Back for Four: Fred Van Lente on Marvel Zombies 4

Fred Van Lente on Marvel Zombies 4

Marvel Zombies 4 #1

In April, Marvel’s supernatural forces are clamoring to a fevered pitch as the remaining zombies from Marvel Zombies 3 run amuck in the mainstream Marvel universe—and it seems some pretty heavy baddies want to get in on this infectious zombie action…including The Hood. Luckily, the forces of good aren’t taking either of these threats lightly—as some of Marvel’s most nefarious supernatural characters come together to re-form the Midnight Sons. Marvel Zombies 4 reunites the team of Fred Van Lente and Kev Walker for another spine-chilling chapter in the Marvel Zombies storyline.

Fans of Marvel’s supernatural characters will remember the original incarnation of the Midnight Sons from the early to-mid 90’s; ushered in by the successful re-launch of Ghost Rider, the Midnight Sons line spawned several popular titles—including one featuring a central character in the Marvel Zombies storyline: Michael Morbius, the Living Vampire.

Newsarama contacted Marvel Zombies 4 writer, Fred Van Lente, to discuss the ongoing fight with the undead and the new day that’s dawning for the Midnight Sons.

Newsarama: Marvel Zombies 4 is hot on the tail of third installment in the series of books. For readers who aren't familiar with Marvel Zombies 3--give us a little set-up for the beginning of this new Marvel Zombies storyline.

Fred Van Lente: In Marvel Zombies 3, the undead superhumans invade our own beloved Marvel U. Not to give away the ending of that book, but, since Marvel is still publishing, it's safe to assume the Marvel Universe was not utterly destroyed.

However, we learned at the end of MZ3 that some of the super-zombies escaped, and in the opening to MZ4 we see who those shamblers are, and who ex-Spider-Man villain-turned-bloodsucking-hero Morbius the Living Vampire has gathered together to track them down before they infect the rest of the MU.

But there could be others after the escapees as well, for their own nefarious purposes...

NRAMA: Kev Walker is returning to the fourth installment of Marvel Zombies, correct? How did the two of you find out you'd be reunited for another installment of the story?

FVL: The best way possible—Marvel Zombies 3 #1 sold out the day it came out, or by the end of that week, and we got the word that Marvel wanted us to immediately start thinking sequel.

NRAMA: Michael Morbius, the Living Vampire, is playing a central role in this new story—who will he be aligning himself with to track down the renegade zombies running through the Marvel Universe?

Marvel Zombies 4 #2

FVL: He's gathered together fellow MZ3 co-star Jennifer Kale, the witch from the "Man-Thing" series, as well as Jack Russell, Werewolf-by-Night, and Daimon Hellstrom, the Son of Satan. Man-Thing is kind of a "reserve member" through his psychic connection with Jen, and fear not, Kev and I have some other surprise characters waiting in reserve...

Of course, Morbius is a formidable opponent for the zombies in his own right. As a biochemist, he's figured out more about what the exact nature of the "Marvel Zombies" pathogen is moreso than we've ever seen before, and he's developed some unique countermeasures against it as a result.

NRAMA: What sort of research did you do when you were picking your supporting cast? Did any of your own sensibilities as a fan affect your choices?

FVL: I read all the 1970's Horror essentials—Horror Vol. 1, which is all Son and Daughter of Satan, along with the Man Thing and Werewolf by Night volumes. I went through a big Steve Gerber kick as a teenager, bought most of his seventies stuff in back issue, so I was already very familiar with Jennifer Kale and the Man-Thing. I also got the "Midnight Sons" Morbius and Warren Ellis run on Hellstorm. So... I read a loooot of comics. But that's okay. They were tax-deductible.

NRAMA: Were there any characters you couldn't get your hands on this time around?

FVL: Yeah, Hellstrom actually wasn't my first choice. He replaced a guy I really wanted, one of my all-time off-beat faves, but Mr. Bendis has control of that particular person at present. But I'm hoping I can work with that character sooner rather than later.

NRAMA: Two of the supporting characters in Marvel Zombies 4—Jack Russell, Werewolf By Night, Hellstorm, the Son of Satan, have both been in the spotlight recently. How are you taking these two popular horror characters forward? What sorts of personal touches did you want to add to the mythos of these characters?

FVL: Jack Russell has grown to accept his lycanthropic curse—although Morbius fears that just means he no longer cares if he lives or dies. Regardless, his nihilistic hedonism makes him the bon vivant of the team.

Hellstrom is a character that has had almost as many guises as the devil himself, and, to be honest, I'm not a fan of any of them. However, when I was reading his origin Marvel Essential Horror Vol. 1, it mentioned he actually had gone to seminary to study to be a priest. Even though he left before he was ordained, I thought it would be cool to stick him in a Jesuit-style cassock, with the pentragram on his chest burning through. Kev took that description and really knocked it out of the park, I think.

NRAMA: The Hood is going to be appearing in Marvel Zombies 4; how does his revealed involvement with Dormmamu play a part in your story? Is he bringing friends along with him?

FVL: Dormammu, keeping with our horror theme, is a huge part of MZ4. And we learn that among the plethora of super villains The Hood has at his beck and cool are a horror themed bunch from way back known as the Night Shift. They might really give our monster heroes a run for their money, no?

NRAMA: Any other surprise appearances readers should be aware of?

FVL: If they were aware of them, they wouldn't be surprises, now would they...?

NRAMA: Fair enough. Do you have a particular fondness for atmospheric horror stories? Is there a genre you haven't explored that you'd like to give a try?

FVL: I really do. My favorite genres are espionage, horror, super heroes… I guess I like my fantasy firmly planted in the world I see around me every day. I've been lucky that in my Marvel career I've been able to try out a plethora of genres, from Westerns to Greek mythology to post-apocalypse to spy stories to noir mystery.

I guess I've never tried my hand at the really cosmic science fiction stuff, but since Zombies Undeaditor Bill Rosemann is also Mr. Cosmic, I know who to grovel to.

NRAMA: Switching gears a little, what books are you reading currently?

FVL: You've kind of caught me in between books at the moment. I only seem to read stuff that applies to stuff I'm currently writing. I'm reading for the first time the entire Romita Sr./Gil Kane run of Amazing Spider-Man for an upcoming Spidey project with Bill, that's a real treat.

Also, I'm enjoying Great British Comics by Paul Gravett, a survey for the upcoming "British Invasion" issue of my comics-history series, Comic Book Comics.

Oh, and Ryan and I are also gearing up to bring out the big-ass mama-jama More-Than-Complete Action Philosophers TPB collection in time for Christmas this year, and that will include ALL NEW STORIES! To that end, I'm preparing to crack open a biography of the American philosopher William James, Gentle Reality by Linda Simon.

NRAMA: Finally Fred – it’s been heroes and villains, and now, this time around its zombies versus demons and monsters...what next?

FVL: Hmmm. Clowns?

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