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Todd McFarlane Discusses Venom, Superhero Movies, And Inspiring Pro Wrestling Gear - Exclusive Interview

"Venom: Let There Be Carnage," the absolutely bonkers hoot-and-a-half sequel to 2018's "Venom," will be out on 4K UHD, Blu-Ray, and DVD on December 14th. Venom has proven that he's here to stay as a solo character and as an anti-hero, without any need for Peter Parker. Who better to offer insight into Venom than Todd McFarlane, the comics legend and artist who created Venom alongside writer David Michelinie?

Looper spoke with McFarlane right as he was working on the cover to an upcoming comic book. He takes a businesslike approach to all of his endeavors, especially his creative ones. He told us about when he realized Venom was a special character, why absolute fealty to source material isn't all that necessary in adaptation, and how he's going to tackle the upcoming "Spawn" movie. He also weighed in on wrestlers using Venom-inspired gear and may have figured out a possible third jersey for the San Jose Sharks.

The making of Venom

A while ago, you said you made Venom entirely because you didn't want to draw the Spider-Man black costume anymore. Is that accurate?


Did you have any idea how big Venom would be when you did that?

Of course not! Otherwise I would've invented 20 more characters, if I was that smart, that would've had world global impact! Sometimes dumb luck is just on your side. So did David and I know what we were creating at that moment? Of course, we didn't. So, I mean, we were going to add what we thought was going to be a cool character, but a cool villain to the rogues gallery of Spider-Man, but he had plenty of them at that point. And so we were just adding what we thought was going to be another one to the bucket, but we soon found out that something was amiss, and that this one was going to maybe move to the head of the class a little bit. Especially that came true once he made his return because ["The Amazing Spider-Man" #300] was considered sort of his origin story. And then, obviously he was popular enough that people bought it. It was the anniversary book. So you had a lot of eyeballs on that issue.

I was just coming into my own as an artist and David and I were a new team. And so you don't really know that the last thing you did worked until you bring it back into when we brought him back, which was, I think around #316, the cover for the first time, he's on a cover where he is hunched over Spider-Man. And then the mail started coming in on that. And that's when we started going, "Wow. Man, this guy that we just put in issue #300, man, we brought him back and people were going crazy for him. Huh? Maybe he's going to be somebody that they might care about." Obviously, even then at that stage, I still had no idea to the magnitude that he was going to grow into.

Thoughts on the movies

How involved were you with these two movies, specifically "Venom" and "Venom: Let There be Carnage?"

None. Let me just say, one, it doesn't bug me and two, it wasn't necessary. The character, I mean, if somebody in the art department or director or something had asked, I would've been a willing participant, but I'm not put off that they didn't because my contributions to it was at the very beginning, over 30 years ago and there's been a lot of evolution and a lot of other people put their fingerprints on it.

And then when you convert anything from the page, whether it's a novel or a comic book or anything like that, magazine, to a TV show or a movie there becomes another sort of sensibility, what does it look like literally at 3D, moving around onscreen. And you have lots of people involved at that point, directors, producers, and then the people who put up the hundreds of millions of dollars. So yeah, Marvel and the creative people and the Sony folks figured out how to sort of stir the pot and make billion dollar successes out of their thing. So I would argue that not only do they not need me, I might actually drag them down. [Laughs] So they should keep going. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Keep going.

Well, it's clearly not broke. "Venom: Let There Be Carnage" was a huge success, as was the first one. What do you think of the movies?

Let me just sort of tell you, I'm 60. So put that off to the side. So I look at all movies, not necessarily through the lens of "Does Todd personally like the movie?" I look at it more almost from a CEO point of view, which is, "What was the intent of the movie, what was the goal of the movie, did it accomplish its goal?" And forget Venom, I would put what I'm about to say almost for all superhero movies. One, do they just look visually cool? Are they fun? Are they fun to look at with your eyeballs? Because you're going to be in a dark room for two hours so there should be something that's enjoyable to look at. Check. And then two, was the story entertaining enough? Were the characters compelling? The action intriguing enough that when I walked out of that dark room that I could say to myself, "Hey, were those two hours worth my ten bucks?"

And if the answer is yes ... then I think everybody accomplished what they did. It's not necessary to be loyal to any sort of prior piece of work or to be sort of abstract from it. What it is, is to entertain enough people so that you have a success and you can do another one.

