Early today it was announced that Todd McFarlane was the mystery artist behind the variant cover of VENOM 1. However, it is only a reprint and not original art:
In addition to this announcement, VENOM writer Mike Costa sat down with Marvel to discuss the new series:
Marvel.com: Hey Mike, so you’ve written some webslinger stuff in the past, most recently WEB WARRIORS, but have you ever scripted anything for the original tooth and tongue symbiote, Venom?
Mike Costa: I've written Venom only briefly, and that was technically an alternate-universe Venom within the Secret Wars event [in SPIDER-VERSE]. That version was inspired by the “pure villain” version of his first few appearances, and time has been kind to the symbiote; Venom is a much more complex—and in a lot of ways, totally different—character than he was back circa [AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #300]. It’s been a lot of fun to finally dig into that in this book.
Marvel.com: Of all Spidey’s foes Venom has to be one of, if not the, most iconic and we’ve heard the symbiote has found a new host for this series. What were some of the challenges bringing a new Venom to life?
Mike Costa: The biggest challenge is that Venom is technically two characters: the symbiote and the host. Robbie Thompson did such a great job dramatizing that dichotomy in [VENOM: SPACE KNIGHT], and I’m just going to shamelessly make use of the tools he created and accept all the credit. A major part of this new VENOM book will be the evolving relationship between the host and the symbiote. At its core, outside of all the other shenanigans, it’s really a book about a dysfunctional relationship.
Marvel.com: Where did you draw your inspiration for this book? Were there any storylines, pages, or panels that helped you form this new Venom?
Mike Costa: Well here’s where I only make myself look bad by mentioning writers and artists that are many magnitudes more talented than myself. But we’re going dark with this book. Maybe darker than some readers might expect, so I’m drawing a lot of inspiration from crime writers; guys like Richard Stark and George V. Higgins, or on the comics end, Ed Brubaker or [Brian] Bendis’ run on DAREDEVIL. There’s definitely action, but the heart of the book is in characters thinking and plotting and talking. It’s almost the direct opposite of the kind of book WEB WARRIORS was; that was all big crazy action and the characters were almost never out of costume. But there’s a gritty crime-drama in the DNA of this VENOM book, and there’s a street-level detail we’re living in. As for visual inspiration, obviously Gerardo is much more the guy to ask about this than myself; I try to keep the artist as unshackled to any visual dogma as is possible, since I feel like the [freer] they are to follow their own muse, the more likely they can elevate my scripts from “average” to “incredible works of genius that I will get all the credit for.” But that said, I’m taking a lot of inspiration from the early [Todd] McFarlane/[Erik] Larsen days. The hulking guy in the Spider-Man costume with the impossible jaw and revolting tongue. The Spider-Man with the monster face. That’s the essence of what makes the character powerful for me.
Marvel.com: And the symbiote’s had a long and storied history penned by some incredible creators. Do you have any favorite Venom moments?
Mike Costa: Venom is such a versatile character idea, and there have been so many incredible stories built around that him, from [Rick] Remender’s book that paired him with Flash [Thompson], to Thompson and Bendis making him a Guardian of the Galaxy—but like a lot of creators my age, it’s [David Michelinie’s] original version that’s scarred into some permanent part of my amygdala. That original concept of Venom is so incredibly pure, he’s really the platonic ideal of a villain: he can do everything the hero can do, except he’s stronger. The hero is also uniquely vulnerable to him—he doesn't set off Peter’s spider-sense—and he is 100% committed to the hero’s destruction. Also, like I said before, in Todd McFarlane’s hands—and later, in my humble opinion, perfected by Erik Larsen—he was an absolutely terrifying monster of the kind that really wasn’t seen often in super hero comics of that era, especially Spider-Man. He was the nightmare version of comics’ friendliest super hero, not just in concept but in appearance. He’s one of the very few characters to emerge since the 60’s explosion that’s truly reached iconic status and it’s not hard to see why. If Venom didn’t exist, we’d have to create him.
Marvel.com: Ok back to the juicy stuff: can you tell us anything about Venom’s next unfortunate victim? Or maybe give us some insight into the alien intelligence behind the black goo? What does it look for in a host?
Mike Costa: Well now this gets difficult, because I really can’t say too much without spoiling the twists and turns of issue #1. But I can say this: the symbiote’s last host was a solider, and that was a very fruitful relationship. The symbiote also recently went through a very significant change when it was back on its home planet. And those two elements are major factors in who, exactly, it’s hoping to find for its new host. Whether or not it finds who it’s looking for is really the question.
Marvel.com: What’s it been like working with Gerardo Sandoval? The guy’s got some serious chops. Was it a match made in heaven?
Mike Costa: If there’s one word I would use to describe his work, it's “muscular.” Not in the sense that he’s great at drawing big, muscle-bound galoots, but because his figures have such an incredible physicality. As dynamic as his characters are, you can really feel their weight on the page. Seeing the pages come in has really been great and helped me to—hopefully—start tailoring the story to better enhance the art.
Marvel.com: Anything else we need to know about Venom?
Mike Costa: No brains are safe from his endless hunger! Seriously, I’m going to find a way to get him to eat some brains. I’m finally following up on that 30-year-old promise. You heard it here first.
VENOM volume 3 comes out in November.