9 : CBSI WRITERS WARS : Life in a Flash by Josias Misael Ocampo Lugo
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“So Flash…What’ve you done with your life?”
I had an entirely different article planned out, but after the events of Amazing Spider-Man #800, I scrapped that article and decided to write about the best person to ever wear the Venom symbiote, Flash Thompson.
If you haven’t read ASM #800, be aware that there are spoilers ahead.
Flash Thompson made his debut in Amazing Fantasy #15. At the time, he was simply a high school jock, a bully meant to be a foil to Peter’s Spider Powers. Years later, Flash would be given a backstory.
Spectacular Spider-Man #-1 (yes, that’s a 1 with a minus in front) introduced us to his father, an alcoholic and abusive parent.
From this point on, Flash represented an individual who was always haunted by past demons. His life was a constant struggle of always trying to better himself, of using his future to fight off his past.
He had his high moments and rock bottom moments, but he always took a challenge head on if it meant saving one more person. His evolution from high school bully to selfless hero is rarely seen in comics.
He became a bonafide favorite of mine through his relationship with the symbiote. Always fighting off its rage, he eventually accomplished what Peter Parker never did (or perhaps never thought could be done); he tamed the alien creature and made it a friend.
Flash is an all too common example of the quote, “It's not the war that kills you, it's what comes after.” As a soldier, he learned to always carry on through the mission while keeping his team intact.
It wasn’t hard for him to excel in this aspect; after all, he was a football star who carried his team to many wins, and a military unit can be akin to a football team.
Although Flash’s valor and sacrifice earned him a Medal of Honor, it came at the cost of both his legs and self-value.
He returned to his country a disabled vet, with all the horrors of war lingering in his head, and feeling like a burden to others.
“After the war, what does a soldier become?” A chilling line from a favorite song of mine, but it can still ring true to this day. Veterans (at least in the USA), have a lot of benefits and job opportunities available if/when they choose to retire from combat.
However, most lose their sense of worth when removed from combat. I don’t mean that as a knock on veterans (feel free to comment on this if you need to), but many vets feel that they cannot be put into a concrete office job, let alone live a civilian life.
They are used to the thrill and adrenaline found in field experience, and they can end up feeling lackluster when removed from that environment. It is why many choose to become peace officers/emergency response personnel in some shape or form; it is their way of avoiding the death that is normalcy.
Here is where Flash’s tale blurs the line of reality and comics. Not only is he forced to try to live a normal civilian life, he has to do so while being disabled, an all too common scenario among vets.
He becomes a paraplegic athlete, but it is not enough. He doesn’t want to be recognized as a hero for winning competitions; he wants to help people and feel of use. This is why he jumps at the opportunity to bond with the Venom symbiote in the epilogue of Amazing Spider-Man #564.
Dangerous as it is, he’ll regain his legs for moments at a time, help others along the way, and feel like a genuine hero.
He can be a soldier again, a protector. It all eventually culminates in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 #23 where he is appointed an Agent of the Cosmos by the Klyntar and unlocks the true potential of the Venom symbiote.
When he would eventually lose the Venom suit, his pain could be felt through the comic pages. Here was Flash, war hero, disabled veteran, victim of child abuse who grew to appreciate himself, without his zest for life.
It wasn’t as simple as Eddie Brock or Mac Gargan losing their power or strength; this was Flash Thompson’s identity. His whole reason for being, and it was taken from him without being given a fighting chance. It was heavy, and it brought tears and rage to many fans.
Eventually, he would come in contact with the Anti-Venom in Venom Inc. Alpha and briefly become (Agent) Anti-Venom. As fans, we rejoiced at this opportunity.
It wasn’t our familiar Agent Venom, but it was Flash in a slick, new suit, and he was happy and determined again.
However, his rejuvenation would be cut short. In Amazing Spider-Man #800, Flash rescues 5 people from getting “Thanos’d” by the Red Goblin by use of his healing power.
Even though the Anti-Venom was nowhere near fully recovered, he went to help Peter during the fight with the Red Goblin (prosthetic legs and all). He attempted to cure the Carnage symbiote off of Red Goblin, but he received a surprise blast to the face.
He refused Peter’s plan of re-bonding with the Venom symbiote, telling Peter that he was following his orders, standing down, and letting Spider-Man keep the Venom in order to have a chance against the Red Goblin. Flash would eventually succumb to his wounds.
Death in comics has lost meaning over the years because many characters who die end up coming back. In fact, Flash coming back from the dead could happen. However, even with that in mind, his death carries emotion and weight like no other.
Flash was a hero to us all. Even if we didn’t play football or serve in the military, almost everyone can comprehend what it’s like to lose your zest for life, your self-worth. It can be hard to claw out of whatever hole we find ourselves in.
Flash proved it can be done. Over and over again, and although desperation may get the better of us at times, it is what you do with your newfound strength that makes you stand out.
Plus, to make matters worse, his death occurred only two days after USA’s Memorial Day holiday! I’m sure it’s simply a coincidence in the publication schedule, but a veteran’s death right after Memorial Day felt very much like a punch to the gut.
All in all, Flash was a hero like no other. Eugene “Flash” Thompson, thank you for your service.