Tragedy has given birth to some of the Marvel Universe’s greatest heroes like Spider-Man, but also some of its greatest villains — such as Magneto and Doctor Doom. The time after a tragedy creates or impacts a super powered being is very delicate and has to be handled very carefully.
However, it’s hard to be careful when you’re a super hero that’s host to an alien symbiote that feeds off negative emotions — like Flash Thompson, the title character of Marvel Comics‘ “Venom” series by writer Cullen Bunn and artists Kim Jacinto and Mike Henderson. To make matters worse, Flash’ personal tragedy was the murder of Flash’s neighbor by his archenemy Jack O’ Lantern. Flash moved in to protect the murdered man’s daughter, Andi, but accidentally endowed her with a symbiote of her own named Mania.
Bunn spoke with CBR News about Mania’s first full debut in “Venom” #39, Flash’s approach to the rise of a symbiote powered teenager he feels partly responsible for, what Mania’s appearance means for Venom’s crusade against crime in the city of Philadelphia and more of his future plans for the series.
[Editor’s Note: CBR News contacted Marvel Comics about “Venom’s” absence from its November solicitations, and the publisher declined comment when asked.]
CBR News: Cullen, readers now know that Flash’s neighbor Andi is the host to a new symbiote called Mania. What inspired the creation of Andi and Mania? Which came first, the idea for Andi or the idea for Mania?
Cullen Bunn: Early on, I had the idea of creating a new symbiote in the series. The idea changed over time, though, and it ended up in a completely different place. It wasn’t going to be Andi in those early days, but some of the story threads from that original idea are still part of what I have in store for Mania. Even when I introduced Andi, I didn’t have in mind that she would become Mania’s host. That was just something that happened along the way. So — who came first — Andi or Mania? Both?
Mania was born after Jack O’ Lantern murdered Andi’s father and tried to murder her. Considering the symbiotes feed off the negative emotions of their hosts, the newly born Mania will have plenty to keep it fed. What can you tell us about the initial dynamic between Andi and her symbiote?
You’ll see that Mania and Andi bond very quickly. It may even seem that Andi is better at controlling her symbiote than Flash is at controlling his. Part of that is because of the circumstances of Mania’s creation. Yes, those negative emotions give her a big boost — and Andi will be haunted by those feelings for a long while. There’s more to it, of course, and you’ll have to wait until issues 40 through 42 to get the whole story.
Since we’re on the topic of dynamics, how would you describe the initial dynamic between Flash and Andi? Is there a sense of guilt there on either side since the death of Andi’s father and her transformation into Mania came about because she reached out to Flash?
The relationship between Andi and Flash will be a rollercoaster ride over the next several issues. Flash will be nearly crushed with guilt and a sense of responsibility — and fear — when it comes to Mania. And Andi will show a lot of resentment toward Flash, especially in the beginning. Her life is going to be turned upside down because of him. If they make it through to the other side, though, their connection will be forever changed — and much stronger.
What will Andi’s non-costumed life be like following her father’s murder? In “Venom” #38, Andi’s father says something about her mother keeping secrets in a way that suggests that Andi’s mother is dead. Since Andi is a minor, who will be her immediate guardian?
Some might think that Flash might become her guardian, but that’s not the case. Andi’s life will change drastically and it will involve a new home and a new legal guardian. So, we’ll have Venom taking Mania under his wing, and Andi will be having a lot of trouble adjusting to a new civilian life. Andi’s mother is a whole new storyline, something I’d love to explore a little more. It would bring a completely new dynamic to the character.
Mania was born as a result of Jack O’ Lantern coming back into Venom’s life. Based on his visual appearance and your well-documented love for Marvel’s horror characters, it seems like you’re a fan of Jack. What do you like most about the character? Why did you want to bring him back into Flash’s life now?
I’ve always like Jack — even before he took an especially creepy turn in “Venom.” I like his design, his weirdness and general creepiness. He’s like a Rob Zombie movie in super villain form! I think some folks will be surprised when it comes to how Jack managed to break out of prison. Once the secret’s out, we’ll see that Jack is even more menacing and bizarre and dangerous than ever before.
“Venom” #38 ended with Flash and the newly-born Mania facing off with Jack O’ Lantern. What can you tell readers about issue #39? What does the birth of Mania mean for Flash’s ongoing war with Philadelphia’s crime boss, Lord Ogre?
A lot of stuff is happening in #39. Mania and Venom take on Jack O’Lantern — and learn a strange secret about him. Then Venom tries to stop Andi and the symbiote from bonding. Then they tangle with some of Lord Ogre’s mercenaries. And then we get to see some fallout from the whole ordeal. The last page will bring some earlier storylines back around, and we’ll get some hints at a pretty big step Flash is going to take.
Of course, Mania is going to be — well — manic — when it comes to getting revenge on Lord Ogre, and that will be the starting point for issue #40. She’s going to take the fight straight to her enemies, with or without Venom’s help.
The solicits for “Venom” #40 suggest that Damon Hellstrom and the supernatural elements in Flash’s life will come back into play in a big way. In terms of plot and themes, what is the new arc about?
That arc is really a continuation of Mania’s origins. There is a lot more to her than we will see in #38 and #39. It will also turn some of the supernatural elements on their ear. And I’m going to answer some bigger questions like “How did the Venom symbiote spawn another symbiote?” and “Why did Hellstrom appear in so many places — with so many different personalities — at the same time?”
With these supernatural elements comes the return of the villainous DOA organization and one of its associates, Crossbones. How dangerous will they be in this arc? What’s it like bringing Venom and Crossbones face-to-face?
The DOA will always be a dangerous force, especially with Crossbones leading them. And it will be pretty bloody when Crossbones and Venom lock horns. That said, I think the DOA might be underestimating Venom and (especially) Mania — and that might cost them.
We’ve talked about story let’s start to wrap things up talking about art. Which artists are you working with on the next few months of “Venom?” What do you feel they bring to the stories they’re working on?
The next three issues will be drawn by Jorge Coelho, who brings a great approach to the characters, especially Mania. He’s gonna be drawing symbiotes and demons and mercenaries and the end of the world and one of the strangest encounters between Flash and his symbiote you’ll ever see.
In November, Venom comes face to face with the Superior Spider-Man in an arc of “Superior Spider-Man” called “Darkest Hours.” I know you’re wary of spoilers, but can you talk at all about what that story means for “Venom” and how it will impact your book?
I really can’t say much about it at all — but there are big, big things afoot for Venom.
“Venom” #39 hits stores this Wednesday.
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