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MONSTROUS COMICS! American Vampire

Scott Snyder’s Wytches blew up the independent comics scene when the first issue sold over 90,000 copies – a huge achievement for any comic, but completely stunning for creator-owned debut. In part due to Snyder’s proven track record of dynamic and compelling narratives that are novelistic in their approach to characters and theme, readers know what to expect when Scott Snyder does horror… because before Wytches made a splash that the comic book industry will not soon forget, Snyder hit the scene with American Vampire, a series that continues at Vertigo Comics to this day. Besides being one of the most acclaimed creator-owned series of this decade and probably the strongest Vertigo book on shelves since the first issue dropped, American Vampire also features something rather incredible: horror master Stephen King’s first ever comic book work.

Scott Snyder’s works are known for having deceptively simple premises that he then deconstructs, thematically explores on a near microscopic level, and then reassembles. Wytches is a story about parental love through the guise of a monster-in-the-woods story; his run on Batman sets out to show what Batman means to Gotham and what Gotham means to Batman; and American Vampire is the story of a vampire named Skinner Sweet throughout different eras in America. Those who have read these works know that they are so much more than their basic concepts, which are constantly challenged and reinvented – which is part of the reason I believe that Snyder tends to have long runs. His writing works best in long-form. While the individual issues are as strong as anyone’s Scott Snyder’s payoff game is incredibly strong – and the format of the series we are talking about today, American Vampire, very much lends itself to long-term investment.

I read the first volume in beautiful hardcover after hearing that Stephen King had a story in it. I hadn’t heard of Scott Snyder or co-creator/artist Rafael Albuquerque, so I admit I came for the King. And King’s story is good, every bit as good as you’d think a comic called American Vampire written by a guy with King’s track record in the genre would be. It was Snyder’s writing and Alburquerque’s art that blew me away, though, and when I read on past the first volume of the series and saw that King was only a guest writer for back-up stories in the first volume, and Snyder would continue on as the sole scribe for volumes two and on… well, I couldn’t do anything but sign on. Snyder’s writing was vicious and raw, and scary as all hell. The thing is, though, the fear didn’t come from the monsters. It came from the fact that he is able to get us to care so damn much about the characters that we couldn’t take it if something nasty happened to them.

And in the world of American Vampire, nasty things happen all the time.

Blazing through American history, American Vampire is sometimes a western, sometimes a crime noir, sometimes a war comics… but always an investigative exploration into the nature of monsters, and how the darkest things lurk not in the shadows, but in the beating heart of humanity.

Also? Skinner Sweet can be a funny bastard.

It started in 2010 and still comes out (albeit sporadically) to this day. It ran for 34 issues as an ongoing series, continued in multiple sequel miniseries and one-shots, and then relaunched for another ongoing (subtitled Second Cycle) in 2014. Though an anthology just came out, American Vampire: Second Cycle is currently on hiatus for personal reasons, though Snyder and Albuquerque seem to have no intention of stopping the horrific and delightful adventures of their favorite leading man/monster, Skinner Sweet. Though they plan on ending the series after two more arcs, Snyder said in a recent interview that he couldn’t imagine they’d ever stop for good. Let me speak for the loyal American Vampire readership – or, as Stephen King might refer to them, the constant readers – and say that as long as they keep telling these stories, we’ll keep showing up.

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