Horror master R.L. Stine talks his time with Marvel’s swamp monster!

He’s big, he’s slimy, and he’s coming to a silver screen near you—if he doesn’t scare all the kids away first. I’m talking about Man-Thing, the disgusting swamp monster leaving trails of slime in Marvel comics since the early 1970s.

Recently, however, we find this heinous dripping pile of muck in his own limited series penned by one of the great masters of horror, R.L. Stine of “Goosebumps” fame, who felt the time right to inject some humor into the adventures of the misunderstood, reality-hopping creature

As we near the fifth and final issue of MAN-THING on June 21, Stine—a self-proclaimed man without fear—looks back on his intimidating inspirations, helping Sallis find his voice—literally—and the close connection between blood, guts, and laughs.

Marvel.com: We’re two issues away from the finale of this series. How are you gearing up for the conclusion to this MAN-THING saga?

R.L. Stine: Well, I always have to have my ending first so I had an ending in mind from the beginning. The five [issues] are all done, actually. [Issue #4], actually, is the best, I think. I think #4 is the funniest, but I got him in this mess. He’s gone after Oldfather, and so he’s in this thing with all the realities and so I love doing stuff like that because I can do anything. If you can do any reality and have reality changing all the time it’s actually very freeing, you can do all kinds of things.

Marvel.com: Should we, as the readers, be bracing for an epic “Goosebumps”-level twist that will shatter our psyches and chill us to the bone?

R.L. Stine: [Laughs] Well, you know, I tried to make the whole series funnier because he’s such a hideous character. He has to be maybe the ugliest character Marvel has, which is one of the main reasons I picked him when they give me a [list] of characters that they weren’t using and said, “Which one would you like to do?” and I happen to love swamp monsters and he was just so ugly I had to pick him. But yes, there is a major twist at the end. You know, like all “Goosebumps” books there’s a happy ending, they all have happy endings, but then after the happy ending, there’s something pretty terrible [Laughs].

Marvel.com: I’m looking forward to it and I’m glad you brought up your affinity for swamp monsters because you’ve dealt with disgusting, dripping monstrosities in the past with “Monster Blood,” King Jellyjam, “The Blob That Ate Everyone”…

R.L. Stine: I actually did a “Goosebumps” book last year called “Here Comes The Shaggedy” and it was a swamp monster book.

Marvel.com: Well, that kind of segues into my next question, which is did Man-Thing prove to be different from the rest of these creatures and if so, how?

R.L. Stine: Well he did in that he has more of backstory and I felt the backstory was really good. And I think we recapped it in the first [issue] of mine where Ted Sallis, this brilliant scientist, is trying to keep this serum from the army so he injects himself with it and then turns himself into this creature. In the old series, he couldn’t really speak or anything, but I wanted him to be kind of funny and sarcastic about it, about how horrible he looks and he’s so eager trying to get back to human [form] so for most of it, I gave him back his powers of speech.

Marvel.com: Man-Thing, as a character, has influenced writers like Neil Gaiman in the past. Did any other properties play important roles in your writing career or have repercussions on this series?

R.L. Stine: When I was a kid, I was obsessed with the EC horror comics, Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror. I was just obsessed with them and I think they were incredibly influential on what I do because, as you know, they’re horrifying, right? They’re really disgusting, horrifying things and they all have a funny twist ending, every story. That kind of stayed with me so I think they were very important to me. Also, I didn’t really know that much about Man-Thing. I had to learn so I read all the old [ones] that [writer] Steve Gerber did. I really liked those a lot and then that was very helpful to me.

Marvel.com: And other than being a disgusting swamp monster, what attributes do you think make Man-Thing a perfect subject for horror?

R.L. Stine: The fact that he’s an outsider, for one thing. There’s no way he can be accepted anywhere. In the first MAN-THING he says, “Why can’t I have a movie? Every other Marvel character has a movie.” And he tries to have a Hollywood career, but he [screen] tests so terribly because he’s so ugly and he scares the kids. And so, I think being an outsider is part of it and just being so limited in a way in what he can do. I think that’s a real challenge too.

Man-Thing #5 cover by Tyler Crook

Marvel.com: As someone who is comfortable writing within the horror genre, did anything end up scaring you when you were working on this comic?

R.L. Stine: Never.

