Marvel's VENOM Team Talk Flash Thompson's Big Move

Earlier this month, the Associated Press broke the news that Venom is moving from New York City to Philadelphia. Though it might just be a couple hour drive, it's significant for a couple of reasons.

One, it marks the latest in Marvel's continued effort to develop their fictionalized versions of real cities beyond NYC, the traditional hotbed of the Marvel Universe. Philadelphia is relatively uncharted territory for the publisher, and Venom will make the move as of December's issue #28 of his solo series, following the "Minimum Carnage" crossover between Venom and Scarlet Spider through October and November.

Also, it's relocating classic Marvel character Flash Thompson — the current host of the Venom symbiote — out of his familiar surroundings where he's primarily resided since 1962's Amazing Fantasy #15. To learn more about the development, Newsarama talked with series writer Cullen Bunn and editor Tom Brennan.

Venom #28 cover.

Newsarama: Cullen, first question is an obvious one: Why is Venom moving to Philadelphia? That's asking both, what can you say about the reasons for the fictional character of Venom relocating there, and storyline-wise, how did you arrive at the change of venue for him?

Cullen Bunn: Flash Thompson is steamrolling toward a superhero nervous breakdown. "The Savage Six" did a number on him and his family. The fallout from his first interaction with Hellstrom and "The Monsters of Evil" will leave him with a very heavy burden on his shoulders. And what he sees during the "Minimum Carnage" crossover will haunt him. In a time when many things are going right for him finally (he's a member of the Avengers... he has a new love interest in Valkyrie) he's still in danger of spoiling everything. The difference here, though, is that Flash sees the writing on the wall. He needs a change of pace... a fresh start.

Philadelphia isn't his first choice. Initially, Flash thinks Miami or Fort Lauderdale or the Bahamas might need a super hero. But when intrepid tabloid reporter Katy Kiernan gets herself into hot water in Philly, he realizes that the City of Brotherly Love might need a hero of its own.

From a storytelling point of view, relocating Venom offers so many possibilities. A new environment with a distinct personality that suits Venom perfectly. A cast of fresh new supporting characters for both Flash and Venom to interact with. A new "world" to explore and mysteries to solve. Philadelphia has such a great character all on its own. That will be a lot of fun to showcase in Venom. In addition, this will give Venom a spotlight that's all his own. New York City is just crawling with super heroes. The city has an established vibe when it comes to the antics of costumed characters. In Philly, on the other hand, Venom will be the focus of stories in a city with heart... and a hard-edged vibe that suits the character perfectly.

This is not to say Venom will not be running into some other heroes. He will. But they'll be coming to his playground.

Nrama: Also, Philadelphia is a pretty far piece from your homebase of St. Louis. How familiar were you with the area going into the story, and how much research has been involved in getting things "right"?

Bunn: Look. I lobbied for the series to be set in Dudley, North Carolina, where I went to high school. But Brennan thought there were only so many stories we could tell where Venom brawls with Toxin inside an old tobacco barn.

Venom #27 cover.

I've been to Philadelphia a couple of times, but when we started talking about setting Venom there, I dove into doing a great deal of research. It's less important to me that this be a 100 percent factual interpretation of Philly and more important that it "feels" right. So, my scripts have a lot of reference material included in them, but not so much that the Venom stories will look like a collection of postcard shots. We'll certainly be seeing Philly landmarks and businesses and culture and history, but I don't want to become so mired in those things that we don't get an entertaining story.

Nrama: On the other side of that, obviously there are significant differences between the Marvel Universe versions of cities and their real-life counterparts (an important note for all kids hoping to attend Empire State University). What makes Marvel Philly different than real-world Philly?

Bunn: One of the things I love about Marvel's characters is that they are in action in the "real" world. But one of the things I enjoy the most is world-building. It's something I got a real taste for while working on The Sixth Gun. I want to bring that to these stories. The trick, of course, is not to get so caught up in developing the fictional version of the city that you lose sight of the real-world place. When it comes to world-building, a little goes a long way. But you will see some locations that do not exist in our world. You'll see some businesses and organizations that are movers and shakers in Marvel's Philadelphia... but exist nowhere in our world.

Some of the legends of Philly may be more true than anyone realizes.

Some secret government organizations may be setting up shop in the city.

And maybe... just maybe... the city already has a superhero (or is it a supervillain) who prowls the city at night.

Nrama: Tom, in the past few years, we've seen a lot more cities in the Marvel Universe developed beyond New York — Runaways, Daken and Avengers Academy in LA; the X-Men in San Francisco; Scarlet Spider in Houston. Venom in Philadelphia appears to be the latest in that pattern. Within Marvel, how important is it to keep exploring more of Marvel's America than just NYC? And can readers expect to continue to see more of this, maybe in some Marvel NOW! titles? 

Tom Brennan: I can't speak to Marvel NOW! titles as I'm not working on any of them, but I think there's something to the notion that Marvel may begin and end in New York, but there's a whole world out there that our characters inhabit. You see this in all facets of Marvel — TV, animation, film — New York is the heart and soul of the Marvel U, it's where it all began, but as our characters get bigger and the problems of their worlds grow at a similar rate, they've got to expand.

Venom #26 cover.

I'm thrilled Cullen decided on Philadelphia. I'm a New Yorker, born and raised, but my mom and her side of the family are from Philly and I still have family there. I also went to school in Philadelphia and about fell in love with the place. It's a city with real character, the kind of place that can come alive on the page and give Venom a whole new set of challenges. Flash's a tough guy, but Philadelphia doesn't take kindly to tough guys just barreling in and acting like they own the place.

Nrama: Who will Venom/Flash encounter in Philadelphia? Will it be an all-new bunch of characters and villains, or will he encounter some familiar faces?

Bunn: While Venom and Flash will be interacting with some new characters — the supporting cast certainly has some new blood in it — looking at my first few story arcs in Philly, it looks like he'll be running into some established characters first. We have some villains the likes of which he's never dealt with. And we have some foes he has very close ties to. There will also be some new interpretations of some organizations and enemies Venom has been involved with in the past. A few Marvel heroes will be making guest appearances as well, but not all of them will be meeting Venom on friendly terms.

Venom #25 cover.

Nrama: Tom, it's notable that both Scarlet Spider and Venom are now based in cities other than NYC. I may very well be jumping to conclusions here, but is part of it motivated by the fact that since Spider-Man is so closely associated with New York City, that it makes logistical sense to take his two main spinoff characters to new locales in order to not be in his shadow?

Brennan: Getting Venom and Scarlet Spider out of Spider-Man's shadow is exactly the plan, Albert. The stories that Kaine and Flash go through in their respective titles can only be told without the looming presence of Spider-Man. Peter Parker isn't the kind of guy who'd let either Venom or Scarlet Spider operate independently if he could help it — making sure they're out of his shadow helps tell their stories best.

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