The most frightening monsters are the ones with human intellects and unpredictable natures. Take Cletus Kasady, for example: he's a serial killer with a love of chaos and an unquenchable appetite for murder -- and as Carnage, he adds his super-powered alien symbiote to the mix. To thwart his rampages, heroes like Spider-Man have been forced to come up with unorthodox and often brutal plans, but every time they find a way to defeat Carnage, he returns with an even more chaotic and bloody agenda.
This November, Carnage embarks on his most savage rampage yet, a cross country killing spree -- but when he does an implacable team of hunters will be hot on his hills. courtesy of legendary Spider-Man scribe Gerry Conway and artist Mike Perkins. We spoke with Conway about the series, which harkens back to the horror comics he wrote for Marvel in the '70s. We discuss his take on Carnage, and the team of hunters pursuing him -- a group that includes fan favorite Spider-Man characters like John Jameson and Eddie Brock.
CBR News: With "Carnage," you're launching your first ongoing Marvel series in some time, and diving deep into some elements of the Spider-Man mythos that you haven't explored before, the symbiotes. How does it feel to be doing both of those things?
Gerry Conway: It's great. One of the things that excites you as a writer is getting into a story that has such a rich, deep mythology behind it like the symbiotes.
I did a little bit of work on Spider-Man during the symbiote era, though not that much. I believe my late-80s runs on "Web of Spider-Man" and "Spectacular Spider-Man" just missed the symbiote era. There were some repercussions from that still hanging around, but I wasn't really familiar with the symbiotes until I started researching them for this book.
It's a thrill to be doing an ongoing Marvel book. I won't say I earned my way back, exactly, but I did a miniseries ["Amazing Spider-Man: Spiral"], and it could have gone either way. After all, I hadn't been around comics for a while and I might have lost my touch. Happily, I got a lot of support and encouragement from my editors Nick Lowe and Devin Lewis, and the readers. That led to Marvel offering me an ongoing series, which feels great.
It's fun to build something that has a longer range perspective than a five-part story.
You're best known for your work with superheroes, but your recent story in the "All-New, All Different Point One" one-shot made it feel like "Carnage" is a series where you'll stretch some of the muscles you used while you were writing some of Marvel's horror comics.
In a way, this series is a call back to my work on books like "Werewolf by Night" and "Tomb of Dracula." I don't know if that's what inspired Nick Lowe to ask me to do "Carnage," but when we first started talking about the new series, the way we envisioned it was in part as a tip of the hat to the approach we took to Dracula with "Tomb of Dracula," which was that our title character was a force of nature these heroes have to deal with on an ongoing basis.
With this new series, our protagonists are a group of heroes trying to bring down Carnage, and our emotional focus is on their journey. Of course, Carnage has his own plans and his own dark agenda which will complicate things and eventually drive many of the story elements. It's kind of fascinating. It really is a call back to this work I did for Marvel in the early '70s.
Will the hunters pursuing Carnage spend more time in the spotlight than the title character?
Both the hunters and the hunted have agendas. They both drive the story. The page count, how the story divides between hunters and hunted, isn't relevant. It's more about the emotional impact of what they're doing that's of core importance. Carnage is the reason this book exists, so his agenda is central, but the point of view we follow is the point of view of the characters who are fighting him.
That means any personal development that occurs is primarily going to occur among the people who are pursuing him, because Carnage himself doesn't really develop as a character. He's Hurricane Katrina. He's the Fukashima earthquake. He's like the Punisher in that sense. The Punisher is a state of being. He doesn't change. He exists.â€¨In a similar way, Carnage is a singular force that continues relentlessly and remorselessly on its driven path. He has his agenda and he's going to pursue it, but he does not change. Our other characters, our protagonists, can have story arcs and character growth.
I noticed in the "All-New, All-Different Point One" story, Carnage comments that he's hungry quite a bit. Is his current slate of murders motivated by hunger? Are they a sick form of art? Or are they both?
They're both. In my view, the symbiotes need death in order to keep themselves going. So what the symbiote wants is to kill things. What Kasady wants is maybe something else. He's riding this bull, but I think to an extent he's rationalizing how much control he has.
