"Spider-Island" has brought a lot of significant developments to Spider-Man's corner of the Marvel Universe, the most prominent being, well, millions of New Yorkers with spider-powers crawling around Manhattan.
In Venom #7, out Sept. 28, the ongoing storyline also provides the backdrop for the first-ever meeting between the current Venom host, Flash Thompson, and the character most commonly associated with the symbiote — Eddie Brock, currently known as Anti-Venom.
Since the new Venom series was announced last December, readers speculated when the seemingly inevitable Venom vs. Anti-Venom conflict might happen. And now that it's less than a fortnight away, Newsarama talked to series writer Rick Remender about what Eddie Brock's presence might mean for the book, the work of Tom Fowler and original series artist Tony Moore, and what's on the horizon beyond "Spider-Island."
Newsarama: Rick, when we first talked about the Venom series back in December right after it was first announced, you discussed wanting to hold off on bringing in Eddie Brock into the book, to first establish Flash Thompson as Venom on his own. What makes now — and "Spider-Island" — the right time to introduce Anti-Venom into the series?
Rick Remender: Anti-Venom plays a giant role in the "Spider-Island" story — and Venom as well. From what I understand, they're even going to put the Venom issues in the omnibus. Dan Slott and Stephen Wacker were both very cool in wanting to make sure there's a lot of connective tissue. Their conflict, as we will see in the next issue of Venom, will sort of reveal what that “big role” is.
As far as the context, anytime you have something like this, anytime you have a big fight, I always want to make sure that it's more than just "we have to service this plot device." What is the context in terms of a Flash Thompson/Eddie Brock conflict? It's the young Jedi and Obi-Wan Kenobi basically, with the symbiotes; and in terms of where Eddie's currently at with something of a god complex and going a little crazy, as he is want to do, how that's going to fit in with his view of Flash.
The great thing about the symbiotes in my mind is that there's always another character in the background who might be pulling strings, and that's the symbiote. We're never going to be quite sure if all of Flash's choices are Flash's, and this story will really put a big bright light on that. I really like the dynamic that's been established, and I'm having a terrific time writing that. It's like Iron Man, but your suit has its own motivations. And that's a lot of fun. Flash's life gets pretty interesting after Spider-Island.
Nrama: So is Anti-Venom pretty much around for just issue #7? Or is he going to stick around for a while?
Remender: Without giving too much away, I will say that Eddie Brock is going to be a regular cast member, and I will leave it at that. I just got back from the Spider-Retreat last week in New York, and Zeb Wells and I locked down our plans for the symbiotes, making sure that there's lots of nice connective tissue between Carnage and Venom and Spider-Man coming up.
Nrama: I'm curious to hear a bit more about your "take" on Anti-Venom — since that transformation back in "New Ways to Die," Eddie Brock's kind of been characterized as a guy who wants to do the right thing, but isn't quite able to go about it in the right way. How do you see the character?
Remender: He's done the right thing a couple few times. Eddie's a complicated character. For what they've done to him and what he's been through, to respect all that continuity and find the character within, you've got somebody who had a redemption arc, and then that turned into something really weird with Anti-Venom. At the end of his redemption arc, his blood formed a new symbiote in reaction to the connection to the Venom symbiote, which gave him cancer — something that probably doesn't bode well for Flash.
Now he's in a situation where the same curse, the Spider-Curse, is taking over New York. He's definitely not a cut-and-dry good guy or a cut-and-dry bad guy, and I hate the word antihero…
Nrama: Especially when his name is "Anti-Venom" to begin with.
Remender: Right. "Anti-Venom the antihero."
The challenge with Eddie, with any of these guys, is to really try and find the core of the character, and that speaks to the conflict. What we have in the next installment of Venom with "Spider-Island," is Eddie and Flash coming face-to-face, Eddie seeing that there's a new host to the symbiote, and the two of them reacting to one another with the symbiote also playing a bit of a role.
Nrama: Of course, during the "Spider-Island" chapters of Venom, while all of Manhattan is infected with spider-powers, Flash's father is dying in the hospital. Was the goal there to essentially ground the over-the-top, fairly lighthearted nature of "Spider-Island" with something very real and down-to-earth?
