Venom in Philadelphia

Venom in Philadelphia

By Ben Morse

Does the City of Brotherly Love sound like the right place for a guy named Venom? We’ll find out this December when writer Cullen Bunn steers Flash Thompson and his alter ego toward their new home in Philadelphia with VENOM #28. caught up with Bunn to discuss the reason for the shift in locales as well as what lies ahead for the Symbiotic Soldier!

Venom #28 cover by Shane Davis What precipitates Venom’s move from New York to Philadelphia?

Cullen Bunn: You know how when you’ve just really screwed up and everything seems to be going wrong, you sometimes just get this idea to pick up stakes and start over in a place where no one knows you? Well, that’s where Flash Thompson’s mind is right now.

Venom has gone through hell recently. Even though he made it through to the other side, his family and friends have suffered thanks to his decisions. Despite the things that are going right for Flash, there’s this growing sense of unease—fueled by the events of both the Savage Six and Monsters of Evil arcs. He feels lost, alone; and he knows that if he’s ever going to feel “whole” again, he needs a fresh start.

Around this time, Venom heads to Philly to investigate some strange goings on. While he’s there, Flash realizes that Venom could be the hero the city needs. He sees it as his chance to make a difference and get a fresh start at the same time. How will this move affect Flash Thompson’s civilian life and personal ties in addition to Venom’s adventures?

Cullen Bunn: A new cast of supporting characters will be entering Flash’s life. While Katy Kiernan lives in New York, she’ll be popping up in Philly quite a bit, and she’s introducing Venom to a new cast of contacts. Flash will also be making a few new friends on his own, because—and this is something I’m pretty excited about—he’s going to be getting a new day job! I’m not saying too much about this new career path, but I think it will give us the opportunity to see Flash in a new light and introduce a new group of interesting, dynamic characters.

Venom #27 cover by Patrick Zircher What about Philadelphia makes it a compelling location to set the series in?

Cullen Bunn: Philly is a perfect fit for a hero like Venom. It’s gritty and tough, but it’s a city with a lot of heart. There’s all the hustle and bustle of the big city, but Venom won’t get lost in the shuffle of all the other super heroes crowding the streets. The city has a rich history, stunning architecture, diverse neighborhoods and people, and more than a few urban legends—which, for me, is just the icing on the cake. In the end, I think the city just suits Venom’s personality and progression as a character. Once he makes this move, Venom will start to see himself in a new light. He’ll start trying to reinvent himself to some degree. What kind of space does Philadelphia occupy in the Marvel Universe as contrasted against New York?

Cullen Bunn: Well, the most obvious difference is New York is teeming with super heroes. Philadelphia, on the other hand, is pretty much on its own. It’s a city that seems ripe for street-level heroes, and Venom can definitely play in that space. But right from the start, Venom will be clashing with some foes who are definitely not street-level. Not long after he settles in, Venom will find he’s not the only vigilante in the area. His “competition” will be somewhat shocking to him. Have you being doing research to do an authentic take?

Cullen Bunn: Long ago, I made a living doing door-to-door sales, and I spent a little time in Philadelphia. When we started discussing a potential relocation for Venom, I did quite a bit of research—and only some of it involved trying to perfect a homemade cheesesteak. As I get further into the series, I start to wonder if a research trip isn’t in the cards soon.

Venom #25 cover by Patrick Zircher

My scripts often have reference photos in them, but the first couple of Philly-based scripts have definitely had a little more. I don’t want these issues to come off as over-researched, though, because sometimes that can actually do the opposite of the intent. Instead of making the book seem more “real,” it ends up stripping the life from the story. Sure, I want Independence Hall to look like Independence Hall, but a lot of the reference I include is just there to help the artist get the “feel” of the area. What kind of threats will present themselves in Venom’s new location?

Cullen Bunn: Even before he makes the decision to move to the city of Brotherly Love, Venom will be getting into all sorts of trouble in Philly. One of his first adventures in the city has ties to one of the region’s oldest urban legends: Project Rainbow, or the infamous Philadelphia Experiment. While this event is largely considered a hoax, Venom will learn that the conspiracy theorists may be onto something. The truth, of course, proves to be more potentially dangerous than anyone suspects—especially when a group of four strange and strangely powerful villains get involved.

Beyond that, Venom’s adventures will range from ground-level to demonic to cosmic. He’s going to be very busy.

Even though he’s getting a fresh start in Philly, Venom will soon be running into a familiar face. It will not be a pleasant encounter at all, because his relationship with this individual is toxic to say the least. What else can we expect coming up in VENOM?

Cullen Bunn: I have so many Venom stories I want to tell. Supernatural, hell-bent stories. Science fiction action yarns. Brutal symbiote slaughterfests. There are a couple of bigger, over-arching themes. First of all, Venom is looking down the barrel of something call “The Descent,” which we’ll be learning more about in the Monsters of Evil arc. In addition, Flash is trying to cope with his own anger issues as well as the growing concerns and fears in regards to the Venom symbiote. This will come to a head during a couple of encounters that I think symbiote fans are really going to like.

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