The Venom symbiote has been a lot of things in its nearly three-decade history in the Marvel Universe — with Peter Parker, a superhero and sprurned partner; with Venom, a vengeful threat and lethal protector; and with Mac Gargan, a Thunderbolt and Dark Avenger. He's been featured in a movie (Spider-Man 3), several cartoon series and multiple video games ("We are Venom!").Writer Rick Remender and artist Tony Moore are about to add the latest chapter in the alien costume's history with a new Venom ongoing starting in March, featuring a new, as-yet unrevealed host and a new mission, working black-ops mission for the military. Newsarama talked with Remender to find out more about the series, and though there's still a lot of specifics that are too early to talk about — like exactly who is bonding with the symbiote this time around — we still learned plenty about the concept of the series, re-teaming with his Fear Agent and Punisher collaborator Tony Moore, and making the '90s new again with Venom and Uncanny X-Force. Newsarama: Rick, the basic concept of the new direction for Venom was established before you came on board the series, correct?
Rick Remender: Yeah. This is something that [Dan] Slott and [Stephen] Wacker cooked up, in terms of the high concept. When I talked to them, they said, look, we’re going to turn him into sort of a black ops agent for the military. So the basic building blocks were definitely in place. Then I came on and talked to Dan and Wacker quite a bit, and we all sort of hashed out the supporting cast, and the rules. Past high concept, I had a good hand on the supporting cast, and how the rules worked, and obviously tone; I’m setting a lot of that. It’s a great high concept, and as soon as Steve told me about it, it immediately got me excited.
I immediately started having all this imagery — there isn’t really a globetrotting character in the Marvel Universe right now. In terms of a character who could 007 it up, Venom could one day be infiltrating Utopia to steal some secrets from an evil mutant who lives there. And the next day, he could be gallivanting as a tuxedo-adorned rico suave, hitting up a Casino Royale-type situation in Latveria. He’s going to hop all over the place, and do 007 business wearing the Venom symbiote, and the whole time in a struggle with the symbiote to make sure it doesn’t take control of him, and turn him into the “real” Venom. It’s got a whole lot going for it. As soon as you hear the idea, you’re like, “That’s actually great. That’s a really great idea.” For this character, those guys nailed it, in terms of the way to deal with making him fresh and new and exciting, and still stay true to who the character is. That Venom monster is not gone, it’s just being suppressed for the time being.
Nrama: I imagine a big part of the appeal in approaching the series is presenting a familiar character like Venom in such a radically different context.
Remender: Right. I’ve got the first outline locked, and I’m finishing up the first issue today, and I feel great about it. It’s a totally different kind of character for me, in terms of the person who’s wearing the suit. Now that I’ve been doing this and working on this project for a month and a half or so, I think I’ve got his voice down, and I feel very confident that I can breathe — I don’t want to say new life, because the character has plenty of life — I definitely feel like I have my take for the character. I know my “in.”
Nrama: And obviously the identity of Venom’s new host is still a closely guarded secret at this point, but it is a character who is familiar to readers, right?
Remender: Yep. Familiar to readers, but somebody who's been prowling around the Spidey-verse for years and makes a lot of sense for the job.Nrama: And readers will find out who it is in Amazing Spider-Man #654.1.
Remender: Yeah. And I’ll just let you know it’s Galactus.
Nrama: That does make a lot of sense. Especially the tuxedo part.
Remender: “Galactus tires of these short shorts.”
Nrama: So was Venom a character you were a fan of before working on the series? Maybe the initial stories with Todd McFarlane on art?
Remender: Yeah, I started reading Amazing Spider-Man when Puma showed up, during those great Ron Frenz issues. By the time the Venom thing happened, I guess that would have been 30 issues, 40 issues later, I had been reading the Amazing Spider-Man like a fiend for four years, and that was in the prime of my comic book collecting years. I was right there for the Venom thing as a kid, that stuff grabbed me by the ding-a-ling. That’s the great thing about comics: all of my formative years when I was locked down, and just obsessed and in love with this stuff, it’s always crazy when you get handed one of those characters, and say, “Well, what are you going to do?” You’re like, “Oh, sh*t. Wow. I guess I have to sit down and remember what excited me about the character.”
