|Venom #31 black and white preview art by Declan Shalvey|
By Jim Beard
This February, Flash Thompson has a new home.
In VENOM #31, regular writer Cullen Bunn and returning artist Declan Shalvey set the symbiotic soldier up in all-new digs and kick off a great jumping-on points for the book as the locale shifts to Philadelphia. After the conflict and carnage—and Carnage—of the past year, Flash Thompson’s looking for a new lease on life and to try and put some of his past behind him for good.
Yet, as we know, these things don’t always go as planned. Bunn and Shalvey’s plans for Venom include new surroundings and new friends, but also new challenges and old problems.
Marvel.com: Gentlemen, what's the most attractive thing about Philadelphia for our hero? What makes him want to move there?
Cullen Bunn: After everything that’s been happening in his life—the Savage Six, possession by a demon, being zapped into the Microverse to encounter the absolute worst case scenario in “life with a symbiote”—Flash feels like he needs a change.
Philadelphia isn’t his first choice destination. He’d rather go somewhere that’s a little more “Girls Gone Wild” than “Always Sunny.” But when he is drawn to Philly for an adventure, he begins to see the city as a place where he can make a difference. Flash has been a soldier and secret agent, but he’s never seen himself as a super hero. With his move to Philly, he has the chance to play that role: patrols, secret identities, day jobs, and helping people. There’s a learning curve for him. He’s not going to get the hang of it right away. And he has a few lingering concerns that might create some stumbling blocks for him along the way.
|Venom #31 black and white preview art by Declan Shalvey|
Declan Shalvey: In a way, it feels like we're rebuilding Flash from the ground-level up so there's a lot of freedom, which is pretty exciting. With Flash moving to Philadelphia, we're building a new world for Venom and get to create and introduce a new status quo for the series so there's nothing really holding us back. Of course, things are not that easy for Flash and being Venom has its problems. Creating an established look on a book at Marvel is also something I've been hoping to do for quite some time, and the work we're doing on this book is very much they type of work I want to be doing.
I like Flash as he's a flawed character who is trying his very best to be a good person. He has his dependencies, his addictions, alien symbiotes attached to him, etc., but despite it all is still trying to be a hero. From a visual standpoint, I really love Tony Moore's design for Venom—I particularly love how Tom Fowler drew the costume on his Venom issues—and since the costume is a living thing, I can draw a mask but still express emotion on his face. The suit itself is a character and as an artist, there's a lot of satisfaction in being able to use the costume to express Flash's emotional state.
Marvel.com: Declan, how do you approach Venom visually? What do you keep foremost in your mind when drawing him in action, using his powers, etc.?
Declan Shalvey: There's a lot of great things about drawing Flash as Venom. I already mentioned the design and being able to emote in the suit, but on top of that, he makes a great silhouette, he's very visually imposing and can be very, very creepy. He's clearly got similar moves to Spider-Man, but he has a different build. To me, Spider-Man is lean and moves creepily—like how I drew Dark Spider-Man in DARK AVENGERS—but Flash was an athlete and soldier; he has a more muscular build, so he has a lot more power with how he swings, punches and lands, yet is still quite limber and acrobatic.
One of the most challenging things about drawing Flash is drawing him in his wheelchair. Wheelchairs are very technical and hard to draw, but I think it's important to have him in it. One of the most compelling things about Flash to me is how he needs the symbiote in a very real way. Without it, he can't walk and that creates a very interesting dynamic between host and symbiote, on top of all of Flash's previous dependency issues. However, it is a unique challenge to draw Flash in the wheelchair; I spent a lot of time designing his apartment to be wheelchair friendly, for example. I've noticed how some disabled people can adjust and move like their wheelchair is an extension of their own body, and that's a unique thing I hope to be able to draw in the book.
|Venom #31 black and white preview art by Declan Shalvey|
Marvel.com: Cullen, what sort of unfinished business might Flash be leaving behind when he moves to Philadelphia?
