Though Scott Snyder has firmly ingrained himself in DC Comics‘ New 52 universe with his and Greg Capullo’s “Batman” and “Superman Unchained” with Jim Lee, this winter sees the return of the comic that started it all for for the writer. In March, Vertigo hit “American Vampire,” drawn by co-creator Rafael Albuquerque, returns.
After a year-long hiatus, taken in order to get ahead on the series and to work on other book commitments, Snyder and Albuquerque are returning with what they are terming the book’s Second Cycle. Opening in the 1960s, the series will continue to follow the day-dwelling American vampires Pearl and Skinner Sweet as they move through the tumultuous Twentieth Century, as well as the Gray Trader, a mysterious proto-monster who has been lurking in the background from day one.
Snyder’s other Vertigo work, “The Wake,” with artist Sean Murphy, is also returning this year with the second half of the ten-issue miniseries resurfacing in February. While the first five issues saw marine biologist Lee Archer trapped underwater with humanoid sea creatures bent on destruction, part two picks up centuries after the sea creatures have successfully flooded the world, cutting humankind off from the ocean and each other.
Speaking with CBR, Snyder detailed his return to both Vertigo books, the tonal shift in the second half of “The Wake,” tackling the swinging ’60s in “American Vampire” and his secret artistic ambitions!
CBR News: So, March sees the return of “American Vampire” for its second cycle.
Scott Snyder: Yeah! It’s great — I’m super excited!
When we spoke about “American Vampire” last year, you said that you were surprised how bummed you were to leave the book. How does it feel now that the book’s return is on the horizon, just a month or two away?
It’s the best feeling in the world. People a lot of the time associate me with Batman or Superman, but I’ve written more issues of “American Vampire” than anything else. It’s a series that reflects all of my interests in Americana and American history and American music, American film. For me, it’s something that’s representative of my deepest passions. It’s one that means as much to me, personally, as anything I’ve done. I put everything I have into it, and Rafael [Albuquerque] puts everything he has into it, and Dave McCaig the colorist and Mark Doyle the editor — this is a book we want to feature in the strongest way possible, start to finish, as it goes on for another thirty or so issues. It means a tremendous amount to me, so I hope people pick it up. I know we’ve been away for a while, but my suspicion is that we’ll come back in readership bigger than we left because people have discovered it in the interim — at least I hope they have. I think our secret wish is that we can come back bigger than before and really do the best work we’ve done on the series. I can promise you, this first arc is easily one of the best ones we’ve done.
Let’s talk about that first arc. We’re starting off in the ’60s as Skinner and Pearl are on two very different tracks. Where are Skinner and Pearl at now? Are they still reeling from what happened during “The Blacklist?”
Yeah, they are in a lot of ways. I think they think they’ve moved on. Both of them have had a return home, in a lot of ways. That’s one of the themes of this arc: Pearl has gone back to the farm in Kansas, but with a purpose I think people will find very surprising. She’s found a new reason to live. Skinner, on the other hand, has sort of gone back to his roots in that he’s become a very feared hit man and bandit on the borderlands of Mexico and the cartels are all frightened of him. He’s almost recreated the Wild West for himself, this kind of borderland where the frontier is still alive and well. Both of them have to discover in this arc, pretty quickly, that going home isn’t as easy as they hope it will be. It’s not really a viable solution, with this bigger, looming conflict coming that we hinted at in issue #34, with the Gray Trader and Dracula and all the forces of the darker monsters coming together at once.
While we’ve got Dracula and others coming up, it really seems like the big villain of the series is the Gray Trader, who we’ve seen very briefly. What was the inspiration for creating him and having him as sort of the puppet master behind the scenes of the series?
He was someone we thought up when we began the series. We wanted to keep far, far away from the mythology as we expanded it in the first half — but we knew we would come back to [him] and pick up once the series began to pull all those threads closer together for the finale. Honestly, the Gray Trader is someone who holds the key to the very origin of the bloodline of all the different monsters. I’ve been doing a ton of research on the Devil! [Laughs]
One of my favorite things is how the Devil is such a big part of American folklore in a way that’s very specific to this country, both in the way he’s portrayed in music and in folktales. It’s a very different sort of wandering trickster than you see in other cultures. We’re going to try to really dig into why that is and who he is. He’s a monster I’ve been really, really excited to bring in, so he really is the keystone of almost our entire mythology in a lot of ways. He’s not just the Big Bad, he’s the Biggest Bad!
Looking at the characters as a whole, besides Pearl, Skinner and the Gray Trader, we’ve also got Travis Kidd and the Vassals remaining. What can you tell us about this first arc, and what sort of characters are we going to see specifically coming out of the ’60s?
