Canadian Vampires, eh? : American Vampire Vol 6

American Vampire has always been more about America than vampires. Because America has always been portrayed as a land of opportunity, it has always attracted those most desperate for that opportunity. That has often led to the exploitation of those least able to defend themselves. Yet, unlike many countries, throughout a good chunk of America’s history, it has been one of the easiest countries to move up the social ladder. For some that meant running away from debts to start anew in America. For others, it was getting free, large tracts of land out west from the American government. From the industrial revolution forward, a good idea and a bit of luck could propel one to the highest heights. A great deal of fiction has explored what happens once someone catapults out of their poorer circumstances – sometimes up just one level and sometimes from poor to rich. Do they now treat their former peers with the same contempt they once received? Or do they remember where they came from and remain respectful of those in poorer circumstances?

While other countries have had similar stories, it has a greater association with America. Sometimes it’s been truer than other times. But it’s this big theme that unites all the stories in the second half of American Vampire Vol 6, made up of American Vampire Anthology #1. Here Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque hand their universe over to some of my favorite writers, including Jason Aaron, Becky Cloonan, Francesco Francavilla, and Gail Simone. The stories take place all over American history from the time of the first European settlers to the 1960s. (And one takes place in Canada!) All of them but the story bookending the anthology, The Man Comes Around, involve those in power taking advantage of those with less power.

American Vampire Vol 6 - Hollywood Revenge
American Vampire Vol 6 – Hollywood Revenge

A good chunk of the stories involve Hollywood. It’s no surprise that even the main series went from the wild west to Hollywood. There are fewer places in America in which the power dynamics are so imbalanced than in Hollywood. After all, while not just anyone can act, far more people can act than there are professional actors. It is the men who guard the money to produce movies that wield the power in determining whether or not a promising young man or woman becomes a star. Reality has many tales of those taken advantage of with promises of stardom. In the world of American Vampire, sometimes becoming a vampire means become a slave to yet another set of people with power over you. But it can also give you the physical power over others to allow for revenge. Plenty of both happens in these stories.

American Vampire Vol 6 - Shanghai
American Vampire Vol 6 – Shanghai

It’s not often that stories have us rooting for the bad guys, but the story in which a vampire is marked to be sold into slavery on a ship – shanghaid – certainly had me hoping he would take revenge on those who sough to take advantage of his poor condition. Another powerful story used vampires as an analogy of the power vacuum that existed in the 1960s among African Americans. Even those who were famous entertainers often found themselves treated like garbage when not on stage. Of course, Snyder and his collaborators on this anthology are never anvilicious with the morals and the stories remain great, short romps. It’s also fun to see the comic short story revived. The original comics were essentially collected short stories before they became stories that could last through a year or more of issues. It’s nice to see what can be done with short form comics with modern comic storytelling conventions.

American Vampire Vol 6 - Long Road to Hell
American Vampire Vol 6 – Long Road to Hell

Returning to the first half of this volume, we also have the very American subject of redemption. Again, I know there were redemption stories before America (see, for one thing, stories in The Bible), but they are certainly a common theme in American stories. A young couple without the education to take white collar jobs turns to masterful pick-pocketing to earn enough money to get married and start a family. It’s another interesting theme that certainly deserves some investigation. I’ve seen it in a lot of stories, mostly older stories from the 50s and 60s where characters who are down on their luck thinks that things will look up once they get married. Of course, being married won’t magically get them jobs or money, but for some reason it’s a pretty common theme. When they get caught by some vampires and turned, rather than lust for power like some of the trampled upon in the anthology, they decide to look for a cure and, in the meanwhile, only feed on evil people like wifebeaters. It’s not an unheard of trope, but the way Snyder couples their competing desires and fear of the unknown really brings the emotion to the reader while telling this most American of stories.

Questions? Comments? I love discussion and invite it whereever you happen to come upon this article.

American Vampire Vol 6 written by Scott Snyder, Jason Aaron, Rafael Albuquerque, Jeff Lemire, Becky Cloonan, Francesco Francavilla, Gail Simone, Gabriel Ba, Fabio Moon, and Greg Rucka with art by Rafael Albuquerque, Dave McCaig, Declan Shalvey, Jordie Bellaire, Ivo Milazzo, Ray Fawkes, Becky Cloonan, Francesco Francavilla, Tula Lotay, Gabriel Ba, Fabio Moon, and JP Leon. (Buy it from this link to support Comic POW!: American Vampire Vol. 6)

Image Comics Creators Own Worlds Humble Bundle Live Today!

Long time readers of Comic POW! know that I am a fervent advocate of DRM-free comics (and this news story). If you’ve seen the site evolve you’ve also seen my tastes evolve. While Marvel and DC continue to tell great stories and explore new characters (like young Ms Marvel), I’ve grown to love indie comics a lot more. The main reasons are that anything can happen (including permanent death of the main characters) and usually the stories have an ending that the author is working towards. So I was very stoked to read today that Image Comics has put out a new Humble Bundle. I was even more excited when I read how Image organized the comics in the bundle:

Image Comics is pleased to announce an all-new Humble Bundle digital sale—Humble Comics Bundle: Image Comics featuring Creators Own Worlds—set to bring awareness to equality and to support the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. This Humble Bundle highlights some of the series from Image Comics that are created by or significantly feature LGBT characters.

With the Humble Comics Bundle: Image Comics featuring Creators Own Worlds digital sale, fans will experience $400-worth of some of Image Comics’ bestselling and award-winning series at pay-what-you want pricing.

