American Vampire

Tony's California Adventure: Thursday - Mr. Sandman, Bring Me a Dream.

Good morning folks and welcome back. Day 2 (officially Day 1 if you're not including Preview Night) was a much smoother experience than Preview Night, both on the floor and with lines in general. I wasn't able to send off any panel reviews during the show due to spotty 4G and Wi-Fi, so I'll be discussing them here.

I totally slacked off with getting to the floor early just so I could sleep in a little, so I missed the morning signing session with Scott Snyder at the DC Booth. However, I was able to chat with Dustin Nguyen about his work on American Vampires: Lord of Nightmares. It's his first work for Vertigo and his first time both drawing and inking outside of his normal cover work. I had him sketch Dracula for me, but he joked that he'd have to keep it spoiler free, so it's pretty bare.

Immediately after finishing up with Dustin, Mortal Kombat's Ed Boon hopped onto DC's stage to give a demonstration of his latest project, Injustice: Gods Among Us. The premise is simple: what if our heroes weren't heroes at all? The game seems to play like the most recent Mortal Kombat game, but involves environmental interaction such as Superman grabbing a car and smashing someone with it or Nightwing knocking someone into exposed electrical wires. The game also lets you unleash a giant attack for major damage. Examples including Superman upper cutting you into space and flying up to club you back down to Earth, The Flash doing 15 rotations around the planet to super punch you, and Batman hitting you with the Batmobile. Yep. That game is going to be incredible.

I headed to the ONI Booth to pick up the Scott Pilgrim Vol. 1 EVIL EDITION and decided to buy the collector's edition package. Bryan Lee O'Malley was on hand signing copies at the same time so the timing was perfect. I then headed back to DC to catch Nicola Scott doing a DC University session and to get in line for her and James Robinson. I had James sign a few Shade variants to me and per Rick, asked him about his super short run on Masters of the Universe. He appreciated the cheekiness and did a separate autograph sheet for Rick. We chatted some more about Alan Scott and the future plans for Earth Two, which include focused issues on Jay Garrick and the other characters that will be showing up.

After hitting the Mattel booth and Jeff Lemire's signing, I hurried up to the Batman Comics panel. The entire Batman team was on hand with Bob Wayne moderating the group. We dove right in to Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV talking about the new Talon comic. James is a former student of Scott's who wanted to expand on the stories behind The Court of Owls, so he's exploring that world while Scott tackles... The Joker. But before we could talk about that, John Cunningham from DC marketing interrupted to ask Bob about maybe doing a giveaway. We turned around and saw the room begin to fill up with the white Court of Owls masks! The panel took pictures of us wearing them and I'm sure they're online now somewhere. Back to The Joker, Scott revealed that he helped Tony Daniel write the scene at the end of Detective Comics #1 to help set up this current story. The Joker is taking on the role of the court jester, the person who has to deliver bad news to the king and to make the king stronger. In Gotham's case, The Joker sees Batman as the king who has forgotten about his jester, so, he's going to be both making AND delivering the bad news to Batman to make him stronger, which means that he's going directly after the Batman family. Before, when Joker shot Barbara, he did it to get to Jim Gordon. When he killed Jason Todd, he did it to get to Batman. Now, he's going straight for each family member directly, so he's going to be targeting each person directly and bring THEIR world crumbling down around them, not just Batman's world.

Insanely awesome.

Other books were discussed and will be tying into The Joker story, but once again are self-contained in the sense that you don't need to read the main Batman title to understand what is happening.

We took a lunch break before heading to the Vertigo panel. On hand were the usual suspects who were moderated by Vertigo EIC, Karen Berger. American Vampire was discussed by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque with very little details being given about what will be happening with the Blacklist, but that the conclusion of the story will contain a change in direction for the book. Fables was discussed by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham, but few details were discussed and were being saved for Saturday's Fables panel. Anthony Bourdain's Get Jiro! was discussed as we were told to check back on Friday's panel with Bourdain to discuss the book. Mike Alred and Sean Murphy discussed the end of iZombie and the launch of Punk Rock Jesus, with Kren mentioning that it was at one point trending higher on Twitter than the convention itself. But finally, Karen talked about the next volume of the Annotated Sandman and then deferred to a video of Neil Gaiman in her office talking about brief captions from the original Sandman comic. Neil felt that with the Sandman turning 25 next year that it would be appropriate to discuss the details of that story that takes place before Sandman #1. So that's what he's going to do.

Next year, second half. Neil Gaiman writes, JH Williams III illustrates a six-issue Sandman miniseries.