You’re going to see a few new characters, actually. You’re going to see some of the characters who had smaller roles, like Bixby, one of the head agents of the Los Angeles headquarters of the VMS in “The Blacklist,” take on much bigger roles. Then, other characters, like Calvin, take on roles that will be surprising to people, too. That said, I think part of the fun of this will be introducing a lot of new Bads and bringing a lot of our old Good characters back together to fight them! [Laughs]
This arc is going to be focused on Calvin, Pearl, Skinner and a couple of other surprise characters that you know, and the next one really focuses on Gus and Felicia and the VMS. One of the things we wanted to do was make sure the state of the country was reflected in what was happening with the characters in logical ways. The VMS has actually been really badly disenfranchised because the government is so strained with the war overseas and because of a lot of fracturing faith in the government. A lot of what’s going on with the characters and the VMS and the bad guys is supposed to have a corollary with America in the 1960s, so you’ll see a lot of back and forth between historical events and the characters you know and love. And some of the new ones, too, will have their genesis in the turmoil of that time.
In the anthology, we saw Rafael Albuquerque dip into writing with “Bleeding Kansas” — do you two have any plans for one-shots or backup stories written by Rafael?
I’d love that! Right now, he’s firmly committed to doing the artwork because we’re working on the first and second arcs in a row. He’s chugging along and he’s switching up his style. I think he’s pretty focused on art, but Rafael is an incredible writer and he’s always welcome to do an issue, anytime he wants. He knows that. I’d be happy to give him a fill-in or have him write for someone else. He’s like a triple threat, and being only a single threat is kind of depressing next to him! [Laughs]
Obviously, now you’ll have to draw a backup issue that he’ll write —
I’m practicing! I used to do a lot of art and Jeff Lemire gave me his old art kit to practice, so I always threaten Rafael that I’m getting good enough that maybe I’ll be able to do a variant. He’s very encouraging! [Laughs]
Let’s switch from vampires to mer-creatures with “The Wake.” Much like “American Vampire,” we’re heading into the second round of the story, and now we’re in a post-apocalyptic future. While the first five issues were very much about exploring horror and claustrophobic deep-sea fears, how would you describe tonally the next part of “The Wake?”
Well, that’s the challenge and the thing that make Sean [Murphy] and I excited and scared — it’s a completely different tone. I love these two genres dearly; I love horror, as everybody knows, and I also love science fiction and post-apocalyptic stories, as anyone who knows me personally knows.
This [second] half follows a young woman in Leeward who is a child of this world, 200 years after the world floods, on a quest to see if there’s any hope of taking back the seas from these creatures. The world has been transformed to the type of place it used to be in seafaring days, before we had mapped it out. That was part of the fun, too, that in the first half we explain ancient sea legends with a modern discovery, and in the second half make the modern world almost look like the world of ancient legend. We’re it. We don’t know if there’s any Europe, there’s no communication, we can’t get across the ocean, we don’t know if the polar ice caps have melted, if there’s anything left — we don’t know if there’s anything out there anymore. And the country itself is receding because the creatures push the tides in every year, farther and farther against this coastal wall that has been created. In a big way, the world is almost being erased wave by wave.
Leeward is this intrepid young hero, and her sonic dolphin — he’s a dolphin with sonic propelling equipment — which makes sense, I promise! There’s a reason why it exists! [Laughs] She sets off on a mission to see if there’s a way to stop the human race from being completely washed away.
In the first half, we had Lee Archer, the marine biologist who was at the center of the world falling apart. How is Leeward different in her quest to put the world back together?
She’s really different. Lee is a character who is easy to relate to in a lot of ways. She’s someone who struggles with this notion of feeling responsible to her son, Parker, and yet, at the same time, to her job. She wants to be the best at what she does on one hand, and on the other hand, she’s struggling to find a balance. She feels how I feel all the time with my kids and my family — am I doing too much work? Am I being a good dad? Am I giving one up for the other, do you follow your obsessions, are you curbing them enough? Lee is someone, at the end of the day, who badly wants to understand the language of the ocean, and she wants to understand the mystery of the thing she heard a long time ago.
Leeward, on the other hand, is angry. She’s a character who feels that this can’t be the way the world is, it just has to be wrong. She feels it in her bones that something went off track, and not just the flooding of the world, but the entire direction things have gone in for humanity and the way the country is now in terms of the different factions and the way the country is divided. This can’t be the evolutionary outcome, it can’t be the right progression of things. She’s a character who has nothing to lose, even though people are telling her she has a lot to lose. She just has a very deep belief that there must be a way of turning things back, or she doesn’t want to be a part of it anymore. So she’s more of a warrior. She’s less the scientist and more going on her gut impulse, and she’s a lot of fun to write for that reason. She’s super badass. [Laughs]
At this point, you’ve written vampires, a take on mermaids and sea creatures and over at Image you’re going to be writing a series about witches. Are there any fairytale creature left you’d like to twist around and give us nightmares about?
I mean, 2015, I’m doing unicorns. Look out for that! [Laughter]
I have my hands full right now with nightmarish interpretations of creatures, so I’m really happy. I have a whole stable, now, of horrifying things to play with. I’m very content with that!
“The Wake” issue #6 comes out February 26; “American Vampire: Second Cycle” #1 hits shelves March 19.