In the "Point One" story, you introduced a couple of the hunters that will be pursuing Carnage. One of them was a character you didn't create, though you did spend quite a bit of time with him. What's it like to return to John Jameson?
I love John. I love his military mindset and his selfless heroism, but I also like that he's a guy who's in his father's shadow. He's the upright version of J. Jonah Jameson. He's someone who's perhaps rigid in his point of view, but his point of view is to do the right thing at all costs. He's in contrast to his dad, who is a much more slippery character. I like that. I like the father-son dynamic, even though that won't be in the foreground of our first half-dozen issues. That's more part of his background and part of his character.
We were also introduced to the person who recruited John into the hunt for Carnage, F.B.I. Agent Claire Dixon. Is she a new character created by you?
Yes, she's a new character who is in charge of a task force to bring down Carnage, and she is going to be central to the story as it goes forward. Clare is a Maria Hill character in the sense that she's part of the system and believes in the system, but she's also willing to do things outside the system to accomplish her agenda. She's not a rogue, but she's definitely someone who knows how to play fast and loose with the rules. That will probably come back and bite her at some point in the future.
The other major member of the team of Carnage hunters is Eddie Brock, AKA Toxin.
Yes! I adore Eddie. He's a guy with a huge chip on his shoulder and a big mouth. [Laughs] He's not crazy, but he's not stable. He's the butthead in a group, who wants to get things done and really doesn't think things through. He's also the only one of the hunters who has had the fullest possible experience with a symbiote, so he knows the extreme danger these creatures present. He knows what they're capable of doing. He also shares his life with a symbiote, Toxin, and is struggling to keep it under control and do the right thing as he sees it.
Are Eddie, Claire and John your three focus characters, or will we meet some others?
There's a new character named Manuela Calderon, the sole survivor of Cletus Kasady's first mass murder. She is a decorated soldier and veteran of the Afghan conflict, and now, in private life, she's a security expert who volunteered to be used, as we discover early on in the first issue, as bait to draw Kasady into a trap. Like the others, she has her own agenda. Unlike Dixon, Manuela is more likely to play by the book, more so than any other member of the team, except maybe John Jameson.â€¨She takes any damage done to the people under her authority very hard. She's a classic military type; very much a kick-ass and serious soldier.
Your collaborator on "Carnage" is Mike Perkins, a very versatile artist who's coming off a run on "Deathlok." What's it like seeing him shift from sci-fi action to the sort of horror-action you have planned in "Carnage?"
It is awesome! It's like working with Graham Ingels, if Graham Ingels drew superhero comics during the [Jack] Kirby era. The look Mike brings to this book is so intense. The "Point One" doesn't even hint at what he's capable of doing. The first issue is finished, and we have pencils and inks on the second issue. Mike's work is just phenomenal. It's really raising my game.
I have this theory the best monster movies are films where the characters are trapped with the monster, and have no alternative but deal with the monster in their midst, so that's the template for the initial sequence. We're also going to hint at a bigger, more extensive story that unfolds after our initial issues and will take our cast around the world.
Despite what you might expect from some of the promotional art, this isn't a story that just takes place in a mine, which is the setting for our early issues. The hunt for Carnage and the quest to stop his agenda, which emerges in these first five issues, will take our characters all across the planet.
Carnage will develop a very big agenda that's going to make him a major threat in the Marvel Universe.
Sounds like that opens the door to guest appearances by a variety of Marvel characters.
I think we're going to keep guest appearances within the venue we're staking out here. It's the darker, supernatural end of the Marvel Universe. We won't encounter characters like Captain America any time soon, but we will see familiar Marvel characters relevant to the stories we're going to be telling. This is a call back to "Werewolf by Night" and "Tomb of Dracula," so the part of the Marvel Universe those books addressed is the part we're addressing with "Carnage."
I'm approaching this series in movie terms. It's a story told from a very visual point of view. The miniseries I did with Spider-Man was an urban cop drama, but this is very much a horror movie writ large. Its purpose is to scare you, to thrill you, and keep you anxious to see what happens next.