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SYFY WIRE Interviews

Venom master Donny Cates previews Eddie Brock's future, Wraith, and... the return of the Ultimate Universe?

By Dana Forsythe
Avengers #687 - (W) Mark Waid, Al Ewing, Jim Zub (A) Paco Medina (CA) Jamal Campbell after Eric Larsen

Eddie Brock can't catch a break, and it's all writer Donny Cates' fault. Over the past two years, Eddie and his symbiote have struggled together as Venom. With facing down Knull the God of Symbiotes, finding out he has a hidden son, and most recently (temporarily) saving the world from Carnage, it's been a difficult road for Eddie.

In the wake of Absolute Carnage, Venom has been "contaminated" with the Carnage symbiote, leading him to try and purge it. That has led Eddie back to Venom Island — the same island where Eddie "killed" Spider-Man way back in Amazing Spider-Man #347 — where he is now fighting for his life and the future of the symbiote. But even darker days are in store for the antihero.

**Spoiler Alert: This article contains spoilers for Venom #23 by Donny Cates and Mark Bagely, out Wednesday, February 12.**

This week, in an exclusive interview with SYFY WIRE, Cates drops a bomb on Venom fans with his new arc, "Venom Beyond," which rolls out in May. The Marvel scribe said the new arc will, among other things, explain why the Maker (Evil Reed Richards from the Ultimate Universe) has been so fascinated with Eddie and the Venom symbiote. In addition, Cates teased the jaw-dropping conclusion of "Venom Island," explained why Wraith could serve as a linchpin in Eddie's story, described why he loves writing Eddie Brock, and made it clear he isn't leaving the book for a long, long time.

"If you think of it in terms of how Marvel movies work with Phase 1 and 2 and 3, I would call the end of Absolute Carnage the end of Phase 1," Cates says. "[Artist] Ryan Stegman and I have these huge overarching plans that are just getting started." 

Venom #26 - (W) Donny Cates (A) Iban Coelleo (CA) Ryan Stegman

Looking into the future, to Venom #26, the cover alone speaks volumes. What can you tell us about this new arc?

This is a spoiler for Venom #23. Eddie makes it off the island with help from the Avengers, but he leaves without the symbiote, which stays on the island. As he leaves, Eddie looks back in horror to see that the Avengers have dropped a nuke on the island. Where we are right now is that it's all over. The symbiote and the Carnage symbiote have been wiped off the face of the earth. It's all over.

So, with Issue #26, it almost looks like Eddie is piloting an Iron Venom suit. What's going on here?

The events of Issue 26 kick off this arc called "Beyond." I've structured my entire run with pieces that reflect each other and talk to each other.

What I mean by that is that Volume 1: "Rex" is about the symbiote and symbiote lore. Volume 2: "The Abyss" is a reflection of that in that it looked at Eddie's lore, diving deep into who Eddie Brock is and his family. Absolute Carnage is a prelude to a larger thing, and we'll see the opposite of what that is coming very soon. With Venom Island, we're looking back at his history, revisiting certain things from Venom's past. With "Venom Beyond," all I will say is that we will be looking into the future.

Venom #23 - (W) Donny Cates (A) Mark Bagely (CA) Skottie Young

Speaking of the end, I wanted to ask you if you worked with Adam Warren on his Venom: The End one-shot and if the two stories tie in.

This isn't a rule or anything, but we're all friends and we all talk. People kind of know that Venom is my clubhouse, and so anytime there's Venom anything, people tend to call me and we talk about it. It's more of a "Hey, I don't want to step on your toes" kind of thing.

In Adam's case, it's not so much I'm tying into him. He kind of tied some things to me. You're going to start seeing things in my book that will ... Adam's book takes place trillions of years in the future. There's certain things in his book that will make more sense later. You'll be able to go back and say, "Oh, that's why he put that in there." It's a nod to an issue that hadn't even come out yet.

What do you love about writing Venom and Eddie Brock in particular?

It's so rare in Marvel comics that you're able to change a character. I don't mean just putting him in a new costume, or putting him on a new team. I mean fundamentally change their personality and have them grow organically. With a character like Peter Parker, you're starting off at a 10. Peter Parker is the best; so is Steve (Captain America) and Tony (Iron Man). Their moral compass is cemented, they're strong, and the stories you tell with those characters are stories of the world having to bend to them.

