Writer Mike Costa sets up a showdown with Kraven the Hunter!
Prepare to witness two iconic Spider-Man villains clash in VENOM #158!
On November 29, Eddie Brock must protect an underground civilization of dinosaur people from one of the most savage hunters of all time. Written by Mike Costa with art by Mark Bagley, Venom and Kraven go face-to-face.
We spoke with Costa about issue #158 and the Jekyll and Hyde duality of its title character.
Marvel.com: Venom has fought bad guys all across the galaxy—what about Kraven might make him uneasy?
Mike Costa: I think Kraven also has an utterly fearless approach. I think that’s one of the things that makes him scary—Kraven has always been supremely confident in what he can do. He is sort of the ultimate predator and you kind of can’t sneak up on him and you can’t get the advantage on him.
So, as you’ll see later in the story, Kraven comes prepared for his second encounter with Venom; the first was just sort of luck and it kind of ended in a draw, but the second time, Kraven will be much more prepared. Kraven understands his prey and he knows how to find their weak points and I think that makes him a very legitimate threat to Venom.
Marvel.com: What made you choose Kraven to be in this series?
Mike Costa: I’d also thought, if we’re going to include Kraven, it felt like a sort of a confluence of events, because editors Devin Lewis, Nick Lowe, and I wanted to do essentially a spiritual sequel to David Michelinie and Mark Bagley’s VENOM: LETHAL PROTECTOR. Obviously not a direct sequel, but an homage to it—a pastiche—because of Marvel Legacy and that’s one of the major stories that defines Venom. That served as the character’s first solo book and now we’re on the VENOM solo book and we felt like it would be nice to give a nod to that.
So what would that story be about? I had already set up this idea that Stegron the Dinosaur Man had created a bunch of dinosaur people down under the streets of Manhattan. And the original LETHAL PROTECTOR stories were literally about Venom protecting an underground society of people from this big developer who’s got villainous guys in giant drill suits. I didn’t want to go so direct with the parallel, but I already had built into my story an underground civilization of dinosaur people, so the next question became “Who’s the villain? What’s the threat?”
Nick Lowe suggested Kraven. Nick’s obviously been editing SPIDER-MAN for a long time—he understands the character and that world. One of the things about working on a book like VENOM that takes place within the Marvel Universe and within the Spider-Man corner of the universe is that you do have this vast canvas and a huge catalogue of characters and scenarios that are just pre-made for you. Kraven fit so well into what we already had, so it just seemed logical: “Who would be a threat to underground dinosaur people? Well, a guy who makes it his business hunting and taking trophies of exotic creatures.”
Marvel.com: Between Venom and Kraven, who would you say is more of a raging psychopath?
Mike Costa: [Laughs] Venom has this instability to his character on multiple levels. It’s a man who already has sort of a broken moral compass, hosting an alien from outer space that does not have the human conception of morals and ethics, also slowly being compromised by poison. So Venom seems like the wild card, but if you’re going on pure psychopath, probably Kraven. He’s in total control of his actions and makes a conscious decision. He’s very deliberate and he’s very implacable in that way; he knows exactly what he’s doing, he likes hunting things, he likes killing things, he likes bathing in blood and skinning things. He likes death and he creates it. That’s not true of Venom. For all of Venom’s faults, Venom does not celebrate death, but Kraven absolutely does.
Marvel.com: Can you discuss the process of getting inside the head of an antihero like Venom?
Mike Costa: It’s honestly a big challenge because Venom has always been a complex character that the editorial team and I had a lot of conversations about. He’s become even more complex because he’s really two people in one—two people meaning the suit and Eddie Brock. Then the person that they create—the character they create—becomes Venom, a combination of the two.
In any given scene, I might have Eddie’s internal monologue or the internal monologue of the symbiote or we might be reading the dialogue of Venom himself, who acts as a combination of the two. It’s an ambiguous idea—who’s truly speaking in those moments. Is it Eddie? The symbiote? Some combo of the two of them?
He’s not a pure villain, he’s not a pure hero. I think that Eddie, in his own way, can be more amoral than the symbiote. Eddie made the decision long ago that he would do whatever necessary to get what he wanted. At the time, it was to kill Spider-Man, but he also has a very strict moral compass in that he does distinguish between innocent people and guilty people. But his definition of who’s innocent and who isn’t, can be a very particular thing and there end up being a lot of thorny questions surrounding that.
I feel like the symbiote, for a long time, got played as this sort of mindless creature motivated by anger and base emotions of hate and desire. I really tried to examine that in issue #154 because the symbiote, over the past 10 years in particular, has been through a tremendous amount of changes. It’s been bonded with Flash Thompson—an unambiguously good man and hero—and then it bonded to Lee Price—an incredibly evil man. I kind of view the symbiote as almost like a naive child that tries to understand the world and wants to do the right thing, but doesn’t know the right thing and sometimes takes the wrong lesson.
So, “Who is Venom?” We’ll address that questions even more specifically and fundamentally in the next year or so of VENOM comics. We’ll directly deal with the relationship between Eddie and the symbiote and nail down some of those answers in a much more concrete way going forward.
Marvel.com: Considering Marvel Legacy, how do you think each of these characters would like to be remembered in terms of their respective legacies?
Mike Costa: I think that Venom really would like to be remembered as a hero. I think that’s less important to Eddie to be a hero, but the symbiote ultimately wants to do good and the symbiote would love to be remembered as a force for good in the world. Eddie, I think, feels more ambivalent about that. He won’t refuse to do good, but the symbiote has become a part of him that he needs and that he missed tremendously when it left. He tried out several other symbiotes in the time between losing the Venom symbiote and gaining it back; there’s some part of him that yearns for it. He feels incomplete without that.
The only thing that Kraven wants in his legacy is to be remembered as the greatest trophy hunter who ever lived. Something within hunting and in predatory behavior is just about exercising power—that’s all it really is. These very wealthy people who go out and shoot a giraffe, they just do it to feel big and powerful. They just do it to say, “This beautiful, rare creature that most people don’t even get to see—I went out and took its life. I held ultimate power over it. I am so special that I removed one of these things from the Earth.” If Kraven were going to die which, right now, does not look likely [Laughs], I’m sure he would want a statue of himself holding up the carcass of a lion or something, saying, “I am the greatest hunter who has ever lived.”
VENOM #158, by Mike Costa and artist Mark Bagley, drops on November 29!