Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


American Vampire collects the first five issues of Scott Snyder's amazing comic book.  Coming along for the ride is Stephen King, who wrote half of each of the five issues, detailing the origins of Skinner Sweet, the American vampire.  The artwork is by Rafael Albuqueque.

     The main story takes place in late 1920s Hollywood.  Pearl Jones and Hattie Hargrove are movie extras with dreams of making it big.  Handsome movie star Chase Hamilton invites Pearl to a party at the home of a famous director, B. D. Bloch.  Pearl and Hattie are impressed by Bloch's elegant home and by the guest list, including Lon Chaney, Harold Lloyd and Louise Brooks.  Hamilton escorts Pearl to a private room to meet Bloch and leaves her with Bloch and some of his colleagues.  Unfortunately for Pearl, they are all vampires...and hungry.  Pearl survives (for a while) and is taken to a hospital where she is treated for massive animal bites.  Left alone there to die, she is visited by Skinner Sweet, who turns her.

     Skinner Sweet is a new kind of vampire -- an American vampire -- with more power than other vampires, most of whom had come to this country from Europe.  Sweet can survive in the sun and in water; his power only fades on nights when the moon does not shine.  He was once a particularly vicious outlaw who had been captured by Pinkerton agent James Book.  While escorting Sweet to New Mexico and an eventual hanging, Sweet's gang derails their train and a bloodbath ensues.  Sweet is killed and buried, but something has happened to turn him into a new kind of monster, albeit still particularly vicious.  To ensure that Sweet stays buried, a coven of European vampires build a dam and flood the area where Sweet's grave is.

     That's the background.  There are no sparkly vampires here.  This graphic novel goes back to the roots of the legends and presents vampires as they should be:  bloodthirsty, amoral killing machines.  Red is the color of the day and it flows freely.

     Scott Snyder first envisioned this story seven or eight years ago, but had not been able to get a handle on it until he had an opportunity to transform it to a comic book series.  When Snyder contacted Stephen King for a possible blurb for the proposed series, King asked if he could write a story for the series instead.  King took Snyder's story and detailed outline and produced Skinner Sweet's bloody origin story.  The two stories -- one in 1920s Los Angeles and the other beginning in 1880s Colorado -- mesh well. 

     Further volumes will take Skinner Sweet and Pearl Jones to Las Vegas in the 1930s and to World War II in the 1940's.  I'm looking forward to them.

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