In American Vampire, the hit Vertigo series launched this year by writers Stephen King and Scott Snyder, a human falls for a vampire, but this vampire isn't any dark and brooding man.
This time around, the bloodthirsty vampire is beautiful young actress Pearl Jones, and her comparatively weak human companion is jazz musician Henry Preston.
It's all part of a series where the goal was to do something completely different with the vampire genre. While American Vampire still has the old-style European vampires who can't go out in the dark, the idea behind the story is that the vampire bloodline mutates every once in awhile and a new species emerges, including an American version that thrives in the sun.
Next week, the second storyline in American Vampire kicks off with Issue #6, as Scott Snyder and artist Rafael Albuquerque take over the series full time after King's initial five-issue story ends.
As the cast grows even bigger in the coming storyline, Newsarama spoke with Snyder and Albuquerque for a series of articles detailing who's who in the comic. So far, we've profiled vampires Skinner Sweet and Pearl Jones.
Now we look at Henry Preston, the human counterpart to Pearl's monstrous vampirism.
Origin: Before she became a vampire, Pearl was just a beautiful, dream-filled actress in 1920's Hollywood. She meets a jazz musician named Henry Preston, who asks her out. And asks her out again.
Eventually, it works.
"Pearl has an impression of him at first that he’s sort of this local in Los Angeles – that he’s essentially just about girls and having a good time and the present," Snyder said. "But throughout the cycle, she becomes closer and closer to him as he kind of wins her over after really asking her out multiple, multiple times."
But what should have been a normal relationship gets twisted when vampires attack Pearl. After she's turned into one of the undead bloodsuckers, Henry still falls for her.
By the end of the first storyline, Henry becomes part of Pearl's revenge against her attackers.
Powers: According to Snyder, what makes Henry so interesting in this series is that he doesn't have powers, but he falls in love with a vampire anyway.
"I’m into a lot of the vampire stuff," said series creator Snyder. "But one thing that constantly kind of gets in my nerves, and I don't know if this is like – this might be something weird for a guy, but it's annoying how it’s always human women swooning over these vampire dudes that are exotic and romantic. It’s always like the human woman and, you know, the vampire guy who’s so dark and dangerous and sensitive and whatever – depending on whether it's in a mature series like True Blood or in a teen series like Twilight, that seems to always be the dynamic.
"What we wanted to do was explore it from the other side," he said. "What if she really is the predator and the one with the powers and she has this darkness in her?"
Archenemy: In the most recent issue, American Vampire #5, Henry helps Pearl prepare for her revenge on the European vampires who attacked her. Using wooden stakes, he and Pearl wage war against the vamps.
Although the end of the story implies Henry and Pearl escape together fairly unscathed, they've clearly made enemies of the European vampires and surely haven't seen the last of their kind.
Appearance: Albuquerque looked at references from the '20s and '30s to find the right look for Henry. "We looked at old musicians from the ‘20s and ‘30s and that kind of speakeasy style," Snyder said.
"Henry is a classic hero," Albuquerque said. "Skinner is an Anti-hero. The idea here, was making him the total oppose of Skinner, but we also needed to get him something that could make him interesting. I think all the bohemian charm was created with the expressions, way more than outfits, in this case."
Personality: "Henry is Pearl's rock," Snyder said. "But he wasn't always that way. It took her awhile to figure out his personality. Henry gets a lot of girls when we first meet him. He's a jazz guitar player in speakeasies in the 1920s. He's sort of a drifter."
Henry lives on a boat that's docked nearby, and he really doesn't have a lot of connections. "He kind of goes wherever he wants," Snyder said.
While Pearl originally thinks he's just about having a good time, she discovers much more depth to his character. "What she realizes is that he’s not as simple as she thought and that he has a lot of history to him, and he has painful things in his past," Snyder explained. "He fought in World War I in the Argonne Forest and saw some of his friends killed. And so he’s not necessarily running away from the past at all, but he understands and appreciates the importance of enjoying the present because things can go bad very quickly.
"He’s sort of handsome and charming, but he’s also got a great sense of right and wrong," Snyder explained. "And he’s the one who points her back at the European vampires when she’s feeling overwhelmed and frightened about heading back and actually facing off with them."
What's Next: Snyder and Albuquerque left it a bit of a mystery where Pearl and Henry end up at the end of the first story arc, but American Vampire #6 will catch up with them pretty quickly, Snyder said.
"He really plays a very, very important role in the entire series," Snyder said. "But what we notice right away is that Henry is getting older. The next cycle takes place in the '30s, so Henry has aged 10 years while Pearl hasn't. Pearl stays the same.
"Rafael and I have had a lot of interesting discussions about how their relationship will play out and what it means, how important it is," Snyder said.
While this story arc will emphasize how dangerous Pearl is, her relationship with Henry will continue to grow.
"She’s not going to eat Henry at any time," Snyder said. "But there’s an internal struggle there. And Henry is somebody who’s sort of her rock, who keeps her humanity going in a big way. So that relationship is really one of the central strains in the story. And we’re very interested – without giving too much away – in the idea of what it’s like for somebody to age, you know, alongside somebody who doesn’t in that way."