Marvel.com: [Laughs]

R.L. Stine: It never happens. I wonder if it happens to other writers. I don’t know. There’s something missing in my brain in that horror never scares me. Any horror always makes me laugh. Seriously, the scariest Stephen King, the most disgusting, creepiest…“Pet Sematary,” for example. Those books make me laugh and I’ve never been scared by a movie. People say to me, “Oh, your book was so scary, I was up all night, I had to leave the lights on.” I’ve never had that feeling. I don’t know why, but I’ve just never had it. I think there’s a very close connection between humor and horror, there’s sort of the same visceral reaction. When you jump out at somebody and say, “BOO!” they gasp at first and then they laugh. I think it’s very closely connected. One other reason that I can never get scared from what I’m writing is I plan it all first, I do complete outlines of every book I write so I already know what’s gonna happen [Laughs], I can’t scare myself.

Marvel.com: You brought up your love of Tales from the Crypt. I love the idea of bonus back-up anthology scary stories at the end of each issue.

R.L. Stine: Those were fun for me. Originally, when [former Marvel editor] Katie Kubert called me and said, “Would you like to do something for Marvel?” and I said, “Yeah! It’s sort of a lifelong dream, I’m finally getting around to it,” and at first, I was going to do just the straight, old fashioned type horror comic with two or three stories like that. But then I thought, “Gee, it’d be a lot more fun to just play with a Marvel character too.” So I got to do both and it was terrific.

Marvel.com: That’s awesome. Where did that idea for these stories come from? It’s a very “Twilight Zone”/Rod Serling/Crypt Keeper sort of thing…

R.L. Stine: Yeah, that’s just what it was supposed to be so I say that’s what we thought first, that would be a good thing to do and then I thought, “Oh, come on! Take one of these characters and put a little story in the back.”

Marvel.com: Are there any other Marvel you’re interested in tackling?

R.L. Stine: I have to think about that one; I would love to do some of the sillier ones like Ant-Man, ones that you could have sort of a satirical view with.

Marvel.com: And any other characters you think are kind of suited for horror or scary stories?

 R.L. Stine: Well actually, they all could be. There [are] elements of horror in a lot of Marvel stuff.

Prepare to be scared with MAN-THING #4—out May 31—and the grand finale, MAN-THING #5—available June 21—both from R.L. Stine and artist German Peralta!

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Live a day in the life of farmboy Luke Skywalker—poor womp rats!

We all know that the first Star Wars film changed the face of pop culture forever when it hit theaters 40 years ago—but it’s not just the movie that’s celebrating that milestone in 2017. Star Wars comics arrived with force in 1977, and hundreds of issues later, they’re more popular now than ever.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, we’re looking back at our 40 favorite moments from the history of comics from a galaxy far, far away—one day at a time.

Star Wars (1977) #17

Star Wars (1977) #17

  • Published: August 22, 1978
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: April 15, 2015
  • Rating: All Ages
  • Writer: Archie Goodwin
  • Cover Artist: Dave Cockrum
What is Marvel Unlimited?

STAR WARS #17, August 1978

Just before their attack on the first Death Star, Luke Skywalker tells Wedge Antilles, “I used to bullseye womp rats in my T-16 back home.” From a period when Star Wars comic book writers had only one movie to work from—hard to imagine today!—throwaway lines like that could provide the entire basis for stories. Such proved the case for STAR WARS #17 in 1978, plotted by Chris Claremont, written by Archie Goodwin, and penciled by Herb Trimpe and Allen Milgrom.

Extrapolating from that single line of dialogue hinting at fun times on Tatooine—maybe with a little help from “just like Beggar’s Canyon back home…”—we’re treated to a day in the life of farmboy Luke Skywalker. This includes interactions with eventual Red Squadron teammate Biggs Darklighter, an altercation with a Tusken Raiders, a race through Beggar’s Canyon in said T-16 skyhopper, and—perhaps coolest of all—bulleyesing womp rats…in his X-34 landspeeder, but we’ll take it. We wouldn’t learn until added footage to the “Star Wars Special Edition” in 1997 that George Lucas never intended them to be green.

At a time when Star Wars comics got a little out there, STAR WARS #17 holds up as something that could actually fit within the canon even today. Give it a read through Marvel Unlimited sometime.

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Enjoy the latest episode of the official Marvel podcast, with comics, movies, TV, games, and more!

We’ve got a brand new episode of This Week in Marvel, presented by Loot Crate, to help you kick off the weekend!

Ryan and Ben give you the rundown on this week’s comics hottest releases including ALL-NEW GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, VENOM, and more! We’ve also got tons of comics news (1:05:20); West Coast news from Marc, Christine, with special guests Tim Hernandez and Becka McIntosh to give you your weekly dose of Marvel games; a “LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2”  interview with TT Games Head of Design Arthur Parsons (1:26:49); and your questions and comments answered (1:41:18)!

