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Sunday, June 4, 2017

Secret Avengers #23 1st as Agent Venom Debunked!

I generally don't like doing these kinds of posts, or even touching on the subject most times. Sure, I have questioned a few of these emerging debuts on this site before like Swamp Thing #49 and #50 being the 1st appearance of Justice League Dark or the debut of Gotham City Sirens in Detective Comics #850, but I've never dedicated an entire article to one nor felt the need.

So recently in a comics group on Google+, this comic came to my attention. Actually, the post was for an auction for a CBCS 9.9 Amazing Spider-Man #654 - 1st Flash Thompson as Venom - which really caught my attention.

The convo mentioned that ASM #654 was just the debut of Flash as Venom and Secret Avengers #23 was the debut of Flash as Agent Venom. Huh? What the, I thought. 

Of course, the source confirming all this pointed to the Marvel wiki article for the actual comic. Lo and behold, it states that it's the 1st appearance as Agent Venom and that he joins the Secret Avengers. Not like some fan hasn't edited those completely wrong before, and we're all human. Not like I've never made a mistake on a debut either.

So to be honest, I was completely curious as to why Secret Avengers #23 was considered the debut of "Agent Venom" according to whoever recently edited the page. Was there something special contained in this comic that I missed from Amazing Spider-Man #654, 654.1 and then his on-going Venom series?

Deep down, I sort of had a feeling it was a "false debut" by whoever out there decided that this should be Agent Venom's debut for whatever reason. I did read the comics prior when it came to Flash as Venom and few issues of his comic series, but, still, I could've been missing something. So, curiously, I brought up the question in the SIC Comics community and this sparked a bit of investigating on the subject for a few members there just for fun. 

Just to be sure, I reread ASM #654 and #654.1 as well as a lot of the Venom volume 2 issues that followed. At least, I reread the Venom issues that led up to around the same time when Secret Avengers #23 came out.

There's actually nothing in Secret Avengers #23 that has anything more special about Agent Venom than the previous issues of him as...well...Agent Venom. Beast did mention a neuro-sedative that keeps Venom from dominating Flash Thompson in that issue but it's only good for 24 hours. 

Other than that, not really much in the way of a huge character change that would warrant any kind of 1st appearance. So let's get into it and news flash:

Flash Thompson has appeared as Agent Venom a while back before Secret Avengers #23. Actually, he is not even first called Agent Venom in Secret Avengers #23 either. Not even close when it comes to that.

Despite the misleading cover, Flash doesn't even show up as Venom...ahem...sorry, Agent Venom in that Secret Avengers comic.

So here's the skinny. I really don't want to beat around the bush that much with this one.

Flash is called Agent Venom as early as Venom #1 from his on-going 2011 series. Amazing Spider-Man #654 and #654.1 set up the whole premise of this then new Venom and why and how he becomes this special operative. In short, ASM #654 sees his debut as Venom and the origin of why he becomes Venom.

It is important as to why he is chosen to become Venom in that issue, and we shall get to that. After issue #654.1, Flash as Agent Venom was spun-off into his own comic series, known as Venom volume 2.

So, let's get into the whole Agent Venom and how this comes about for Eugene "Flash" Thompson. Here it is, folks: Project Rebirth 2.0 program.

That is the 2nd Project Rebirth endorsed by the military and involves using the Venom symbiote on a certain Flash Thompson in order to create another kind of Super Soldier. Once again, this set up begins and runs through the ASM #654 and #654.1 issues, and that kind of Super Soldier is Venom who is an "Agent" and referred to as such long before Secret Avengers #23.

Just because he may have been first called Agent Venom in Venom #1 does not mean that Flash Thompson was not recruited to be Agent Venom in Amazing Spider-Man #654. Actually, he is shown to be recruited as such and it's clearly told that he will carry out 20 missions as the special agent in that very issue.

Here's how Agent Venom debuts in the 2nd story called, "Rebirth" in the Amazing Spider-Man #654 issue. Click on the image to get a bigger one if it's too hard to read as is on the actual post.

Pages and panels above from Amazing Spider-Man #654

Alright, now here's an important panel to this discussion in Venom #1, in which the on-going comic series continues Flash's story as Agent Venom. I believe this is when he is first called "Agent Venom" by Captain Katherine Glover.

From Venom #1 cover date May 2011

He is also referred to as Agent Venom in issue #3 in this scene below as well. Once again, General Dodge oversees Project Rebirth 2.0, which is the project that created Agent Venom who is originally the merging of Flash Thompson and the Venom symbiote.

Scene from Venom #3 cover date July 2011

So if whoever thought that Secret Avengers #23 was the first time Flash Thompson was referred to as "Agent Venom", it's obviously not the case and far from it since Secret Avengers #23 came out in February, 2012 with the cover date of April, 2012. 

