The writer/artist tandem of Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman are following up their popular run on Marvel's Venom by launching their own creator-owned series. Vanish, which will debut on their Kids Love Chains Press imprint on Substack before being collected in print from Image Comics. The duo previewed their next comic in a spotlight panel at New York Comic Con on Saturday, while Cates also gave some teases to his ongoing Marvel work.
Based on Cates' detailed rundown of the new project, it sounds like an ambitious fantasy/superhero mash-up. The main character in Vanish is a guy named Oliver Harrison, who grew up in a magical world where, at age 14, he killed an ancient evil. But that might have been the high point in his life. "He left the magical world and settled down and is now a severely PTSD, anxiety-ridden alcoholic who always thinks that there is something else is coming," Cates said.
His paranoia may not be baseless, when a team of superheroes called the Prestige comes to our world and Oliver wants to stop their (potentially) evil plans. "It's brutal and it's very personal to me," Cates said. "It's Ryan's best work and it is very much in line with what you've received from us in the past. It's Ryan and I back at our bulls—t, everything takes place at night, it's raining and there's smoke everywhere. The designs are really fun."
Stegman chimed in about how much he's enjoying his first creator-owned book and not being constrained by an existing character's history. "It feels liberating because nobody has done it before me, and I feel like it has actually made my art better," he said. "I'm doing things that there is no precedent for."
Over the summer the pair finished their celebrated three-plus year run on Venom with issue No. 35 of the current volume (No. 200 with legacy numbering). During their stint, they quarterbacked two major Venom-centric crossover events at Marvel, Absolute Carnage and King in Black, but decided it was time to walk away from the Venom universe.
Though Cates is building his own creator-owned career (Crossover is a current success at Image) he is still very much in the Marvel fold, writing Thor (as well as a Thor crossover with Fortnite) and launching a new Hulk series next month (with artist Ryan Ottley). And he teased he'll have a hand in more major storylines at the House of Ideas. "I'll be doing three more events in the next, like two years," he said.
One of those events may involve a certain Mad Titan. In a recent issue of Thor, the god of thunder revealed that he's been having nightmares in which Thanos has his hammer, Mjölnir, and has powered it with the Infinity Stones, using the super-weapon to kill the Avengers. "People keep on asking me about that Thanos page," and whether it was just a random moment, Cates said. "I'm like, have you guys learned nothing? If I do something, it's intentional and we're gonna get there."
Cates previously wrote the character in the 2016 Thanos Wins arc and he hinted that this idea began back then. "In my Marvel work I tend to, for the most part, write one story across a lot of titles," he said. "Everything moves one way. One book will talk to the other book. What's going to be happening with that Thanos thing will be the culmination of all that, going back to the first thing I ever did with him, in Thanos Wins. I've been planning it for a long time."
For more information on Vanish (including the first 17 pages of Stegman's pencils), you can check out Cates' and Stegman's Substack.