Be sure to join our #TWIMURC next week where we have both coasts tackle X-Cutioner’s Song Pt. 1! Share your thoughts with us using the hashtag #TWIMURC!

Loot Crate has assembled the Marvel Gear and Goods crate for the ultimate Marvel fan. This crate features official Marvel items like collectible home goods, apparel and more every other month! If anyone knows the importance of downtime, it’s Peter Parker, Miles Morales, Gwen Stacy, Jessica Drew and their Wall-Crawling peers. Unwind after a hard day with denizens of the SPIDER-VERSE! Order your own Marvel Gear and Goods crate by heading to lootcrate.com/MarvelGear and use promo code “MARVELPOD” to save $3 on your subscription today.

Download episode #291 of This Week in Marvel from Marvel.com, check out Marvel Podcast Centralgrab the TWiM RSS feed and subscribe to This Week in Marvel on iTunes, so you never miss an episode! We are now also on Soundcloud! Head over now to our new hub to listen to the full run of This Week in Marvel!

This Week in Marvel will focus on delivering all the Marvel info on news and new releases–from comics to video games to toys to TV to film and beyond! New episodes will be released every Thursday (or so) and TWiM is co-hosted by Marvel VP & Executive Editor of Digital Media Ryan “Agent M” Penagos and Marvel Editorial Director of Digital Media Ben Morse, along with Marvel.com Editor Marc Strom, Marvel.com Assistant Editor Christine Dinh, and Manager of Video & Content Production Blake Garris. We also want your feedback, as well as questions for us to answer on future episodes!  Tweet your questions, comments and thoughts about TWiM to @AgentM@BenJMorse, @chrissypedia or @Marvel with the hashtag #ThisWeekinMarvel!

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Secret Empire: Brave New World writer Paul Allor shares some tips!

Stan Lee’s famously charged to his creators that every comic could be someone’s first, and it should be accessible to any reader. This summer, Marvel readers will have the opportunity to feast their eyes on a number of standalone issues from the summer event taking place with Secret Empire to later in the season with the release of GENERATIONS.

Many readers may not be aware of the amount of work that it takes to craft a single-issue story that delivers all the goods in just one shot. We spoke with SECRET EMPIRE: BRAVE NEW WORLD writer Paul Allor about some tricks of the trade given his experience in working within this format.

Marvel.com: Paul, you originally cut your teeth working on short stories and one-shots. How did this help you with your current work?

Paul Allor: Oh man, it helps tremendously. Like you said, it’s been a big part of my career thus far; my first self-published book was a collection of 12 five-page stories, with 12 different artists; I followed that up with a one-shot called Orc Girl; my first couple of work-for-hire gigs were Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles one-shots, and most of my work for Marvel has been in the shorts-to-one-shot category as well. And honestly all of that experience made my writing as a whole so much stronger, and, I believe, really pays off in my longer work.

The reason is that, when it comes to the craft of comics writing, shorts and one-shots are basically a microcosm of larger stories. The best ones contain within them everything that makes a great story of any length, but with no room for error. If your short story or one-shot lags, it’s painfully obvious. If the character motivation isn’t there, it shows. If you have nothing to say, there’s no hiding from it. So yeah, it helped my current work in a real and significant way, by giving me a platform to solidify all the basic elements of the comics writing craft.

Marvel.com: When it comes to writing a stand-alone issue, what are the most important elements a writer needs to keep in mind?

Paul Allor: Well, as indicated above, everything you would need to keep in mind on a longer story also applies here. But some things are a little more important. With limited space, it becomes even more important that every moment carry its own weight; every panel, every beat, every line should serve a storytelling purpose. That doesn’t mean that every single line has to be load-bearing—that if any element is removed, the whole thing will collapse, though some very short comics are constructed that way, and it is, when pulled off, rather magnificent—but it does mean that every moment has to do something. It has to move the story forward, to tell us something we wouldn’t otherwise know about our characters, to foreshadow the story’s end or provide subtext. Your space limitations demand it.

Another thing to keep in mind is that a lot of your pre-planning will be just as involved as in a longer story. You still need to put as much thought into who your characters are, what motivates them, how to best tell their story, and on and on and on, as you would for any length story. Your characters, and your world, should feel just as fully realized, just as complex, as any 20-issue run.

An analogy I like to use is to think of a comic as being like a mountain. With an ongoing, or even a [limited series], you get to see a lot of the mountain. You have time to really explore its contours, get a good sense of the terrain, the caves and ridges, the fauna and flora. By contrast, a short or a one-shot is like a tiny oceanic island that’s really just the peak of an underwater mountain. You can only see one little piece of it. But, the rest of the mountain still has to be there.

