For months now, Marvel readers have had one big message echoing across their favorite titles: Knull is coming. We now know that the dark god of symbiotes isn't coming alone, but has a bevy of symbiotes (and even some dragons) at his side. His arrival is this Wednesday with King in Black #1 (opens in new tab), the first in a five-part event running through spring 2021.r.(opens in new tab)
King in Black comes from writer Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman, whose work together began with their 2018 relaunch of Marvel's Venom title. Over the past two years, the duo has re-written and reconstructed Venom and his entire mythos, developing a new history for the symbiote and the aforementioned Knull. After the 2019 event Absolute Carnage, they're back this week with their second event, King in Black, which touches on virtually all corners of the Marvel Comics line.
Ahead of King in Black #1's Wednesday debut, Stegman spoke with Newsarama about the event, the scope of the event, how he feels about Venom's evolution at his and Cates' hands, and some of the teases they've released ahead of the event.
Newsarama: Ryan, okay, so set the stage for King in Black. What's led up to this by the time readers get to the first page?
Ryan Stegman: In our Venom run, we introduced a brand new character named Knull. Knull is a real bastard. Someone called him 'Space Satan' and it's a perfect description. He yearns for the days when the universe was empty and it was just him. So his goal is to eradicate everyone. He's gone through the cosmos destroying any planets he comes into contact with.
And now he's coming to Earth.
Nrama: Are you working on any of it today or is it pretty much finished for the most part?
Stegman: Oh, I worked on it today all right! Been going strong since 9 am. It's 7:39 p.m. right now as I type this and I just finished. And quite frankly didn't get enough done! But yeah, I'm working on issue four right now and it's awesome and I'm tired!
Nrama: You and Donny pretty much reinvented Venom's legacy and place in the Marvel Universe. Looking back at what Venom used to mean, is it weird to think of him at a center at a Big comic book event?(opens in new tab)
Stegman: Yes! Very weird. Neither of us would have ever guessed this. When we took the job I knew the story was good and that if I could bring my a game then it would be a hit. But the level of hit that it has been blowing my mind.
We knew the King in Black story from day one when we started this book, but we had no idea it would be able to span the entire Marvel U. I think we figured we'd have to beg to use Spider-Man in it and hope for the best but when they expanded the whole thing to an event we pretty much got to use all the toys. And we use all. The. Toys.
Nrama: When designing Knull and his monsters, what were you going for? Any inspirations you kept coming back to?
Stegman: We worked backward from Venom quite a bit. Obviously, we got Knull's mouth from there. And we wanted him to look regal and gigantic. Donny's first notes were that he should be 12 feet tall. That got me going, thinking about how he should be super long and lean. Creepy. It didn't take us long to arrive at the final design, we were very much on the same page.
As for inspirations, I don't know that I can pinpoint any specifically. Sometimes a character design just hits you and you go with it. I'm sure it's subconsciously inspired by a lot though.
Nrama: Without naming names, is there somebody that's coming to the event you haven't drawn before you've been itching to get to?
Stegman: I mean, of course! I can't name names, but I think all of my 10 favorite Marvel characters are in this book.(opens in new tab)
Nrama: How many King in Black variant covers are we looking at here for the first issue?
Stegman: A billion? I don't know. I just draw my books and they send me cool variants that get me pretty excited. I did the main cover and a variant for issue one. That's all I know!
Nrama: In your mind, what is it about King in Black that you think that sets it apart, if anything, from other big Marvel events of even the past five years?
Stegman: To me, this event typifies what Marvel Comics are. It's big and bombastic with huge ideas and great character moments. And some pretty decent art if I do say so myself.
One of the cool things about it I think is how you're just dropped right in the middle of it. It's go-time from page one. And it never relents. There are not conference table moments. There's no time for that. Knull is a threat that has to be dealt with and he's not going to relent so our heroes can't either.(opens in new tab)
Nrama: Can you tell us anything about this God of Light that's teased as the antithesis of Knull, the King in Black?
Stegman: I can't tell you a single thing about this other than that my jaw hit the floor when Donny told me about it!
Nrama: Where do you see the Venom books going forward after King in Black?
Stegman: Venom will be forever changed. That sounds clichéd but the fact of the matter is, I know what comes after and...He's forever changed! Like, really, really changed. So before I say anything I shouldn't I guess I should just stop talking...
King in Black #1 goes on sale on December 2 digitally and in print. Read our list of the best comic readers for Android and iOS devices.