Continue reading Image Comics Creators Own Worlds Humble Bundle Live Today!

What if Heroes had a Union? : C.O.W.L Vol 1 and 2

COWL Vol 1 - The Founders
COWL Vol 1 – The Founders

Two things attracted me to C.O.W.L.: the subject matter and the author. I knew Kyle Higgins from Nightwing Vol 3 (AKA New 52 Nightwing) where I enjoyed his writing. C.O.W.L. takes place in Chicago in 1962 when unions are still strong and the Chicago Organized Workers League (C.O.W.L.) happens to be the superhero union. Similar to Watchmen, and very in vogue right now, the heroes are not pure of heart; some of them are just shy of being sadists.

The main plot of Watchmen is two-fold, someone is investigating hero murder and someone is trying to create a tragedy to unite humanity and end the Cold War. But knowing that doesn’t take away from the story, which is a deconstruction of Super Heroes and is focused on their stories and personalities. Similarly, the main plot of C.O.W.L. is a negotiation with the city about whether to continue the contract with C.O.W.L., but the story is about the characters Higgins has created. If I may continue the comparison for one more subject, I’d say that both Watchmen and C.O.W.L. benefit from being self-contained stories of about the same length. It allows Higgins to focus on the story without worrying about the long-term implications for his characters. Continue reading What if Heroes had a Union? : C.O.W.L Vol 1 and 2

Cheesecake in the Jungle: Jungle Girl Omnibus

The most important thing you need to know about this title is that it is pure, unadulterated pulp. It is cheesy in a throw-back sort of way and it celebrates that. I’ve been getting a lot of pulp and neo-pulp from Dynamite for some time now. For the time being, they seem to be the undisputed masters of the revival in pulp comics. Jungle Girl is an older pulp than the one that gave us Batman, The Shadow, and detective stories. Jana, the eponymous jungle girl, traces a direct line back to Tarzan, which, if Wikipedia is being accurate today, came out in 1912. It also mixes in a bit of The Land Time Forgot which, like Tarzan, was written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. So the story is almost one giant tribute to Burroughs’ legacy.

I have not read the source material so I’m unsure of how much Cho is also making tribute in the format of the story, but there is not so much a plot as a constant propulsion of our protagonists from one scene to the next. In one sense it’s nice not to have a McGuffin. Too often they are too transparently simply a means to start the plot and, as the linked TV Tropes page defines it, could be replaced by almost anything else. Still, the only driving force of this story is to constantly run away from trouble. They literally stumble around from one dino attack to another and then to the territory of rivals. The antagonist of the second series is seemingly found just as randomly. Continue reading Cheesecake in the Jungle: Jungle Girl Omnibus

Never Bring a Witch to a Djinn Fight: Fables Vol 7 and 8

At the end of volume 8, we’re just past the 1/3 point without counting the spinoffs. Bill Willingham seems, at this point, to perhaps be following a three act structure. Of course, bear in mind, dear reader, that I’m reading these for the first time with only the knowledge that the mainline series ends at issue #150. Still, while much is setup for future volumes, he does seem to put a bow on all the plot points until now. Snow and Bigsby, who’ve had a will-they/won’t-they and star-crossed lovers arc since issue #1 end up married. Last volume we learned the identity of The Adversary and while it’s not in the storylines, the supplementary materials contain a map that note The Adversary now has an embassy in NY. Rose Red has taken responsibility and is helping raise Snow’s cubs. Prince Charming has also had a Han Solo-esque character arc. And so, since it was mostly clean up, not much happened. Still, there are some ideas to explore in these volumes. Continue reading Never Bring a Witch to a Djinn Fight: Fables Vol 7 and 8

Wytches: Parenting Fears Made Manifest

I read Wytches back in September before Baltimore Comic-Con because I wanted to be able to talk to Scott Snyder about how it was a personal meditation on what it means to be a parent. Snyder being as popular as he is, I was unable to get a solo interview with him this time, but I did get to ask a question about Wytches during his panel.

During the panel we learned that fatherhood has been on Scott Snyder’s mind quite a bit recently. His recent Batman arcs have explored that relationship between Bruce and Alfred. He also mentioned that he doesn’t do Bruce and Damien stories because it’s too real for him with a son around Damien’s age. I’ve also been thinking about fatherhood quite a bit. When I Wytches I had a 3 year old. But I knew my wife was pregnant with twins. Part of the reason this article is late is because they were born early and part of it is because I knew they were coming so I was trying to jam in every activity I knew would have to leave behind for a while when they arrived. Continue reading Wytches: Parenting Fears Made Manifest

Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour (in Color!)

I read Scott Pilgrim in its original manga-sized, black and white form when it first came out. With the final volume of the color version coming out this year, I thought it would be a great time to revisit the story as well as looking at how the addition of color changes things. I’ll be exploring the story and themes volume by volume. This time,we reach the conclusion with Volume 6.

Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour - Scott being desperate
Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour – Scott being desperate

At this point, it appears that everyone has grown up except Scott Pilgrim. Nowhere is this more apparent than his misguided attempt to figure out if any girl who’s ever shown an interest in him will sleep with him. Of course, in this volume we finally learn why Scott Pilgrim has been such a dummy for the past five volumes – he purged himself of any self-reflection and memories of anything that ever went wrong. In one of the many Gen X/Y references, this is personified by Nega-Scott. Until Scott completes the metaphor by merging with Nega-Scott, he cannot grow up. Because no one can be a true adult if they don’t ever deal with anything they ever do wrong. Continue reading Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour (in Color!)