A couple of other things I would say to focus on, just because I often see them done wrong: No matter how short the story, you still need to have something to say. I know some people are allergic to the word “theme,” so call it whatever you like. But your story, and your characters, should have a point, and a point-of-view, and a purpose lurking behind all the kicking and punching and laser eyes.

Marvel.com: You’ve focused a bit on the content of the story, but what about the format?

Paul Allor: My second point would be that in short stories, just like longer stories, you should not be afraid to play around with the format, and find what best fits the story you want to tell. One thing I’ve noticed is that the overwhelming majority of five-to-eight page comic shorts are structured like a joke, but with a twist standing in for the punchline. Set-up, development, twist! There’s a reason this structure is so popular: It works. But a lot of other structures work as well! And lemme tell you, when you’re reading an anthology comic, and story after story is set-up, development, twist, set-up, development, twist, set-up, development, twist, you definitely notice. So, let the story you’re telling dictate the structure. Don’t be afraid to push yourself, to try new things. Again, shorts and one-shots are a great place to sharpen your craft; but if you aren’t pushing yourself, you aren’t taking advantage of that.

Marvel.com: You’ve covered a lot of bases in just a short time! Is there anything else would-be writers need to keep in mind?

Paul Allor: The last thing I would say is to make sure that your story is actually a story—that it has an end, that it has structure—even if it’s the aforementioned joke structure—that it’s not just a vignette. There’s nothing more frustrating than a purportedly stand-alone short or one-shot that’s clearly just a dress rehearsal for something longer that the writer wants to do.

Secret Empire: Brave New World #2 cover by Paulo Siqueira

Marvel.com: There is often the tension between focusing on the narrative arc and character development when it comes to crafting a story. How do you strike this balance in just one issue?

Paul Allor: Other writers’ mileage may—and does—vary, but I don’t feel there is a tension between those things. I think if you’re doing it right, the narrative arc helps develop your characters, and your character development determines the arc of your story.

Think about “Jaws,” as I very, very often do. That wasn’t a story about a shark terrorizing a town. It was a story about a new, outsider lawman, who lived on an island but was afraid of the water, and had to team up with two diametrically opposed men of the sea to track down a shark terrorizing a town. That story was those characters, and vice versa. Take those characters, but remove the narrative arc of the shark attacks, and you have some mildly interesting folks going about their day. That that narrative arc, but not those characters, and you have a bog-standard, boring action movie; you have the later Jaws sequels, basically. For every great story, in every medium, you can trace this connection between character and narrative arc. And if you find that the story you’re writing isn’t working, this is quite often the first and most obvious culprit.

So, I think you strike the balance the same way you always do: by making sure your characters and narrative arc are intrinsically connected, and are pushing each other forward. The only difference a shorter story makes is that, again, there’s no room for error, and it’s a lot more obvious if you’re biffing it up.

Marvel.com: Are there any stand-alone issues from your past that you read that heavily informed how you approach this type of comic storytelling? What were they and how do you see them playing into your style?

Paul Allor: Probably my all-time favorite one-shot is WINTER SOLDIER: WINTER KILLS, from Ed Brubaker and Lee Weeks.  Just a really wonderful example of character and narrative driving each other forward, of narrative economy, of saying so much with so little space. It’s also a great example of a comic with something to say; a comic that expresses its theme in every panel, without ever hitting you over the head with it. The theme is just a naturally ingrained part of the story.

Another one I really dug, off the top of my head, was CAPTAIN AMERICA AND CROSSBONES—huh, I guess I really like Captain America one-shots—by William Harms and Declan Shalvey. It was a really wonderful example of just telling an extremely stripped-down, character-driven story that never flinches away from who the central character is, and what he would do when placed in this situation. Just a darn fine little slice of action and pathos.

And my final example would be pretty much all of Emily Carroll’s short comics, though I would start with His Face All Red. They’re wonderful examples of sustained mood, of using the short format to maintain an extraordinary level of creeping dread that would be difficult to pull off over, say, five issues straight. They’re also great examples of using different structures in your shorts, of not always relying on the same very staunch rhythms of storytelling.

Marvel.com: How does working on SECRET EMPIRE: BRAVE NEW WORLD provide you with the opportunity to flex this “creative muscle”?

Paul Allor: Ah, man. I honestly can’t say much here, just because I can’t say much about BRAVE NEW WORLD in general! But yeah, it was a great exercise in structure and craft, and in pairing character and narrative. The story I’m doing—along with the fantastic crew of artist Brian Level, colorist Jordan Boyd, letterer Joe Caramagna and editor Charles Beacham—is told in five parts, of eight-to-10 pages each. And because of that, I really focused on making each part its own very strong unit of storytelling, within the longer, 42-page whole. Each chapter has its own structure, its own purpose, its own setting, its own dramatic underpinning.

