Venom: Let There Be Carnage is out December 14 on 4K, Blu-ray, and DVD, which gave ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese the opportunity to speak with the legendary comic creator Todd McFarlane. The creator of Venom spoke about his favorite aspects of the Venom films, his philosophy on collaborations, and why he loves seeing the character evolve over time even if it’s not what he’d personally do.
Tyler Treese: Venom is big and menacing in these two films. What were your thoughts on his evolution over these two films and how he looks?
Todd McFarlane: Yeah, they’re good. I think they’re leaning into the animal, creature part of it and letting go of the humanity of it when he becomes Venom, which is kind of cool because you can always come back to Eddie, right? You can always grab the human part of it. This goes all the way back to when I was a kid when you used to have somebody turned into the Wolfman or something like that, but once they become the monster, the animal, the beast, then have fun with it. And don’t worry about whether it works anatomically, scientifically, or biologically like it would for us as a human.
So I think they’re having fun with that. If if I had one minor, minor, minor, minor comment, I wouldn’t make his teeth quite as white because I think animals in the wild, eventually their teeth get rotten because they don’t get to go to dentist. So they don’t have whiteners. And in that way, there’s a separation of color between the eyes and the teeth, but it’s a small minor note from anal Todd McFarlane.
We’ve seen different incarnations of Venom over the years, like the one in Spider-Man 3. What about this incarnation do you really like compared to some of the past ones?
That they just embraced it. When you come up with the first Venom movie, I’m guessing everybody’s sort of sitting on the sidelines fingers crossed hoping that some of the choices they made will work, and then once you get the results of it and it becomes this grand slam and it becomes a billion-dollar success, then all of a sudden you go, “Wow, now we can just cut loose and do what we thought and not be hesitant because we now know we have a big, big audience to draw from for the next movie.” And so that’s always good for any filmmaker to not have to be timid and be looking over their shoulder at the people spending the money. There’s always the downside in anything you do in any sort of discipline or business of having too many cooks in the kitchen, if you will.
And at some point, you just need to trust a handful of people and just say, “The next two hours are gonna be yours. You’re gonna be the leader. You’re gonna be the general. Go. We have confidence in you.” And it seemed like there was a lot of that in this one here, especially with the introduction of Carnage coming in and you can see them going, “Shoot. Now we can even amp it up. [laughs] Whatever we were doing with Venom, we’re gonna dial it up on steroids. Now, here we go.”
Woody Harrelson was so great as Carnage. Can you talk about just his performance and what really impressed you about Harrelson?
I would say that Woody Harrelson is gonna go down in history as one of the great variety actors. And I say that in that we’ve seen him go from every extreme of being this sort of goofy, funny guy to literally being in R-rated movies as a psychotic killer, and he’s done everything in between. And even though it’s Woody, you buy him every single time. Sometimes he’s a sheriff in the movie. Sometimes he’s a next door neighbor. Sometimes he’s that bad lawyer that is trying to screw you or whatever else. He’s able to jump around. I think that Hollywood lacks people like him that can just sort of jump into roles and we just go for the ride. And so I really admire what he’s able to do with his career.
In this case, he was able to have a little bit of fun and bring a little bit of a maniacal nature to a character because you’ve got the Eddie Brock character that Tom Hardy’s doing that is a little less forceful. And you could even say at some point lacks a little bit of confidence from time to time where a guy like Woody’s character is completely confident in what they’re doing otherwise they wouldn’t be doing it. And so there’s the clash between the two of them. There’s not even a second of remorse of contemplating what they’re doing and thinking that this isn’t the right thing. Because we can all sort of dilute ourselves that our perceptions of our reality and Woody had a good time. And I just like him. He seemed like he’d be a good guy to go have a beer with.
The ending was so exciting for the film and with the MCU having all this multiverse stuff, it opens up so many options. Who do you want to see Tom Hardy’s Venom just interact with in the future?
If you put a gun in my head, there would be a couple. I’d be curious what he would do against Hulk because there’s something about two rhinos clanging together, which is always sort of fun. But then if you start looking at some of the others like what happens once he goes against somebody that maybe has a little mysticism in them or somebody like Iron Man that has tech on their side, right? Those battles are gonna be different than if he is battling Spider-Man. So instead of going to somebody else that has sort of the same battle traits, you try to sort of say, “Hey, what happens if he goes against that hero?”
