Scott Snyder professes to have happy thoughts — and of course, he does, as any man with a beautiful bride and two wonderful young boys would — but he’s still creepy. How else do you explain his admission that he would gladly take the fangs of Skinner Sweet to his neck if it meant he could live on forever as one of his own creations, an American vampire.
The Eisner Award-winning writer may actually warrant more lifetime than the rest of us if he continues to push out critically acclaimed scripts like the ones he’s developed for DC Comics over the past few years, most recently on “Batman,” “Swamp Thing” and Vertigo’s “American Vampire.”
CBR News spoke extensively with Snyder after he returned home from C2E2 to discuss his work. In today’s installment of our two-part interview the writer shared his thoughts on “American Vampire,” the series he co-created with artist Rafael Albuquerque.
Snyder teased what’s ahead in the coming months, what would happen to one of the series’ main characters if he was bitten and the possibility of the master of horror, Stephen King, returning to the title to write another story.
CBR News: This may make me sound slightly morbid, but I often find myself rooting for Skinner Sweet. Is he really a bad guy?
Scott Snyder: He’s a very bad guy but he’s also one of the heroes of the series. At the end of the day, there is something admirable about him. He also has this sense of limitless rebellion that I think all of us want to be able to tap into ourselves. We all want that feeling that you’re never going to give up — even if you’re fighting incredible odds. To me, he’s someone that embodies the worst of us but he’s also a little bit of the best of us, too, especially when it comes to symbolizing the wildness of the old frontier. He just has this sense of insane individualism.
I enjoy writing him more than just about any character. I love writing him and Pearl. I like writing Batman for a lot of those same reasons. They all have this sort of pathological determination to them.
Has Skinner Sweet changed very much from the time when you originally conceived him?
Yes, tremendously actually. In the beginning, he was sort of all mayhem and mischief and I think that coincided with the use of him both as a human and as a vampire as well. But this arc, “The Blacklist,” which I was literally writing the third issue of when you called, really shows a huge change in his character. When we last saw him at the end of the “Death Race” arc, it was revealed that he is now working for the Vassals, the organization that hunts vampires and it now appears that they have sort of a leash on him. In that way, this story is largely about Skinner down. Skinner is trying to convince himself that he still possesses the same sort of wild spirit but something in him has been broken and he needs to find a way to get that back.
You can never keep him down for too long, but he’s in a place where he is feeling his age, in a way, I guess. If that makes sense for someone that never ages.
You mentioned, “The Blacklist,” which really has me intrigued. Are we finally going to see a full-fledged Skinner and Pearl team-up?
Yes, that’s what it’s all about, man. It’s really about bringing everything back from that original arc in terms of the relationship between Henry, Pearl and Skinner to the place where it all started. It’s about the fact that Pearl has been able to live the life the way that she would have lived had she not been a vampire. She’s been able to avoid a lot of the drama we’ve seen in the other arcs except for during World War II when she had to go and help Henry and wage war against some of the vampires in the Pacific Rim. She’s had a really good life with Henry but he’s older now and a lot of the people that see them think that he’s her father and that she’s caring for him. She has hit a really big crossroads and she has a really big decision to make about what she wants and Henry does too. And so does Skinner. This is really the breaking point for the life that Pearl has been leading all these years. Henry is older and vulnerable and they need to either decide if they are going to change him into an American vampire or if she is going to say goodbye to him. And Skinner is right there beside them whispering in her ear, as well.
I say this in total sincerity, but “The Blacklist” truly is my favorite arc so far because it is so at the heart of the whole series with these characters. This is really a giant turning point and it’s extremely emotional. It’s got tons of fun too. “The Blacklist” arc, to sum it up, is really Pearl and Skinner hunting vampires in 1950s Hollywood together. There are going to be a lot of reveals about them as characters. Where has Skinner been? What happened to him? And with Pearl, what has her life been like? What is she thinking about right now? Where is she right now emotionally? And is she going to go over to the dark side or is she going to retain the qualities that we saw in that very first arc? Did that girl that came to Hollywood stay who she is despite the fact that she is a vampire? All of that stuff is going to come to a head in this big massive arc.
The other day, Rafael [Albuquerque] said to me, “If we die having done this arc, I can be happy with that.” I was like, “I totally agree but that’s also a little creepy.”
I was about to get on a plane for C2E2 so he freaked me out a little bit. But I agree with that sentiment entirely. This is sort of an opus of an arc for us. I am thrilled with it.
