WW PHILLY '08: Fred Van Lente on Marvel Zombies 3

Fred Van Lente on Marvel Zombies 3

By definition, zombies never die.

And in the case of Marvel Zombies, not only are they back, but they're crossing over into the regular Marvel Universe.

Marvel Zombies 3 is a four-issue mini-series by Fred Van Lente and artist Kevin Walker (Annihilation: Nova) that kicks off in October. In the third installment about the alternate universe where superheroes have become flesh-eating zombies, Marvel Zombies 3 will show what happens when the Zombie-verse crosses over with Marvel's 616, aka, the mainstream Marvel Universe.

Featuring characters that give the series more of a "horror" slant, Marvel Zombies 3 will interact with one of The Avengers: Initiative’s teams. And according to Marvel editor Bill Rosemann, the story is completely in continuity and puts a "fresh twist to the Marvel Zombie saga."

Newsarama talked to Van Lente to find out more about this "twist," and to clarify what Marvel characters might be affected when the zombie plague hits the 616.

Newsarama: Let's start with how you got this job. Was this something you pursued, or did Marvel come to you with the idea?

Fred Van Lente: Fortunately, Marvel contacted me and wanted to know if I was interested, and I jumped immediately at the chance.

NRAMA: Why? What was it about this universe that appealed to you?

FVL: Well it's sort of bizarre and fun. I mean, the idea of these iconic characters eating each other's brains and having a good time doing it sort of appeals to my punk rock side. It's just so cheeky, and it's surprising how successful the whole thing has been since they first appeared in that Ultimate Fantastic Four arc.

NRAMA: Had you read the first two Marvel Zombies mini-series before you were offered this gig?

FVL: I hadn't, unfortunately. I was aware of them and had read about what was coming in Previews and stuff. But I hadn't actually sat down and read them. So when I got the assignment, before I got any ideas, I ran out and got them all and really enjoyed them. I found this to be a personal challenge. Marvel Zombies 3 would have to be even more shocking, even more gory, even more horrific.

NRAMA: Is that possible?

FVL: [laughs] Well, I'm pushing the envelope. Everything is possible if you put your mind to it.

NRAMA: Is this going to function within the same universe with the same continuity that came before?

FVL: Yes and no. Yes in that it's going to be the same characters and concepts and continuity as the first two Marvel Zombies series, but we're doing something a little bit different this time. This time the Marvel Zombies are invading the Marvel universe.

NRAMA: So this is going to cross over into the 616 universe?

FVL: Yes. It's pretty exciting.

NRAMA: So did they find an inter-dimensional device after all?

FVL: Well, there's this town in the Everglades called Citrusville, and it has something known as the nexus of all realities in the middle of it. This is, of course, where the Man-Thing lives. And one of the zombies manages to stumble into the Marvel Universe through the nexus. And let's just say the Florida Initiative team has a really bad day as a result. And the infection begins to spread through the Marvel Universe, so a team of Marvel heroes has to go into the rift, into the zombie-verse, in a desperate attempt to save the Marvel Universe.

NRAMA: Does this take place mainly in the Marvel Universe, or does it end up taking place mostly in the Zombies universe?

FVL: The whole first issue, most of it takes place in the Marvel Universe, although we cut back and forth. But most of the rest of the series takes place in the Zombie-verse, although it's set in a very specific time period in the Marvel Zombies world. I'd prefer to keep some surprises. We are continuing the continuity, and this story takes place in a specific part of that continuity.

NRAMA: OK. That's fair enough.

FVL: In horror sometimes, what you don't know is better.

NRAMA: Good point. But the 616 characters are actually going into the Zombies universe?

FVL: Exactly. That's the main plotline. There's something in the Zombie-verse that the 616 team needs to get in order to save their own dimension.

NRAMA: And we know the continuity of the first couple series, so we can kind of guess who they run into.

FVL: Well, you know what? I'll just go ahead and tell you. The period of the Marvel Zombies where the Marvel Universe characters come into their universe is the five-year period after the main group has eaten up Galactus and flown into space, but before the people in Asteroid M came down and said, "There are no zombies!"

NRAMA: Aaaah. Between the first two mini-series.

FVL: So it's set in that time period where we get to see what all the other zombies were doing at that time. And it's definitely not going to be what you expect, and it will haunt your dreams. It's so disturbing and grotesque.

NRAMA: [laughs] Just as it should be. Is this a type of story that you've always wanted to tell?

FVL: Yeah. What I'm doing here tapping into my inner James Cameron. The analogy I keep using is that Marvel Zombies 3 is like what James Cameron's Aliens was to the original Alien. We're using the same sort of props, but we're just doing something completely different with them. Marvel Zombies 3 is more of a sort of action/suspence/horror comic. I really want people to care about the protagonists and hope they don't get eaten or infected and turn on their comrades.

It's also exciting because I get to work with one of my all-time favorite Jack Kirby creations, although I can't tell you which one. [laughs] And that's really exciting, because we're going to bring that character to a whole new level with this.

NRAMA: Can you tell us any of the characters from the Marvel Universe who are going to be involved with this story?

FVL: Sure. I'll tell you some. We're going to play with Morbius, the Living Vampire, whose unique blood chemistry makes him a good fit for this operation. We're introducing a brand new agency -- a sister to SHIELD and SWORD, which has existed with them this whole time, but it's been so incredibly secret that no one at Marvel knew about it until now. And this is the the alter-reality monitoring and operational response agency, and yes you guess it, it's acronym is A.R.M.O.R. So now we have SWORD, SHIELD and ARMOR.

NRAMA: Will this touch upon or have anything to do with Secret Invasion?

FVL: It does not. In fact I think we're saying categorically that it happens before Secret Invasion.

NRAMA: It sounds like it's playing with the more "horror" type characters from Marvel?

FVL: Yes, definitely. So we have Man-Thing. We have Morbius. We have Ghost Rider making an appearance, and whether that's 616 or zombie Ghost Rider, I will not say. And some characters that you have not seen in awhile, like Jennifer Kale. I don't know if you remember her, but she's a Man-Thing supporting character who was in the Witches series. She's a member of the Florida Initiative. In fact, the Florida Initiative is almost entirely comprised of old Man-Thing characters, Man-Thing being the major Marvel series to actually take place in the state of Florida.

In the opening sequence, they have a rough time with it. We may only have 49 Initiative teams after Marvel Zombies 3.

NRAMA: So just to clarify, do any regular 616 characters become Zombie characters?

FVL: Yes.

NRAMA: Is there a possibility that this may infect 616 somehow on a larger scale eventually?

FVL: Yeah. Pandemics are terrible things, and they're very unpredictable. They can have long-lasting and permanent effects, and this one definitely will.

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