Donny Cates talks Absolute Carnage – Metal horror, moving Venom out of Spider-Man’s shadow and blood oaths over art

7 min read
1
Carnage-1

You thought Maximum Carnage was bad, back when New York City was whipped into a murderous frenzy at the tendrils of Venom’s bastard son? Pal, you ain’t seen nothing yet. After years in the wilderness, Carnage is back and deadlier than ever in a series which has redefined his evil as absolute. Everyone is a target, the world isn’t ready for the red horde that is growing and we’re only a mere three issues in to the horror event of the year that is Absolute Carnage.

At Comic Con Africa, I got a chance to chat to Absolute Carnage writer Donny Cates, who had plenty to say about the project and how its merely another step in his masterplan to move Venom out of Spider-Man’s shadow. Here’s what he had to say.

Absolute Carnage is pretty much Marvel’s first big horror comic event, but you’ve been laying the groundwork for that theme since you started work on Venom. Was this always your intention?

Carnage-8

The core conceit of Venom as a character, is a sci-fi horror concept. It’s just that no one has ever explored it. It’s a sentient alien goo from outer space that talks into your brain, moves your body around and goes away at night. That’s sci-fi horror. I just found a little corner in the Marvel publishing line that wasn’t being used. We weren’t doing big Cthulu horror elder god-type stuff, and people seemed to react to it. It was a gamble!

I’ve been a Venom fan since I was a kid and that’s always what it seemed like to me. A shadow with teeth, a horror book. It’s just going to get worse and worse. Absolute Carnage is what we call the end of our first act, and the ending of Absolute Caranage will set up the next big thing.

Venom and by extension Absolute Carnage, is a pretty metal comic book. Now it’s a metal horror comic book, which I assume was always the point?

Carnage-3

Fuck yeah dude! Hell yeah, that’s the whole point. Metal Horror! I think everything I do, from Thanos to Doctor Strange to God Country, it’s all just big loud comics. I want to make as much noise as humanly possible to wake people up to get them into comic books. That comes from me being a retailer, I used to run a chain of comic book stores and I do three checks on scripts before they go out the door. One is for plot and all that kind of shit, the other is for grammar and spelling. The third one is ‘is this well thought-out?’. Is there enough comic book in this comic book?

And if it’s not, I rewrite. That’s what the ‘metal’ of it is. Something’s going to explode, someone’s going to get fucked up. Every issue, every time.

This version of Carnage you and Stegman created, he’s horrifying. He’s actually scarier outside of his symbiote than he is inside of it, this rotting chunk of dead flesh that wants to kill everything. How did you guys come up with this take on Carnage?

Carnage-5

We wanted to redesign him. We’ve seen the Venom symbiote attach itself to everyone, from Wolverine to Captain America and it’s always cool to make new toys but what we wanted to make Carnage look like when you saw him, you knew instantly that that’s not a person inside of that. That’s why his spine is showing, he’s all gangly and stuffy. You know that whatever is under there, is so much worse. We wanted to have a true monster.

How does the threat of Carnage tie into your efforts to get Venom out of Spider-Man’s shadow?

Carnage-4

I read a lot of villains, that I really like. Part of what you want to do when you write a villain, is find the humanity in them. No villain is the villain of their own story, right? Thanos thinks he’s doing the right thing, every Thanos story is a love story is my opinion. Doctor Doom always thinks he’s doing the right thing. The other side of that coin, is like the Joker and Carnage, which is that they’re pure evil incarnate. They are a hurricane. You’re never going to see behind the curtain and they absolutely fucking love being evil.

That is as much fun to write. A big part of my publishing plan for Venom was that I always thought of Cletus Kassady as a Venom bad guy, not a Spider-Man bad guy. So much of what I’ve been doing in this book is trying to get Venom out of Spider-Man’s shadow and give him his own mythology, his own corner. You look at characters, all it takes is one true kind of run on something to get them out of where they were born.

What I mean by that, is that the Punisher started out as a Spider-Man bad guy and none of us think of him like that anymore. Wolverine started out as a Hulk bad guy and none of us think of him like that. Sabretooth as an Iron Fist bad guy, all it took was writers coming in and artists coming in and changing things to get them completely out of that shadow.

That is what me and Ryan (Stegman) are trying to do on this book.

Stegman is doing amazing art right now on Absolute Carnage, and there’s still so much more to come. From what you’ve seen so far, is there any art that you’d love to grab from your Venom run and hang on your wall?

Carnage-6

Here’s the fucking thing about Ryan: I’m so proud of him and he would tell you that his Venom run is the best work of his entire career. Absolute Carnage is the pinnacle of what he’s doing, I’ve seen what he’s doing next and he just keeps on getting better and better. The consequence of that though, is that I don’t have any fucking original art from the series because it all sells complete. Every issue, collectors buy all of it. I don’t have anything.

So I keep on like giving scripts and I’ll be like ‘alright dude, I’m writing this page for me’, you’re drawing this for me. I’m writing this into the script so that I can have it. Then he’ll come to me and be like ‘hey man, a collector called and he wants to buy the whole thing’. So I’ve made him promise me in blood, that the last page of our entire Venom run is mine. No matter what, it’s mine. Now I’ve got to figure out what the fuck that page is.

Just how bad are things still going to get in Absolute Carnage?

Carnage-7

Dude you have no Earthly clue. People on Twitter are like saying ‘Oh issue three was like the head of it’ or ‘how much worse could it get’, it’s just going to get so very much worse. As of right now, there’s a Spider-Man Spider-Verse sort of problem with some ancillary titles and everything. What’s coming next is going to be a line-wide global threat. It’s going to get way worse before it gets any better…if it ever does.

Absolute Carnage is out right now, with one hell of a bodycount tallied up so far.

Last Updated: October 1, 2019

Check Also

The best comic book covers of the week – 21 October 2019

From the streets of Gotham to the far reaches of the multiverse, here’s a look at the best…