Cullen Bunn: There are a few loose ends that Flash will be leaving in the Big Apple. He’s never going to be able to get away from New York completely. On a personal level, he’s leaving his mom, who has not fully recovered from her encounter with the Savage Six, behind. He’s making efforts to stay in touch with her and visit. But she is afraid of the Venom symbiote in a huge way, and Flash is starting to view that as his mother being afraid of him. Also, Flash is still a little hung up on Betty Brant. While their relationship is over, it still bothers Flash. He never got the closure he needed.
His new friend and ally, Katy Kiernan, still lives in New York. She’s responsible for introducing him to Philly, though, and she’ll be around. And his supernatural informant, Daimon Hellstrom, is in prison in New York, so Venom will have to visit every now and then to get some quality face-time with the Son of Satan. This is a guy who stuck a demon in Flash’s soul, and he’s the guy who can keep Flash up-to-date on all the goings on of “The Descent,” an underworld event during which all the Hell Lords vie for a higher position on the food chain. Venom is marked as a possible replacement for Mephisto.
The biggest loose end, of course, is Toxin. Eddie Brock and the Toxin symbiote vanished at the end of the Savage Six storyline, but he’s still out there, waiting to return with—literally—a vengeance.
Marvel.com: Conversely, what kind of people will he be meeting in Philly and what sort of immediate impact will they have on him? And what will his new job there be like?
Cullen Bunn: I’m really excited about expanding the cast of supporting characters. Several new faces will be showing up in Flash’s life: new neighbors, new co-workers, and new contacts and resources on the job. A few are more important than others.
One of the first people Flash will meet is Andi, a teenage girl who lives in his new apartment building. She’ll become an important person in Flash’s life, something of a day-to-day reminder of the people he’s trying to protect. Venom will also be meeting a number of strange characters who run in same circles as tabloid reporter Katy Kiernan. Venom has discovered that he’s something of a weirdness factor. Strange science, urban legends, supernatural threats—these things are outside his realm of understanding. So he has to turn to some experts in those fields. First up is conspiracy theorist Jimmy-Z.
|Venom #28 cover by Shane Davis|
Flash starts his new job in VENOM #32. While I’m not saying much about Flash’s new job just yet, it will introduce him to a supporting cast that will mean a lot to him and put his role as a hero into sharp focus. There’s another character that will have a more important voice in the book in the days to come. They’re already in the book, but their role will be expanded. Yeah, I’m being secretive, but hopefully this character will surprise some folks.
Marvel.com: Declan, who of this new cast has been fun to design for you, and why?
Declan Shalvey: We do have one prominent supporting character coming that I've already designed and it's been an interesting challenge to build the character from scratch. With Flash's new job, there'll be more characters to create which is a challenge I look forward to. I get to do more research on fashion and clothing and I haven't had much opportunity to do that before. There is another character coming into the book who's been previously established, but we're taking a slightly different approach to how he's drawn that I hope the fans will be on board with.
Marvel.com: What's the danger level like in Philly? What's our first menace and how will Venom react to it?
Cullen Bunn: In VENOM #28, Venom heads to Philadelphia to investigate a series of strange disappearances. This quickly leads to an encounter with the U-Foes, a group of villains who are way out of Flash’s league.
In issue #30, you’ll see a side of Venom that will be quite different from what you’ve seen before, and he’ll start showing off some new skills in order to make it out of his encounter with the U-Foes alive. This adventure will bring Venom to Philly, but it will also plant the seed for a long-term storyline that will haunt Flash for a long while. There will be lasting ramifications—including the introduction of some new villains—that stem from the three-issue U-Foes arc.
|Venom #29 cover by Shane Davis|
Marvel.com: Declan, what sort of mood or tone will you try to strike in the book’s art? And what sort of research have you been doing for the Philadelphia setting?
