Flash Thompson, aka Venom, the one time villain and now ally to Spider-Man, recently pulled up his roots and transplanted to the city of Philadelphia. Writer Cullen Bunn took the time to let fans and, especially, Philadelphians know what they can expect from the Venom series, published by Marvel, now that he is based in the City of Brotherly Love.
First of all, Cullen, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for rootshed.com.
Examiner: Considering how entrenched the Spider-Man mythos are in New York City, why move Venom, one of the most popular Spidey characters, away from all that? And, more specifically, why choose Philadelphia? Not that Philadelphians are complaining, of course.
Cullen Bunn: I think it’s BECAUSE Spidey (and so many other heroes) is entrenched in New York that it is the perfect time to give Venom a new home. He needs to get out from under Spider-Man’s shadow and make a name for himself.
Flash needs a fresh start for many reasons. He wants a clean slate. He sees this move as his opportunity to become a real super hero.
Philly might not have been Flash’s first choice, but he heads to the City of Brotherly Love in the current arc (issues 28 through 30). While there, he sees that he could make a real difference in the city. That helps solidify the decision in his mind.
Are there any trepidations with removing Venom from the familiar web of New York City, considering the symbiote’s current host, Flash Thompson, has been a part of the Spider-Man cast since day one?
Actually, I think that only made me more excited about the move. A new locale, a new job, a new supporting cast. I think it will be a lot of fun to play with the expectations of both Flash Thompson and the readers. This will be a fresh approach to Flash and to Venom.
The Venom covers and solicits released so far really emphasize Venom being in Philly, how much of a role will the city play? Will it just be some place for Flash to hang his hat and his missions will mostly occur around the world or will his adventures often be grounded in Philly?
Not every story will take place in Philly, but the city will play a big role in Flash’s life. I’d like for Philadelphia to become just as important to the Venom mythos as New York is to Spider-Man and Houston is to Scarlet Spider.
So… I’ll be introducing new characters who are important to Flash and to Venom. I’ll also be introducing some locales and landmarks—some that are actual places in Philly and others that are new creations—that will be a big part of the Marvel Universe version of the city.
Philly took quite a beating during “Fear Itself.” Will readers see any lasting effects of this devastation in Venom?
I haven’t really focused much on the aftermath of the Fear Itself event. I figure the city has recovered (as cities in comic book universes tend to do). But there may be some lingering fear and worry in the hearts and minds of citizens. I’m not so sure they’ll trust a character like Venom!
What can you tell readers about pencilers Thony Silas and Declan Shalvey’s visualization of Philadelphia and how has it influenced your storytelling?
Both Thony and Declan have really gone out of their way to give Marvel’s Philadelphia a great look and feel. Declan draws Flash’s move to the city, and he made the suggestion for certain neighborhoods that helped to shape the story. I think folks who know Philly will be interested in seeing some of the city’s landmarks showing up in the book.
A few heroes, like Captain America, U.S. Agent and Valkyrie, have passed through the city, but the only heroes actually based in Philadelphia in recent years are The Liberteens. Do you have any plans to utilize what is left of this former Avengers Initiative team?
I think you’ll most likely see them at some point in the future… although not initially. When Venom first starts operating in Philly, he tries to keep a low profile for various reasons. Soon enough, though, he’ll start attracting attention. It’s only a matter of time before he runs into the Liberteens.
Is that something you have thought much about? What the super hero/villain community of Philadelphia looks like when Venom arrives? Is there much of one?
Philly doesn’t have a huge super hero population. This is one of the reasons Venom decides to set up shop there. He thinks he can make a difference in Philadelphia. Of course, some villains might see the city in the same light. Since there aren’t that many super heroic types flying around, villains might think the city is the perfect spot to start some trouble.
Any particular moments from Philadelphia’s history in the Marvel Universe that you may have uncovered during your research that you could share with readers?
I’m not sure that there’s any moment that jumped out at me during my research. I focused more on the actual city rather than the history of Marvel’s Philly. I have some local legends and myths that I’ll be dealing with. For the most part, though, it will be Venom’s arrival in Philly that starts to really shape the city.
Venom’s move happens in issue #27.1, the Point One marking it as an excellent jumping on point for readers, what should readers know going into the issue?
Well, Flash decides that he is leaving New York in issue 27.1. He visits Philly in issues 28 through 30, but he doesn’t actually move to the city until issue 31. I think issue 27.1 makes a great jumping on point. It sets up almost everything you need to know about Venom. In issue 31, I spend just a little time doing some level-setting with Flash, introducing who he is again. This won’t be page after page of exposition. Instead, I’m going to show Flash doing his thing, exploring the city, going on his first patrol of Philadelphia streets. I’ll begin introducing cast members who will play vital roles in his life starting in issue 31, too. In many ways, it’s another great jumping on point.
Much of the series to date has dealt with Flash resisting the bond of the Venom symbiote by limiting his exposure to it, with recent hardships, like the death of his abusive father and his breakup with on again, off again girlfriend Betty Brant, will it be more of an effort for Flash to not succumb to the alien’s influence?
Yes. Flash will struggle with the symbiote in some major ways. Up until now, Flash has had someone else looking after the symbiote—Project Rebirth, then the Secret Avengers. These days, Flash is in complete control. He is given the tools to keep the symbiote in check. But it will not be a smooth ride for him.
Can you tease some of the adversaries Venom will be facing in the near future? Perhaps, Venom’s self proclaimed arch-nemesis, Jack O’Lantern?
You won’t see Jack O’Lantern in the immediate future (although there’s a good chance he’ll eventually show up). First off, Venom will have an encounter with Eddie Brock and Toxin. It will not be a friendly reunion. At the same time, we’ll be introducing a new villain (or group of villains) that will prove very dangerous to Venom.
Venom will also be appearing in the new Thunderbolts series, how much of an impact will being a part of that team have on his solo adventures?
It will have some impact. Being a part of that team is part of his life. I don’t want to ignore that. But I don’t think you’ll be seeing the Thunderbolts jumping into the pages of Venom to save the day too often.
Finally, assuming you wanted to further build Philadelphia’s presence within the Marvel Universe, what character would you like to have join Venom in Philly? NYC has plenty more to spare.
There will definitely be some other heroes, antiheroes, and villains joining Venom in Philly. Some of them might have been a presence in New York, but others will be from other geographic locations. Still others will be new to Marvel.
Thanks again, Cullen, it sounds like you have great things in store for Venom and Philadelphia!
Venom #29 is in stores Wednesday, January 2, 2013. Issues #27.1 and 28 are available now. To find a comic shop near you, go to www.comicshoplocator.com. Be sure to help solidify Philly’s place in the Marvel Universe by pre-ordering Venom with your retailer. Add Venom to your pull list!