Todd McFarlane Weighs in on 'Venom' Movie Spin-off

Blog@: Sony Looking at Venom Spinoff

If the villain Venom ends up starring in his own movie, the artist who defined his look in the comics hopes Hollywood makes him "creepier."

"When I created him, he was a monster first, then a guy underneath," said Todd McFarlane, the artist behind Venom's first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #299. "He should be creepier than what he was in Spider-Man 3."

On Thursday, news emerged that Sony Pictures, prompted by the success of Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker, is moving forward with development of the film project "Venom," a Spider-Man spin-off based on the villain.

"I always thought Spider-Man was a skinny runt of a guy, and his villains felt more formidable if they were physically more superior," McFarlane explained, saying that when he first drew Venom, he didn't even know there was supposed to be a guy inside the suit. "I didn't realize until afterward that it was Eddie Brock underneath... which is why the proportions are the way they are [in the comics], with the big jaws and the hunching. I pictured him as a creature, and not a human being in a costume."

Venom is a thick, black parasite that attaches itself to the outside of a human host, giving the wearer superpowers. The implication of the villain being a vehicle for a movie is that Sony doesn't have to use the actor who played Venom in Spider-Man 3, Topher Grace, in the lead role of a new film, since the parasite can switch from one host to another. But the idea of another host also makes McFarlane's request for a scarier Venom possible.

"You don't want to scare the kids, because the kids love the character," McFarlane said of Venom, echoing the sentiment of those in Hollywood who maintain superhero movies must be PG or PG-13 to succeed because they need young audiences. "But I think you could add a little bit of a creep factor. I mean, it never bugged me to watch Frankenstein as a kid, so you could have a little bit of it, as long as you have a good story backing it up."

McFarlane, who was publicizing his role as one of the six artists drawing the upcoming comic Image United, became a comic book superstar in the '80s because of his artwork on Spider-Man, including his co-creation of the wildly popular Venom with writer David Michelinie. He later founded Image Comics and became an advocate of creator-owned characters, including his '90s hit series Spawn. The entrepreneur also founded the action figure company McFarlane Toys, and is well known to sports fans as a collector of historically significant baseballs.

But even if the new Venom is "creepier," the artist questioned the idea of a villain being the center character of a Spider-Man spin-off. "I'm thinking about how they want to make anti-heroes nowadays," he said, using the Halle Berry Catwoman film as an example. "Those don't work. The reason they're so cool as a bad guy is because they're bad. And as soon as you try to give too much humanity to them, then you go, no! Now they're not as good as a bad guy because you're trying to redeem them."

He said that although "smart people can make things happen in other ways," he doesn't think Venom can make an audience care about him if he's still a villain. McFarlane said that Don Corleone and the Sopranos are examples of characters who were able to entice viewer sympathy despite their villainy, "but they were human. Can you bring that mentality to Venom and make it work? Or do you make him all bad?

"You're trying to give something to people when they leave. I don't know if you can have a movie about a guy who goes out there and maims everybody and wins all the time," he said. "I don't know what their mindset is and how they can get there other than adding too much niceness to him, but we'll see."

Look for more this week on Newsarama of our interview with Todd McFarlane about Image United.

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