Then and Now: Venom

A reporter, fallen from grace after his career-making expose was revealed to be a fake. An alien being from another world, rejected by its host. Both united by one singular goal: to utterly destroy, and then kill, Spider-Man as vengeance for the pain he visited upon them.

They are Venom.

Venom has long held a special place in Marvel Comics history—not only is he one of Spider-Man’s most prominent foes, but he is also one of the few villains in comic book history to have a monthly title over the years. In honor of his upcoming film, this Then and Now special will take a look at the history of the wicked web-slinger and his rise to stardom!

THEN

During the events of the original Marvel Super Heroes: Secret Wars (1984–1985), Spider-Man seemingly discovered a machine that could replicate clothing with a thought. Since his own costume was badly shredded, Spidey placed his hand on the machine…and immediately a black and white costume formed around his body!

Returning to Earth, Spidey discovered that his new costume had several hidden abilities—it could change shape to match his civilian clothes, it could organically generate webbing…and it had a mind of its own, as it would frequently hijack his body and partake in nighttime excursions. Spidey eventually dragged himself to the abandoned Our Lady Of Saints church, where the toll of the church bells drove the Symbiote from his body, never to be seen again.

Or so he thought.

On the final page of Amazing Spider-Man #299 (1988) by David Michelinie and Todd McFarlane, Mary Jane Watson returns to the home she shares with Peter Parker…only to find a terrifying figure waiting for her. It resembles the black-suited Spider-Man, only its eyes are soulless and misshapen and its mouth is full of razor-sharp fangs.

The following issue expands on Venom’s origin. The Symbiote’s new host is Eddie Brock, a former reporter with a MASSIVE ax to grind. Brock thought he had made his career by scoring an exclusive interview with the serial killer known as the Sin-Eater. However, Spider-Man caught the real Sin-Eater shortly after that and the person Eddie interviewed was revealed to be a fake. Eddie’s life rapidly spiraled out of control—his wife left him, his father disowned him, and the only work he was able to secure was at a sleazy tabloid. In desperation, he headed to Our Lady of Saints, ready to commit suicide…and encountered the weakened Symbiote! The two bonded due to their shared hatred of Peter Parker…and Venom was born!

Venom was unique, especially by the standards of 90s comics (where everyone, villain or hero, had rippling muscles and/or carried insane amounts of ammunition-or both!). He had a distinct look, a clear motive, and eventually vied with Norman Osborn and Doctor Octopus for the title of “greatest Spider-Man foe,” a debate that still rages to this day. He is also one of the few villains in comic book history to continually hold a solo title.

NOW

Venom eventually relocated to San Fransisco, serving as its “Lethal Protector.” He even aided Spider-Man on several occasions, mostly against his deranged offspring Carnage. But life was about to kick Eddie Brock in the teeth once more.

In the Spectacular Spider-Man story arc, “The Hunger,” Brock revealed to Spidey that before he met the Symbiote, he had cancer. The creature not only latched on to Brock because of their mutual hatred but also to feed on the adrenaline his body was producing due to the disease. Brock eventually sold the Symbiote to the criminal underworld, where it found a new host in Mac Gargan—better known as the Scorpion.

Brock sought a new lease on life, working at the FEAST center for the homeless. A chance encounter with Martin Li—secretly the criminal overlord known as Mister Negative—and a confrontation with Gargan, who at the time was part of the hero hunting group known as the Thunderbolts, caused a new personality to emerge within Brock: Anti-Venom!

The Symbiote eventually changed hosts again, this time as part of an effort to kickstart Project Rebirth—the initiative that turned Steve Rogers into Captain America. Its new host was Flash Thompson, war hero and lifelong Spider-Man fan, who had suffered the loss of his legs while stationed in Iraq. Flash completed several wetworks missions as Agent Venom, all the while struggling to control both the Symbiote and his alcoholism. He would eventually join the Guardians of the Galaxy and discover the planet the Symbiotes hailed from.

Eventually, the Symbiote returned to Brock, who has now discovered that everything he thought he knew about the creature was a lie. The God of the Symbiotes, Knull, has awoken…and his darkness threatens to swallow the entire universe. Between his upcoming film in October and the blisteringly brilliant series by Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman, it seems that Venom will continue to haunt Spider-Man and the Marvel Universe for years to come.

 

Recommended Reading:

1984-1985- Marvel Super Hero Secret Wars (first appearance of the Symbiote)

1988- Spider-Man: Birth Of Venom (First appearance of Brock as Venom; Brock’s origins; collects ASM #299 and #300)

1992- Spider-Man: Carnage (First appearance of Carnage)

1993-Venom: Lethal Protector (Venom’s first miniseries, released)

1993– Spider-Man: Maximum Carnage (Spider-Man and Venom unite to stop Carnage)

2004- Spectacular Spider-Man Vol 1: The Hunger (Brock is revealed to have cancer)

2005- Marvel Knights Spider-Man Vol 4: The Last Stand (first appearance of Mac Gargan as Venom)

2007- Thunderbolts: Faith In Monsters (Gargan joins Norman Osborn’s Thunderbolts)

2008- Amazing Spider-Man: New Ways To Die (first appearance of Anti-Venom)

2011-Venom: The Complete Collection By Rick Remender Vols 1 and 2 (Flash Thompson becomes Agent Venom)

2014- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 4: Original Sin (collects the “Planet Venom” arc)

2018- Venom (Vol. 4) by Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman (ongoing; introduces Rex Strickland and Knull, God of the Symbiotes)

Collier, or CJ as he’s known to his friends, is a screenwriter and blogger residing in Seattle. When he isn’t at his laptop or at work, he loves to read comics, watch movies, play card games, and hit the local arcade. Spider-Man is his favorite fictional character of all time.

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