I did the same thing with the Punisher. That first Punisher miniseries, the one Mike Zeck drew with [Steven] Grant, was such a big deal to me, I loved it so much when I was a kid, that when I took on the Punisher job, I had to sit down to remember, “Why? What did you love about it?” So I did that a lot with Venom.
I love monsters to begin with, and there’s sort of a Jekyl and Hyde aspect to Venom, and a number of other very interesting angles to the character. An obsessive alien symbiote who wants to kill its former host — a jilted lover who desires nothing more if it can get free to go out and murder Peter Parker. There’s a lot of fun things to be explored with that. When Amazing #300 hit, that was literally the peak of my comic book fanaticism, so this is something that I’m excited about, and definitely tapped into my youth for.Nrama: At the same time, the character of Venom has certainly changed a lot over the years, going from Eddie Brock to Mac Gargan to the new host — you mentioned that there is still going to be the element of the classic, monster side of Venom, but it is difficult to maintain a connection to the character’s roots given all the changes and that this seems to be a drastically different take?
Remender: That’s the interesting thing about the symbiote. It hasn’t changed that much. It’s still an alien who ended up on Earth through pretty strange adventures. In the book that we’re doing, the military won’t let our host wear the suit for more than two days in a row. There’s all kinds of rules, because that thing bonds with you so quickly. Peter Parker wore it for a long time, and those two bonded. Now I just love that it’s almost like a jilted lover, and it can’t get over it. It hates Peter Parker, just hates him, and it wants to murder him.
But it’s also such a powerful tool. It’s almost like a living relic of the Marvel Universe, like the Infinity Gauntlet if it had a mind of its own. Whoever the symbiote ends up on, it becomes an entirely new thing. I think the cool thing is that the suit is transferrable. You still know the symbiote, you still know that it’s not a nice thing, it’s crazy powerful, but then you have to mix in the psyche of whoever is being bonded with it, and that’s where the juice comes from in terms of character drama. Slott and Wacker, what they put together in terms of the person inside of the suit, was the reason I got — beyond seeing Tony Moore draw Venom and get to do these really great action pieces — the character they selected to go inside the suit is perfect. It’s so inspirationally perfect. It is a fresh take on it.Nrama: The new Venom is introduced in Amazing Spider-Man and obviously the symbiote has a history with Peter Parker, but given the globetrotting nature of the new series, it doesn’t seem that it’ll necessarily be too closely tied-in to the Spider-Man comics going forward. Is that the case?
Remender: Without giving away a lot, I’d say that’s a no. It actually will be fairly tightly connected to the Amazing Spider-Man comics.
Nrama: And some classic Spider-Man villains will be playing a part?
Remender: Again, without giving away too much, we’re taking a couple classic Spider-Man villains and retooling them a little bit, putting them in a situation where they end up as sort of Venom’s arch-nemeses. That’s been a real treat.
It was important for me when we were figuring out who the antagonists would be, and how we were going to build this, that it felt like part of the Spider-Man family of books. It’s obviously going to go other places and do other things, but the first arc is very, very Spider-Man-centric in terms of the villains. It fits right in with the Spider-Man family, and past that, it will fit in with other families. The cool thing about it is that it lends itself to sort of plugging in to other parts of the Marvel Universe, as well as the life and times of Peter Parker.
Nrama: A lot of talk about the series involves “globetrotting,” so setting is obviously important. At this point, are there any specific locales we might see in the early goings that you could share?
Remender: The Savage Land is a big set piece.Nrama: Should be interesting to see what Tony Moore does with that. You also worked on the “What If: The Venom Symbiote Possessed Deadpool” back-ups in this month’s What If? comics. Was that kind of a warm-up for this assignment, or more just a coincidence?
Remender: Wacker had talked to me — we had finished One Month to Live, and I asked him if he had anything else to do, and he said, “Yeah, I got these backups,” and he said, “go crazy,” and I did. That was a lot of fun. I got to sort of tap in to what I used to do on my independent books like Black Heart Billy, where it was stream-of-consciousness, and I let myself do whatever came to mind, and try to make some jokes along the way.
Nrama: Nothing wrong with that. And for an obligatory fanboy question, Eddie Brock is still out there as Anti-Venom. Can we expect him to play a part in the series, or are you maybe holding off on that, because it would be the obvious thing to do early on?
