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Comic Book / American Vampire

American Vampire is a comic book from Vertigo Comics.

The comic is written in arcs, each set in a different time period and locale. The first arc follows Pearl Jones, a girl struggling to make it big in Hollywood in the 1920s. The second arc follows Cashell McCorgan, a police officer during The Great Depression. The third arc follows Henry Preston joining a team of Vassals of the Morning Star agents to investigate rumors of vampires in the Japanese islands, against the backdrop of World War II. The fourth arc follows Travis Kidd, a young rockabilly vampire hunter in the 1950s as he crosses paths with the Vassals. The fifth arc beginning in April will follow one of the survivors of the Taipan mission who has now become a vampire. The sixth arc (beginning in June) will reunite Pearl Jones and Skinner Sweet in 1950s Hollywood, during the Red Scare.

Thus far, there are also two mini-series, the first following Cashell and Felicia Book in Europe during WW2, and another upcoming one that follows Felicia some time after.

The book is written by Scott Snyder and illustrated by Raphael Albuquerque. Stephen King wrote "Skinner Sweet", a back-up feature for the first arc detailing the origins of the original American vampire.

The series started in May, 2010. Winner of the 2011 Eisner Award for Best new series.

The series contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: Pearl is no pushover. After being attacked by the Hollywood Coven and being turned by Skinner, she does not hesitate to bring on the pain to those who have wronged her. Abilena also fits this trope.
    • By Survival of the Fittest, Felicia has become this as well.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: Rears its head at the ending of Survival of the Fittest, when The Ancients that Pavel had been nurturing back to health wake up and save Felicia and Cash before tearing into the Nazi Vampires and utterly slaughtering them.
  • Asshole Victim: Chase Hamilton from the first arc. Not only did he backstab the vampire hunter who had saved his life and feed him to his quarry in return for fame, he fully assists with the European vampires' coven and feeds aspiring starlets to them. When he encounters the newly vampirized Pearl, he doesn't even remember he gave her to his partners the previous night. It's a bit hard to feel bad for Pearl making him her first kill. Little Feet Beales also deserves note given he spent years selling musicians to vampires to have their blood drained.
  • Ax-Crazy: Skinner Sweet was somewhat...unhinged after being entombed thirty years and takes his anger out by butchering an entire town. The undisputed queen of madness though? Hattie Hargrove after her vampirization, with her obsessive drive to destroy Pearl and her unhinged murders of others.
  • Badass Normal: Henry, a fully normal ex-marine who's fully willing to fight alongside his American Vampire girlfriend, and win. Cashell McCogan who's an ordinary police chief who becomes an accomplished vampire fighter as well. Linden Hobbes, out of all the Vassals of the Morning Star, deserves special note as leading the organization in their war for decades and being the greatest vampire killer alive. Special points that he takes down Dracula at cost of his own life.
    • Travis Kidd is a good contender for greatest vampire killer, unafraid to take on scores of vampires on his own and fought Skinner Sweet to a standstill without any allies or powers and still a teenager.
  • Battle Cry: "Semper Fi, Motherfuckers!"
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Pearl is a nice girl, until you push her. While she has a vicious side, she's a genuinely sweet woman who adores her husband and helps people who need it...but touch her husband or wrong innocent people and she will kill you and enjoy it immensely.
  • Big Bad: Skinner Sweet was this for a time, but he's supplanted as the story goes on. Dracula himself is more the contender for this title, but after the timeskip, it's the Gray Trader.
  • Bullying a Dragon: A group of Japanese soldiers think it's a good idea to try to rape Pearl. A group of racist toughs also try to torment and murder Calvin Poole. As both these people are American Vampires, this doesn't end well. Calvin gives them one chance to stop before he just flat out butchers them.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Skinner can genuinely not remember meeting Travis Kidd or killing his parents. Because he had absolutely nothing to do with their deaths. It was a Carpathian death squad sent to town for a matter Skinner was connected to. Travis still blames him for it.
