Eugene “Flash” Thompson has been wrestling personal demons all his life. As a boy, Flash struggled with the rage he felt due to the physical and emotional abuse he suffered at the hands of his alcoholic father, and he later he struggled with his own addiction to alcohol. He was eventually able to overcome these challenges and even become a hero; first as a soldier, and then as the man chosen to be the host of the alien symbiote known as Venom.
Flash continues to wrestle with his demons every day, however, and he now also wrestles with a literal demon as well. In the early issues of writer Cullen Bunn’s run on Marvel Comics’ “Venom,” a denizen of the infernal realms was imprisoned inside Flash. Since then, the entity has been complicating the new life Flash recently set up for himself in Philadelphia, and in “Venom” #32 another stumbling block on Flash’s road to normalcy arose as former Venom host Eddie Brock came gunning for Venom with his new symbiote, Toxin.
CBR News: Let’s kick things off by talking a little bit about the three-way personality dynamic going on between Flash, the demon imprisoned inside him and the symbiote. There’s a bit of Jekyll and Hyde going on in that the demon feels free to act on Flash’s darker impulses, but what’s motivating the Demon? Is it just a general desire to cause chaos and mayhem, or is it after something more?
Cullen Bunn: Venom’s demonic “passenger” feels like it has gotten a raw deal. It cannot control its host as freely as it would like because Flash is “marked” as a potential candidate for the Descent. And, to make matters worse, it cannot escape. So it brooded for a little while until it found its chance to act. Whenever Flash is asleep or otherwise unconscious, the demon can wrest control to some degree. We’ve seen it once while Agent Venom was fighting the U-Foes, and we saw it again right after Flash moved to Philly. I think it wants to cut loose, to have a little demonic fun, but it’s angry and it wants to hurt Flash and make his life miserable, too.
When it comes to the demon’s rampages and ruckus, it almost feels likeâ€¨Flash is in denial. What can you tell us about his feelings on the trouble the demon might be making in his life? Is he aware that there’s a problem and just doesn’t want to face it?
Flash can lie to himself like nobody’s business. He has always been a guy who wants to believe he has more control than he actually does. Even when everything blows up in his face, he works overtime to convince himself that next time he’ll manage a little bit better. This is why he’s hesitant to use the drugs that keep the symbiote in check. This is why he’s not trying to find someone else to help him with the demon. He’s right on the edge — about to fall over the side — but he needs to prove to himself that he is the commander of his destiny, that he can save himself.
Of course, the wildcard in this situation is the symbiote which, as you point out, Flash has been refusing to dose with the suppression chemicals. Will we get some insight soon into how the symbiote feels about Flash and the demon inside him?
Yes! I will most certainly be exploring the symbiote’s side of the story to some degree in the future. It’s the kind of story that I don’t want to rush headlong into, but I’ve planted seeds that will allow Flash (and the rest of us) to have a very different understanding of the symbiote. You won’t be seeing Flash and the symbiote having a one-on-one conversation, exactly, but they will be interacting in a surprising way.
In “Venom” #32, the symbiote’s former host, Eddie Brock, came back into its and Flash’s life in a big way. What do you find most interesting about Eddie in his current of state of being bonded with the symbiote known as Toxin?
When we last saw Toxin, he was something of a mindless killing machine. With his return, I wanted to move away from that and show a character who was closer to the Eddie Brock Venom of old. That said, Eddie (and the Toxin symbiote) are still consumed by hate. They want Venom dead. Their hate is manifesting as a deep-in-the-bone belief that Venom is dangerous. Eddie is still beating that drum and Toxin agrees with him.
I like the idea that Eddie genuinely feels that Flash Thompson is a menace because of his connection to Venom, but he is working with a symbiote himself to reach his goals. He’s not blind to his own hypocrisy, but he sees it as a necessary evil. I also like that Eddie and Toxin, who have been bonded for only a short time, are a much more effective combination than Flash and Venom.
Eddie believes the world is better off without the symbiotes. He’s been bonded with Toxin against his will, but he’s an exceptional host for a symbiote. He’s using Toxin as his weapon against its own kind. So now we get to the root question — does Eddie feel that the symbiotes are dangerous? Or are they simply dangerous under someone else’s control?
What can you tell us about the Venom-Toxin arc that begins in issue #33? Is this primarily a big fight between Flash and Eddie, Or are other things going on as well?
There’s more going on in the arc. First of all, we’re going to see more of Flash trying to adjust to a normal life in Philly. As I mentioned earlier, he’s struggling with the idea of doping the symbiote. He’s not sure he needs the drugs to help him. When Toxin shows up, Agent Venom is trying his best to be a super hero. He’s going on patrol. He’s tracking down a dangerous killer. Toxin turns all of that on its ear.
What we’ll see is that Toxin has some lessons to teach Venom — and vice versa — if they can avoid killing each other long enough for wisdom to be imparted. The “big fight” between Venom and Toxin doesn’t take place for a few issues — but when it does, it will be violent and brutal in the extreme. And I haven’t even mentioned the Symbiote Slayers, who will be showing up as the direct result of Venom and Toxin’s actions.
In issue #34, artist Declan [Shalvey] and colorist Lee [Loughridge] are creating what I believe will be the greatest symbiote fight in Marvel history. They are also bringing some new, very creepy threats to life. I was just looking at some pages that gave me goosebumps with their weirdness and creepiness. It’s like Junji Ito levels of horror.
Will you have some time to develop more of Flash’s non-costumed life? Will we get a chance to learn more about Flash’s students and co-workers at West Philly High?
That’s my goal. The students of West Philly High will play a big role in Flash’s life, especially Andi. We’ll also be meeting some other important supporting cast members, especially after the Toxin arc wraps.
Flash has some experience as a teacher and with athletics, so that made his new day job an organic fit, but what do you feel it adds to the stories you’re telling in “Venom?”
As you mention, becoming an assistant coach for West Philly High seemed like a natural fit for Flash. I think it also opens some doors for Flash to reflect on how he evolved over time. One of the students — Darius — rubs Flash the wrong way right from the start. Why? Because he is a carbon copy of Flash in his high school days. The other teachers — and especially the students — help to ground Flash and put faces on the people of Philadelphia, who Flash is now sworn to protect.
I know he’s miles away and focused on forging a new life for himself in Philly, but will we see Flash’s thoughts on the new “Superior” version of his childhood hero, Spider-Man?
I think an encounter between Venom and the Superior Spider-Man is in the cards, yes. For now, though, Flash is going to be putting a lot of effort into establishing himself as the protector of Philly. He’ll be aligning his resources and gathering his forces. You’ll see how Flash would build a super hero operation from the ground up — and he’ll be getting some additions to his rogue’s gallery along the way.
I’m grateful for the readers that have supported this book so far. While I’ve got plans that will make long-time Venom fans giddy, I think the current arc and next couple of arcs will be great jumping-on points for new readers.