Todd McFarlane Talks VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE, Spidey/Venom Crossover, His SPAWN Reboot & More (Exclusive)
As Venom: Let There Be Carnage arrives on Blu-ray today, we were able to sit down with legendary comic book artist and creator Todd McFarlane to talk about Venom's evolution over the years and more!
Sony's Venom: Let There Be Carnage is now available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and Digital HD everywhere movies are sold, and to mark the occasion, we were able to catch up with legendary comic book artist and creator Todd McFarlane - who was the first to ever draw Venom in the comics - and chat with him about the blockbuster Marvel film starring Tom Hardy.
From the character's visual evolution over the years to the inevitable Spider-Man/Venom crossover we've all been waiting for, McFarlane was more than happy to share his thoughts and offered some hints at the much scarier direction he'd like to see these two storied characters go next.
He also offered a small, but promising, update about his long-gestating Spawn reboot, which still has Spider-Man: No Way Home star Jamie Foxx attached to star, and teased some major announcements in the not-so-distant future.
Check out the full interview below!
ROHAN: Since you were the one to initially draw Venom in the comics, what are your thoughts on his visual evolution over the years compared to your more less-monstrous original design?
TODD: He was always a monster from the very beginning, in terms of his scale and the way he sort of moved, hunched over, everything. The black costume was a symbiotie, so I just assumed he was an alien and was a monster. So, the original design was to make him huge, make him big and now, we’re going back thirty years ago, and as other writers and artists have come up, they’ve add some of the background, these visual twists and turns. There are some where he looks like a superhero, and there’s others where he literally looks like a hideous monster and both of them work, which is the fun part of it. For me, as an artist, I don’t get caught up into, even things like this where I had a big helping hand in the visual of him and I’m never like, “Oh, that’s how I did it!,” I don’t do that, I just go Venom is still popular today, people around the globe are watching him, people are enjoying him, who cares how they get there.
So, if it’s because it’s more monster, more man, more superhero, because they’re using an influence of artwork that is way from mine, I don’t care. Venom’s thriving as a character and I had a small part in some of that, especially at the beginning of it, which is cool and I’m sure thirty years from now, he may have a slightly different look based on something else, but what’s more important is people are still talking about the character, just like sixty years later with Spider-Man and eighty years later with Superman and Batman. So, longevity is the success of all of this, it’s not in the detail, it’s how you got there.
ROHAN: Venom is one of the few characters that can surprisingly stand on their own without their archnemesis in the same story, and we've since seen the symbiote get a pretty intricate backstory as well - when you first thought up the character's design, did you envision that he would become this popular?
TODD: No, because if I did, I would’ve created ten characters that had the same appeal. &Sometimes you just had a little bit of dumb luck, cause remember when Venom came, and we put him in the book originally, his breakout was in Amazing Spider-Man #300, he was a supervillain, in the truest sense at that point, much in the vein of the Green Goblin and some of the other characters for Spider-Man. It was sort of, in a weird way, he became so popular that people wanted to see him more and it was like, well how do you get the bad guy on screen more? The answer is, you got to make him sympathetic and how do you do that?
The term we sometimes use in comic books is that anti-hero, so he’s sort of somewhere between good and bad, he’s not a Boy Scout, let’s just say that, where a lot of superheroes, they always do the right thing all the time. The anti-heroes are a lot more flawed, they’re cool, so really, they’re starting on the wrong side of the tracks as a full-blooded supervillain and making the transition over time to an accepted hero, given that they all know where he came from to start with. I’m trying to think— somebody like the Hulk sort of can act like a bad guy because when he gets mad, he was always on the side of good from the very beginning and so is Bruce Banner, so yeah, Venom might be the only one, I’ll have to give it a think, the only one right now that’s a meaningful hero, who began as a bad guy.
ROHAN: Why do you think the Eddie Brock/Venom pairing is the best version of the character versus what we've seen when the symbiote bonds with another host?
TODD: Usually writers will give you way more complicated answers than I will. *laughs* I’m a visual guy and I just go, what’re you talking about? I think Eddie Brock works because he was the first guy, so once you establish Person A, in this case Eddie Brock being Venom, then years go by and that’s true, and then eventually you try other things, people will sample those other ones and they’ll enjoy it to a certain level, but they’ll always come back to the core. They’ll always say, so you can put the Spider-Man costume, Iron Man costume, Superman/Batman costume on other characters, of course you can, but we all know in the back of our mind who those characters are, Tony Stark, Peter Parker, Bruce Wayne.
So, yes, you can have Venom forever and it doesn’t have to be Eddie, but when you have the two together, I think for most people, especially as comic book geeks, that’s it. That’s the pairing right there. Everything else is sort of a side version of that, it’s not the A-pairing. The writers will get into the character, but it’s like the first girl you marry, that’s your true love right there, so Eddie and Venom.