  • Butt Monkey: The Romanian Vampires have this as their hat, though they do deserve it. Not only are they the easiest of all vampires to kill (with a weakness to sunlight and wood), but they keep siring random people and creating stronger bloodlines than them. It's definitely ironic that they think of themselves as the superior species.
  • Character Development: One of the series' high points. As he lives longer, Skinner gradually becomes more human. Pearl Jones goes from a naive aspiring starlet to a powerful vampire trying to live morally. Linden Hobbes, head of the Vassals of the Morning Star progresses from an anti-vampire fanatic into someone who gradually realizes how his true fight is against evil.
  • The Chosen One: One of The Ancients in Survival of the Fittest says this to Felicia in its language before she escapes.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Skinner has betrayed everyone at some point or another. He admits himself he is "just pitiful" at keeping deals.
  • Cruel Mercy: Skinner takes time to mock an old enemy for being old and decrepit while Skinner is young forever, viewing that as the cruelest punishment.
  • Damsel in Distress: Pearl starts off as one. It didn't work out so well. So she went Action Girl and got revenge.
  • Daywalking Vampire: The premise.
    • American Vampires can, as can Gaelic-Primes and Native American Vampires. Strangely, their progenitors, the ancient ones, can't, and burn (albeit very slowly)
  • Decapitation Presentation: Skinner does this *shudder*.
    • He does this to Felix Camillo's papi in issue #3.
  • Dhampyr: Felicia Book is the daughter of the human Abilena and the American Vampire Jim Book.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: At the end of The Blacklist arc, Henry pushes his aging body to the limit to kill Hattie once and for all to save Pearl's life before dying in her arms.
  • The Dreaded: The Gray Trader's arrival in America is considered a portent of the apocalypse. Nobody talks about this guy in anything but a hushed whisper.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Potentially what the progenitors of the vampire race are.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: The Nazis have vampires among their ranks.
  • Fallen Hero: Hurin was the original founder of the Vassals until he was turned by The Beast and becoming the Great Traitor to humanity, or commonly known in his bastardized name the "Gray Trader."
  • Faux Affably Evil: Skinner Sweet can put up a show of being polite and charming, but he's utterly without morals or scruples.
  • Friendly Enemy: Pearl's relationship with the Vassals of the Morning Star is shown to evolve into this by The Forties. While the Vassals still tend to see her as an abomination, they're mostly content with the fact that her husband works for them and that Pearl is at least not going around and killing people except those who deserve it. It also helps that they share a common enemy in Skinner.
  • Friendly Neighborhood Vampire: Pearl is by far the nicest, most sympathetic and arguably most human vampire in the series. All she really wants is to live her life in peace and be with Henry...although God help you if you piss them off. Gus Mccogan is also revealed to be one, only resorting to killing the Consortium for what he sees as the greater good of Las Vegas.
  • Game Face: The new breed pass for human easily, but when fighting or feeding or angry, they shift to clawed and fanged monsters.
  • Glasgow Grin: Hattie now has one of these. She covers it with makeup.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Pearl and Henry have one hell of a sex life that doesn't seem to remotely diminish as he ages.
  • Greaser Delinquents : Travis Kidd has everything : fondness for "race music" (he's seen dancing to The Nocturne's record) and fast cars/racing, leather jacket, sunglasses... And a very special switchblade a golden knife in his sleeve.
  • The Great Depression: Cashell's story starts here.
  • Happily Married: Pearl and Henry marry some time after the first arc and are utterly devoted to one another, verging into Sickening Sweethearts sometimes. Pearl's greatest fear is losing him.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The series has a few:
    • Erik Pavel and Cash Mccogan in Survival of the Fittest
    • In Ghost War, The Vicar is infected and grabs a string of grenades and rushes into a crowd of Japanese vampires, killing them all and saving Calvin and Henry.
  • Hemo Erotic: Henry and Pearl love to have bite-y, feeder sex with each other.
  • Historical In-Joke:
    • The destruction of the "Land" portion of the Hollywoodland sign was caused by a conflict between Pearl, Henry, and the European vampires' coven (although twenty-four years early).