Before “The Blacklist,” you have a two-issue story called “The Nocturnes,” featuring Calvin Poole. Fans have been waiting to see him since he was reborn as a vampire in “Ghost War.”
Yes, Calvin plays a really important role in “The Blacklist” arc too. Those two issues take place in the same chronology as “The Blacklist” and they sort of dovetail right into that story. The “Death Race” arc and the Calvin arc and “The Blacklist” arc are all really continuous in one big story that rolls into each other. We’re really excited about it, man. And I can’t wait to see what people think. This is the one we have been building towards for a while.
You mentioned Pearl has an important decision to make in “The Blacklist.” If Pearl turned Henry into a vampire, would he retain his 80-year old body or would he revert back closer to his prime as a 30 or 40-year old version of himself?
Luckily for him, with the American species, because they are tougher and in a lot of ways they have stronger regenerative abilities and are solar powered, he would heal, and he would turn back to a man closer to his prime. And that’s very enticing. I would turn into an American vampire if I could. I’ve been feeling really old lately with all of these birthday parties my son that is five goes to. It’s like one bouncy castle after another. It makes you feel very old.
Why the decision to use gold as the only way to kill an American vampire?
Originally, there was a very straight-faced reason for gold in that we wanted the material you needed to kill to be very rare. It sucks for you, if your weakness is wood. Someone can just pick up a branch and kill you. Or pick up a pencil and stab you with it, whereas gold is something that is logistically expensive and difficult to craft a whole arsenal out of. And in that regard, it makes it tougher to kill an American vampire. But we were also thinking of doing something sort of suggestive of the idea of gold itself and being part of the new world in a lot of ways — the obsession of gold and treasure during the mining days of old West, which is the time that the series began. It’s part of that idea, as well. Mining for gold is such an American thing and stumbling on a vein of gold and there’s a blood vein, that was all circling in my head a bit.
Your “Batman” is pretty scary and “Swamp Thing” is largely fantasy, but it is a horror book, too. And, of course, “American Vampire” is what it is. Do you ever have happy thoughts? And more importantly, are we ever going to get a funny book from you like maybe a “Captain Carrot” miniseries?
I am waiting for it. Maybe I’ll do a big arc in “Archie Double Digest” or something like that. Sometimes I do wonder about it because I play with my son who is five and my son who is 10 months-old at the playground and they will go to get a drink of water and then something will come back to me from “Swamp Thing” as I am thinking back to my story for a second and I will be like, “Oh, yeah. Instead of that dead baby head on top of that giraffe neck maybe we will use an old lady’s arm.” [Laughs]
There is a strange dichotomy that I recognize myself. And sometimes it freaks me out that in my mind I can play with such dark material or grotesque material even though I am out with my kids or my wife.
At the end of the day, the way I reconcile it is that the stories that I have always liked to tell are stories where characters wind up facing what they are most frightened of in themselves. The villains and monsters and stuff are fun to create visually but what they mostly represent is more of a psychological fear — finding that something you are afraid is true is actually true.
For Batman, it’s that he didn’t know Gotham as well as he thinks he does. And for Swamp Thing, it’s the fact there is no way of escaping his destiny. It’s been there for his whole life since his childhood. And for Pearl, it’s that she is going to turn into this monster like Skinner and that’s why he picked her. He’s sees the potential for her to be his greatest partner of all time. And the two of them can be outlaws. In that way, the grotesquery or the horror is digestible for me because it is all rooted in the emotional and psychological scares of the story.
Before we leave “American Vampire,” you said “The Blacklist” may be your opus. You’re not saying this is the end of “American Vampire” are you?
No way. This is just the beginning. The way “The Blacklist” ends changes the whole status quo for all the characters. It really is a game-changer in a huge way. What’s coming up after “The Blacklist” is some of the meatiest material yet, but this arc is the crossroads where we set up what’s going to happen, in a big way, leading up to the present and the second half of the 20th century.
Is Stephen King going to come back and write for “American Vampire” again?
We’d love it. We don’t have any plans right now but we send him all of our stuff and we are in contact with him. He is certainly like an honorary member of our “American Vampire” family until the end of time and he always has the door open to him. He can come back and write anything he wants for us. We’d love to have him back. He’s there. He’s in the background but we don’t have any plans for him right now to come back, but like I said, the door is always open for him.
What would Stephen King do with “Swamp Thing?”
Or “Batman.” He has an open door on anything he wants. He was a pleasure to work with so I would love to do it again. It was inspiring.
“American Vampire” #26 by Scott Snyder and guest artist Roger Cruz is on sale tomorrow.