A character like Eddie, he's different. Eddie himself has been kind of a sidekick to this really cool symbiote. We didn't know a whole lot about him. Writers over the years have written him as a good guy, a complete bad guy, and everything in between. So the ability to go in and kind of tie things together and take Eddie on this journey — a place of discovery and change. Eddie is also a great character because he can take it. He can take a lot of pain. So putting him through the wringer you get to go in there and see what he's made out of. He also makes massive mistakes.

Something I've said in the past is that I'm so incredibly attracted to dangerous f**k-ups. It isn't quite the same, but it's why I love Thor. He's like Superman, but a dick. So I endlessly find Eddie as this hero with so much darkness in his past who still lives with the darkness.

Venom #20 - (W) Donny Cates (A) Iban Coelleo & Ze Carlos

Can you talk a little bit about the Maker and his role in this overall story?

With a character like Eddie, he's not the smartest guy in the room, and I knew we were going to be dealing with alien biology and I needed someone who would be able to come in and talk to these things. I always loved the relationship between Peter and Reed, so I thought we have evil Spider-Man, let's have evil Reed, the Maker.

Having those two characters bouncing off each other, I thought, was really great. Maker's storyline is coming to a monumental culmination very soon. We saw a bit of that in Venom #20, where we reveal why Maker has been so interested in the symbiotes. We show that he still has the symbiote from the Ultimate Universe. There appear to be some machinations where he believes he can bring back the Ultimate Universe.

I would say that people should definitely pick up Venom #26. I hate to be this guy, but I tend to tip my hand in favor of retailers so they can help themselves. I would absolutely recommend they stock up on the FCBD issue as well as Venom #26 for the appearance of some very important new characters.

Web of Venom: Wraith #1 - (W) Donny Cates (A) Guiu Villanova (CA) Kyle Hotz

The last thing I wanted to ask was about your upcoming Wraith one-shot and how that might tie into what you've got going on in Venom.

Back when I was just a fan, stocking books at the comic shop in 2007 or so, this was the big event. Wraith was one of my favorite tie-ins because, one, I'm a huge Kyle Hotz nut and fan — I think Kyle is one of the most underrated artists out there. He made me fall in love with Carnage on that issue of Mind Bomb with Warren Ellis. You start to read that Wraith issue and they have these things called Exelon, which are these black parasites that have a hive mind. They come from the Abyss and I'm reading, even when I was just a fan, and thought, "Well, this is some symbiote stuff. How is it not some weird symbiote thing?"

Right from the jump when I started my Venom run and turned in this huge, years-long bible, Wraith was this integral part of it. He doesn't have much background, and there's a lot to fill in, and he's a great connector between earthbound stories and some of the more cosmic side of things. We saw him pop up in Guardians of the Galaxy. He was working for Eros, doing mercenary work in exchange for information.

It turns out Eros, being Eros and knowing everything about everyone, gave him an information drive that contained information about Knull, who Wraith referred to as "my Exelon god."

When it comes to my Venom saga and cosmic saga, I'm not just writing things to write them. I'm not taking time out of my crazy schedule to write a fun little Wraith story. People need to understand this Wraith story will be the connection between my Venom story and my cosmic story. And it is an absolute must-read. This Wraith one-shot is one of the most important stories that you can read if you're following my opus between Venom and the cosmic stuff. My dark Elder God, black cosmic epic.

Wraith will be introducing a brand-new concept that has never been hinted at or talked about in the Marvel Universe. The thing that happens in the Wraith issue will be one of the most important things going forward, not just in my saga, but in the Marvel Universe going on later this year.

I used to be a retailer, so I don't say this lightly. This Wraith single issue is a must. In the same way we did Absolute Carnage, the start was Carnage Born and retailers had to go back and order that issue. Ryan Stegman and I will be announcing a big new thing in a couple of months, and the web is getting tighter and tighter. All these pieces I began a long time ago, they're all coming together, and Wraith is an absolute key to unlocking it.