I want the reader to walk away from each short chapter feeling like we really gave them something to dig into, that it didn’t feel like just one-fifth of a larger story. It was a lot of fun, and I think it came out great. I can’t wait for everyone to check it out!

Catch Paul Allor’s latest work in SECRET EMPIRE: BRAVE NEW WORLD, issue #1 due out June 7!

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Cullen Bunn provides a tour for one of Marvel’s nastiest locales!

X-MEN: BLUE #6 sees our favorite mutants setting up shop on Madripoor, the super sketchy island historically populated by criminals, villains, and all kinds of shady characters. From the influence of A-list bad guys to the not-so-reliable justice system, we can think of more than a few reasons you might not want to make it your next vacation destination.

But writer Cullen Bunn has a different take—maybe Madripoor’s not such a bad place after all?

Marvel.com: Madripoor has a pretty much laissez-faire government, meaning plenty of cutthroat deals can go down…

Cullen Bunn: Sure, sure, but they throw the very best parties. I mean, look, do you want to go to the same boring old barbecue every weekend, or do you want to go the party where anything could happen? Yes, that “anything” might include getting held hostage by the Hand or some militant MGH dealers, but embracing excitement—that’s the Madripoor way!

Marvel.com: Because it doesn’t allow extradition, Madripoor basically operates as a haven for criminals. Though some of them may cut deals to help maintain the status quo, it still makes it a less than safe place.

Cullen Bunn: But every corner of Madripoor isn’t dangerous. If you can afford to hang out in High Town, you’ll be spending time with a much more civilized group of criminals.

And the X-Men live there now. Doesn’t that make you feel safer?

Marvel.com: As you mentioned, the Hand has historically had an interest in Madripoor—and you really don’t want to stick around when those guys get involved.

Cullen Bunn: Do we forget that the Hand have a sense of honor? They have a code. They are noble assassins and killers. You know how if you want to keep the spider population down, you keep wasps around? Well, the Hand is kind of like those spider-killing wasps. They help keep the population of other criminal elements down.

See? Glass half full…of ninjas.

X-Men: Blue #6 cover by Art Adams

Marvel.com: In its early days, a lot of pirates lived in Madripoor, and that tradition of lawlessness still impacts the way it operates today.

Cullen Bunn: That just means you don’t have the authorities breathing down your neck every time you want to jaywalk. People who live in Madripoor are free thinkers. They’re like artists who all live together to create a special kind of community. Yes, a good many of these “artists” work in a medium that involves crime. Some of them work in murder the way Rembrandt worked in paint. But let’s not get too judgmental.

Marvel.com: At various times, HYDRA, Magneto, and other villains have tried to use Madripoor as a base of operations, which has led to a fair amount of instability.

Cullen Bunn: Lots of villains have called Madripoor home, but now there are heroes like the X-Men getting in on the act, too. Not that the X-Men bring stability to their hometowns. They often only bring super villain attacks and building explosions.

But there are other groups who do want to see a little more stability in Madripoor, and they are working slowly but surely to do so. There’s this one group called the Raksha I’ve been hearing about a lot. They are making some waves with their efforts to shape things up in Madripoor. But I’m not really allowed to tell you much about them.

Visit scenic Madripoor in X-MEN: BLUE #6 by Cullen Bunn and Ray-Anthony Height, coming June 28!

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Charles Soule crafts a new villain for the Star Wars galaxy!

STAR WARS: POE DAMERON #16 hits on June 28, and writer Charles Soule looks to introduce readers to Malarus, a new villain whom the Resistance’s greatest pilot will need to contend with as he and Black Squadron continue in their struggle against the First Order.

Given the strength of the villains of the Star Wars universe, we spoke with Soule about what goes into creating the right kind of scum to pit against the galaxy’s finest.

Marvel.com: The fact that the First Order consists of a massive federation with many, many people willingly supporting it rarely gets addressed. Do you see everyone in the First Order as completely evil and in need of a boltcaster shot? Or can readers can empathize with these villainous characters?

