J’s Halloween Hall of Fame: American Vampire Volume 1

Let me start off by saying once again, how much I love this time of year and especially Halloween time!  During this time I do enjoy me a good horror story here and there.  So what I want to do during this scary season is give you some recommendations on what I like to  watch and read to get my old ticker racing a bit.  So here is another of my spoiler free recommendations:

American Vampire Volume 1

American Vampire Vol. 1 was published in 2010 by DC Vertigo comics and was written by Scott Snyder and Stephen King with art by Rafael Albuquerque and colors by Dave McCaig.  Without being too blunt right out of the gate, let me just say that this is one of the best Vampire tales I’ve ever read, if not THE best.  I’m fairly certain you are familiar with Stephen King but if you are not acquainted with Mr. Scott Snyder, I suggest you remedy that as soon as you are able.  American Vampire  is brought to life by superstar artist Rafael Albuquerque, who captures the scratchy grit, grime and terror of this tale exquisitely.

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The story starts off following Pearl and Hattie, two pretty young aspiring actresses in Hollywood in the mid 1920’s who have high hopes of someday seeing their names in bright marquee lights.  Reality however is starting to sadly seep into their heads and is beginning to sour their dreams of stardom.   One day on the set of a movie Pearl catches the eye of the hunky star of the film and he invites her to a swanky party that some Hollywood fat cat is hosting.  Pearl, not only being star struck but seeing her chance to hobnob with some of the industry’s elite and perhaps further her stalled career quickly accepts the invitation.

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Now enter Skinner Sweet and Stephen King about 45 years prior to Pearl and Hattie’s story.  Stephen King tells the origin of Skinner Sweet, who is a smart, cunning, ruthless outlaw of the Old West but finally gets  apprehended by expert lawman Jim Book and his deputy.  This tale took the back halves of the individual single issues of American Vampire 1-5 which are collected here on Vol. 1.  As mean and surly as Skinner Sweet is, he is not without some heart.  I get the impression that Skinner Sweet is just the kind of guy that doesn’t put up with people’s BS, hypocrisy or pompousness.  He does what he has to do to win with the cards he’s been dealt.  He and Pearl meet right as Pearl is coming home still riding the high of being invited to that big Hollywood shindig.  Skinner Sweet appears to Pearl and warns her not to go.  Pearl being a strong, street wise woman that can take care of herself doesn’t heed Skinner Sweet’s warning and attends the party anyway.  And that’s when everyone’s nightmares begin to come true.

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One of the things I love about American Vampire is how much attention is paid to the times in which the story takes place.  Everything from the way the characters talk, to their mannerisms and even their beliefs seems spot on.  There’s a scene from an old moves called Somewhere in Time starring Christopher Reeve where his consciousness  goes back in time but after a while is quickly ripped back to the present when he discovers a coin in his pocket made in the present day.  That’s how I feel when I watch or read a period piece that uses modern slang or has a contemporary soundtrack.  I like to be immersed in the era the story is being told and I don’t want to hear Heavy Metal music in a Western or a Spartan period film.  American Vampire is a rich, beautiful, and tragic tale told by some of the finest storytellers walking the earth today.  The story is unique yet holds true to classic Vampire lore.  So if you wish to get into the spirit, I recommend this book for the Halloween season, or any other season for that matter!

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