    • The underground nuclear tests conducted in Nevada in the 1950's were not tests but aggressive attempts conducted by Hobbes and the U.S. military to kill The Beast.
    • Sputnik was launched by the Russians to keep check on The Beast.
  • Hollywood: Pearl starts out as an actress trying to work her way up in the movie biz... until she gets invited to the wrong party... Funnily enough, she ends up going back there in The Fifties as her cover.
  • Hollywood History: The earliest parts of the story go back to The Wild West, skips a few decades, then starts again in the Roaring Twenties. So far, every main story arc has taken place around ten years after the last, with the story progressing through The Great Depression and World War II. Judging by some solicitations, the trend will continue at least through The Fifties.
  • Horror Hunger: When Book was turned into an American Vampire, he fought his hunger for three years with nothing short of Heroic Willpower despite the overriding desire to devour every human in sight. Pearl, thankfully, suffers little from this given Henry's willingness to be a donor.
  • Killed Off for Real: Skinner Sweet as of the end of the Ghost War arc. This is revealed to be false during the Travis Kidd story arc.
    • Henry on the other hand...
  • Kryptonite Factor: Every vampire breed has some weakness. The Carpathians have sunlight and wood as theirs, while American Vampires become extremely weak on full moons and have a weakness to gold.
  • Lizard Folk: The Japanese Vampires in the Ghost War Arc are eyeless lizard-men with huge fangs.
  • May-December Romance: Partially invoked, but mostly subverted with Book and his goddaughter Abilena. Abilena wanted to invoke this trope, but Book is creeped out by the idea. He even tells her he thinks of her as his own daughter. Still, when he wants her to kill him, she agrees to do it if he will impregnate her first.
  • Mayfly-December Romance: Pearl is painfully aware of Henry's aging as she remains young and her greatest fear is losing him, even though he makes her swear to never turn him out of desperation.
  • Meaningful Echo: Will Bunting does this with Abilena. ""Can I tag along?" "Just keep up." Earlier in the story, he asks James Book this on a few occasions.
  • The Mirror Shows Your True Self: Played straight with the Euro vamps while the American species have distorted reflections.
  • Not Quite Dead: Pearl didn't exactly kill Hattie, just put her in a hibernation via gold star through the face. She didn't kill Skinner either, as the Vassals recover him and make him their agent.
  • Nuclear Option: After the American government disavowed the Vassals and therefore unwilling to hunt vampires and The Beast, the Soviet Union is willing to risk launching their entire nuclear arsenal on The Beast should it appear while knowingly this would cause Mutually Assured Destruction for the sake of it.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: A running theme: Pearl and later arc protagonists have zero issue destroying those who deserve it...they may enjoy it a bit more than is normally healthy though.
  • Oral Fixation: Skinner Sweet loves peppermint sticks— even as a vampire.
    "Do you motherfuckers have any candy?"
  • Our Vampires Are Different: The new breed has powers that the older vampires lack. (So far, they have elongated finger-claws, rattlesnake fangs, and are powered by sunlight, only becoming vulnerable during the nights of the new moon.) There are also several other types of Vampires. Heck, they have an entire taxonomy for them:
    • The types of vampires seen so far have been the European vampires (traditional vampires also known as Carpathian vampires, who believe themselves to be the dominant species), American vampires (jaws like rattle snakes and powered by the sun), Gaelic-Prime vampires, a shape-shifting type that is actually quite nice. Its other form is a pretty vicious looking creature with giant bat-like wings ( Cashell's adoptive father was one before being killed by Sweet ), the Japanese vampire (introduced in the Ghost War story arc), a creepy looking thing with giant fucking teeth and no eyes, and the newest species to be introduced, Homo Abominum Canis Asiatic-2, which, like the Gaelic Prime species, were thought to be extinct but there are apparently enough left alive to pose a threat due to how a person can be easily infected if their wounds are exposed to the Abominum Canis' saliva (it is implied that the species tries to prevent this from happening however). Yes... their vampires are definitely different.
