It's not unusual for a TV writer to dabble in comic books, but Kevin Shinick is making it known that he wants to work in the comics industry as much as possible. Shinick, a Robot Chicken writer and the main creative force behind Cartoon Network's MAD, made his comic book debut in 2009 with a story in a Batman 80-Page Giant, and last fall wrote a two-part story in Avenging Spider-Man featuring Deadpool and the Hypno-Hustler. Starting in July, he's writing his highest-profile (and longest) comic book story to date, five-issue miniseries Superior Carnage, illustrated by Marvel regular Stephen Segovia. As the title implies, it ties into the current Superior Spider-Man branding and continuity, while also offering a similarly altered version of the symbiote-powered villain. Newsarama discussed the series, which features long-time Fantastic Four villain The Wizard attempting to control a now-vulnerable Carnage, with Shinick and series editor Sana Amanat. Newsarama: Kevin, Superior Carnage, is your longest comic book story yet, right? It's a full-on five-issue miniseries.
Kevin Shinick: It was exciting, because I want to do more in comics. I've been fortunate right out of the gate — my foray into DC Comics was Batman, and my foray into Marvel Comics was Spider-Man, so I can't complain.
When Steve Wacker called, and said, "I'd like you to do this miniseries," I was all on board for it. It was an exciting project, and also a challenge, I thought. I like Carnage, but he's got his thing, and we know him for what he is. I was reading "Minimum Carnage," and at the end of that, he's essentially lobotomized. On one hand I thought, "He's lobotomized, now what am I going to do with him?" On the other hand, I thought, "This is a clean slate."
If I can, I always want to try and bring something new to anything that I approach. Of course, it's going to be my approach, so it's going to be new, but also something for the reader. I wanted to come up with a way that I can say, "You're going to see Carnage like you've never seen him before, and experience him in a way you've never experienced before," and mean it. If we're going to do this, I really wanted it to be something new, and since he is lobotomized, start from scratch.
I came up with this idea that I thought would be really great, and then Steve jumped on board — how the Avengers took Venom and made him Agent Venom, I like how the villain world is all of a sudden like, "Screw that, we're going to take someone who was even more badass, and make him even more wicked," and make him, not a slave to the villain world, but another agent of evil. Stephen [Segovia] and I have been having a fun time coming up with what this new look is going to be. So I can truly say it's a Carnage you've never seen before.
Nrama: Sana, given Kevin Shinick's background in humor, he doesn't seem like an immediately obvious choice to be the next writer to take on Carnage. What made Shinick the right choice for this series?
Sana Amanat: I think comedic writers are some of the most intelligent writers out there because they’re able to see the connection in things that don’t seem connected at first, thereby creating a whole new experience. That in itself is the basis of a good writer, and that supersedes genre. He was the right guy because he’s a great storyteller.
Also, have you seen MAD or read the Avenging Spider-Man issue he wrote? If that doesn’t scream"“sick mind," then I really don’t know what does.
Nrama: Were you reading comics when Carnage first debuted in the early '90s
Shinick: I was, in fact. Then I fell away since then, but I started coming back, and reading more, and catching up on it. They do go through so many incarnations — now we've got Venom, and Toxin, and Carnage, and all these guys. If you're going to do something, it has to stand out and make its own mark.
Nrama: So what motivated the use of the Wizard as the villain that's trying to control Carnage?
Shinick: This is a great example of how notes can make something better: When I was doing Avenging Spider-Man, I was doing this whole thing, and I thought at the end, "Alright, well, it'll be Mysterio or something." And Stephen said, "Oh, he's not available to you. In fact, nobody's available to you." [Laughs.] So I had to start doing my research, and I kind of had remembered the Hypno-Hustler, and it just opened it up for a world of possibility, and a much more entertaining, I thought, comic than if I had just gone with one of the A-listers. Taking that as my cue, I thought, that's something I'd like to do if I can, across the board — find someone that hasn't been overdone, or hasn't been utilized to their extent.In just doing the research, I thought this is a great plan for the Wizard. This sounds stupid, but I kept thinking, "If I'm a supervillain, this sounds like a great idea — I want to harness the power of Carnage, and I can do it, because I've got mind control, I've got all this stuff." Not only is it an exciting story, kind of like a Frankenstein's monster kind of thing, but any time I write, I think because of my background with MAD, and Robot Chicken there's going to be humor in it. I'm not coming out guns-a-blazin' with the humor gun, but it's my style, and I just see things that way. The idea of this villain and his friends taking on more than they can chew, not realizing the power of Carnage or how difficult it will be to control him, I thought, this is going to be kind of funny.
In a good way, because he's lobotomized, I'm trying to go back to those original roots of just the fear of it all. It's kind of like Alien in a sense, and I kind of find it more terrifying that we don't know his thoughts now. A lot of times we hear the dialogue of Carnage, we know what he's saying through Cletus. Now to have this symbiote being just kind of on the rampage, and not knowing what's going on, and not knowing what his next move because I'm not really letting the audience in on his thoughts, I just found a little more horrifying.
Nrama: So Wizard is working on including Carnage as part of a new version of the Frightful Four?