Charles Soule: The First Order is a pretty monstrous group, I think. As I see it, they’re not just a powerful military force, but they think they’re better. They’re inculcated from birth to believe that they are destined to rule the galaxy by virtue of their strength and superiority in all sorts of ways—and I think that goes from the lowest Stormtrooper all the way to the top with General Hux and Kylo Ren. That’s a recipe for all sorts of terrible acts, as we’ve seen in the films, comics, etc. They think they’re justified. That said, if you make the bad guys too one-sided they become less interesting. So, the trick is to stay true to the somewhat ravenous nature of the First Order’s ideology while also populating their ranks with people that are a bit relatable. You might not agree with what they do—hopefully—but you can see how a person can get there.

Marvel.com: We’ve seen the rise of different types of villains in the Star Wars universe; from more nuanced, complicated characters like Darth Vader and Kylo Ren to those like the completely corrupted Emperor Palpatine. Which type do you find more compelling as both a fan and as a writer?

Charles Soule: It’s interesting that you consider Palpatine less complex, and I can see that; he has one goal, and he’s going to get there no matter what: ultimate power. But, he’s just so skilled and subtle in the way he achieves that goal; evil is his instrument, and he is an absolute virtuoso. He’s one of my all-time favorite characters to write in all of Star Wars. That said, Vader and Kylo are very cool too, and it is that slight underpinning of moral complexity that gets us there. Obviously they’re all a blast to write—but something in Palpatine just speaks to me. I’m not sure what that says about me, though.

Marvel.com: Now, from a more conceptual standpoint, can you share a little of the challenges you face in fleshing out this still-new terrain surrounding the “Force Awakens” era?

Charles Soule: The biggest challenge is really that the story here isn’t done yet. There are still many questions yet to be answered about the First Order, the nature of the Force in this era, Luke’s deal, the Knights of Ren, even basic stuff like the logistics for the Resistance and the government of the New Republic. We’ve gotten bits and pieces of that from “The Force Awakens” and various additional stories—novels, comics, etc.—but the story’s still being written. In the original trilogy and prequel era stuff, most of those questions are settled, and have been for decades. Sometimes, writing in the new trilogy is like sailing through a fog-covered sea—but it’s awesome nevertheless because it’s uncharted territory. Many times, if a question hasn’t been answered yet, I get to answer it. That’s a really great thing.

Star Wars: Poe Dameron #16 cover by Phil Noto

Marvel.com: Of course, with new territory comes new characters: heroes and villains. Can you unpack the process of creating a villain to go toe-to-toe with the Resistance’s best, Poe Dameron?

Charles Soule: I’ve made up two significant bad guys to face Poe so far. One is Agent Terex, an officer in the First Order Security Bureau—sort of like their Gestapo/intelligence-gathering arm—who has a rich, layered history that goes all the way back to the days of the Empire. I’ve had 15 issues to build him up, and he’s one of my favorite creations period. He’s a monster, but he’s tragic at the same time. Then, we have Commander Malarus, who we’ve only just started to get to know. She’s pretty unique, sort of like a sadistic bodybuilder type. I asked [series artist] Phil Noto to model her after Brigitte Nielsen in “Rocky IV,” and he came through perfectly as always. She’s physically very imposing, sadistic in a very direct way, which is unlike Terex, who’s perhaps a bit more subtle in his manipulations. If Terex is a rapier, Malarus is a big two-handed claymore. In both cases, the idea is to present someone who’s a good foil both for Poe’s skill set and his personality, who you really want to see get a comeuppance. Villains are always fun.

Marvel.com: Let’s pretend for a moment that you aren’t really a mild-mannered lawyer-turned-comic writer, and instead, you’re nefarious evildoer from a galaxy far, far away. How would you go about taking down Poe Dameron?

Charles Soule: I’d hit Poe right where he lives. I’d go after BB-8. And maybe his jacket.

Marvel.com: To wrap things up, can you give us any hints as to how you think Poe will escape the plans you’ve hatched for him?

Charles Soule: There’s a certain plotline we started the series with, related to a certain galactic explorer who possesses a key portion of a map leading to a certain lost Jedi warrior, and—I’m talking about Lor San Tekka. I haven’t forgotten about that story, and while Poe’s been on a million adventures since we last saw him dealing with all of that, we’ll be getting back to it soon. I can’t wait; I love exploring the weirder, Force-related corners of the galaxy. Should be a blast!

See more of Commander Malarus in STAR WARS: POE DAMERON #16, due out June 28 from Charles Soule and Angel Unzueta!

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Roland Boschi straps Wolverine to a symbiote in exclusive sketches!

Eddie Brock returned to his symbiote roots this week in VENOM #150. That reunion will also lead to an immense Venom-ization of various characters across the Marvel Universe.

EDGE OF VENOMVERSE launches in June. Each issue focuses on a Venom-ized character with a different creative team. The first issue, by Matthew Rosenberg and Roland Boschi, will showcase X-23—aka the All-New Wolverine—and her struggles as she deals with not only escaping the Facility, but also the symbiote trying to take over her mind and body.

