American Vampire is a comics series that has a longer history than most indie comics — especially since it came out at a time when the scene was still transitioning. It was the first creator-owned work for writer Scott Snyder and artist Rafael Albuquerque, and since then, they’ve both gone on to have wildly successful careers across the entirety of comics. But this week, the duo return to their blood-sucking baby.
The much-beloved series continues this week with American Vampire 1976, a new nine-part series shifting the narrative a few decades (most of the series was set in the 1920s through the 1940s.) According to press for the new series, 1976 finds hero Skinner Sweet trying to “go out with a bang” amid the backdrop of the nation’s Bicentennial. With the promise of portraying a “broken” America, the series also looks to tie into the madness and uncertainty of 2020. The book (you can check out a preview here) is available now digitally or at your favorite LCS. Check out our review for more on the first issue.
I spoke to Snyder about how he aims to reveal more about American history, his work continuing the dynamic journey of Sweet, and how he plans to tell subsequent stories in the American Vampire universe.
AIPT: American Vampire 1976, a mini-series of nine issues that will close most of the characters’ arcs and bring the plot to the present day, can new readers jump on board or should they be directed to a specific arc or trade paperback before starting the series?
Scott Snyder: Yeah, I try and make every arc new reader-friendly. So there’s a huge kind of recap within the dialogue of the first issue. And it’s done in kind of a funny way. I think fans coming in blind will be able to, we’ll be able to kind of jump right in. But for fans that have been reading it a long time, it really is the culmination of a lot of different storylines that we’ve been playing with, from the very first arc. So you’ll see characters come back that you wouldn’t have expected from, you know, 10 years ago, you’ll see characters that are fan favorites like Travis kid who’s the rockabilly vampire hunter from the 50s, the wooden teeth, that bites the vampires to the wood teeth, so that he bites back Dracula, all kinds of characters that have played roles and different arcs kind of show up for this big crescendo of a story.
AIPT: Did you choose 1976 specifically for a reason?
SS: Yeah, it’s the Bicentennial. And I also just, I feel like there was this kind of big celebration. At a moment, when there was so much national anxiety around our character, our history, our future, that there were such strong parallels, always, to me to kind of… how things felt in the present. I think there’s always been this discussion, you know, where people bring up all the time where I feel like there’s a fear of the future, fear of decline, fear of the end of, the, quote, “American Empire”, or any of that kind of sense of America being special in some way and succumbing to kind of the natural entropic forces of like global change.
The series is always kind of moved slowly towards the present showing monstrous things that have happened behind the scenes, both in like a literal way and in a way that speaks more to I think human failings. So bringing it to the 1970s was always the goal, and it was always in the plan. And I always wanted to end in 76 because I just felt it’s such an interesting moment of celebration and paranoia and anxiety, you know?
Now that the strangest thing is to go through the last four years and realize it couldn’t be more parallel in some ways. What you have is, the president having been removed for being a criminal, the American public reeling from the ugliness of politics, this feeling of being laughed at by Russia and China and Iran. All this sense of anger. Also, there’s a deep recession, terrorism, it was the first time we kind of began to experience international terrorism. There’s also all this social upheaval, all the hope of the 60s, all the kind of optimism of the 60s for all of its craziness had kind of crashed, and that wave had kind of retracted. And now instead, there was this kind of burnt out angry, sort of disillusionment, and there were serial killers, and there’s just all of this feeling of losing our way. And so the closer we’ve gotten in the last four or five years to do this arc, the more poignant it felt like a kind of stopping point.
AIPT: How would you compare American Vampire to your other works?
SS: I’ll be blunt like it’s my favorite series I’ve ever done. It’s my home base and it’s been effortless to go back to it in a way that’s really special. There are other series like Wytches that are probably more boldly personal about specific aspects of my life or series that speaks more to my interests in the things that are closer to home when it comes to family matters, all kinds of stuff like that. But American Vampire is a series that encompasses everything that I love to write about in the purest way. It’s not a series I ever want to end, it’s something I can imagine myself coming back to 20 years from now repeatedly like Mike Mignola goes back to Hellboy in a way and doing more stories with Rafa [Rafael Albuquerque].
AIPT: That makes me wonder, in 10 or 20 years would you ever cover historical elements in your own life in American Vampire?
