PHILADELPHIA - Philly's getting a new fan in the pages of Marvel Comics, but whether the City of Brotherly Shove takes to anti-hero Venom remains to be seen.
Marvel Entertainment LLC says that Venom - a brute with big teeth and an elongated tongue who's made a habit of sparring with Spider-Man - is leaving New York City to start fresh, and maybe learn to be a hero on the streets of Philadelphia.
Writer Cullen Bunn and Editor Tom Brennan, an alum of Philadelphia's Drexel University, said it's time Philly had a hero of its own, putting it in the same league as Los Angeles and New York, among other real-life cities that populate the fictional world of Marvel.
But is Venom - an alien symbiote bonded to Peter Parker's one-time high school rival Eugene "Flash" Thompson - the hero that Philly wants or needs?
It depends, said Bunn.
Flash, who lost his legs in Iraq, has taken control of Venom to be able to walk again and work as a super-powered soldier and spy for the U.S. government. But his alcoholism and habit of lying to his teammates has him at the bottom of a deep hole.
"Now, he's trying to do the right thing. He's reassessing what it means to be a hero. And he's looking for a fresh start," said Bunn. "This means a lot of things for Flash. He's surrounding himself with new people - such as tabloid journalist Katy Kiernan and his new love interest, the Asgardian Valkyrie. He's changing his approach to being a superhero. And he's looking for a change of scenery."
That's where Philly comes in, said Brennan, starting Dec. 19 in "Venom" No. 28 in comic shops and digitally, too.
"I worked in public schools in gritty Kensington and tough West Philly. I spent way too many hours in the Constitution Center and historical sites of Old City. I lived on Race Street in a less-than-stellar apartment in a creaky old town house," he said.
"All the while that I lived there, I wanted a superhero for the city of Philadelphia, a town full of heart, hustle and hope - and I don't care what anyone says - some of the nicest people I've ever met," he said. "Sure, they don't suffer fools, and you've got to be mindful if you cross against the light, but I found the City of Brotherly Love to be a character in and of itself that I thought more fiction should explore."
Bunn said the city will be part of Venom's growth, expanding as he does, too.
"I've always liked that Marvel superheroes are adventuring in the `real' world. Certainly, there will be some fictional elements popping up in stories, but I'll try to keep it as grounded in the actual city as possible," he said. "It's time Philly gets a little Marvel Universe face-time. Local landmarks, neighborhoods, legends, and history will play a role in the book."
As for Flash, Philly won't be easy, either.
"We're not just moving Venom to Philly in hopes of getting free hoagies, though we'll take them. Flash Thompson has been on an emotional roller coaster. His superhero career almost cost him everything," said Brennan. "This is a good man with a troubled past who needed a fresh start, and thought the City of Brotherly Love was the perfect place for him to take his next steps in becoming the hero he was born to be."