Bunn Targets the Philly Underworld in "Venom"

Eugene "Flash" Thompson has made enough mistakes in his life to know that the proverbial second chance is something worth fighting for and making the most of. As the star of Marvel's "Venom" series he's looking to do just that, relocating to the City of Philadelphia in the hopes of creating a fresh start for both his personal and symbiote-enhanced lives.

In the last arc, the symbiote Toxin and its host Eddie Brock endangered that chance by coming to town to try and kill Flash. Their encounter ended with Flash convincing Brock that he deserved a chance to prove that the Venom symbiote won't corrupt him.

In "Venom" #36, in stores now, writer Cullen Bunn and artist Pepe Larraz kicked off a storyline that finds Flash attempting to make the most of this chance by targeting the organized crime elements plaguing his new city. We spoke Bunn about this story, the new crime lord it introduces in Lord Ogre and how it will lead to the debut of a new symbiote named Mania.

CBR News: At the end of "Venom" #35, Eddie Brock doubts Flash's ability to create a new life in Philly by keeping the Venom symbiote under control and using it to help people. How big of an impact did those doubts have on Flash? Is he determined to prove Eddie wrong going into "Venom" #36?

"Venom" #40 cover by Declan Shalvey

Cullen Bunn: To some degree, Flash has always been trying to disprove the stigma of Venom. But, yes, after his encounter with Toxin, he goes to work as the hero Philadelphia deserves. We'll go into #36 with a look at the day to day life of a "dark avenger" type hero in the big city. At the same time, he's trying to become a better person all around. Flash has a clear personal goal: Stop overcomplicating his own life and just do the right thing.

The other big fallout from the recently completed Toxin arc appears to be that Flash has caught the attention of his neighbor Andi, who is also a student at the high school he now teaches at. After the events of this arc how curious is Andi about Flash? What does she suspect him of being?

Well, as determined as Flash is to keep his life simple, more than a few monkey wrenches will be thrown into his plan.

Andi is the first -- and maybe the most significant -- of those wrenches. She's a smart girl. She's inquisitive, and she's seen enough to know that something out of the ordinary is going on with her favorite gym coach. She's keeping a close eye on Flash at this point, and that's going to be very problematic for him -- and very dangerous for her.

You kick off a new arc in "Venom" #36, and from that issue and the solicits for upcoming chapters, it seems like might have a weird crime story feel to it.

Issue 36 is something of a standalone issue. It tells a complete story, but it introduces themes and characters that will feature heavily in the next 3-issue arc. This issue, in particular, follows Venom as he starts heading out every night, busting heads in Philly's criminal underworld. We'll see Flash's overconfidence here, because as far as he's concerned, he's the baddest thing to ever stalk the streets of the City of Brotherly Love. That, of course, only lasts until he encounters someone bigger and badder than he is.

That spins us into the next few issues. Venom quickly realizes that if he's going to be a "real" super hero -- if he's going to stand up to well-connected kingpins, he's going to need help -- friendlies, stool pigeons, spies, and suppliers. To help him build that network, he turns to Katy Kiernan, who knows everyone. With her help, Venom builds a group of "irregulars" -- allies who help to make him a real force to be reckoned with.

Since your story involves Venom trying to establish himself as a crime fighter, what can you tell us about the criminal landscape of the Marvel U Philadelphia? How does it compare to New York city? Is there one top boss? Or are there many gangs struggling for control of the city?

Marvel's Philly has a bit of a split personality, and Flash's experiences in the city reflect that. During the day, Flash is concerned with building a life for himself . At night, Agent Venom patrols the streets and takes down criminals. While there are a number of factions and gangs controlling the criminal activities in the city, we'll soon learn that most of them are controlled, in one sense or another by one man -- Lord Ogre.

And I understand we'll soon see a new symbiote character named Mania --

Venom will be saddled with a new responsibility in the coming issues. And while he'll still be dealing with Lord Ogre, he'll also be going head to head with a villain who is as tough as nails and mean as a snakebite -- Crossbones.

All of this will coincide with the introduction of a new character called Mania. She shows up in the next arc and plays a big role in the story over the next several issues. She's consumed with a level of anger that may rival anything Flash has ever felt, and she may have a more natural connection to her symbiote than Flash ever had with his own, making her all kinds of dangerously lethal. Her sudden appearance will raise a number of questions for Venom -- most importantly if he can guide her toward the role of a hero instead of a villain. Look for her first appearance in issue #38.

Lord Ogre is a new character that you created for this story. What can you tell us about the character? What inspired his creation?

Earlier I mentioned that Venom would eventually run afoul of someone bigger and badder than he is. That encounter comes in the form of Lord Ogre, Philadelphia's worst-of-the-worst crime boss. He's tough, vicious, very well connected and funded, and just plain strange, seen by his followers as something of a religious figure.

Since this is the story of how Venom really establishes himself as Philly's resident hero, I wanted to give him his own rogue's gallery. Ogre was the first of these villains. He's a weird villain for a number of reasons -- very pulpy -- and he's accompanied by a strange band of henchman. These are not just faceless thugs, but a group of unique, dangerous individuals. You'll see them, albeit briefly, in issue 36.

Ogre is a physical threat himself, but he's above engaging someone like Venom directly. He works through his minions, hirelings, and henchmen. And he has a lot of those.

A lot.

Philly's crawling with villains in issues #37 - 39, including a smiley fella who's given Venom some serious trouble in the past.

Who are some of the other supporting players we'll see in this current story? Will any of the characters you already established play significant roles? And will we meet any new characters like say representatives of Philadelphia law enforcement?

Katy Kiernan and Andi both play significant roles in the next several issues. We'll also be meeting several members of Venom's new contact network. This network, though, won't necessarily be what you expect. Venom's contacts come from some of the more unexpected corners of Philly. We won't be seeing any members of law enforcement joining his coterie just yet.

I feel like a story about an ex-soldier paired with an alien symbiote should have some 50's sci-fi overtones, a sense of the surreal. Venom's supporting characters reflect that sensibility.

You're working with artist Pepe Larraz on this arc -- what is he bringing to this story as an artist?

Holy cow! I was absolutely blown away by Pepe's art. Not only does he draw some intense action sequences, but this script called for him to design some really wild stuff. One of the things he designed will go down in history as my favorite thing to appear in a "Venom" comic -- ever!

But Pepe only draws issue #36. Issues #37 - 39 are illustrated by Kim Jacinto, who brings a wonderful grittiness to the story. Especially when dealing with some of the nuttier aspects of this story. Kim's art helps to ground it and give it that street level crime story feel.

The next several issues are very action-packed. When Venom meets Lord Ogre, they make quite an impression on each other. Venom wants to take this villain down in a big way.

Lord Ogre, on the other hand, puts a marker on Venom's head that tempts a huge cadre of villains out of the woodwork. Most of these villains aren't planning on sharing the reward, though, and they're not above betraying and attacking each other on their mission to kill Venom.

While all this is going on, an old enemy resurfaces -- and he quickly gets blood on his hands.

Tags: marvel comics, spider-man, cullen bunn, venom, mania

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