Remender: Everybody is going to want to see how those two characters interact. I also think that it’s too early. I need to build this character, build up his place in the world, first. That’s a place to build to, and some of the ideas that have been thrown around for how we would, if it were to happen, are pretty big.
Nrama: And obviously a huge component of the series is you re-teaming with Tony Moore. With Fear Agent ending in a couple issues, was it always the plan for you guys to work together again as soon as possible?
Remender: Yeah, we had been pitching Wacker on a few things, and then this came up and he thought we’d fit. I like working with Tony, I think that in terms of collaborations, I’ve got a handful of guys who I’ve worked with for a long time, and it just sort of fits, and it’s comfortable, and it’s stress-free. It’s working with somebody who you have a rapport with, and you can forego a lot of the figuring out the connective tissue with one another in terms of your working relationship.
Tony and I talk a lot. I’ll cook up a scene, and I’ll call him, and I’ll be like, “Look, here’s what it is. Venom does this, this, this,” and he’ll go, “Well, y’know, what if that was like, a Buick he dropped in there?” Done. And I try to do that with anybody I work with, get their input on what they say in terms of visuals so I can make sure it is collaboration and it’s not just me handing them words — “Now go draw my words!” And it makes it fun. Tony is one of my best friends in the world, and it’s a pleasure to work with him in terms of the creative process.Nrama: And just from a fan perspective, Moore seems pretty perfect on a lot of different levels for this comic. Remender: It’s pretty crazy how well it came together. He is perfect for it, and when you see the other drawings he’s done — we haven’t revealed the final suit — there’s so much cool stuff coming up in this in terms of visuals. I feel good. I feel that I’ve got the character’s voice down now. I’m just hoping we capture the same magic we did with Punisher and Fear Agent, and get people excited.
Nrama: Well, given that there’s still a lot we can’t talk about this early on, I think that’s about all the questions I had, unless you had any parting words.
Remender: I just would say that anybody who’s got any preconceived notions about the character or what’s been done or what’s been done with it, if Tony and I together have shown anything, it’s that we’ll find a unique spin on anything we do. We’re working hard to make sure this feels smart and human, and that we focus on the psychological aspects of the symbiote, as well as the person inside the suit’s story — drenched in the action and imagination. It seems that the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, and I hope it stays that way.
Nrama: It seems that Venom is a character that has changed so much over the years, that people are more willing to accept it from him more than they might for some others, because fans aren’t always so amenable to drastic changes to characters.
Remender: I always was. Hopefully we establish a new standard with the character here, and we stick the landing. I know that between Dan and Steve Wacker and myself and Tony, we’ve all put a lot of time and a lot of brainpower to make this something that really hits big — big, big, like, put him back on the A-list.
And that’s the challenge. It’s the challenge with any of the stuff that you take over from the ‘90s. It was the challenge with the Punisher, it was the challenge with X-Force, it’s the challenge with things that people really loved at one point but then sort of receded into the background, and you need to make them love it again but with a modern sensibility, and grab the modern readers with these characters that are — I don’t want to say tainted, but people have a preconceived notion maybe of what these things are. To make this work for the modern audience, it really does need to be beyond your A-list. It needs to be so good, that people can’t possibly believe that it was this thing they had this preconceived notion of from maybe a miniseries they read in 1997.Nrama: Between Venom and Uncanny X-Force, you’ve kind of cornered the market on signature ‘90s Marvel concepts that are now being reinterpreted.
Remender: Yeah, and again, because of the perception of what they are, you have to come in with A-game, You have to hit the story hard out of the park. It can’t just be, “that was a really good outing.” We’ve reworked every issue of X-Force three, four times. I’ve spent weeks on each issue of X-Force. Same thing with Venom. Same thing with Punisher. We all really want to to do something new and exciting with any character we take on. Hopefully, we can keep people excited about these books.
Nrama: So it sounds like you’re sticking with just those two books for a while.
Remender: This is going to keep me plenty, plenty busy. I’m killing myself — I’m bleeding out of my eyeballs ‘til 4 a.m. in the morning every night, just tweaking every bit of dialogue, and polishing the beats, and rethinking the character’s voice, and rethinking the beats, and the page turns, and making the action a little more fluid, or coming up with bigger ideas. I really am just killing myself on each one of these things, trying to make them the best I’m capable of. For the time being, these two projects are plenty.Eager to see VENOM doing '007 business'?