertainment executives to write more for the publisher. As announced earlier this month, Snyder is now a DC-exclusive writer and will begin writing Detective Comics in November.
But this week represents an important milestone for the writer his is debut comic, as American Vampire's inaugural story ends, along with King's contribution to the comic. With the ending of issue #5, the introductory stories of both Pearl and Skinner reach their conclusions, and the comic moves into Snyder's next story arc.
Newsarama talked with Snyder to find out what comes next in American Vampire and what it's been like to launch a new Vertigo series with such success.
Newsarama: Scott, you got a lot of attention for Stephen King's introduction of Skinner Sweet in this comic, running alongside your story about Pearl Jones. As you've taken over the writing with issue #6, has the transition been pretty smooth? I know Stephen added some of his own original material.
Scott Snyder: Oh yeah, he's definitely added a ton of great story material. But he's also been good about following a general outline we had planned. So there wasn't any problem taking the baton from him as he finishes his Skinner story and moving forward with it.
Nrama: One of the things that has captivated readers is the look of this series and the very different visual identity of these vampires. Have you been working directly with Rafael as he's designed the look of the series?
Snyder: Absolutely. He's been a huge creative force and influence in the series. We chat almost every day about this stuff. He's instrumental in the design of everything -- the characters, the look of the book, the covers. I even check a lot of the scripts with him for storytelling ideas. It makes it hard to work with other people at this point, because I lean on him and give him a lot of creative leeway, and I expect that everyone else wants that too. And the more he contributes, the better the book is for it.
Nrama: You mentioned having an outline, but have things evolved as you've written the story? Have the characters kind of surprised you and taken the story in different directions?
Snyder: Oh yeah. When I started writing it, I always intended to follow Skinner and Pearl through the years. But Pearl was just so much fun to write that, by issue #3, I realized that I wanted to make her even more central to the upcoming cycles than I'd anticipated. She's probably my favorite character I've written for comics. I was really surprised how attached I've grown to her.
And also, some of the stuff that Steve has added to the Skinner character, and how clever and devious he's made him, has been really inspiring to me. He made him so much more ruthless than I'd planned out, but it was inspiring and exciting as I've gotten my hands on that character again for future cycles.
So the whole experience has been surprising at every turn. I'm somebody who plans things out way in advance. I'm planning issues #10 and 11 right now. But as you write it, things change. That's one of the things that's great about writing comics is that you can change things as you go along.
Nrama: At the end of issue #4, we had a couple cliffhangers. Can you tell us what we can expect this week?
Snyder: I think issue #5 is the most emotionally harrowing issue of all. I think it's Steve's best issue, and I've loved all of the things that he's done. But I think he would probably agree that it really is incredibly strong. So his story is extremely moving with some great twists. And my story has some great things in store. You'll see the payback that Pearl tries to deliver to the Euro vamps. But I think people will be surprised with where it all ends up.
Nrama: As we start with issue #6, is the story going to still focus on characters we've met?
Snyder: Absolutely. And this is something I really want to emphasize. I'm sooo excited about the next cycle, but I understand there are going to be some things that are different about the book, like Steve not being one of the writers, and the comic dropping to 22 pages. And what we really wanted to do was introduce new characters and broaden the mythology, but still really stay focused on Skinner and Pearl.
So even though it might take us an issue or two before we catch up with Pearl, she still plays a very instrumental role in the cycle, and she makes big appearances. And Skinner is also a driving force behind the whole cycle.
We'll never leave those two alone for very long. I think the idea is that in some cycles, they'll be front-and-center, while in others, they'll be more like cameos. But in this next story arc that begins in issue #6, they'll play very big roles.
This line of vampires and adversaries, with Skinner and Book and Pearl, will always be the main focus of the series. But the story will feel like time has passed and you'll get a set-up for the next chapter in their story. We'll take a breath and introduce a couple new characters, but then we'll catch right up with your favorite characters.
Nrama: What can you tell us about the new things you'll be introducing with issue #6?
Snyder: Issue #6 takes place in 1930's Las Vegas, right around when Hoover Dam is being completed. Las Vegas is just starting to become the kind of town we know today, with the gambling and prostitution and tourist attraction. It's going from a cow town to a booming metropolis.
The story begins with this series of mysterious murders, where bodies show up drained of blood. And the young sheriff there, Cash McCogan, is the biggest new introduction to the series. He's overwhelmed by everything going on in the city. And he's trying to solve these murders as there are bigger things happening in the vampire world behind him.
This story will also be broadening the history of the different vampire species, and showing more of their genealogy and the dark secrets between not just the American vampires and the European vampires, but the European vampires and their own ancestors. Human-vampire relations play a big role in this cycle too.
Nrama: Will the DC announcement change how long you're going to be on American Vampire? Or do you intend to stay with this as an ongoing series?
Snyder: American Vampire is my baby. I'll never give it up. I couldn't be more excited about doing Detective and all that, but American Vampire and working with Rafael will never take a back seat to anything.
And keep in mind that I was only writing American Vampire. Just one thing. Besides that, I was teaching. So now, with Detective, I'm able to write comics full time. It will cut into my time teaching, but it will in no way affect the time I spend on American Vampire.
In fact, I'm in the process of pitching another horror series to Vertigo. So definitely, American Vampire and my Vertigo work will be important. And all of us on the American Vampire team are over-the-moon about the way people have responded to it. We'll work hard not to let anyone down.