American Vampire: 19th Century reality transcribed to comic

2010 saw the release of what, in my personal opinion, was one of the coolest comics of that year. American Vampire, created by Scott Snyder, draw by Rafael Albuquerque- and scripted for 5 volumes by Stephen King- tells an old tale in a new fashion. The comic series explores a new breed of vampires and their evolution in the United States from the 1880s up to current times. Under the label of Vertigo, which is the mature/adult section of DC Comic, the blood and violence feast is guaranteed, yet alongside a wonderful storyline, some fantastic art work- and a great historical setting through the modern history of North America. The premise is simple, like Pearl Jam’s famous song: “It’s Evolution, babe”, and vampires, as all things on this planet, “do the evolution”. Here is the first-born of this breed, Skinner Sweet, a gunslinger outlaw who wakes up after being transform in this better un-dead who is immune to sunlight. The rest of the story follows him through the pass of time, in his fight with the European vampires of old.

American Vampire presents in a nutshell, the struggle of a country with a history of around 300 years, new but yet owing much to the different features that created this pastiche, all combined with the fascination of all times for these mythological creatures. American Vampire is 21st century Americas young generations in paper and colour. But, what if I told you this story is actually related to real life events, prominent in the area of New England at the end of the 19th Century? Well, then let me tell you a little story about a man called Edwin Brown and his family from Exeter (Rhode Island).

The year is 1892, and a brutal outbreak of tuberculosis affects New England. Young Edwin died in march that year as a result of this diseased, commonly known back then as “consumption”. His family had been affected by this malady for quite some time. Since 1883, consumption had taken the lives of his mother and his 2 sisters. Mercy Brown, his younger sibling had only died earlier on January that same year. However, back then this illness, as many others, was still very poorly understood by both practitioners and victims. The doctors were unable to provide the answers the populace was requesting of them, so in an act of what can only be presumed to be good faith, the Edwin’s community decided to exhume the bodies of his deceased relatives. Why? Because they were under the assumption that the young man may have being leached by the undead!

His elderly father, George Brown, reluctantly allowed this otherwise disrespectful even to happen. Anxiety came around when the corpses of Edwin’s mother and older sister were found in their caskets as it would have been expect, but young Mercy would turn the tables. Her body was still in good state of conservation, as her death had only been recent, and reminiscences of blood could be found in her arteries and heart. Superstition then took over science; her heart and lungs were cremated and used for a remedy which was meant to heal Edwin…Nevertheless, he joined his sister only a few weeks later…

Academic Diana Ross Mclain has actually reported in her research at least 18 other instances similar to the tragedy suffered by the Brown family in other towns and villages of New England, between the 18th and 19th century…Perhaps there is more to Snyder’s comic than new media creative ideas and social context. Perhaps American Vampire is a reflection of the never-ending paranoia of a nation that, for only having a few centuries of history, has burnt and persecuted witches, werewolves, Big Foot and even vampires. A nation of outsiders made anew and where outsiders are equally disliked…Just like Skinner Sweet…

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