We talked with Boschi about combining Laura’s sharpness with the fluidity of the symbiotes, plus his experience working with Rosenberg on helping to set up this major event.

Marvel.com: This project is unique in that it’s using each issue to introduce a new character for the Venomverse story by a different creative team. How does that experience differ than some of your other work?

Roland Boschi: At first I previewed a sample of the amazing Venomverse covers when Marvel hired me on X-23. Then you realize that you’re part of a big crossover. It’s totally thrilling!

Marvel.com: The Venom version of X-23 looks like just about the most dangerous character of all time! How was it coming up with that look?

Roland Boschi: I truly enjoyed the character of Laura in the movie “Logan” recently, how versatile she can be, from the silent young girl to the savage killer. Mix that with Venom’s symbiote and there is indeed a scary character! I try to show [Laura’s] face through the dark tendrils as much as I can, especially when her humanity speaks before she unleashes the symbiote!

Marvel.com: What are the key elements of X-23’s character that will remain even given her Venom-induced transformation?

Roland Boschi: She is constantly fighting the hunger of the symbiote and it looks like she finally almost handles it. The claws, high velocity, and healing factor of X-23 remain, plus the vicious Venom skills!

Marvel.com: Symbiotes have always been very striking visually as they seem like they’re always moving. Is that something you try to convey on the page?

Roland Boschi: Absolutely; make tendrils in motion and spread them all around the page as much as possible!

Marvel.com: How was it working with Matthew on this kick-off to a big event?

Roland Boschi: I haven’t had the chance to meet Matthew so far, but it’s a true honor to be working with him. The first reading of his script was immediately exciting with the action sequences and X-23 infected by the symbiote, but I enjoyed even more the second part, focused on teenagers, living their wild life and meeting Laura.

X-23 struggles with her symbiote in the pages of EDGE OF VENOMVERSE #1, out June 28 by Matthew Rosenberg and Roland Boschi!

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We throw a party for Eddie Brock to celebrate his symbiotic reunion!

Every Friday we use the powers of Marvel Unlimited to look back at the very first appearance of a major character, place or object that made waves this week.

Some lives remain so intertwined that you can’t imagine them separating for too long. That’s the case with Eddie Brock and his Spider-Man-hating symbiote. Together they’ve menaced the Web-Head, played hero, and split up only to get back together in the pages of this week’s VENOM #150. With these two back together, it’s the perfect time to look back at their complicated history. The symbiote itself actually appeared first back in 1984’s SECRET WARS #8, covering Peter Parker in a black costume after his traditional one got shredded. Upon returning to Earth, the Wall-Crawler kept the alien duds for a while.

Eventually, thanks to some tests performed by Reed Richards, Peter came to understand he wore an actual living being as a costume, one that did not take kindly to being removed from its host and briefly held in Mr. Fantastic’s lab. After being broken out of the extra-terrestrial contamination containment tube, the symbiote searched for a new host and possessed Peter only to separate after being exposed to extreme sonic distress in a bell tower as seen in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #1.

For a while after that, Spidey found himself assaulted by a mysterious assailant who did not set off his Spider Sense. The culprit came to the forefront in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #299 and #300 when Eddie Brock made the scene as the symbiote-clad Venom! Brock explained why he hated Spider-Man so much: he had been a reporter for the Daily Globe, working on a series of stories about the Sin-Eater based on the confessions of a man named Emil Gregg. Just after his last piece hit, revealing Gregg’s identity, Spidey defeated the villain and unmasked none other than…Stan Carter. Humiliated and fired, Brock developed a rage-filled opinion of our hero that attracted the symbiote and they built a partnership based on their shared hatred.

Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #300

Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #300

  • Published: May 10, 1988
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: May 26, 2008
What is Marvel Unlimited?

Venom became one of the most popular characters of the late 80s and early 90s, returning on many occasions to plague Spider-Man. Many years later, Brock sold off the symbiote for $100 million and eventually suffered from cancer and delusions that Venom still controlled him even though they had separated. Though the U.S. Government eventually bonded the symbiote with Flash Thompson, who would go on a series of space adventures that seemingly healed the angry alien, but when the latest VENOM series launched, it saw a new person filling the suit until Eddie Brock came back into its life!

