Eugene “Flash” Thompson was one of Peter Parker’s earliest tormentors back when he was first introduced in 1962’s “Amazing Fantasy” #15, but the bullying jock would go on to become one of the most “Marvel” of Marvel Comics’ super heroes. Flash wanted to be a better person, but he didn’t exactly know how thanks to his abusive and alcoholic father. As a result, Flash took out his anger on Peter Parker, but the fact that he was the world’s biggest fan of Peter’s alter ego, Spider-Man, showed that maybe there was something deeper beneath his rage and character flaws that would allow him to be a better person.
To this day, Flash still struggles with the demons of addiction and anger that his father passed on to him, but he’s also managed to do some real good. After high school, he joined the army, and while fighting in Iraq he saved the lives of several of his fellow soldiers. It cost him his legs, but the head of a top-secret government program recognized Flash’s heroism and gave the injured veteran the chance to become a costumed hero under the employ of the United States.
Becoming the government’s hero meant becoming the new host for the symbiote known as Venom, the alien organism who has a serious hatred for Spider-Man. Equipping Flash with a creature that brings out the darker emotions of its host has proven to be an effective, but volatile combination, one that has allowed him to become a member of the Secret Avengers. It has also made him a number of enemies, and in the current “Savage Six” storyline by writers Rick Remender and Cullen Bunn, they’ve come gunning for him. This fall, when that storyline wraps, Bunn will take over as sole writer of “Venom” with Thony Silas on art. We spoke with him about his plans for the series.
CBR News: Cullen, Rick Remender kicked off this latest volume of “Venom” and you recently joined him as co-writer with the launch of the “Savage Six” storyline. When you took the assignment, did you know that you were going to eventually be writing the book on your own?
Cullen Bunn: Yes, I knew when I came aboard that the “Savage Six” storyline would be my introduction to “Venom” and then at some point soon after that I would be taking over once Rick said farewell to the book.
Who’s drawing your initial “Venom” story?
Thony Silas is doing my first arc and I’m very excited — he’s done some outstanding work over in the “Amazing Spider-Man: Ends of the Earth” storyline!
Let’s talk a little bit about your vision for the series and your approach to the title character. Ultimately, what do you think motivates Flash Thompson? Is he driven by guilt like Peter Parker, or are Flash’s motivations much harder to break down?
I think his motivations are harder to break down, but guilt does play a big part of it. Up until this point, Flash has made a lot of mistakes. When a bully becomes a super hero they have a lot of trouble balancing things, and that’s led to most of the problems he’s had — especially the problems he’s currently facing in the “Savage Six” storyline.
â€¨Going into my run, he’s driven by guilt, but there’s also some degree of hero worship driving his actions. He’s always been Spider-Man’s #1 fan. He really wants to be a hero; for both the right and wrong reasons. Yes, he wants to do the right thing. He wants to help people. But he also can’t help but feed off the sense of euphoric pride that goes hand in hand with being a recognized hero. He wants that recognition, but he may never get it. Up until this point, he’s made something of a mess of his life. I don’t think anyone can say he’s been extremely heroic.
Going into my first arc, we’ll see Flash’s first steps toward being a genuine superhero. He’s going to say, “This is me. I’m a hero now. I’m walking a heroic path.” Of course, how Flash defines heroism will be different from how everyone else defines it. He might even find himself questioning his notions of what makes a hero. It will not be an easy transition for him.
For starters, he’s wearing a symbiote that has, in the past, subverted his will. While the symbiote is currently “under control,” Flash dreads the day the symbiote takes the reins once more.
He’s going to struggle. He’s going to make mistakes. But he really is trying.
So Flash is making a conscious effort than to be more of a super hero than a super soldier.
Exactly. In the past, he might have seen a hero and soldier in the same light., but now he’s not so sure that is always the case. I think he starts off having to work at being one of the “good guys.” Will he have to continue to work at it? Or will it become something almost natural for him? Either way, it’s not going to be an easy journey. There’s going to be a lot of self-doubt just waiting to trip him up.
You’re currently working on “Savage Six” with Rick, a brutal, street crime-influenced cat and mouse tale involving the Crime Master and several super powered villains looking to put an end to both Flash and his friends and family. What types of stories are you planning to follow all that up with?
I can’t get too much into the stories I’m doing, but I’m introducing a new supporting cast and a new batch of villains for Venom to face. Some of those characters will be surprising and a little different from what has been in “Venom” so far. He’s also going to go on some adventures and missions that you wouldn’t typically expect to see him on. I want to make sure I’m setting things apart from the stuff Rick has done in terms of tone and the style of stories.