SS: The series has always been about looking at national character through the lens of history and horror. So it needs a bit of breathing room, I think. Also, like one of the reasons I always wanted to end in 76 is I grew up in the 80s. And part of the magic of the series for me, just as a creator and Raphael is the same age as me, is imagining a time before you were born, where there were possibilities for horror and wonder that you didn’t experience growing up. So once you get into the timeline of things you experienced, it feels awkward to me in a way, and also, like there’s so much about the 80s in the 90s it’s just, I don’t know, it’s too close to close to home.
And then there’s just something that I recoil from when I imagine Skinner Sweet and Pearl like walking the same streets that I grew up at the same time I was alive as opposed to having them exist in the past and then bringing them straight to the present.
AIPT: How was it getting back to it with artist Raphael Albuquerque?
SS: It’s so funny, man, we’ve been friends now through multiple children, and marriages, and all kinds of stuff. So it was like putting on old clothes. I’ve never had such an easy time going back to a series as I do with this one, where I’m always really nervous. And I reread the whole thing. Raphael is such a close friend. To come back to this and bring it to the present, together with the original team Dave McCaig colors, who are amazing, and Steve Wands on letters and Mark Doyle, it being the last project he kind of was working on, on his exit from DC. It means a lot to have the original, the original cast all together again on both in the book and working on the book, and the thing I’d say is it Raphael really is doing his best work. And he knows it and he says it. If you interview him he says he wants this to be my best stuff. Because it’s the end of an era with it.
AIPT: It’s crazy to think when you first did American Vampire, where horror comics were at the time and where they are now, it seems like horror can be found at every publisher.
SS: Back when I did it, they were very down on horror at Vertigo. And then we did it at Image and similarly, they were a little bit like, “eh straight horror?” I was like, “Oh, give us a chance.” And now what’s coming out from James Tynan, Something’s Killing the Children, and Donnie [Cates], and Blue and Green from Ram V. And there are so many books coming out in the horror genre from the White Noise Guys, and all that stuff that are just really exciting. I’m thrilled with this moment, as terrifying as it is, because you see there’s so much volatility in corporate comics and in indie comics. But what doing the Kickstarter has proven to me, and what doing American Vampire has proven to me, because every time I mentioned it on social media, I get such a bigger response than I expect.
Doing the Kickstarter for Nocterra, seeing how supportive fans with Death Metal, all of it, there is a real demand for connection with creators. With work that you’re passionate about. That’s even more, I think, energized than it was before. Maybe, because of circumstance and hardship. But there’s definitely like, there’s an opportunity for fans and creators to really connect on projects they love, not just indie, but DC, Marvel as well. And I just think we’re also desperate for things that inspire us at a moment when every time you look at the news, it’s just so depressing, so awful, and everything sucks.
I mean, I was in the town where I live in, there was a t-shirt shop and they were literally selling a t-shirt that just said 2020 sucks. And it was like it had no like special fonts. No picture. It was just like a read and I was like that’s a good t-shirt.
AIPT: I wanted to list off a few historical events in 1976 as a sort of game. Let us know if each historical moment will be covered in American Vampire 1976. To start, the election of Jimmy Carter as President of the United States over incumbent Gerald Ford?
SS: Yes, yes. That the development of the nuclear football plays a role in it. You know, the suitcase that they carry around?
AIPT: Apple Computer and Microsoft are incorporated?
SS: Yes, yes, you see a giant floppy disk at one point.
AIPT: The National Basketball Association and the American Basketball Association agree on the ABA-NBA merger.
SS: That does not. I am embarrassingly unathletic.
AIPT: You mentioned in a previous interview you’d like this series to set things up so you can tell the story differently. What did you mean?
SS: I’d love it to be more modular. I think one of the things about American vampire that I really enjoy is that it’s one of the few series that I do that’s genuinely cumulative, where when I was on Batman, I was always afraid or convinced rather than I was going to get fired, like after the arc that I was doing, so everything was pretty, like, set. American vampire has always just been one long pitch series to get to this point in 1976. And so I’ve never done one that’s been so cumulative, and so robust, and the way that it’s one big soap opera. And so I’m excited to try things that once were at the end of this giant epic, to be able to do smaller stories.
You can pick up American Vampire 1976 #1 in stores now, or buy it digitally.