    • The 'Survival of the Fittest' arc also revealed a few minor bloodlines, apparently ancestors of the Carpathian breed, who are vulnerable to different bands of the ultraviolet spectrum. It also revealed ancient vampires, enormous, golem-like creatures who's skin is so tough that it only tarnishes slightly when exposed to direct sunlight. They are extremely easy to kill (while they are asleep, but if they wake up, God Help Us All).
    • We've now seen a kind of American Vampire that predates Skinner Sweet, Mimiteh, the Native American vampire. It's a huge, terrifying lizard monster with orange skin, and a total immunity to sunlight.
    • Essentially, the Vassals admit that there really is no such thing as a 'vampire'. There's just a lot of freakish, blood-drinking monsters in the world that happen to have enough similarities to be grouped together.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Pearl's out for vengeance on the Hollywood vampire coven, and Skinner's old enemies want to put an end to his depredations. Not to mention what Hattie does to her captor...
  • Roaring Rampageof Revenge: Skinner and Pearl both go on these, against their enemies. Hattie's also started one, against Pearl.
  • Roaring Twenties: Pearl's story starts there.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Mimiteh, rumored as a Native American goddess of death sealed herself away to keep from harming others.
  • Shout-Out: The Asian vampires. They bear some resemblance to the Xenomorphs from the Alien movies.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Pearl and Skinner.
  • Slasher Smile: American Vampires do these real well.
  • Sliding Scale of Vampire Friendliness: European vamps are at the unfriendly end to the point they're described as (re)born without the human parts that would give them compassion, so they literally can't be good. Ironically, Sweet's line of American vampires are potentially incredibly friendly, having little to no Horror Hunger, no personality shifts, an easily sated blood thirst (Pearl survives for decades from mild feedings on her husband John). It's ironic because Skinner Sweet is perhaps the most misanthropic and sociopathic character in the series.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: When Book wants Abilena to put him out of his misery, she agrees on the terms that he will impregnate her first so she will have this at least.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: In Survival of the Fittest, it's shown that yes, there are or were Nazi Vampires. They apparently signed up believing that the same Aryan/Master Race rhetoric applies to their kind as well as to humanity.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Pearl, of course... and Hattie.
  • Twilight of the Old West: The first volume shows this in action, which continues to a degree in the second (set in The Thirties) as more of the Old West aesthetics transition into something more recognizably modern.
  • Undead Child: As of the newest arc, we have several. Each of a different breed of vampire. Cashell's son Gus is another example, given Skinner vampirized him in the womb.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Pearl. After the Hollywood Coven does bad things to her, her rage is only stopped when they're corpses.
  • Vampires Are Rich: The Hollywood Coven is. The American vampires? Not so much.
  • Vampire Hunter: The Vassals of the Morning Star are a secret society of Vampire Hunters dating back hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
    • Unlike most vampire hunter organizations, however, the Vassals are remarkably metropolitan about who they employ, to the point of working with Pearl, Felicia and Skinner.
  • Villain Protagonist: While Pearl, Cashell and Henry all have their stories, let's face it. Skinner's the true main character, whose actions drive nearly everything else in the plot directly or indirectly, and we wouldn't have it any other way.
  • Violently Protective Girlfriend: While Henry's usually able to handle himself, if he's in over his head, particularly against vampires, Pearl's right there and ready to rumble.
  • The Virus: Unlike most depictions, humans can only be turned into vampires by being infected with the blood of a vampire, not just by being bitten.
    • Played straight with the Japanese vampires, who are completely feral. A single drop of their blood coming into contact with your skin will turn you almost instantly.
  • The Wild West: Skinner's story starts there.
  • World War II: The third arc of American Vampire takes place in the Pacific theater (Skinner Sweet, Pearl and Henry continue their story here) while the mini-series Survival of the Fittest takes place in Europe (Cashell and Felicia continue their story here).
  • Worthy Opponent: You'd be forgiven thinking Skinner had nothing but hatred towards Jim Book given their early encounters, but when he encounters an actor playing his old nemesis in an Old West show, Skinner kills him while snarling "you don't deserve to wear Jim Book's name!" In their youth, Skinner even mused being 'bad' was no fun without Jim to chase him.