When Eugene “Flash” Thompson was a teenager he dreamed of protecting the citizens of the Marvel Universe like his idol, the Amazing Spider-Man. Years later he got his wish when he became the new host of the alien symbiote known as Venom, but Flash has found that being a costumed crime fighter is not all it’s cracked up to be. That’s partly because the Venom symbiote feeds on negative emotions and Flash has a whole host of personal demons he’s trying to keep under control.
The other reason Flash has been having a difficult time of late is he’s become a magnet for strange and frightening foes. Following co-writer Rick Remender’s exit from the book, Cullen Bunn began his solo run on “Venom” with an arc that pitted his protagonist against Daimon Hellstrom, the Son of Satan, and a legion of demonic monstrosities. In the current “Minimum Carnage” crossover with “Scarlet Spider” Flash Thompson travelled to the dimension known as the Microverse to battle alien soldiers and the symbiote-enhanced serial killer known as Carnage. In the aftermath of that story “Venom” will relocate to Philadelphia where he’ll battle some of the city’s strangest menaces. CBR News spoke with Bunn about his initial “Venom” tales, the crossover, and where he plans to take the title now that his protagonist is settling into new digs.
CBR News: Cullen, “Venom” is currently involved in the “Minimum Carnage” story line, but I want to start by talking about some of the revelations from your previous story line, “Monsters of Evil.” Perhaps the biggest is that Venom has a demon imprisoned inside him because of the events of the “Circle of Four” mega arc from earlier this year. The Demon isn’t the only other personality that Flash has to deal with. How would you describe the current dynamic between Flash, the Venom symbiote, and the Demon? Ultimately, what do each of these characters want from the other two personas they’re enmeshed with?
Cullen Bunn: I’ll be spending some time addressing just that — what do these three entities want from each other — and what do they need?
Right now, the symbiote has been put on a leash, so to speak, kept in a state of chemical catatonia. Theoretically, Flash Thompson is in full control, but there have been moments when the symbiote’s personality has surfaced. It’s happened twice early on in “Minimum Carnage” and there’s every possibility it will happen again. This scares the Hell out of Flash, especially now that he’s facing Cletus Kasady/Carnage, and he has seen just how much of a monster a symbiote can be.
At the same time, though, Flash is starting to figure out that there are times when he really needs the symbiote — not as a tool, but as a partner. You’ll see more of that before “Minimum Carnage” is finished. So Flash is starting to wonder if he’s looking at the symbiote all wrong. Maybe, he thinks, it’s time to consider more of a partnership scenario — but that terrifies him. He’s not known for making the best decisions — and there’s that pesky third entity that’s causing trouble, too.
During “Monsters of Evil,” Daimon Hellstrom tried to possess Flash Thompson, but because Venom is “marked” by Mephisto, the demon actually became trapped within Flash. All the infernal parasite really wants is to be set free, but that’s not happening. It could just settle down and wait out its imprisonment in silence, but it has other ideas. What you’ll see is this demon playing on Flash’s guilt and insecurity, his anger and fear. The demon will wait for one of Flash’s many moments of weakness, and then strike — in a way that old school symbiote fans should like.
It also appears that Flash’s “inner demon” has endowed him with a new ability; to command and control certain demons. Can you talk about how this ability works? Does it have limitations? And is this the only new ability Flash has or will we discover others in subsequent issues?
Flash isn’t sure how this ability works himself, but it would appear that the “mark” he received at the end of the “Circle of Four” story designates him as something of an infernal authority figure. This gives him some ability to command demons. Flash (or is it the symbiote?) has been chosen as someone who might be selected to take Mephisto’s throne. All the Hell Lords are preparing for this event called “The Descent” where one of them will become something even more terrible. They are marking individuals as potential heirs. Daimon Hellstrom bears a similar mark. And there are many others who have been branded in this way, some of them very powerful.
As for limitations, I think it might be interesting to see what happens when Flash commands a demon to do something, but another marked individual offers an opposing command.
As for other abilities, there’s certainly that possibility. At the very least, Flash is going to start opening his eyes to other possibilities his symbiote might provide. It’s possible that Flash might be learning something from the demon within.
Let’s move from from demonic monsters into human ones by chatting about “Minimum Carnage.” This is the second time Flash has had to confront Carnage. The first being Zeb Wells’ “Carnage USA” miniseries. Just what does Carnage represent to Flash? Â When Flash takes on Carnage is he driven by more than just his inner heroism?
Carnage represents the absolute worst case scenario for Flash. In Carnage, he sees just how terrible a symbiote can be. What’s more, his adventures in the Microverse are going to show him just how — apocalyptic — the symbiote could be if left unchecked. Like I mentioned before, Flash is torn over how to manage his symbiote. What he learns from Carnage is that if he’s not careful, he could become a real monster. What he learns in the Microverse is that if he’s not careful he could bring about the end of the world as he knows it. No pressure.
Flash won’t have to take Carnage on alone, though. He’s currently being assisted by the Scarlet Spider. They’ve only had limited interaction in this story, but I’m curious as to how meeting the Scarlet Spider has affected Flash. Does meeting a spider-powered hero who has established his own life and sort of started over in Houston factor into Flash’s upcoming decision to move to Philadelphia?
Meeting Scarlet Spider may play into Flash’s decision at least a little, but I wouldn’t say he’s inspired by Scarlet Spider. At least, he doesn’t want to be like Scarlet Spider. His interaction with Kaine will eventually lead Venom down another path, one that changes his approach to being a super hero.
We’re at the halfway point of Venom and the Scarlet Spider’s battle with Carnage. Can you hint or tease about what’s in store in the three remaining chapters of “Minimum Carnage?”
