Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Scott Snyder Interview - Writer / Creator of American Vampire from Vertigo Part 2 of 3

As promised we have our second part of the interview with Scott. Scott’s new series sounds fascinating and on a personal note often I’m weary on yet another vampire tale or another post apocalyptic story line, but not only do we have some great twists on the concept the editors at Vertigo loved it enough to put it out. Vertigo’s track record is very impressive with great series like Sandman, Preacher, Lucifer, Fables, Scalped, Northlanders, 100 Bullets and more. To me when certain publishers on Vertigo is backing a book that lets you know from the start this is a great concept.

Jim: Back to American Vampire. What is the concept? Is this an unlimited series? Did you and Steve co-write the first five issues? How did you pick an artist?

Scott: The concept of the series, and what makes it exciting to us, is that it's really centered on this notion of vampire evolution – the idea that vampires are physiological creatures that over time have evolved into different species, as the vampiric bloodline has hit different populations at different times throughout modern history.
Basically, every once in a while, when the blood hits someone new, from somewhere new, it will create a mutation that branches off into a different species of vampire with different attributes. There are vampires with different characteristics, different weaknesses, different looks and that kind of thing. The vampires we all know - the nocturnal, anemic, elegant sun-fearing breed are just one species. For a few hundred years, though, there have been no new species, for reasons that will be revealed over the course of the series.
There is a secret mythology and background to how we came to understand the vampire we all know. How that dominant species came to be is part of the secret of the series. More specifically, the series centers on this brand new species of vampire that's accidentally created in the American West, almost a kind of Vampire 2.0. He's stronger and has these unique characteristics that make him thrive in the sunlight and have different claws, different fangs and different abilities and weaknesses, which are mysterious during the first issues as well. This first American Vampire – a wild, sociopathic outlaw in life named Skinner Sweet – is the focus of Steve's story. My part is set in the 1920s, telling the tale of a struggling actress in the silent film industry named Peael Jones, who has a run-in with some members of the undead.

The series is ongoing, no limit. Basically, each cycle will take on a different decade, follow the new American bloodline through different eras, picking up with star characters, introducing new ones...

Jim: How did you pick an artist?

Scott: Mark Doyle, our editor brought a couple names in for possible artists once the first issues were being scripted. We started scripting last summer actually; one big rule I make for myself is to stay at least 5 or 6 months ahead of schedule with the script, so I can look it over and re-draft a number of times before things lock.
Maybe if I was more experienced, I'd feel differently (though I doubt it); I do a good five, six drafts of most of the issues, working them over until I feel that I'm just not capable anymore of making them any sharper.
Anyway, Rafa was one of the first people Mark mentioned. I'd seen his work on Blue Beetle and was excited about him, so we had him do some character sketches and he nailed them on the first try. He just got them, and he had a real sense of what we were going for tonally with the series, what it was about, the potential to experiment... I can't wait for people to see his work on this - he's been sweating blood for the thing. He actually came up with the idea of doing two different styles for the two stories in each of the first 5 issues.
Mine, which takes place in the 20's, has this hard, precise, ink art deco feel, and Steve's, which takes place mostly in the 1880's, Rafa did in washes and grays, giving it this kind of Old West, antiquated feel. I couldn't be more grateful that Rafa agreed to work on the series. He's a major creative force behind the book - not just layouts and compositions, but character design, style, tone... We chat almost every day on AIM - he's honestly become a good friend, like Mark and Steve. We're a real team on this thing, which makes it a pleasure to work on.

Jim: American Vampire sounds very cool and now I can't wait to see issue #1. Any first night jitters as we approach issue #1 being released? How daunting was it having your name associated with Steve?

Scott: Are you kidding? How about all day jitters!
First of all, it's my first creator owned book - and it's with VERITGO! No one's more aware of that pressure than me. I'm a die-hard Vertigo fan. It's like being drafted from little league to the Majors. Which is honestly why I'm making a big effort to work way ahead of schedule and get as much editorial help as possible. If this isn't a great read, I promise it won't be for lack of trying. But the thing is - and forgive me if I sound cocky or something - I really do think the series is something very special - something new and different, with popcorn aspects and elements that have to do with history and national identity.
We make a big effort with each cycle to explore what's both heroic and monstrous about the American character during that given period and work things in thematically. In the end, I've read cycle 1 over at least thirty times, and I have to say I couldn't be prouder of it (I'm working on issue 8 right now). So as nervous as I am, I'm also extremely eager for people to actually see the thing. I can imagine there will be a lot of people who'll be skeptical - because of the vampire glut, my short track record - people who'll think I got to cut the line because of some connection or because of Steve's involvement, but the hard truth of the matter is that the series is something I've dreamed of doing for a few years now, a passion project, and it went through to green-light at Vertigo before Steve was involved.
He came on after the fact. But on that tack, as for being aware of the pressure that comes with having Steve associated with the series, believe me, I'm aware of that too. Does the extra spotlight make me nervous? Sure, but only for myself. I know Steve did an awesome job. The series is exponentially better for his involvement, and working with him was an inspiration - corny as it sounds. He's one of my literary idols, and even at my most nervous about the spotlight he brings, I wouldn't trade a fraction of his involvement for any helping of personal relief, if that makes sense.

Part 3 will be posted Thursday Afternoon!

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