“It’s something that we’ve been building to, and building to, and building to. Now we’re here,” Cates said in a phone interview with IGN. “Ryan and I talk about that a lot. About how Ryan will send in a new page or King in Black, and it’s finally like a drawing of something that we’ve all been thinking about, a particular moment or a scene that we’ve all been thinking about for almost four years now. So it’s pretty surreal. It’s crazy. It really is a testament to how awesome the Marvel fanbase has been and the Venom fans in general, that they’ve supported the book so much. That this crazy idea of this Knull thing has stuck around so long, that we’re actually getting to do this.”
Stegman also joined in on the interview, and he reflected on the marked evolution in his visual style over the years, from early Marvel projects like Wolverine and Uncanny Avengers to his instantly iconic work on Venom, Absolute Carnage and now King in Black. Ironically, Stegman feels he’s finally perfected his approach to Venom just as he and Cates are preparing to exit the series.
“I feel like I’m always pushing. That’s just my motto in life and in comics,” Stegman said. “So I think there was definitely a lack of satisfaction with what I was doing. I thought that some of the stuff I was doing was cool, but I feel like once I got onto Venom, I started to really hone in what I did well. It was one of the first projects where I was like, ‘Oh, I know exactly how to do this and it just suits my style.’ Which at the time, my style was nebulous, but I felt like I started drawing in a way from issue one of Venom, that now I feel like in King in Black, it’s the ultimate form of that thing. If we have the cover to Venom #200, I feel like right now that would be the quintessential piece that exhibits what my style has become. I’m going to keep pushing for sure. But I feel like I’ve really found something. It’s a little bit annoying that we’re getting here to the end of King in Black.”
Stegman confirmed he’ll be one of several artists working on Venom #200, with Marvel bringing aboard several guest artists to help celebrate the big milestone. For now, though, those guest artists are still being kept under wraps.
Warning: the rest of this article contains spoilers for King in Black #2 and Venom #32!
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It should come as no surprise King in Black and its immediate aftermath will be hugely transformative for Venom. After all, as far as readers know at this point in the crossover, Eddie Brock is essentially dead following his first face-to-face meeting with Knull. Eddie’s physical body dies in King in Black #2, with Venom #32 revealing all that remains is the echo of Eddie that exists as part of the symbiote codex. Even if this allows Eddie to be resurrected, he may no longer be the man he once was, for better or for worse.
“Both King in Black and the Venom tie-ins themselves are both structured to really, really, really give a new status quo, to give gifts back or add things to the Marvel landscape,” said Cates. “So far we’ve been pretty destructive. So far we’ve been taking things away. So without saying too much, the Venom storyline that follows the events of King in Black is really a fun chance to be a little bit more introspective and to get a little bit more – surreal is maybe a word for it – and go into the depth of the void, and Knull’s abyss, and see what’s in there and really feel the suffering and all those things.”
Cates teased one big development still to come in King in Black, promising readers will finally meet the mysterious God of Light that exists as the antithesis to Knull. Though Cates clarified this character isn’t the Sentry, the all-powerful Marvel hero who met his grisly end in King in Black #1.
‘I should clarify this entity, this thing that we keep on teasing, that there is a God of Light in the way that Knull is the God of Darkness, that’s not The Sentry. I can confirm that,” Cates said. “That’ll be a big surprise for people reading and I can’t wait for you all to see it, because that’s also been something that we’ve been planning since day one.”
Cates also teased the story of Bob Reynolds may not be finished, despite his death at Knull’s hands. The spirit of the Sentry is currently featured in the pages of Valkyrie, which Cates teases could wind up serving as a bridge to his ongoing Thor series.
“As far as The Sentry’s whereabouts, nothing is ever done,” Cates said. “It’s the Marvel universe, right? Nothing is ever done without plans. Certainly you’re seeing that in the Valkyrie series, as he’s on his journey with Jane. Certainly you’re also talking to the writer of Thor who has keys to Valhalla. So I’ll stop talking there.”Both Cates and Stegman were adamant that Venom #200 was always the planned end point of their story. While the new status quo spinning out of King in Black will open up plenty of new storytelling possibilities, the duo would rather see how the next, yet to be announced creative team moves forward. Stegman drew a comparison to Daredevil, a series where it’s become a custom for outgoing creators to leave Matt Murdock in a precarious spot for the next team.
“Our Venom run is one big, long arc,” Cates said. “It just lined up that Venom #200 was the completion of that story. It’s the story… much in the same way that Jason [Aaron] was on Thor for so long and then he told the story. He told his Thor epic and then it was time for some idiot to come on and try and do his best. I don’t want people to get to think that we’re upset or that we’re sad or anything. We’re really proud of this run. We just think this is it. This is the story and we’re really, really proud of that story, and proud to see it continue. Let someone else have their chance to tell their story. This isn’t a funeral, this is a celebration. Ryan and I are cooking some stuff up that we think people are really going to enjoy. While our run on Venom is coming to a close, there will be more Ryan and Donny things for sure.”
King in Black will conclude with issue #5 in March 2021, and Venom #200 will follow in April. For more insight into the impending finale, be sure to check out Stegman’s podcast Steg-Man and His Amazing Friends. Cates will guest star on the next episode and join Stegman in reflecting on their critically acclaimed Venom run.
In other upcoming comic book news, check out IGN’s 21 most anticipated comics of 2021 and see how Tales From the Outerverse expands Mike Mignola’s *other* shared horror universe.
Jesse is a mild-mannered staff writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.