Okay, I've heard a suggestion about a different suit or a new costume that Secret Avengers #23 may debut, but I unfortunately don't think that's true either. So let's take a look at Venom issue #10 with the cover date of February, 2012 and the release date of December, 2011. Once again, he's called Agent Venom in the panel below.

From Venom #10 volume 2

And then let's look at Secret Avengers #25. Yes, Secret Avengers #25 is when Flash is finally seen as Venom when he is a member of the Secret Avengers. Despite covers and intro pages, he does not become Venom nor is seen as Agent Venom in the actual stories in issue #23 or issue #24.

From Secret Avengers #25 cover date June 2012
See a noticeable difference in the costume? I don't.

Just for shits 'n giggles should we look at Flash Thompson in Secret Avengers #23? I suppose it's only fair, right?

Okay, here's all the pages and panels that Flash shows up in Secret Avengers #23.

Then later in the comic, Hawkeye gets wind of Cap's idea to recruit "Agent Venom" in the Secret Avengers. Not exactly a welcomed idea to Clint Barton. Here's how that goes down in Secret Avengers #23.

Segment of panels and pages from Secret Avengers #23

Don't really see how this is a debut of any kind. Cap is referring to Flash's success as Venom or Agent Venom in the past tense. Secret Avengers is definitely not a prelude of any kind concerning Flash becoming Venom or even the name of "Agent Venom".

What might be true is that Flash Thompson does join the Secret Avengers as Agent Venom in issue #23, but anything suggesting a debut or a 1st appearance as "Agent Venom" is far, far-fetched. I don't really see a new costume either, but I can see why that might be misconstrued because Venom on that Secret Avengers #23 cover is really bulky. His mask looks more like a helmet on that cover too.

So, I have no idea why whoever remotely thought that Secret Avengers #23 was the "1st appearance as Agent Venom". Although CGC just notes Amazing Spider-Man #654 as 1st Flash Thompson as Venom, it is ASM #654 that sees the actual debut and origin of Agent Venom, meaning he is that very character. 

I think Overstreet and the third party grading companies need to start noting ASM #654 as "1st Flash Thompson as Agent Venom" so it lessens the confusion out there. CGC is not currently noting Secret Avengers #23 as the 1st appearance as Agent Venom and neither is CBCS just to be clear.

A lot of eBay sellers are wrongfully labeling Secret Avengers #23 as the 1st Agent Venom and they are mostly raw copies. Much easier to get away with that when it comes to raw copies.

Speculators who just follow comic speculation trends without knowing much or even caring about the actual character or the comics are paying bloated prices already for this one and for no reason at all. Secret Avengers #23 does not debut Agent Venom or has anything of significance going for it, except for Agent Venom and Jim Hammond joining the Secret Avengers and the death of Eric O'Grady as Ant-Man.

I'm pretty sure the price gouge isn't because of those two notations in the least for the comic in question.

It still appears people are breaking one of the most important rules in speculating and comic investing which is don't invest in what you don't know, and if not sure, research it some more at least. 

Actually, that rule isn't just for comic investing but any kind of investing. Hoping that hasn't been you and that you invest safely out there. It is a jungle after all.


  1. Good job Mayhem. Immature comic collectors and investors are still getting trapped by stuff like this as we speak. I agree. You have to do your research when it comes to this sort of thing. As we know people will make up anything to sell something for more money.

  2. Thank god we have Mayhem on our side! Invested in A. S. 654 right away!


  3. Hey,

    to all the guys who want to milk money out of their comics: buy that comic where Thanos chases the Black cat in a helicopter and sell it as the first appearance of the Thanoscopter!!!

    Max Rebo

  4. Thankfully there is a place for people to find the truth for things such as this. cBSi has long been giving Bs spec and when the truth comes out they delete the comments or threads or view it as an attack. Well done

  5. Great article Vic and glad you took my advice to do a write-up on it after our convo on SIC where we were discussing this topic. One thing I forgot to mention during that convo, people (myself included) always forget the Venom symbiote can shape shift into different suits and appearances. That is why it looks so much beefier on the Secret Avengers 23 cover and smaller but similar in appearances before then. I had always thought Agent Venom came out of 654 and 654.1 but after our convo I changed my mind do to him 1st being referenced as Agent Venom in Venom # 1 2011. I had it right to begin with lol! Again thanks for the great discussion on SIC and glad to be apart of it.

  6. Hey my main man,

    just found a copy of a Spiderman Super Special on ole ebay called Planet of the Symbiotes. Any relevance to this issue or is it just a back issue bin filler?


    1. Not sure about the importance of Spider-Man Super Special, but Venom Super Special #1 has an extended origin of Venom that explains why and how he ended up on Battle World.