Monkey Fighting Robots caught up with writer Donny Cates at MegaCon in Orlando this past weekend to talk all things VENOM!
Donny brought us up to speed on how he’s approaching Venom, what kind of questions he’s going to be answering in the series, why Venom is Spider-Man’s true arch-nemesis, and more!
Watch the full interview here:
Was there a 90s influence in the first issue of Venom?
Donny Cates: I think the art helps a lot with that, you know? Stegman is obviously a child of McFarlane, you know, he’s got his own flavor and stuff obviously, but that’s definitely the era that he comes from. And I’m heavily influenced by nineties stuff. I mean, I’m the guy who created Cosmic Ghost Rider, which is the most nineties character that’s ever been made. So I think it’s not intentional as much it is the Venom comics of the nineties are what I grew up on and that’s the stuff that I love. And so I think that when I got a chance to get my hands on the character, just kind of the stuff that I default to, you know?
How do you expand a comic book universe and remain respectful to the previous creators?
DC: There’s a difference between an additive approach and a deconstructive approach. Right? So like the, the, the two examples that I always use are two books written by Grant. Grant’s Batman is an additive approach. Everything counts and he builds on top of what counts, right? Then there’s a deconstruction which is Grant’s X-Men. “Fuck all this shit. This is the new stuff,” right? I really like additive stuff, I love adding toys, giving toys. And when you’re doing that, you know…it helps that I’m an enormous fan and I’ve been reading it my entire life. I didn’t have to do a whole lot of research because it’s been there forever. So, to answer your question, I think the greatest gift of becoming the writer of Venom is that even though the character’s 30 years old, there’s still so much that’s left unexplored, both with the Symbiote and with Eddie, right? But you have to build off what’s there and what you know about those things.
So I don’t really know. A lot of it is me answering questions that I had when I was like nine and ten reading Venom comics. The most surreal part about writing Venom is that all these questions that I had when I was nine and ten, eventually they would all be answered. And the weird thing is that they will be answered by me, which is the weirdest thing to realize. You know, little things like I’m going gonna be explaining the green slime. I had an explanation about where the green saliva comes from when I was ten and I just waited around for someone to beat me to it and no one ever did, so I was like, well that’s canon now, you know, and so I’m just having fun, man. You know, Marvel’s been really great and just kind of after Thanos and Doctor Strange, uh, kind of just let me off the leash and just told me to go and have fun. So I’m just having fun.
“Venom is a character that can, and should, and will stand on his own.” – Donny Cates
Has your perception of Venom changed in your time writing the book, now that you’re in Eddie’s head?
DC: Yeah, it’s always hard to just switch that off. Right? It hasn’t been that hard for Venom, actually. I was talking to my editor about it when I turned in the first issue, I turned it in ahead of schedule and he was like, “Geez, that was fast.” And I was like, honestly, I’ve never felt more comfortable writing a character and I slipped right into it. I think it’s because I’ve read more Venom books than I probably have anything else. I’ve been following it my entire life.
Thanos was was way harder. Thanos is not a dude that you want hanging out in your head for very long. I got dark. I got really dark when I was like trying to inhabit Thanos. My wife came into my office and I was like sitting in my chair like this and she like came in and I was like, “Hello?” And she’s like, Jesus, dude, calm down. Um, I started having nightmares with Thanos. I just, I swear to God I had this nightmare that I was being chased and I couldn’t run fast enough and Thanos was behind me. I could hear him talking and stuff. Ugh.
But with Eddie? Yeah. I kind of just slipped right into it. So it didn’t change my perception of him much, as much as I just, I know what he sounds like, you know, I’ve been talking to this dude my entire life. And obviously there’s some built in metaphors with the character that I really relate to. I’m sober almost four years now. And the idea of having a dark half of you that tells you to do things that are maybe not in your best interest, and especially in my run, something that is kind of operating without your consent is stuff that’s pretty easy for me to kind of put on, you know?
Why is Venom Spider-Man’s greatest enemy?
DC: Well, it’s Venom because Peter’s never won in a toe to toe fight with that dude. It’s never happened. There’s never been a scene where Peter stood victorious over him and it was like, “yeah, I beat you.” He always runs away or does some trick or Venom backs off. I mean, if you just want to go straight to the numbers, Venom wins every time.
But I will say part of my goal – and it goes back to me expanding the mythology of him – is I am trying my damnedest to bring Venom out of Peter’s shadow. He’s so intrinsically tied to him. And for the longest time, Venom has been a character that has pivoted off of where Spider-Man lives. Right? And so what I’m trying to do is give Venom his own universe in the same way that Thor has his own world. Thor interacts with us and interacts with the heroes, but he has his own world that he explores and exists in with his own set of supporting characters and cast and everything. Venom has always just kind of gleaned off of Peter’s supporting cast and I’m done with it. I’m like, I’m trying to build Venom’s world for himself, the world of the symbiote and Eddie’s supporting cast and Eddie’s family. So hopefully, coming up soon, people will come to realize that yes, while he used to be “Venom: Spider-Man’s Greatest Enemy” and stuff, Venom is a character that can, and should, and will stand on his own.
Thanks again to Donny Cates for taking the time to talk with us! Venom #1 is out now.
And check out Donny’s current creator-owned work, Redneck and Babyteeth, as well as past projects God Country, Thanos, Doctor Strange, and more!