Flash Forward

For a time, Eddie and Venom played hero together, but eventually fell off the wagon, so to speak. After selling the symbiote, Brock found himself bonded with another, this one called Anti-Venom. Not long after that, the former Lethal Protector took it upon himself to kill any and all symbiotes he came across. After succeeding with Scream and Hybrid, he failed to kill Flash Thompson and wound up attached to Toxin, Carnage’s offspring. Brock used that symbiote in his efforts to kill his own “child” over the course of the CARNAGE series. Who knows what will happen between those two now that they’re both back in symbiotic action?

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Kick off a 40-part series commemorating comic book memories!

We all know that the first Star Wars film changed the face of pop culture forever when it hit theaters 40 years ago today—but it’s not just the movie that’s celebrating that milestone in 2017. Star Wars comics arrived with force in 1977, and hundreds of issues later, they’re more popular now than ever.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, we’re looking back at our 40 favorite moments from the history of comics from a galaxy far, far away—one day at a time.

Star Wars (1977) #1

Star Wars (1977) #1

  • Published: April 12, 1977
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: April 15, 2015
  • Rating: All Ages
  • Writer: Roy Thomas
  • Cover Artist: Howard Chaykin
What is Marvel Unlimited?

STAR WARS #1, July 1977
At a time when movie-based comics sold poorly as a general rule, editor Roy Thomas convinced Stan Lee to give Star Wars a shot. The result: probably the most important single issue of a licensed comic book in history. Not only would STAR WARS #1 kick off the most successful movie-based comic of all time, the series to follow also proved itself one of the most profitable comics of the late ‘70s, period. It would last until 1986, and all 107 issues can be read through Marvel Unlimited.

Written by Thomas with absolutely iconic art from Howard Chaykin, STAR WARS #1 kicked off a six-issue adaptation of the first film—which hadn’t been given the name “A New Hope” or even “Episode IV” at the time. Starting with Darth Vader’s Star Destroyer in hot pursuit of Princess Leia’s blockade runner, the issue ends with Luke under attack from a Tusken Raider.

Interestingly, we’re treated to scenes cut from the film as well, such as Luke viewing the space battle with his microbinoculars, an exchange with Biggs Darklighter before he joins the Rebellion, and…Vader drinking coffee while he chokes Admiral Motti? Oh, and big-time spoiler alert: This issue hit newsstands on April 12, 1977, a full six weeks before the movie would invent the summer blockbuster on May 25!

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Writer Peter David discusses the role Kaine plays in the life of Ben Reilly!

The Scarlet Spider dons his original red and blue threads, just in time for a showdown with Cassandra Mercury and her strongman, Slate! But, it’s not just the crime lord and her minions who have it in for Ben Reilly—his vengeful clone brother, Kaine, has finally caught up to his little bro and won’t stop until he brings Ben in.

Will Ben be able to escape the wrath of Kaine? Find out what happens June 28 in BEN REILLY: SCARLET SPIDER #4, written by Peter David with art by Mark Bagley.

In light of this little “family” reunion, we sat down with David to discuss the role Kaine plays in both the series and in Ben’s life. See what he had to say, ahead.

Marvel.com: With Kaine finally catching up to The Scarlet Spider, what role does Ben’s mentally unstable “twin” play in the series?

Peter David: The hammer of justice. As far as he’s concerned, Ben has to be put down for good. Kaine doesn’t have the slightest inhibition about putting an end to Ben Reilly. He doesn’t believe the clone has a right to exist, which is naturally ironic considering he is a clone as well.

Marvel.com: In issue #4, Ben is on the brink of a big showdown with crime lord Cassandra Mercury and her enforcer, Slate. How does Kaine mix into all of this?

Peter David: Kaine is only aware of Cassandra as a name of an individual that he believes Ben is attempting to bilk. He doesn’t care about her or her personal situation—but, when he finds out about it, he winds up getting pulled right into the middle of it and, as a result, he has to make some very tough decisions.

Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider #4 cover by Mark Bagley

Marvel.com: Ben is trying to distance himself from his Jackal personality and embrace his new life as The Scarlet Spider; how might a run-in with his clone brother mess that up for him?

Peter David: Profoundly. Kaine sees him as a villain. Honestly, I think Ben Reilly is the most “real life” version of a villain who’s ever shown up in the Spidey titles, with the possible exception of Doc Ock. In the real world, in our world, villains don’t see themselves as evil. Kaine sees Ben as a bad guy, but Ben sees himself as a good guy because he was just trying to help people and make them feel good. Kaine sees Ben as someone playing God while Ben is simply a super doctor capable of “curing” the incurable. The fact that he wasn’t curing them is, to him, beside the point, because at least he offered hope.

Kaine clashes with his “brother” in BEN REILLY: SCARLET SPIDER #4 by Peter David and Mark Bagley on June 28!

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