And that was the end of Day 2. I'm heading down to the convention now to get some more books signed and hit more panels. I'll make an effort to cover some Marvel topics, but I make no promises.

To be continued...


Evolution of American Vampire

Forget everything you thought you knew about Vampires.

Go on, forget it all. 

I'll wait.

That's right, take all you preconceived notions and throw them in the trash bin. Because this book is going to change how you feel about bloodsuckers on the whole. This book numbers among the best of Vampire stories that I have ever read in the comic format and I say that without hyperbole or hesitation. I put it among the elite stories of the like of Blood: A Tale, Life Sucks, Blood & Water, 30 Days of Night, and Damn Nation.  In many ways American Vampire brings more to the table than those book and holds the promise of being an ongoing series as opposed to the limited series and Original Graphic Novels like the others. The ideas that are presented in the opening two issues of American Vampire also bring to mind the kind of feeling that I had reading the first two issues of The Walking Dead, where most stories of it's ilk are limited in their scope and reach this story seems to have the kind of energy and legs to go beyond the typical vampire yarn.

American Vampire is the brainchild of a new writer to the world of comics: Scott Snyder, known mostly for his collection of short stories, Voodoo Heart, and is drawn by artist Rafael Albuquerque, artist of (among other things) Blue Beetle, Crimeland, Nomad: Girl Without a World, & Robin/Spoiler Special. But also working on the book (for at least the first 5 issues) is New York Times Best Selling Author, Stephen King. So there is certainly bound to be people who are checking out this book because of King's name on the cover and in many ways I can't fault them for doing so as King's contribution to the book is quite good and the idea of Stephen King writing for comics instead of just overseeing an adaptation one of his works is certainly pretty cool. But when you read the issue I think that you'll be surprised to find that the ideas and the characters created by Snyder are what will keep you coming back for the book month after month, and that the level of craftsmanship that he brings to the pacing and telling of the story is quite spectacular. And that's not even including how thrilled you're going to be with the artwork of Albuquerque who affects two different styles for the book, one for the story that takes place in the 1920s and another for the story that takes place in the 1880s. 

Ultimately the book is the story of a newly turned vampire named Pearl who came to Hollywoodland in the 20s to try and make it as an actress in the tumultuous era of transition between the silent films and the talkies and makes her way all the way up to the status of ... extra. But she's got some good friends and she's working on a movie with one of the great stars of the day and is pretty happy about where her life is going, especially when she is invited to a party by the one and only Chase Hamilton, the star of the picture where she is currently working as an extra. Before leaving for the party from her apartment she see's the same shady stranger that she's seen a few days in a row lounging by the pool ... and he certainly doesn't belong near the womens residences. Things go strangely at the party and I'll leave it up to your imagination as to what goes on exactly (or perhaps you'll just seek out the first issue to find out). 

The back-up story through the first 5 issues will tell the history of Skinner Sweet, one of the truly memorable criminals of the 1880s, and the focus of William Bunting's novel "Bad Blood". Skinner is also the mysterious stranger lounging outside Pearl's apartment and as we start to understand in the first issue was not a very nice man while he was alive and is perhaps still not a very nice man now that he is undead. The story of Skinner Sweet is told by acclaimed novelist Stephen King and for the story Albuquerque takes on a far more rendered look to his pencils and colorist Dave McCaig mutes the colors a little bit in order to give it almost a painted look. 

The story of both characters are in ways similar and diametrically opposed and the way that the second issue builds off of the groundwork established by the first is certainly the kind of stuff of which dreams are made. Snyder reveals that vampirism evolves as it finds it's way into new cultures, new areas, or perhaps even new eras in order to adapt the new vampires to their surroundings as best it can. So while the vampires of Eastern Europe might not be able to cross running bodies of water or exist in the sunlight or cope with having their hearts pierced by wooden stakes, the vampires of the American West might be something wholly different. And that is one hell of an idea. To think that Vampires, or even other creatures of the night change as they find new bloodlines is something that might not be entirely new but in such different ways as Snyder brings to the table it makes for one hell of a ride. And of course he doesn't tell us all the differences between the Vampires of the past and the American Vampire right out of the gate, you'll have to read along as Pearl discovers just what kind of changes have happened to her.

This is one hell of a comic and I highly suggest that everyone go check it out. If you dig it I'd also recommend the most recent work by Snyder, Iron Man: Noir (think one part Indiana Jones, one part The Rocketeer, and one part pulp adventures).

And if you want to hear more about what Snyder has in store for you with American Vampire come back next week when I'll have an interview with him about how he got into comics and what he plans on doing with them now that he's in the door!