ROHAN: Looking back at your initial run, it really feels like some of it may have been ahead of its time, especially with taking Spidey in a darker direction with something like Torment, where we saw a much scarier depiction of The Lizard - would you like to see these new movies maybe starting trending in that direction?
TODD: Even Morbius, I’m looking forward to see what they do with Morbius too. I think there are a handful of characters, you don’t want to do it with every character, but I think there’s a handful of characters that are built to be able to be a little scary, a little creepy, and especially if they’re a bad guy like The Lizard. I didn’t think The Lizard was overtly scaring walking around talking with quote unquote a lisp, how they used “Sss-pider-man,” throwing in all those extra S’s. I was like, eh, didn’t seem scary, so to me, I’m like Morbius and Venom to some extent and there were a few others, I didn’t they needed to talk that much, I think that the way they looked and especially if you meet them at 3 o’clock in the morning, in back alley, I don’t think they have to really intimidate you with their words because they’re already intimidating.
It’s sort of like being in the forest and coming across a grizzly bear, it’s huge, and you know that you’re in trouble, it doesn’t even have to roar. You know you’re in trouble, it steps up on its legs, you know you’re doubly in trouble, so some of these characters, I think, fall into that, “the less they say,” which is what I did with The Lizard. There are plenty of other people around that can do the talking, you don’t have to do it.
ROHAN: Yeah, I love that depiction of The Lizard.
TODD: If you look at my run, it was all monsters, everything. Sasquatch, Wendigo, that was a monster, Venom, that was a monster, Morbius was a monster. I mean, my entire run, Hobgoblin, when I was writing my own book, but that’s just my personal bias. I like the cool, creepy ones.
ROHAN: I don't believe you worked on Carnage, who's a full-blown monster as well, but out of your rogues' gallery, is there any particular villain you'd like to see square up against Spider-Man or Venom?
TODD: Yeah, I didn't work on him, but Carnage went even further.
There’s a really cool version of Hobgoblin that would work, that would separate him dramatically away from Green Goblin. I think that would bounce off Spider-Man, Morbius, Venom and that whole Spider-Verse that Sony seems to be expanding right now. I think he would be a cool foil for all of them. My inkling is always, every now and then, literally have the shark come out of the water, like in Jaws, just to let them know who’s boss and it’s what they’re doing with Venom. You can have a joke and then, you’re sort of relaxed, then something happens, and the dog is now biting.
ROHAN: I'd say the big elephant in the room - well, Sony's room - is when will we see Tom Holland's Spider-Man take on Tom Hardy's Eddie Brock? What are your thoughts on that meeting?
TODD: It has to happen! Here’s what I’m going to make a prediction, which is about the easiest prediction you can make and we’ve all made it. There can’t be anybody in Hollywood, I don’t care if you work for Sony or Disney or even a rival company that isn’t sitting there going, “Hmm, I wonder if Spider-Man and Venom together would make any money for us?” Like, what are you talking about? You see what Spider-Man does on his own, you see what Venom does on his own, they both just kill it and at some point, they’re going to put them together, you have to, right? In a meaningful way and it’s just going to go crazy. Somebody’s doing a very good job of getting all of us really anxious, so when that happens, we’ll just come flooding through the gates in a massive way.
ROHAN: Are you allowed to say anything about your Spawn reboot? Is Jamie Foxx still attached?
TODD: Everybody’s still attached, Jamie's still attached, we got a new writer that the fans, when we announce him, will go crazy over. I actually had a few calls last week on it, so yeah, Spawn is getting heated up, so we’re trying to sort it out, but it’s on its way. It moves way slower than I would like, but it’s tough, and out of my control.
ROHAN: Since he is a product of the '90s, would you want to modernize the character for today's audience?
TODD: Oh yeah, it would be a dark R-rated movie, not trying to sell toys or anything, just trying to go out there. At some point, somebody’s going to spend money and whoever gets to spend money has to have the biggest voice in the room, in terms of how they can get their money back, so there’s always those conversations about how funny you make something, how dark you make it, how serious you make it because there’s now a lot of data out there with all the superhero movies, so some of the things make out a little better than others. You can’t blame people for wanting to go down paths that have a higher success rate than others, but we’ll see.
What I would say is there’s a lot of room even within Marvel, and the Spider-Verse, DC, there’s still a wide range of movies, but everything from - because if you look at their comic books, I could show you stuff that is super funny, like almost comedy stuff, and then stuff that is aimed at 8-year-olds and stuff that is a little more traditional superhero and stuff that in teen books is a little more serious and stuff that’s really, I would put it in our category. All of it is under the umbrella of all those companies, I mean look at Deadpool, Deadpool’s interesting because it’s funny, but it’s R-rated, again, so they can go there. I think there are so many characters under both companies’ control that they can go left and right all day long and not have to worry that they have to keep repeating the same formula. They have too many outlets to be able to experiment and create new audiences, both young and old.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage is now available on 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray!