At the time, the writer's head would fill with images of a futuristic, post-apocalyptic tale like "Terminator," "Mad Max" or even the iconic 1980s' run of "Hex." But when he and artist Rafael Albuquerque started planning an arc of their bestselling Vertigo series set in the 1960s, they found their story crash landing smack dab in the middle of the space race.
With the space-themed arc of "American Vampire: Second Cycle" launching today, CBR News connected with Snyder and the superstar writer shared his thoughts on his life-long fascination of space exploration, the secret origins of the Gray Trader and why Skinner has the right stuff to become a NASA astronaut.
CBR News: You're exploring the space race in this arc, which obviously pre-dates your childhood. What fueled your passion for space and space exploration as a kid?
Scott Snyder: It was always a big part of my life growing up. I was fascinated by space. I grew up in the era of the Challenger crash, which is a horror that we'll never forget, but there was also a tremendous sense of wonder around the space shuttle missions. There was a thirst to learn more about people going up into space, and it was so accessible because it was televised. It was a reachable goal, and with the talk over the years of going back to the Moon or even Mars, it remains exciting.
I was also always a big sci-fi/horror buff. When I was a kid and a teenager, I loved all of those movies -- not just "Alien" and "Aliens," but even the hokiest movies about things coming to Earth from space. I've always loved the unknown. The last couple of places on Earth, like our oceans, that have yet to be explored greatly inspired "The Wake." Likewise, the idea of going into space has inspired this arc. I've always loved this idea, that we're meant to be adventurers. We're meant to be explorers. That's a big theme in a lot of things that I do. I was really, really excited to get to this era of "American Vampire."
I'm glad you mentioned your love for the hokiest of space movies, because "Vampires in Space" sounds like an Ed Wood film.
It does sound like "Plan 9 from Outer Space." [Laughs] I actually made fun of the idea of "vampires in space" earlier in the series. People would ask if we were going to go far into the future in "American Vampire" because we were exploring the past, and people wanted to know if we would explore the present and the future. And I was always like, "We're never going to do vampires in space." But I was talking about the future.
When we ended up getting to the 1960s in the storyline, I had this whole arc in mind where Skinner, Pearl and Calvin were going to break into a military base, and really dig into a lot of the folklore about Area 51. Rafael said the Russians would be spying on them and that should be part of the story. The idea of a spy satellite came up, and when I started researching spy satellites, I realized that they were very manual in terms of operation. It's not like it is now. It became apparent that you would have to go into space to dismantle a spy satellite so they couldn't see what we were doing, and that idea really took root. I called Rafael and said, "We're going to space." He said, "Thank God." He really wanted to draw space suits and space helmets. We both thrilled at how it has turned out.
I assume you don't believe in vampires, but what about extraterrestrials? Are we alone?
Yeah, man. I have to. I am a big believer in the notion that there are things out there that we'll never be able to figure out. Hopefully, we'll be visited by somebody, or we'll find somebody. I think that there is a certain element of faith in that too, but it doesn't mean that you don't stop pursuing them. That's the wonder of exploration. I think we'll probably find microscopic life somewhere. But whether or not there are actual civilizations out there, I think you either believe, or you don't.
Are we going to see Skinner preparing for space travel, like Ed Harris and Scott Glenn in "The Right Stuff"?
[Laughs] Without giving too much away, Skinner ending up in space has more to do with violent accidents and unexpected turns than an actual plan, so he doesn't have an awful lot of time to train. But I can say that his time in space is very colorful.
I'm guessing that color is red. We learn a lot more about the Gray Trader in this issue, in a back story which portrays him as the ultimate villain. The story is about about Hurrin the Hero and Azag the beast. I actually Googled the story and names, and couldn't find anything. Is that all Scott Snyder?
[Laughs] His story is pretty made up, but it's based on a number of stories of betrayal -- specifically, Judas the traitor. For the beast itself, Rafael and I had a lot of fun doing research on the devil and digging into different cultures' interpretations of the original monster. Even though it's made up, it has real folklore in its DNA. That's the process we've used to create all of the monsters in "American Vampire." We blend historical elements, folkloric elements and as much pseudo-science as we can throw at it.
The idea is that the Gray Trader is actually the "Great Traitor," and he is protecting the beast from being revealed or discovered until he is ready. Will we see the Gray Trader during this arc, or will be waiting until the next arc for Skinner and Pearl to face him again?
He's a major force in this arc, and the history of the beast will also become much clearer. We're actually going to go back to medieval times and to even pre-modern times. In this arc, we're really stretching the series to its limits.
"American Vampire: Second Cycle" #6 by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque is available now.