King gets bit­ten by the vam­pire bug

Horror leg­end is a sucker for Scott Sny­der’s evil, anti- char­ac­ter, writes MATT MOORE from Philadel­phia

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - BOOKS -

SKIN­NER Sweet’s his name, but the long, lean drifter is any­thing but. The tit­u­lar char­ac­ter in Ver­tigo’s on­go­ing Amer­i­can Vam­pire se­ries, the for­mer out­law turned blood­sucker is chart­ing a course of deca­dent evil, pac­ing the ex­pan­sion of grow­ing United States as Hollywood moves from silents to talkies and Las Ve­gas be­gins its bloom of avarice, greed, lust and power.

Cre­ated by writer Scott Sny­der, Sweet’s story was aug­mented by Stephen King, the author whose lit­er­ary cre­ations have been creep­ing out read­ers since the early 1970s.

“Scott and I did each other a favour. I lent my name, which got the mag go­ing with a lit­tle bit more of a higher pro­file, and he lent me his ex­per­tise,” King said of the col­lab­o­ra­tion.

But un­like the wave of pop cul­ture vam­pires in re­cent years – grounded, lovelorn, con­flicted – Sweet is shift­less, self­ish, ut­terly with­out re­demp­tion and pure evil.

King wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sweet, he said in an in­ter­view, is the “anti-Twi­light vam­pire, the anti-Ed­ward”, a “dis­so­lute Kurt Cobain” with a mean streak a mile wide and a sweet tooth for hard candy to match.

He likens the story arc prepped by Sny­der to the work of crime writer James Ell­roy whose work has ex­plored the “un­der­belly” of Amer­ica.

“Scott put this thing to­gether where you have a chance to see all these as­pects of Amer­i­can life, Amer­i­can growth and Amer­i­can ex­pan­sion,” King said, and Sweet is “suck­ing the life out of ev­ery­thing”.

The aim of the se­ries – King helped write Skin­ner’s ori­gin in the first five is­sues, now col­lected in a hard­back edi­tion for sale at book stores and lo­cal comic book shops – is to chart how a new world means a new type of vam­pire. The art is by Rafael Al­bu­querque.

The story con­cerns Pearl, a wannabe ac­tress from the Mid­west who is fed upon by a ca­bal of old world vam­pires from abroad and left for dead in the 1920s.

Her story runs par­al­lel with Sweet, the bank rob­ber also left for dead and in­fected by the vam­pire virus in the late 1800s, his cof­fin be­low not just the ground, but a newly cre­ated lake. He’s re­leased when sou­venir hunters dive down to re­claim his bones or hat or any­thing they can sell to col­lec­tors.

King said he was ex­posed to the char­ac­ter when Sny­der e-mailed him a draft of the ini­tial script, seek­ing his thoughts and, maybe, a blurb for the cover. Sny­der got more than that.

“I read it and I was turned on by the whole idea that it was the anti-Twi­light vam­pire, the anti-Ed­ward. I said I ab­so­lutely loved this and would like to be in­volved and he brought me on board,” he said.

King said it was also a chance for him to get in­volved in a medium he had, un­til now, largely not been part of, comic books. Some of his works have been adapted for the for­mat, in­clud­ing his Dark Tower se­ries, along with oth­ers.

“The more that I came to it, the more that I saw, the more that I thought the whole comic book thing – there’s such a ten­dency for peo­ple who are, par­tic­u­larly my gen­er­a­tion – to think of comics as Cas­par the Friendly Ghost and Lit­tle Lulu,” King said. “But there’s some amaz­ing things. It’s a se­ri­ous for­mat and I think a lot of peo­ple come to it ex­pect­ing ju­ve­nilia and they find some­thing that’s a lot more so­phis­ti­cated.

“If Amer­i­can Vam­pire helps to open up peo­ple’s minds to that, then I’m happy.”

So far, King said, he’s hooked and Amer­i­can Vam­pire won’t be his last foray into comic books.

He’s mulling a cre­ator-owned book for Ver­tigo and pos­si­bly an­other tale about Sweet, too, that he’s dis­cussed with Sny­der.

“I did talk to him a lit­tle bit about do­ing a Skin­ner Sweet rock ’n’ roll story. You know, around the time of Elvis and Carl Perkins and Lit­tle Richard and all that,” King said. “That would be fun.”

King said the for­mat was ripe for sto­ry­telling.

“There’s room to grow. I like new stuff. Short sto­ries, nov­els, screen­plays, all those things are great, but I’ve done them all and this is some­thing new and it’s kind of fun,” he said. – Sapa-AP

CREEPY: Vam­pire comic col­lab­o­ra­tor Stephen King.

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