Declan Shalvey: Well, I've wanted to do a darker street-level book at Marvel for quite a while and I feel that this is the opportunity to explore that. There are certain horror and sci-fi concepts thrown into the series too, so there'll always be interesting visuals. Anyone who is familiar with my work can probably tell I like to play with composition, use of black, etc., and I feel I have more room to develop those approaches with VENOM than I preciously did on THUNDERBOLTS. From the research I've done—I've read up a lot on the city's history and took a virtual tour around it via the magic of Google Street View and Google Earth—Philly reminds me somewhat of Brooklyn. It's very lived-in, with a variety of wonderful architecture; it hasn't been completely revamped with modernist design, so I will find it personally more interesting to draw. I'm going to try and give Philly—and the book—a very grounded, textured feel.
Marvel.com: What sort of role will former-Venom Eddie Brock be playing going forward in the series?
Cullen Bunn: Eddie has a big role to play—huge.
When we last saw Eddie, he was the host of the Toxin symbiote. His appearance was that of a hulking, slobbering monstrosity. It was obvious that the symbiote was in control and Eddie was just along for the ride. Since that time, Eddie and the symbiote have reached a new understanding. Their relationship has changed quite a bit. In fact, about the only thing that’s the same with Eddie and Toxin is that they hate Venom.
|Venom #30 cover by Paulo Siqueira|
So, we know that Toxin and Venom are on a collision course, and it’s gonna be messy once they finally collide. After they meet again—and by “meet” I mean “try to rip each other to shreds”—the dynamic between these two will change a little. I think readers will be very interested in seeing the roles Toxin and Venom will play in each other’s lives. When they aren’t trying to slaughter each other.
Marvel.com: Cullen, how much input do you have with Venom's role in THUNDERBOLTS?
Cullen Bunn: Early on, I talked to Jordan White, who edits THUNDERBOLTS, about some of the things I have planned for Flash and Venom, and writer Dan Way and I have talked quite a bit about Flash and the symbiote. For the most part, though, I don’t have a lot of input in terms of what will be happening on Venom’s new team. THUNDERBOLTS is Dan’s book and I like being surprised by it as much as any other reader.
As far as elements I want to make sure are maintained about Venom, I talked to Jordan and Dan about a “new attitude” that Flash is going to start exhibiting, and I think that will really make his role in that team in particular very interesting. I’ve also got a few things planned for how Flash and the symbiote interact with once another that I want to make sure are introduced primarily in VENOM but represented in his other appearances. In the end, Dan and I want the two books to make sense and work well together. I think the “shared world” aspect of these books is important to both of us.
Marvel.com: Okay, so how much will THUNDERBOLTS be reflected in the new direction of VENOM?
Cullen Bunn: Being a part of a team—especially one so different from his previous team, the Secret Avengers—will be an important part of Venom’s life, so you’ll certainly see the impact of his involvement in his book. For the most part, Thunderbolts business will be kept to a minimum in VENOM. The book will focus on Flash’s solo adventures. I’m not going to lie, though. I like the possibilities for crossovers and guest appearances that this new team presents!
|Venom #31 cover by Shane Davis|
Marvel.com: What's it like working with Declan on VENOM?
Cullen Bunn: Declan is a terrific collaborator. I love his take on Venom, Toxin, and the city of Philadelphia. Declan and I talk quite a bit, and he is my sounding board for a lot of ideas in their early stages. Recently, I stumbled onto this idea for a future VENOM storyline. I knew I was onto something when Declan started talking about sketching new character designs. He’s invested in the book, just like I am, and I think he’s really going to amaze people with what he’s bringing to the table.
Marvel.com: Declan, what's Cullen do that makes your job interesting?
Declan Shalvey: I'm a big fan of The Sixth Gun, which Cullen and Brian Hurtt work on together so I was looking forward to working with Cullen. Though I was slightly worried as for the past couple of years I've been working with artist/writers like Jeff Parker and Brian Wood, who write very visual scripts, and Cullen is not an artist—that I'm aware of. However, I was pleased to see that Cullen's scripts are very artist-friendly, and furthermore he's very open to collaboration. In some cases he actually asks for it, which gets me thinking a lot more about the book instead of just drawing whatever is on the page. With this new arc, I've been much more involved in the storytelling, which makes the book a lot more creatively satisfying.
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