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The Great ‘Was Flash Thompson A Bully?’ Debate of 1985-86 | CBR

In Meta-Messages, I explore the context behind (using reader danjack’s term) “meta-messages.” A meta-message is where a comic book creator comments on/references the work of another comic book/comic book creator (or sometimes even themselves) in their comic. Each time around, I’ll give you the context behind one such “meta-message.”

Today, we take a look at an amusing little back and forth between Spider-Man writers over whether Flash Thompson was a bully.

First off, let’s get it out of the way that obviously Flash Thompson WAS a bully. He’s a jerk to Peter the very first time we see him in Amazing Fantasy #15 (by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko)…

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When he shows up in the regular Amazing Spider-Man comic book in #2, he’s a jerk there, too, although less so…


Issue #5 establishes the basic concept of the character. Flash is a bully to Peter Parker but is a huge fan of Spider-Man. It’s a funny dichotomy that rests entirely on him BEING a bully…


Amazing Spider-Man #8 is notable because Flash gets a bit more physical than normal…



And the two box…



Eventually, Peter and Flash basically become friends (their friendship is a whole other thing that’s worth writing about, specifically a bit I think I’ve written about when Flash says that they’ve never actually been friends) and Peter comes to Flash for help with some kids Peter considers bullies (they’re way past bullying, but whatever) in Web of Spider-Man #11 (by Danny Fingeroth, Bill Mantlo and Bob McLeod), which came out in late 1985 and Flash reveals that he was never a bully…




I was going to do this as a Remember to Forget, because wow, that take is so bad, but the other Spider-Man writers beat me to it, as in Amazing Spider-Man #278 (by Tom DeFalco, Peter David, Jo Duffy, Mike Harris and Vince COlletta), Peter visits Flash (who is currently in prison after being framed as the Hobgoblin) and Peter basically retorts Flash’s silly argument from Web of Spider-Man #11…


I don’t believe Flash ever tried to argue again that he wasn’t a bully. Cullen Bunn even had him really explore his bully history during his run on Venom.

Okay, that’s it for this Meta-Messages. If anyone else has a suggestion for a good Meta-Messages, drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com!


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