Flash has been suddenly immersed into this world of super heroes. He may think he understands how that world works — he has, after all, seen some insane things thus far — but he’s going to learn that the world is much crazier, much stranger than he even realized. There are plot threads that have been seeded in storylines like “Circle of Four” that are going to tie into my run really heavily. The “Circle of Four” stuff is a cornerstone for my very first arc and for my take on the series as a whole.
Will Flash be in charge of a specific geographic region during your run? Or will the book continue to have a global feel to it?
Agent Venom is still based out of New York, but our stories will definitely have more of a global focus. While some of his “missions” will be tied to New York, he’ll be doing a little globe-trotting as well.
Will your solo “Venom” stories continue the super hero-espionage feel that’s been a part of the series since its beginning?
Venom is part of the Secret Avengers now, and coming out of “Savage Six” they’re putting Venom on notice in a way. They’re giving him missions that I’ve dubbed “Code: Uatu” missions. He is only supposed to go in and observe and recon the situation.
Sounds a lot like the scenario John Rambo found himself in during “Rambo: First Blood Part II.”
It’s very much like “First Blood Part II.” Flash has to go in and report without getting involved. And, just like Rambo, he can’t do it. He’s going to find himself unable to sit back and watch some of these situations unfold. That’s the real hero in him. That’s part of him, but he may not even recognize that. When does he become a real hero? And when does he become the hero he envisions himself being?
His directives are going to be, “Watch. Do not touch.” The question is, can he do that? So there’s definitely going to be an espionage element to it. It’s not a heavy spy thriller though. There’s still going to be a lot of super hero action. Those are his directives and I don’t think anyone will be surprised to know that he’s going to have some difficulties with that. In the very first arc, he drops the ball on the recon-only part of his mission.
The end of your recent “Fear Itself: The Fearless” miniseries left a number of story threads open that you could use to cause Flash some difficulties, like the current status of Red Skull’s daughter, Sin, and the sinister Occult organization known as the D.O.A. Any plans to follow up on those stories during your run on “Venom?”
That’s a really interesting question. The answer is yes. Just as some of the “Circle of Four” threads are being picked up, there are some “Fearless” threads that will be flowing into this story. Those threads are really going to tie in together, especially in that first arc of “Venom.”
Let’s talk about some of the other villains we might see in “Venom.” Can you hint or tease the identities of some of the foes you’ll pit against Flash? What types of villains make the best bad guys for Flash?
Just as Crime Master took center stage as Venom’s “big bad” in Rick’s run, there will be a new villain who plagues Venom in a different way in mine. Venom will deal with his fair share of toe-to-toe opponents; types that he can confront directly and fight. But the villain who is really going to give him a run for his will be someone who can really mess with Flash’s head. Flash has gone through a lot lately, and he has his moments of guilt, doubt and self-loathing. This villain’s going to play on every weakness Flash might be experiencing. This is a villain who, like Crime Master, Flash can’t escape for a number of reasons.
So the best villains for Flash are the ones that know his buttons and can press them.
Right, because Flash has got a lot of hot buttons. He could do more damage to himself than any other villain. The villains that recognize that and can manipulate him accordingly will be the ones that give him the most trouble.
Let’s move from villains to other supporting players. “Savage Six” puts a number of current “Venom” supporting characters, like Betty Brant, in peril. So we imagine you can’t discuss them, but you mentioned you would be introducing some new supporting characters. What can you tell us about these new cast members?
We’ll see a character who, interestingly enough, is going to make her first appearance in the “Spider-Man: Season One” graphic novel I wrote. She will become a confidant, ally and information broker for Venom. She’s going to introduce him to some facets of the Marvel Universe that will take him aback. She becomes his ally and partner in many ways.
So, to borrow an analogy from Marvel’s Distinguished Competition, she’s sort of Oracle to Venom’s Batman —
Sort of, but she’s probably a little more seedy than Oracle. She’s an interesting character because when she comes out of “Season One,” she is in her own way a bully and has used that to her advantage. Like Venom, she’s trying to turn over a new leaf, and it’s not always easy for her. So we’ve got both Venom and this character trying to change their lives and not always being so successful with it.
Then, going back to what I said about villains who can get under Flash’s skin and push his buttons, there is a villain that I’m bringing into “Venom” who becomes sort of a supporting cast member for at least several arcs. He’s going to play havoc with Flash’s emotions and mental stability, although in many ways he’s going to be helping Flash at the same time. He’s sort of a Hannibal Lector type — and Venom is Clarice.