As we move toward the end of the story, Venom and Carnage are going to become a lot closer than Flash is comfortable with, and Flash will learn how dangerous the symbiotes can be. Flash will be drawing on some reserves he didn’t know he had in order to short-circuit an apocalypse. There will be a couple of big, epic battles — one in the Microverse and one in our world. In the end, the actions Scarlet Spider and Venom take in the final battle will change Carnage in a significant way — and it will shape how Venom and Scarlet Spider see each other from here on out.
Immediately after “Minimum Carnage” you leap into “Venom” #27.1, which based on the solicits sounds like a wrap up of one chapter in his life and the beginning of another. What can you tell us about the issue?
There’s a lot happening in this issue, and I’m really excited about it. After everything that’s happened with the Savage Six — and the Monsters of Evil — and “Minimum Carnage” Flash feels like his world is still crumbling around him. He’s trying to pull himself up from rock bottom, but it feels like the world is conspiring against him. To make matters worse, he’s really seeing how he has impacted those around him in a really negative way.
Also, Flash will be challenged by both his figurative and literal inner demons.
We all know Flash was and is a bully. It’s part of his history and his nature that he simply can’t shake. In this issue, Flash is trying to justify this violence that’s still inside him, but he knows he can’t do it.
This is one of those moments of weakness I mentioned — just the sort of thing a conniving demon might try to exploit. And at the end of the issue, Flash makes some big decisions — the biggest of which is that he’s leaving New York.
Issue #28 kicks off the first story in Venom’s new home and one of the people who sets it in motion is his confidant and informant, tabloid reporter Katy Kiernan. How would you describe the current dynamic between Flash and Katy? Are they just friends and sort of co-workers? Or is there an underlying bit of romantic tension between the two?
As I mentioned, Flash is a bully. Katy, in her own way, was a bully, too. Flash used physical violence. Katy used sensational journalism. Both of them are trying to make amends and they both have their crosses to bear. Katy finds that she can only get work with the most wild of the tabloids — “Skrulls Ate My Babies” sort of stuff. But she’s good at her job, and she’s built up a number of contacts and resources who will be a big help to Flash when it comes to investigating the really, really weird stuff in the world.
I like the idea that Flash is something of a weirdness magnet. All these wild connections and incidents have occurred around him all his life, everything leading up to where he is now. Katy would tell him that there are no coincidences.
They’re friends. They help each other. Is there something more to their relationship? Who knows? But keep in mind, Katy doesn’t know Flash Thompson. She only knows Agent Venom. And I don’t plan on changing that anytime soon.
While we’re on the topic of significant others, I know you’re wary of spoilers, but Flash’s relationship with Valkyrie recently escalated in “Secret Avengers.” Will Valkyrie have a role in this book moving forward?
Yes! Valkyrie plays a significant role in Issues #28-30. She’ll also be appearing in future arcs.
Let’s move from Flash’s love life and into your immediate plans for him in Philadelphia. In terms of plot and theme, what is your initial story about? The solicits suggest an “X-Files”-style alien horror adventure. Is that correct?
The first Philly story is a kind of strange alien abduction/fringe technology kind of tale. It’s a short arc, introducing Flash to the notion that the people of Philadelphia may need someone to protect them from the dark and terrible things that no one likes to think about.
Who are some of the adversaries on Venom’s dance card when he moves to Philly? What made you want to pit them against your protagonist?
Right off the bat, Venom faces the U-Foes. Here are four villains who are extremely powerful — too strong for Venom to face alone, but that’s just what he’s going to do. I thought the weirdness of the U-Foes fit well with the tone of this arc. And the battle with them will leave Flash with a newfound respect for the symbiote.
After that, I’m introducing a new villain, someone who will be spinning out of the U-Foes arc, but dealing with that villain won’t be a piece of cake for Venom, because someone from his recent past is going to resurface with a vengeance.
We’ve talked about story so let’s move to the art side of things. It looks like you have two great artists with two very distinct styles in Declan Shalvey and Thony Silas. What do you feel each of them brings to “Venom?”
Declan and Thony (not to mention Marco Chechetto on #27.1) are just so awesome. While their styles are drastically different, they bring a great sense of mood and action to the book. These guys are making the arcs they’re working on distinctly theirs — but I think they could have swapped arcs and still done an amazing job. It would have changed the feel of the stories, but would have been wow-worthy nonetheless! I can tell you this, they don’t shy away from the crazy symbiote action — but as we’re working on bringing the Philly of the Marvel Universe to life, they’ve gone all out on depicting the city and developing the supporting cast.
Finally, I’d like to wrap things up with a brief chat on Venom joining General Ross’ Thunderbolts team. What does Flash joining the “Thunderbolts” mean for his solo book? Will we see Flash’s teammates appear in “Venom?” It seems General Ross, especially, would be a good fit given the end of “Monsters of Evil.”
There have been some early discussions about how to tie some threads together and make sure the books “play nice” with each other. I think you’re right that General Ross may have a role to play in “The Descent” and who’s to say he wouldn’t want the Thunderbolts along for the ride?
It definitely sounds like you’re having a lot of fun with this book and you have some big plans for “Venom” in the months ahead, correct?
Yes. I think that going into #27.1, readers will start to see a big story start to unfold. New villains, new supporting characters, new threats, and a bunch of hints of things to come down the line. My fondest wish is that I can take my time to develop a “long game” with the character. I have a lot of stories I want to tell, but I think there’s value in taking my time getting there.
Heck — there’s no telling what adventures might — spawn — when you look at the series in the long run.
“Venom” #27, part 5 of “Minimum Carnage,” is on sale November 14, with #27.1 hitting two weeks later on November 28.