Remender: I tend to do that in everything I write. For me, again, if it's just conflict, if it's just brightly colored things punching each other, who cares? It really does lose heart if you're not focusing on the character and his life. Originally, when I had plotted out my first year of Venom, dealing with his father, and his own alcoholism, played a big role in that. It's such a big part of Flash's character, and why he was a bully to Peter, and who he is now, and why he joined the military and became a corporal in the Army.
Venom #8 cover.As I sort of dug into it — and this was before I knew all the details and that we'd be doing "Spider-Island" and when — that was the B-story that was going on; Flash and his father coming to terms with one another, and Flash's dad being sick, and relapsing, and drinking, and all the things that bring out those terrible feelings in children of alcoholics. It just so happened that "Spider-Island" as the A-story fit in really nicely with my existing idea for the B-story.
Nrama: So beyond "Spider-Island," is there anything else you can tease at this point about what's on the horizon for Flash?
Remender: There are two major storylines coming up, one of them is going to be a big crossover thing that Flash and Venom play a giant role in. Beyond that, without giving away too much, we've got something coming up with the other symbiotes — Carnage, as I said. We see the return of his archnemesis Jack O'Lantern, and put those two in a pretty precarious and interesting situation, so fans of the first story will see the return of Jack O'Lantern and Crimemaster, that thread picks back up here in a couple of issues.
To close out "Spider-Island," we change Flash's life in a pretty drastic way. These events need to feel like they're status quo changers. You need to feel excited about these events, they can't just be, "And they fought the thing, it was very tough to fight, and then they won." It needs to feel like any good story — by the end of it, the world has changed for the characters in the tale. Venom #9, I think, will be the most shocking issue of the series. It's a decision that Flash makes that changes the character, and changes his trajectory forever, and it leads into some huge stuff coming up.
The book has been a tremendous success — every issue's going into second, third, and the first issue is on fourth or fifth printing right now. Let's face it, in this current climate, when a book is successful, it's a lot easier to build the character, and find interconnectivity with other books. We've done that with Flash, and Marvel is really behind Venom, and they have been. That will bode well for fans of the series — if you enjoy seeing these characters pop up elsewhere, and interact with the Marvel Universe, you can look forward to that with Venom.
Nrama: You've been writing this book for about a year at this point — how much have you found yourself connecting with Flash Thompson as a main character as you get further into the series?
Remender: I am connecting. That's really what makes the book work or not work, if the writer can find his way in. I've found a number of ins with Flash. As a new status quo for Venom, it's a perfect fit. You've got a character who deals with alcoholism and the loss of his legs and service to his country, who's been given the ultimate power, and the ability to become one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe, with the added wrinkle that he's also probably being taken over by the thing. He's grappling with that, and given that he's an addict and these things feed on anxiety and negative emotions, it becomes a rich tapestry. Again, it's Iron Man, but your suit is potentially your enemy.
Venom #9 cover.There hadn't been a Venom series in a while, and I think everybody's reaction to this was shock that it was good; not in any sort of diminishing way to anybody else who wrote Venom. I think that comes from the terrific set-up that Dan Slott and Steven Wacker put together here with Flash in the suit, and all of the wonderful, convenient and perfect jigsaw puzzles that came together to form Flash's dynamic with the Venom dynamic together. It helps to write the stories when you have such a great and clean set-up.
Nrama: Let's talk about art — Tom Fowler's doing a great job, but is Tony Moore scheduled to come back to the book at any point?
Remender: He will continue to do covers. Tony and I have another project at Marvel.
Nrama: I think Tom's stuff surprised a lot of people when he came on board.
Remender: Yeah, he's a genius. He's one of the best storytellers I've ever worked with. So fluid, and the acting is so perfect, and he conveys emotions. Most guys will sacrifice that in order to try and get a big shot of one of the characters on a page they can sell at a convention. And that's not Tom. He gives every panel the space that it needs and tells a smooth, clean story. All of his characters convey such depth and emotion — Tom's a superstar.
Nrama: Rick, any final Venom thoughts you'd like to share?
Remender: The hardcover collecting the first five issues ships next week, and I would hope that anybody who has any preconceived notions about the series or what it could be would give it a shot, because I'm incredibly proud of the work that I've been doing with Tony and Tom.More from Newsarama on Spider-Island:
- Slott's SPIDER-ISLAND: Everyone Does Whatever a Spider Can
- Spencer on CLOAK & DAGGER's SPIDER-ISLAND Couples Therapy
- Paul Tobin Talks SPIDER-GIRL's End and SPIDER-ISLAND Future