Jul 11, 2018

cates ve'nam interview

Ve'Nam Interview

VENOM writer, Donny Cates, sat down with CBR to talk about next month's WEB OF VENOM one shot, Ve'Nam:
CBR: If I were to do an “elevator pitch” for Ve’Nam it would be Apocalypse Now set in the Marvel Universe. Is that what you’re aiming for with this story? 
Donny Cates: That’s 100 percent right! It’s a first for me in a lot of ways. I’ve never written a war story and I’ve never written a period piece. In the first issue of Venom readers met Rex Strickland. Rex was involved in the symbiote soldier program of Project Rebirth, which is what gave Flash Thompson his suit. There was a reveal in that issue that Flash was not the first by a long shot. There were people wearing symbiotes at least as far back as the Vietnam War. 
Rex is a veteran from that time period, and in Venom #1 he shows us a picture of himself and four other men – his platoon. We saw the deaths of those other men at the end of the first issue, but at a Marvel retreat we were all talking about it. I want to say it was Dan Slott who asked, “What else are you going to do with those symbiote soldiers?” I was like, “They die in the first issue. It’s a set up thing.” He replied. “I don’t know. It’s a really cool idea. There’s meat on those bones.” Because he’s Dan Slott, he knows good story ideas like the back of his hands. So I said that I had the idea of maybe doing a one-shot of them in Vietnam; a Heart of Darkness kind of thing. Jason Aaron then said, “Ve’Nam!” He’s the one who uttered that delightful pun. 
I laughed as soon as he said it and picked up my pen to write it down. Jason was like, “Don’t write that down! It was a joke. Don’t do that.” So I had kind of forgotten about it. Then when C.B. Cebulski called to tell me that the Cosmic Ghost Rider series had been green lit he also asked, “Hey, in the room you and Jason joked about Ve’Nam. But do you want to do it? Do you want to publish that?” I was like, “If you guys want to pay for it and publish it, hell yeah, I want to do that!” 
So, I hope I’m not demystifying how Marvel Comics are made, but sometimes it is a group of friends in a room making jokes. Then someone takes you too seriously, and is like, “Let’s do it! As much as I joke around about the title it is sincerely important to the overall story. 
It’s written by me and it’s canon. It’s also an important part of what I’m doing with Rex in this first arc. That’s the gag. You can’t do these things and not take them seriously. Because when you have something like Cosmic Ghost Rider or Ve’Nam the joke is already there, and the joke is, “Holy shit! They let you do that!” So when they open the book you owe it to the reader for the joke to be over and to take it as seriously as possible. It also makes the joke better. When they put the book down the reader is like, Holy #$%@! They really took that joke seriously.” [Laughs] That’s part of a great joke.
So, Ve’Nam is really fun. There are some surprise guest stars in it. I can’t say who they are, but I can reveal that neither are characters that I’ve ever written. They are also period appropriate, popular characters that people are going to be excited to see. 
One thing I understand we’ll see is how Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. influenced the Vietnam War in the Marvel U. 
Yes, that’s one of the things I really liked. We got to go back to ’70s and ’80s S.H.I.E.L.D. books and have this dichotomy at work of Jim Steranko style trippy, far out, super sexy spy stuff intercut with a more grounded approach, similar to The ‘Nam. So there’s blood, guts, and horror and the idea that while all that was going on Nick Fury was sipping a martini while engaging in Cold War style espionage. That’s phenomenal. 
You’re working with Juanan Ramirez who Marvel fans probably know best from his work on the recent Secret Warriors series and the assists he provided on Uncanny Avengers. 
He’s phenomenal. Right away, without us even having to tell him, he clued in on a big influence of the book. Because, let’s just put all our cards on the table, it’s a bunch of human soldiers in Vietnam going into the jungle looking for a bunch of monsters who can turn invisible and that are killing people. It’s the film Predator. There’s a little bit more to it than that, but the horror adventure in a jungle environment is where this story lives. And Juan latched onto that right away. 
There’s an opening beat before we get to our title page that for anybody who’s read Marvel’s The ‘Nam comic will feel very familiar. Juan made some artistic choices that helped pull that off in a really great way. 
The book is a lot of fun and there’s a fine line when you do things like this because you want it to be important. You want to make something that empowers shops to say, “If you have Venom on you pull list you have to get this too because this is part of that overall story.” At the same time, you want to write the ongoing core Venom title in such a way that if you haven’t read this one-shot you’re going to be fine. 
That’s certainly true, but your reading experience will be greatly enriched. You will know things that no one else knows if you read Ve’Nam. This book and Venom fit together in a very tight package. 

Are you ready for Ve'Nam in August?