On paper, Venom, not the Green Goblin, should be Spidey’s greatest villain. The key word here is “should be” as Venom is no longer a villain, having made that rare transition into anti-hero status.
Venom’s true potential as Spidey’s nemesis began from the day Peter Parker forcefully removed his iconic black costume at the Baxter Building (The Amazing Spider-Man #258, 1984).
Since then, Venom has evolved from a mere alien organism/costume to a scorned host-seeking Symbiote hellbent on destroying Parker’s life, making his debut 30 years ago in 1988’s The Amazing Spider-Man #300.
While all these did make Venom a formidable threat in the 90s, his popularity gradually waned due to failures in developing Venom’s most popular host – Eddie Brock and the increased focus on other Venom-offsprings like Carnage, Toxin and Anti Venom.
Venom’s story may have evolved beyond Brock in the comics throughout the years, but he is back in the black with the relaunch of the Venom title via Marvel’s Fresh Start initiative, just in time for the release of the upcoming Venom movie in October, which stars Tom Hardy as Brock.
Begin in black
Venom’s story started off as a black costume that Spider-Man discovered on Battleworld during the 1984 Secret Wars event.
First introduced in The Amazing Spider-Man #252 (1984), the new “suit” seemed like the perfect upgrade, with its inexhaustible supply of “organic” webbing and ability to mimic Peter Parker’s street clothes.
The original idea for the new costume came from Marvel comics reader Randy Schueller, who pitched an idea for a new “unstabled molecules” costume for Spidey in 1982. Then Marvel’s Editor-In-Chief Jim Shooter liked the idea so much that he got it from Schueller… for a mere US$220 (RM902)!
Writer Tom DeFalco and artist Ron Frenz later established that the costume was actually an alien Symbiote trying to permanently bond with Peter.
After Reed Richards confirmed the fact, Peter rejected it, leading to a battle in which he repels it with the sound waves from a cathedral bell (Web Of Spider-Man #1, 1986).
Birth of Venom
At this point, Venom was not known as Venom yet. The villain known as Venom only made his first full appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man #300 (1988), and along with it, the introduction of the Symbiote’s most famous host, Eddie Brock.
Created by David Michelinie and Todd McFarlane, Brock is a disgraced journalist who is fired after accusing the wrong man of being a serial killer (the real killer is later caught by Spider-Man).
Angry, depressed and suicidal, he happens to be at the same church where Peter used a bell to repel his Symbiote costume. Sensing Brock’s emotions and destructive nature, the Symbiote bonds with Brock, gifting him Spider-Man like powers, and turning him into the villain called Venom.
In 2008, Brock was separated from the Venom Symbiote, but bonded with two other Symbiotes after that – the anti-hero Anti-Venom (which in turn was sacrificed to cure the “Spider-Island” epidemic), and the Toxin Symbiote.
The origin of the Venom Symbiote has since been expanded, with it hailing from a planet named Klyntar, which was devoured by Galactus.
Traditionally, the Symbiotes are a benevolent species that believes in helping others via a “bonding” process. However, if the host is chemically imbalanced or culturally malignant, it will end up corrupting the Symbiote.
Apart from empowering and enhancing its host’s natural abilities, having a Symbiote “buddy” will grant you superhuman strength, agility, shapeshifting ability, healing factor, etc. It also comes with historical baggage in the form of past host’s memories – which may be an advantage OR a disadvantage.
Because it previously bonded with Spider-Man, all subsequent hosts of the Venom Symbiote have his powers, and also cannot be detected by his spider-sense!
Each Symbiote also has its own unique ability – Venom has a venomous bite, Carnage has 360° vision, Toxin has a fluid physical build, and so on.
From zero to hero
Besides Brock, the Venom Symbiote has also bonded with his ex-wife Anne Weying (Venom Sinner Takes All #2), Patricia Robertson (Venom, Vol.1 #10), Angelo Fortunato (Marvel Knights Spider-Man #7) and former Scorpion Mac Gargan (Marvel Knights Spider-Man #10).
The most startling Venom transformation, however, was when ex-Spidey Fan Club Founder and President, Flash Thompson, played host to the Symbiote.
Having lost both his legs at the Iraq War, Flash jumped at the chance to be bonded with the Venom-Symbiote, which enabled him to walk again. Unlike past hosts, who were destructive by nature, Flash’s pro-Spidey nature changed the Symbiote’s attitude towards the wall-crawler.
He made his debut as ‘Agent Venom’ in 2011’s The Amazing Spider-Man #654, a more military-inspired, heroic version of the character that led to several stints with the Secret Avengers, Thunderbolts and the Guardians of the Galaxy, and even a role as intergalactic ambassador of Earth and an Agent of the Cosmos in 2016’ Venom: Space Knight series!
Flash is eventually seperated from the Symbiote after the FBI attack them with a high-tech suit, and the Symbiote bonds with a cruel former army ranger named Lee Price. Price was then defeated by Spider-Man, but Brock “rescued” it from the FBI to become Venom once more.
Venom aside, there are other Symbiotes running around the Marvel Universe, including (deep breath): Carnage (ASM #361); Toxin (Venom Vs Carnage # 2), Anti Venom (ASM #569); Dreadface (Fantastic Four #360); Scream, Lasher, Phage, Agony and Riot (all from Venom Lethal Protector #4, which is said to have some influence on the movie), Hybrid (Venom: Along Came A Spider #1), Payback (True Believers), ZZZXX (X-Men: Kingbreaker #2), Scorn (Carnage #5), Mania (Venom #31), Marcus (Deadpool: The Gauntlet #8), Karl Malus (Captain America: Sam Wilson # 3) and the Agents of the Cosmos (Guardians Of The Galaxy #23).
And that’s not even counting the recent Venomverse mini-series, which saw different “Venoms” bond with Marvel heroes from various parallel universes teaming up against a deadly threat called the Poisons, an alien species capable of assimilating Symbiotes and their hosts.
Venomverse then spun-off into X-Men/Venom crossover Poison X, where the time-displaced X-Men: Blue team teamed up with Brock to fight the Poisons in space. That in turn led into Venomized, in which the Poisons attack Earth itself! If you ever wanted to see Venomized versions of all your favourite Marvel superheroes and villains, this story is for you.