And it may not be that it's all the same people all the time. So if some of the comic book people were a little off put because it wasn't exactly loyal, and let me just tell you, there will always be that group of people for every superhero movie, right? For every novel that gets translated, for every Stephen King fan, there's always something wrong. You can't be worried about that. What you have to do is say, "Hey, the globe is 8 billion people. Can we now gather enough of them so that they enjoy it so that we get our money back plus a little bit so that we can do it again and then maybe again and maybe in best case again?" And go at it. So does everybody have to like the "Saw" movies? My mom doesn't, but they ended up making a boatload of them. So somewhere they found enough people to basically make the formula work. God bless everybody.

Approaching business and the Spawn movie

Is this approach helping you -– between the "Venom" movies and everything you're talking about -– with the upcoming "Spawn" movie? Is this affecting how you're going to direct that?

It's a mindset that I have with all my businesses, period. It has nothing to do with Spawn or Venom exclusively. It has to do with, don't let any tails wag the dog. And so what that means is how many people buy the Venom comic book? I don't know, a hundred thousand people. How many buy Spawn, hundred thousand? There's 8 billion people, which basically means is that 99.99% of the people don't buy the comic book for either one of those characters. So to be a slave to the books, to that group of people, I don't think is prudent. What you need to do is what can we do to try and entertain as many people of the 8 billion and not offend the hundred thousand that are super loyal. That's it. There's a little bit of a task there. And that's it.

So to me, when I go do my Spawn movie, if it doesn't look like the comic books or any of the toys I've done, that's okay. As long as the people who like movies and go to movies and pay for movies, enjoyed their movie. And for Venom it should hold true. Did you enjoy the Venom movie? I didn't ask you whether you like comic books or whether it matched your toy. I just [ask], did you like the movie? So that's it, everybody from Sony to the creative people that produced it, then basically attained their goal.

I don't want to spend too much time on "Spawn," but since you're the one who created Spawn and you're the one who'll direct it, do you have more of an imperative to be accurate on your hand, or are you just going to make the movie that works the best?

Make the movie that works the best. And again, so that may come at some point you're fluent in all these characters and at the end of it, I'm just going to ask, you can give me all your comments, we can have a nice debate, but I'm still going to ask you at the end the one only question that matters: "Did I entertain you for two hours?" And either I did, or I didn't. And the loyalty, the exactness of that translation shouldn't be the determining factor. Your entertainment is all that matters.

And Venom has found the formula. Especially a guy, a character who was a super villain, right? What are you talking about? They took a super villain, Marvel and Sony now have taken a super villain in it's origin, going way back, and converted him into a guy who basically puts a smile on a bunch of 10-year-old kids faces globally. It's pretty good. That's pretty good. Not a bad magic trick.

Wrestlers in Venom gear and Eddie's favorite NHL team

I don't know if you noticed, but a lot of pro wrestlers have adapted to Venom. [WWE NXT Superstar] Johnny Gargano had Venom gear a few years ago, and in All Elite Wrestling, Penta often wears Venom-inspired masks. What's it like having this wrestler connection? A lot of the people who wear them are aren't [specifically] heroes or villains, they're kind of this middle ground.

Yeah. Here's what I would say without knowing, my guess would be that a wrestler wants to be a badass and if you're going to be Aunt May or Venom, I think the choice is really clear. So you just go, "I'm going for the badass." So I don't know. Do I want to be the nice, polite hero who's always accommodating and is very courteous? Or do I want to be the guy who from time to time has to bite people's heads off? I don't know. So I get it. Probably if I was a wrestler, I'd be looking for those types of characters too. I'm assuming that characters like Punisher and Wolverine also have a lot of appeal to those same sort of crowds, sort of what we call the anti-heroes.

This is kind of a fun question: In the movie "Venom," Eddie Brock is from San Francisco and he wears a lot of Detroit clothing. And I'm thinking right here, you're a former owner of the Oilers, so what hockey team does Eddie Brock root for? Because I think it's the San Jose Sharks, but I think the Red Wings are in contention.

Wow. Yeah. So he's San Francisco. You know what, obviously he is loyal to old school Detroit, Michigan. So you can't go wrong with the Red Wings, but the San Jose Sharks, which are right by San Francisco – remember that logo's black and it's got big sharp teeth and it bites in its logo sometimes, right? Actually, that would be sort of fun, because it almost would be like this weird Venom knockoff on his hockey jersey, if it was San Jose, because they sort of have a bit in common, sharks and Venom, I think.

I already like it. You're pitching a third jersey for the Sharks.

Right! You could get there! As I was talking about it, I go, "You could get there really quickly!"

"Venom: Let There Be Carnage" is now out on digital, and releases on 4K UHD, Blu-Ray, and DVD on December 14th.