Or if you take it in reverse and you take that hero and put it against that villain. What’s that combo look like? Because now you have to sort of come up with a different way to defeat them. I mean, what would Spider-Man do against Magneto? That’s sort of an odd problem for Peter Parker to have to solve that may be way different than Professor X who’s more capable. So for Venom, I don’t know, just somebody that is maybe the counterpart of Spidey so to me, that would probably be like Hulk, Dr. Strange, or Iron Man that don’t fight like Peter Parker.
Your work is obviously very dark and these films are PG-13, but the core of Venom still really works and plays out there. Even though you would probably do things differently, do you feel still feel like this is your Venom on screen?
In all honesty, I don’t look at it with that lens because when I co-created it with David Michelinie, that was over 30 years ago. And a character isn’t gonna be valuable or intriguing or entertaining if you just keep hitting the same notes on it for 30 years. So what has to happen is that people have to come along after you lay the first footprint down and they have to continue to journey creatively. And people are gonna continue to add stuff. We can go along with character and debate every addition and whether it’s a plus or a minus, but what should always be there is the freedom for those creative people to expand upon it.
So there’s no need for it to have any resemblance of anything that David and I did at the beginning. If it does, cool. But if it doesn’t, it’s just the evolution of a character over three decades. Repetition is sort of the death of any business model. Once people feel like they’re in repetition mode with your product, it’s not good. It’s not healthy. So to me, the thing that puts the biggest smile on my face is just that they’ve come up with a formula that has made them successful on a global level. Who cares how they got there? They got there. Cool. I’ll be a cheerleader, whether it had anything to do with that or I helped do 5% or 0%. If it’s working, God bless. I know how hard it is. I’m in the entertainment business myself. I know how hard it is to get anything you do to make an impact, let alone make an impact on a global level. So hats off to both Marvel and Sony.
Speaking of characters evolving and making an impact, is there any update on the Spawn film reboot?
Yeah. Everybody’s pushing. Everybody on the team’s pushing. We just picked up another big name. We’ll make some kind of announcement the first half of next year. Everybody is literally laser-focused on that and the announcement will basically be we found our studio and got the funding and have a date to start going into production.
We had Spawn in MK11 and you had previously said that you wanted to see Mortal Kombat’s take on Spawn rather than your character thrown in. Can you talk to that collaborative process?
So that comment goes back to what I just said about Venom, right? I didn’t want them to do Spawn as a direct port from what I did from the comic books, because every medium has its own language, whether it’s a novel, music, comic books, dance, acting, TV, movies, video games, there’s a certain set of rules that people are going for. And so when they said they wanted to put Spawn into Mortal Kombat, my attitude was, “Well given that there’s gonna be a bunch of people that love Mortal Kombat because I assume that’s why they’re buying the video game and they might not know who Spawn is, just make him the coolest Mortal Kombat character. And you’ll have done me a favor.” Because if somebody says, “Oh my gosh, my favorite character in Mortal Kombat is Spawn. And somebody says, “Oh, do you know that’s a comic book character?” And that guy goes or gal says, “What are you talking about? What do you mean it’s a comic book character?” That’s a victory because that means you gave them the value of entertainment and they don’t need to know any of the other stuff. You’ve just given them something that they’re enjoying. Who cares how you got there?
You did some character design for a Shrek video game for the Xbox way back in 2001. Do you have any memories of doing that project?
Every now and then you get goofy stuff, right? People come up to you and they say, “Hey, we got this idea. Do you want to scribble something down on paper?” It would be no different if somebody came up to me and said, “Hey, Todd, we’re doing a Venom 3 movie, and do you got a sketch for a new symbiote?” I’d just put my head down and I’d think about it for a while and then I’d shoot over a couple of images and see if anybody sort of took a liking to it. And if they approve it, then you’ve done your job, and then hopefully the customer basically looks at some of it [and likes it]. And I think it’s one of those ones where again, just the whole is way better than any other parts and I just, at times, I’m one of the parts.