The first issue of American Vampire (Vertigo/DC) goes on sale today, and it’s something rather rare: a non-super-hero comic book that does something new with the vampire genre. Created by writer Scott Snyder and drawn by Rafael Albuquerque, the debut introduces us to Skinner Sweet, a low-down, rattlesnake-mean vampire. Forget the neurasthenic, elegantly neurotic, aristo vamps of so much popular literature. Skinner is more like crossing Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul with a young, slim, undead Ronnie Van Zant from Lynyrd Skynyrd: a tough little cuss who wants to bite for the blood, for the class-revenge, and for the pleasure of it.
The book spans decades. Snyder is launching American Vampire with his own story, about a Roaring Twenties version of Skinner, on the shady outskirts of the movie industry. Very smart, knowledgeable stuff. And Snyder gets an assist, and a little extra publicity, by having enlisted Stephen King to write a Skinner origin-story: A lean, mean cowboy Skinner in the Old West. As I’ve written before, one of the best ways King uses his popularity is to draw attention to the work of other writers and artists he admires, so his generosity here is matched by his cool storytelling.
It’s good to know that American Vampire will take its unique character and skip him across many different decades; the story possibilities are abundant. Add Rafael Albuquerque’s excellent art, which mixes shadowy action with bright sunlight and sketchy characters, and you’ve got one promising new series.