Some guys just can't win. In 1962, Peter Parker was one of those guys. Bullies bullied him and girls ignored him – with the exception of his elderly Aunt, and that really doesn't count. Puny, broke and lonely, young Peter was the kind of guy you could relate to. I assume this was either because the men writing him could relate to him too, or they just knew their audience really, really well.
"The 'T' stands for 'Talk to the HAND, Parker!' Haw Haw!"
Then, in an ironic twist of fate, young Peter is granted superpowers; He goes from zero to hero, starts hanging out with the FF and The Avengers, and marries a super model. Oh, and that bully who used to torment him in high school becomes his #1 fan. And people say superhero comics are just adolescent male power fantasies!
That bully had a name, and a pretty badass one at that: Flash Thompson. He is the subject of this blog.
The thing about Flash Thompson is, back in High School, he was kind of an asshole. Now, nevermind the fact that back in high school everyone was an asshole (this is to prepare you for the real world, where everyone is an asshole). No, Flash was more like THE asshole. Girls, cars, popularity, football, etc. – everything that guys like Peter Parker spend their tormented youths hating and envying. And poor Flash Thompson has been paying for it ever since.
What follows Flash Thompson's Big Man on Campus years is a comeuppance of ridiculously epic proportions. He goes to war and is haunted by mystic assassins. He suffers serious bouts of depression and becomes an alcoholic. In love, he can only manage to pick up Peter's sloppy seconds. He gets in a drunk-driving accident – two of them, in fact – and ends up brain damaged to the point where he forgets what few redeeming qualities he'd managed to muster up over the years. Oh, and as it turns out, his father was an abusive alcoholic, so high school probably wasn't all that great for Flash Thompson after all. At least Peter had a decent home life. As if all this wasn't enough, it turns out all this time his first name is actually Eugene. I mean, seriously.
Daaaaaaaamn, homie! In high school you was the maaaaaaaan, homie!
...What the fuck happened to you?
You know what, I get it. I really do. These are superhero stories, and the golden rule of superhero stories is good guys win, bad guys lose. Somewhere very early on in life Flash Thompson must have fallen into the 'bad guy' category, and has been awarded his just deserts time and time again, despite many desperate grasps for redemption. But there's a line between justice and torment; it's actually quite a broad one, I think. And I can't help but wonder if the Peter Parker types reading and writing Spider-Man comics throughout the years don't derive just a little bit of pleasure out of making a whipping boy out of Flash Thompson. It's kind of sick, when you think about it.
You know, there was a brief period in the early 90s or so where Flash and Peter were actually pretty good friends. I always liked that development. Beyond just being a cool twist on the status quo, I think it showed a real willingness for growth. Not only in the characters of Peter Parker and Flash Thompson, but in superhero comics in general. Finally, we were ready to let go of all of the adolescent anguish we'd been harboring in our hearts and move on. You know, forgiving those that trespassed against us and what not. It didn't last. The nerds were still angry, and somebody had to pay. So once again Flash Thompson was reverted to his adolescent state, dragging us all down with him. He is currently a recovering alcoholic/functioning retard teaching a gym class at his old high school.
Some guys just can't win.