Marvel Comics‘ “Venom: Space Knight” follows the solo exploits of Guardians of the Galaxy member Eugene “Flash” Thompson in his new role as an Agent of the Cosmos — a sort of interstellar knight errant. Written by Robbie Thompson and illustrated by Ariel Olivetti, the series has thrust the once-grounded Spider-Man supporting cast member into an unrelenting cosmic adventure. Not bad for a former high school football star!
In the series current arc, Flash is discovering the bond between him and the Venom symbiote — recently revealed to be an alien known as a Klyntar — has become much more involved and deeper than he previously believed. It’s a discovery that has him working to understand this new dynamic and learning to walk on his own with his new set of prosthetic legs, something Thompson has teamed with Wounded Warrior Project’s Dan Nevins on in order to realistically portray Flash’s struggles.
How will Flash and the Klyntar’s new relationship impact their battle with Mercurio, a ruthless alien warlord who launched a vendetta against them in issue #1? And how does the deadly, but adorable alien warrior known as Pik Rollo figure into their dynamic? Thompson spoke with CBR News about that, and more.
CBR News: In last year’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Flash Thompson’s suit was cleansed by its people, the Klyntar. It feels like you’re using the Klyntar’s cleansing to make “Venom: Space Knight” more than just a book about a guy who wears a super-powered alien suit.
Robbie Thompson: When Editor Jacob Thomas and I chatted about the book early on, we started to talk about how to explore this new aspect of the Klyntar. How does the cleanse affect the Klyntar and the Host, and is it permanent? From there, we started to dig deeper in terms of what that could mean for the character of the Klyntar itself, and how that could add a new dynamic with Flash. Right away, it felt like fresh ground, and something worth exploring over many, many issues.
We’ve learned that the Klyntar can now separate itself from Flash for a period of time, a development that allows you to delve into some of the challenges Flash faces as a combat veteran dealing with the loss of his legs. Helping you explore those challenges is Dan Nevins of the Wounded Warrior Project, who is serving as a consultant on this arc. What’s it like working with Dan? What are some of the ways in which he helped you understand what Flash is dealing with?
I can’t say this enough: this all started with Jake. I had written out a plot involving 803 creating new prosthetics, and Jake called me up right away and was like, “There’s more here.” He believed we had an opportunity to dig deeper, tell a more emotional story, and he was right. What started in that conversation was really exciting, and then Jake and the great folks at Marvel reached out to Wounded Warrior. They, in turn, put us in touch with Dan Nevins, who has been nothing short of phenomenal to work with. His insight has been invaluable — he can take you from the macro to the micro in an instant.
The biggest takeaway was how important it is to be grounded when you are dealing with rehab and recovery. That felt so perfect for Flash and the Klyntar, a fantastic emotional challenge for someone to overcome in space! Dan’s been fantastic, and the conversations Jake and I have had with him have been incredibly inspiring.
I understand issue #5 is where you and Dan start to really delve more into the rehabilitation and physical therapy Flash is going through in order to walk on the prosthetic legs 803 made for him. What sorts of things will that involve in the issue?
On the surface, we just want to see the rehab as it’s part of Flash’s everyday life. Underneath that, we’re going to be telling a longer, and hopefully more emotional story. Flash has this amazing opportunity to have this adventure in space, a chance to redeem himself. But what is he avoiding in the process of doing that, and how is that going to catch up with him — and the Klyntar? It’s something we’re going to peel back slowly, but we’re really excited about it.
While Flash deals with the challenge of walking on his own, he and the Klyntar are dealing with the challenge of the megalomaniacal Gramosian known as Mercurio as a team. I originally thought this was a new character, but it looks like he has an established history with both Thor and Captain America. What made you want to want to bring Mercurio into the book and pit him against Flash?
Again, I tip my hat to the book’s fantastic editorial team, Jacob Thomas and Kathleen Wisneski. Early on, we had talked about making sure we had at least a somewhat familiar face in our first arc, to really help establish that while this was an all-new, all-different Venom, we were still in some familiar territory, galaxy wise. And when they brought up Mercurio, he instantly fit into where we were going. It’s been a lot of fun to play with that character, and Ariel Olivetti has done a fantastic job bringing the character to life and making him a real terror.
In “Venom: Space Knight” #4, Flash and the Klyntar did battle with — and then teamed with — Mercurio’s agent, the fearsome and adorable alien warrior known as Pik Rollo. It turns out, she’s a Ruu’lto — a species of aliens that look like giant panda bears. What inspired the creation of Pik Rollo? And are the Ruu’lto an established Marvel Universe race?
They are new, and all the credit belongs to Ariel for making that character so fun, and work so well on the page. I’ll be honest: I really wanted to see Venom fight a Space Bear! The name Pik Rollo instantly popped in my head, and she was born. But then, we decided to dig into her character and build her out more. I’m really excited for people to get to know her as the series moves on.
It seems like Ariel is having a lot of fun, with characters like Pik Rollo and some of the retro sci-fi tech we saw in issue #4, like the flying saucer used by the alien slavers.
It’s an absolute dream to work with Ariel. Typically, when I see his pages come in, my notes usually just consist of a series of exclamation points! He’s so talented, and there seems to be no limit to the types of planets, aliens, ships and characters he can create. He’s constantly surprising me and has been a wonderful collaborator, and he’s also clearly having fun, which is a joy to see. I’ve been a fan of Ariel’s for a while, and I can’t say enough good things about him. He is a truly great artist and storyteller.
How dangerous are things going to get for your characters in their battle with Mercurio?
It’s about to get ugly! Mercurio sees Venom as a major thorn in his side, but as he gets to see what the Klyntar is capable of, he’s going to want one for his own, which is going to put Venom even more in his cross-hairs.
It’s in the solicits for Issue #6, but I’ll just repeat: Big. Bad. Venom! As Venom tangles with Mercurio, he’s going to have to pull out all the stops, and as a result, we’re going to see the Venom of old. Can a Klyntar ever be truly cleansed? Can a hero ever be truly redeemed? What starts at the end of that issue kicks us off into a new three-issue arc I’m really excited about!
As Flash and the Klyntar are Agents of the Cosmos, and Earth is part of the Cosmos with some pretty big developments of its own, are you interested in having Flash visit home? Will your book tie into “Civil War II?” And is there a chance that Flash and Klyntar might learn what’s happened to the Klyntar’s offspring over in Gerry Conway and Mike Perkins’ “Carnage” book?
I’d love to see Flash and the Klyntar back on Earth, and you’ll be seeing that soon enough! We always knew we wanted to be able to tell stories about Flash on Earth, but we really wanted to spend some time in space and go on some adventures before bringing him back, and we also wanted that return to be personal, not just plot, and I’m really excited for folks to see that. That will kick in issue #10, and it will be tying into “Civil War.” I’m looking forward to playing in that sandbox, for sure, but it’s going to be a more personal, character-driven angle that I think will appeal to Venom fans.
As for who he’ll be seeing and interacting with, I should probably shut up about all that. I do love the “Carnage” book, though, and would love to see Carnage and Venom cross paths!