It began back when Vertigo was still a thing, with a selling point few comics can boast… a bonus comic written by Stephen King. It then continued, as a long-running, top-selling comic by a pre-New 52 Batman, pre-Wytches Scott Snyder who used the series to establish himself as a creator-owned powerhouse. Alongside Rafael Albuquerque, who created horrific monsters and sometimes even scarier people with his art, the two created the series at their own pace for years. Now, as we previously reported, DC Comics has announced the end of American Vampire this October with American Vampire 1976. Let's take a look at what the end of this series, which has been running for more than a full decade, means and why 2020 is the perfect time for us to look back to the 1970s.
Skinner Sweet is the classic, the outdated, and the eternal rolled up into one being. He is, in a word, America, right now.
It feels like the America we live in now is unrecognizable from the country from two decades ago. One look at social media will show what looks like digital generational warfare, with Boomers demonizing Millennials as entitled and much worse. Millennials are dismissing their elders as out-of-touch at best and responsible for all of society's woes at worst. Meanwhile, the new generation, the Zoomers, feels alien to both of them. Scott Snyder's creation Skinner Sweet is every generation of humanity at its worst and best rolled into one character, living in a divisive time. That makes him, even in the 197os, emblematic of where society is today. Skinner Sweet is the question that 2020 grapples with made physical: Am I defined by my era, the worst of my era's deeds, and the worst of my personal deeds, or is there redemption?
DC Editor Mark Doyle marks the time period of the series, writing that "the parallels between 70's paranoia and today are really chilling." This, to me, feels very much in line with American Vampire, which has cut its teeth, making period-piece horror into timeless stories that speak to America's ever-shifting cultural anxieties.
It makes a perfect kind of sense that the closest thing we have to a modern great American novel in 2020 is a blood-soaked comic book. I hope, for the sake of us all, it ends with that rare, fleeting thing that we all keep squinting in an effort to see. Hope.
American Vampire concludes this October at DC's Black Label.