Shinick: Yes. I kind of approach that from a comedic side — talk about a one-trick pony. He keeps trying to put this group together. But the book is called "Superior Carnage," and I think he does finally feel that this could be the ultimate group.
A lot of the Wizard's actions are pointed at his relationship with his son/clone, Bentley. I'm not sure how much we're going to see Bentley yet, but I know he is a strong force for the Wizard, and I think he wants something that maybe could woo his son back to the dark side. Bentley's at the core of a lot of his decisions.
Nrama: Are you at liberty to share at this point the other villains in league with the Wizard?
Shinick: I'm going back to some familiar faces for the Wizard. I'm going back to some people we haven't looked upon in the long time. Like I've done with the Wizard in trying to give him new light, I'm going to do that with one or two other people. I'm not going to say who just yet, but it's going to be a new roster of some people that you'll be like, "Oh, I forgot they were around."
Nrama: So maybe not Paste Pot Pete. But, maybe so!
Shinick: Exactly. [Laughs.
Nrama: The book is called Superior Carnage, clearly tying in to the rather successful Superior Spider-Man branding. How much of presence does Spider-Man have in this book?
Shinick: You can't have thousands of Spideybots out in the city, viewing everything that's going on, and not notice the appearance of a Superior Carnage. So yes, let's just leave it at that, and say, he will be very aware of him, and may have to do something about it.
Nrama: You're working on Superior Carnage with Stephen Segovia, who has illustrated a fairly diverse range of books for Marvel in recent years, from Thor to Wolverine to Silver Surfer. From your perspective, what's he bringing that makes him the right fit for this story?
Shinick: He has such a great look just as is, and you're right, he does dabble in different areas, so he's always giving you something new. And that excited me in terms of this whole approach I've had for this book — I wanted to do something new for Carnage, and I'm working with a fantastic artist who always seem to show the reader something new that he hasn't done before. Of all the people to try and create a new look for Carnage with, I thought Stephen would be great.
His panels are really dynamic. Every panel is almost like, "God, I want that framed in my room," you know what I mean? I always try and know my artists going in, and write to their strengths. It is this new look, it's this splash of action and hero, and I needed to embrace so many different levels in one comic, and I thought if anybody could do it, Stephen could. The artwork's coming back, and it's looking great.
Nrama: To speak a bit more broadly about your career, you mentioned wanting to do more in comics — and obviously, with this miniseries, you are. Obviously, you've been successful with TV work, but what's the appeal of working further in comics for you? That you've been a fan for so long, and getting to play in this world is something of a dream come true?
Shinick: It's twofold. One is, yes, I have always been a fan of comics since I was a kid. I was thinking the other day how my entire career has pretty much been making the world safe for little Kevin Shinick. All the things I loved as a kid, I've now made my career to make sure the world embraces them not just as niche or geek things, but mainstream things. Any time I'm asked to come back to comics, I know that for the kid in me it's a dream come true, another thing off the bucket list.
As an adult, and as a professional artist, what I find amazing and fascinating and gratifying about comics is, you can write on the scale of a huge blockbuster movie, and you see the work done, it looks beautiful, and the turnaround rate is incredibly fast, all things considered. People work on screenplays that don't get made, or they linger in development, or even if they're made, they take forever to happen.
For me, I know I'm a writer, but it's about the story. There's so much in television and film sometimes — they put all this money into it, and you're like, "Yeah, but there was no story there." I can appreciate how visually beautiful it is, but I'm not hooked. This is a medium where I'm trying to do exciting and interesting stories, and there are so many great artists out there, Stephen among them, that can bring this to life; in a budget that we can all afford, and in a timely manner that makes it exciting to not only see your work come to the page quickly, but also to go on to something else, and work on something new. You can approach it from an independent film type of way, or you can approach it as a mega blockbuster, but it can all happen within 20 pages.
Nrama: One thing you also hear a lot from creators who come from different media is that comics typically allow for a clearer vision to come through in the final product.
Shinick: Absolutely. And it truly is a collaboration between writer and artist. It's just a great process.
Nrama: What else are you working on right now? There are new episodes of MAD coming soon, right?
Shinick: Yes, in fact MAD hits its 100th episode this season, which blows my mind. It's crazy. I'm also on the Robot Chicken staff, and we just hit our 100th episode after 10 years. And here I am in the middle of my fourth season [on MAD], and we're hitting our 100th episode. Hopefully we're going to do a special for it. I'm really excited by that.
Robot Chicken, we've always got something in the works, so there's a lot of stuff going on there. Right now, I'm just looking forward to July when this comes out, and everybody can see this Superior Carnage.
Nrama: Sana, Carnage has been on a colorful journey recently, from the Zeb Wells series to "Minimum Carnage", but much like what Superior Spider-Man did for Peter Parker, this series looks to be a major status quo change for him/it. Why was now the right time to shake things up for the character?
Amanat: Well, it was less about timing than about the right kind of story. Kevin had asked an interesting question from the get go — why wouldn’t a villain try to take advantage of the symbiote that had so much power and viciousness and make it better, more controllable, more superior? From there we had a really fascinating story that called for a new version of Carnage, and asks: what happens when you attempt to dissect evil? That’s a tale we had to tell.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!