Interview: Clay McLeod Chapman on 'Extreme Carnage'
We chat with the comic book scribe about his latest tour through Marvel's symbiotic family.
It's hard to put into words just how much Venom and Carnage ruled our childhoods. Events like Maximum Carnage and Lethal Protector got us a little mad for Symbiotes in the nineties and it was glorious. Now, thanks to deliriously whacko storytellers like Clay McLeod Chapman, the bloody good times roll again, and they're better than before.
Tumbling from the horror that was King in Black, Extreme Carnage lets the Life Foundation Symbiotes off the leash. They're running wild, and our planet is terrified. The latest Marvel Comics summer event is jammed with action and dread, but running beneath it all are several desperate character dramas. The Symbiotes are creatures perfectly designed to embody our Comic Book Couples Counseling ethos, and right now, Chapman's version of Scream is our queen.
We gotta do some Symbiote episodes in the near future. That's a promise.
Chapman is not working alone on Extreme Carnage. Joining him are a bevy of writers: Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Steve Orlando, and Alyssa Wong. All five will attend Washington DC's Awesome Con this weekend, and they are also partaking in a massive signing over at Third Eye Comics on 8/21. If you're attending, look for us, we'll be there.
Talking Symbiotes with Chapman is an absolute dream. He loves these creatures, and he loves their hosts even more. While constructing Scream: Curse of Carnage, Chapman developed a profound appreciation for Andi Benton and her alien hitchhiker Scream. He recognizes these characters as larger than life, but their interior world remains tremendously relatable. Both parties are working out real trauma, and Chapman approaches their pain with beautiful sensitivity.
We invited Chapman into our Love Nest for a lengthy chat. After he absorbed the many smells emanating from our ridiculous array of scented candles, we got into the business of celebrating Extreme Carnage. We discuss the Marvel event's construction, the collaboration process, and what separates Scream from the other Symbiotes.
This interview was edited for length and clarity, but you can listen to the entire fifty-minute discussion on our Patreon feed. Just 1 Dollar.
Brad: Thank you so much for joining us in the Love Nest today to talk about all things Extreme Carnage and the entire history of the Life Foundation and the evolving Symbiotes.
Lisa: We need some clarification.
Clay: Oh man, I'm bringing up the Wikipedia right now. Oh man, gotta say, The Love Nest is beautiful by the way. It is very cozy.
Brad: We lit all the candles for you.
Clay: Oh yes. I was wondering...is that like vanilla? [Deep inhale] It's like vanilla almond.
Lisa: It depends on where you're sitting because they're all a different scent. It's like a smell salad which sounds bad but it's great!
Clay: Yes, yes. When the wind blows, the draft takes you to another scent. Over here, this is strawberry pine, and over here this is Siracha mayo, maybe.
Lisa: Truffle ketchup!
Brad: My favorite candle.
Clay: [Laughter] A little truffle ketchup for ya!
Brad: Suck it all in as we talk Extreme Carnage! It's such a massive event involving so many creators. Obviously, you've been involved with the symbioses for a while. You brought a lot of people back to Scream with your Curse of Carnage series. I mean, honestly, I couldn't believe how many people in my timeline were talking about Scream because of that series.
Clay: Oh man.
Brad: How did all this come to be?
Clay: Well, that's a very good question and any answer I give is probably not going to be the truth. I mean, how does any Marvel summer event come together? I think like maybe there was a need for some Carnage. Maybe there's a movie coming out, maybe King in Black came to an end. And we're in the rubble right now. So Extreme Carnage is climbing out of the debris.
I've always been a fan of the Life Foundation, because they're such an unsung kind of familial group. And that's the thing, and I'm going to be all over the place with this. But my feelings about the Life Foundation and Symbiotes in general, is that they're these big relationship dramas being played out on this operatic level. And that's always been kind of my way, my entry point into the characters I've been fortunate to write for. But yeah, I mean, it is a big, messy, wet, gross-out parasite, jamboree.
Brad: Well, I -
Clay: I didn't even come close to answering your question. That was such a dodge [Laughter].
Brad: I can appreciate a dodge, but I'll throw it back to you. Cuz you're collaborating with so many different points of view, so many different artists. How do you make that work?
Clay: It's definitely been the first time I've ever done anything like this. There was essentially a writers room. The four of us, Steve, Philip, Alyssa, and myself, along with our editors, Devin [Lewis] and Danny [Khazem], we all kind of hung out via Zoom and hashed it out.
We did this for like probably a week. We just went, 'So, we've got eight issues. We've got these characters.' Philip was the spearhead because he's doing the Alpha and the Omega. He's doing the first issue and the last issue. I think I can say that he led the charge. He was technically like our showrunner - to the extent where it was like, here's the idea, the guiding principle of where we want to go with this story, what Carnage is doing, why he's back.
Lisa: In Scream: Curse of Carnage, I was really touched by the relationship between Andi and Scream. And it did turn into this almost romantic relationship where they were both so lonely, and so thirsty to just thrive and continue to be. So I have two kinds of questions. One, you seem to have a lot of sympathy for the Symbiotes, which I find really interesting and I'd like to get your perspective on. And two, how do you work with so many writers and maintain the character development?
Clay: Oh, wow. Well, hey first off, thank you for reading Scream. I mean, there's the Venom of it all, and the Carnage of it all - I mean, there are just so many Symbiotes right now. I think specifically thinking of Scream, the idea was her host of the moment is Andi Benton. And coming from Cullen Bunn's Scream with Mania, and then her and Andi then bonding with Scream, and the two of them forming their own relationship. There's a lot there.
The thing that blows my mind with the symbiote stories is that the hosts are always coming from a place of trauma. And that to me just felt like an amazing anchor. Yes, we're talking about alien parasites here. But like at their core, there's a bond there, a relationship. It has to be a relationship, it's not just one character, but it's two characters, and they're navigating some larger kind of partnership that I think really does go beyond just defeating bad guys.
To me, it comes down to family and trauma. Andi was a character that had great, great trauma. When I came into the fold with her storyline her father had died, and anyone that she's close to is just gone. Her mother is not even in the fold and it was kind of kismet, this fortuitous timing for Curse of Carnage and writing that arc. I wanted the story to be about motherhood and mothering and the relationship between mother and daughter, given the fact that Andi's mother had been kind of an underutilized character. It's been a while but I don't think many, if anyone, has really written about her.
So when we found this opportunity to use the bad guy, the bad character, Big Mama, big mother, it was like, 'Oh my god, this is amazing. This is perfect.' It just dovetailed from there, or avalanched from there. So yes, Andi is a character who had great trauma and what surviving looks like to someone like that was really important. The relationship between Andi and her symbiote Scream could help heal each other.
Anyone who's read Chapman's latest Extreme Carnage chapter, Lasher, knows how Andi and Scream's relationship has jumped to the next level. If you'd like to hear the rest of this conversation, including Chapman's own delicious relationship with the Maximum Carnage era, join our Patreon!
And be sure to join Chapman and the rest of the Extreme Carnage writers at their Third Eye Comics signing event on August 21st. Can't make it in person? That's okay! Chapman is participating in a Third Eye Comics virtual conversation on August 25th. Get more details HERE.