Second Cycle: Scott Snyder on returning to “AMERICAN VAMPIRE” & More
Of all of comics’ current stars, none have found more success than Scott Snyder. Building a solid readership with his award winning title AMERICAN VAMPIRE, he continues blazing his way to the top with his dark take on some of DC’s most iconic characters such as Batman, Superman, and Swamp Thing. Paired up with some of the most talented artists on the market, he has helped move the medium forward with unparalleled knack for spinning the perfect yarn. With AMERICAN VAMPIRE: SECOND CYCLE recently hitting shelves, he continues on his promise to create unique work for new and old readers alike. Snyder recently sat down with Fango to discuss the methods to his madness and what keeps him creating.
FANGORIA: What brought you back to AMERICAN VAMPIRE?
SCOTT SNYDER: AMERICAN VAMPIRE was something I came up with a while ago, during the last vampire fad before TWILIGHT. It’s not that I didn’t like the movies that were coming out, like BLADE, I loved them, but I missed the vampires of NEAR DARK and SALEM’S LOT and LOST BOYS; sort of these homegrown, scary vampires. For me, that’s what really makes vampires endearing. They take the things you find really safe and turn into these murderous, terrifying creatures. Your neighbors come scratching at your windows to get you, it’s terrifying. Zombies are the same thing.
FANG: So a bit like FRIGHT NIGHT?
SNYDER: Definitely. FRIGHT NIGHT is another one that had a great influence on me. We almost took the jaw from one of our characters, the mechanism, from that movie. Anyway, I missed the idea of a vampire that is scary but also American. I remember I was getting a Dr. Who set for my buddy and I went to the model store and it had a confederate soldier zombie. I remember thinking “man, that’s it. Why don’t I do a vampire that’s American and also has powers that are homegrown?” That was really the genesis of the series for me. This idea that with American vampires, they can walk in the sun, they have different vulnerabilities, different powers and from that, I thought, “well, if it’s one species, then there can be many, many species.”
That became the mythology of the series. We’ve developed characters like Pearl and Skinner that I care for really, really deeply. They’re characters I’ve written longer than Batman or longer than anything I’ve done and the series has become about following them through different decades of American history and seeing how they adapt. For better or worse, through the changing circumstances in the country, the series tries to explore a little bit what makes us heroic and also monstrous at times.
FANG: SECOND CYCLE just got released into stores. Are you happy to be back to it?
SNYDER: Oh, I’m so happy. Honestly, Rafael Albuquerque and I always planned to take a break so he could do some of his stuff for Mondo and I could launch the SUPERMAN book and literally a week after we were off, we started talking about what we were going to do once we got back and both of us were like “we never should have taken a break.” I felt terrible about it. I actually talked to DC about it at one point asking if we can shorten the break because I felt horrible that I had given it up. For me, coming back, it’s a tremendous joy and I promise to all our fans out there that not only will we not leave again, ever, but we’re going to make sure to make this the most in-line story. We’re not going to do a ton of mini-stories. If we can later on, we might, but the point is to make the main series a place to go for me and Rafael to do our best work. We’re not leaving and we’re not prioritizing anything else above it.
FANG: On top of your notable work on AMERICAN VAMPIRE, you have also worked with huge DC characters, especially Batman. What were your thoughts working on such an iconic character? Did you have any struggles?
SNYDER: Oh man, it was terrifying. I remember the night before I was talking to my wife and said “I don’t know if I can do this,” and she says, “what are you going to do, call in sick for the next year?”
But ultimately, the only way to do it is to take it and try really hard to make it personal. So, when I write Batman, I try to look at the things I love about him and I think are the most heroic. For example, the sense that he studies the city more than anybody else, he knows every nook and cranny and what I try to do after that, I say “well, what’s the scary side of that?” Well, the scary side of that would be that there are some elements you can never know because you can’t know all the lives in there. Growing up in New York City, I always felt that it had this sense of being haunted, affected by all the lives that lived there before me. So I wanted to bring the history of Gotham to life with the Court of Owls story and show that you can’t know anything.
What you try to do is take the things you love about a character and relate to on a personal level, and you love because you feel like it’s something you struggle with or you love inside yourself and flip it on its head and make it a weakness. That’s what I try and do, like in “Death in the Family,” which is probably the most horror that I’ve done of Batman. So Batman has this big family and that’s a trait, that’s something I admire about him. He’s got all these great allies he’s raised and brought in, but at that in itself is a weakness. I always think, “I love my son, I’m so proud of him,” but some days, I just get tired of worrying about him all the time. You get exhausted sometimes just by loving and worrying about your kids, so Batman must feel that too. So what if a villain came along and said, “I know what you really want! You want them all dead so you don’t’ have to worry about them anymore,” and that’s the Joker.
FANG: You are also working on a pretty horror-centered title called THE WAKE, which is like Lovecraft meets Mad Max. What’s the story behind the work?
SNYDER: I’ve always loved THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, it’s one of my favorite horror movies of all time. I wanted to do something to incur this idea of a terror from the unknown. Then one day, I saw this video that was about an ancient shark that was discovered off the coast of Japan and it was this long, eel-like, prehistoric shark. It was so creepy looking and it was still alive; it was dying, but it was still alive. It was like, “if something that big and terrifying and ancient can live down there, what if we discovered something that was humanoid?” From there, I knew I wanted to do half the book as horror where it was very claustrophobic, you’re locked up with a monster. It’s very reminiscent of the movies I loved like THE THING, ALIENS—stuff like that. But I didn’t want to just do that, I wanted to a show a world overrun and flooded with these things and go even bigger and do a sci-fi adventure. I talked to Sean Murphy about it and he said, “Let’s do it! This will be the book we can just go crazy on and show like, sonic dolphin pirates.” It gets crazier with each issue too, it gets so weird.
Ultimately, it became a book where we could experiment with things we haven’t tried before in both horror and science fiction. I love it for that. We really managed to take a small book that we were playing around, having fun, and exploring ideas that are personal to us that are about why we feel lost and feel homesick. That need for exploration, even though you know what you are going to find is bad. But we never expected it to have the kind of response that it’s had and we really appreciate it. To everyone out there who is supporting the book, thank you.
FANG: You have also worked at Disney. How would you say that influenced your writing?
SNYDER: It was so weird. I first started there as a janitor for six months and then I got hired as a character. I was Buzz Lightyear, Eeyore, and Pluto. I think if I had any influence from it is that working there is incredibly difficult physical labor, especially janitorial where you’re pushing those giant carts full of garbage around in the heat. The characters are pretty hard too. You’re in this suit where you’re sweating; you sweat through your clothes eight times a day, literally. You get eight shirts and eight shorts and just sweat through them. You never pee. Basically, what influenced my writing was the incredibly hard labor, but then you go up on stage and you want it badly to be this wonderful place for kids. You really want them to have a good time. So, in that way, that odd corridor between the ugly, dark part of the truth of things and then the imaginative, wonderful place is what I play with a lot in my work recently.
FANG: Any upcoming works you can tell us about?
SNYDER: Yeah, I got a good horror one coming out. It’s called WYTCHES and it’s with Jock from DETECTIVE COMICS. It’s easily the scariest book I’ve done. I want it to be like SEVERED, just as dark as I could go. The story is basically that witches aren’t what we imagine they are. We thought they were these humans that worshipped the devil and so on, but everyone that we thought were witches were just worshippers of the real witches, which are these very old, terrifying creatures that live deep in the woods. They’re nine, ten feet tall and very scary. It’s going to be a lot of fun. September from Image Comics.