Story by John Semper & Mark Hoffmeier
Teleplay by Mark Hoffmeier
Originally Broadcast on May 13, 1995
THE PLOT: Spider-Man has sucessfully rid himself of the alien symbiote, and is very much looking forward to his date with Mary Jane. But a gatecrasher makes himself known as the embodiment of the hatred between the symbiote and one Eddie Brock. Guess who!!!
LONG STORY SHORT: Venom beats up and humiliates Spider-Man all over the place. Spidey eventually tricks him to the nearest shuttle base and manages to have the symbiote forcibly removed from Brock’s person, thus saving his life and identity.
MY THOUGHTS: We reach the finale of the classic Alien Costume arc, and witness the introduction of Spidey’s hottest villain at the time this episode originally aired. Venom is always a fun character when written correctly, and this episode does a really solid job of presenting him as a force to be reckoned with, both physically and psychologically. That is as it should be, as many of this episode’s cues stem directly from David Micheline and Todd MacFarlene’s Amazing Spider-Man issues where Venom first appeared and really came into his own. While presenting a strong opposition in the first act, it’s not until the second act where he really gets to shine, torturing Peter mentally until he can’t take it anymore. It is another impression that was left on many young fans minds and why Venom as a Spider-Man villain rules. Both this and the Spectacular Spider-Man had Venom be the first villain in the show’s canon to learn of Spidey’s secret identity, and they both exploit it well. However, if I had to choose which did it better, I might lean more favorably towards this version.
Which leads me to another strong difference between this series’ interpretation of Venom, Eddie Brock and the symbiote all respectively and the Spectacular Spider-Man’s. I say I perfer this Venom in terms of mind games, but I must admit that Spec Spidey had Venom down pat in terms of his ferocity and physical domination of Spider-Man. It must be kept in mind that Venom HATES Spider-Man. He absolutely hates him and wants him dead. What Spec Spidey did right was have Eddie not waste any time in beating the crap out of Peter the first chance he could. It’s also why I had a big smile on my face in Spider-Man 3 when Venom socked Tobey MaGuire in the jaw and blood poured out of his mouth. Compared to this, which admittedly was the fault of the censors, the violence is largely dialed down for a less punishing showdown. In my opinion that really does kind of gut the character of Venom in that his physical presence with the enormous muscles and bulgy veins are not meant to be just for show. He’s supposed to be in visualization everything Spider-Man isn’t. Whereas Spider-Man is strong and lean in body type with a shade of colorful mystery in his costume, Venom is large and imposing with an all black appearance and a vicious jaw that has a yard-length tongue to fully enjoy Spider-Man’s suffering with. When Spider-Man sees Venom, he as well as the audience should have a though in their heads akin to “Oh crap, I’m gonna die.” Having that, and then not delivering on it is a bit of a let down, but again I don’t think I can solely blame the show for that as much as I can blame Fox at the time.
This episode wasn’t without its action though. Far from it, as the fight scenes, weak compared to Spectacular Spider-Man as they were, weren’t really bad. Sometimes they were pretty creative. I do like the scene when Spider-Man’s webline is yanked by Venom only to have Peter kick him into the wall leaving a large crack behind him. The action scenes did become “punchy-punchy-run-run” after a while, but it wasn’t that bad. It served to show how outmatched Spidey was against Venom, as he’s never faced a foe like this before.
Going back to Venom’s interpretation in this episode, I really feel as though if the directing and animation were as dark as the first part’s, this would have been a very deadly serious episode of Spider-Man, easily the best of all time. Generally the script was really good, but I felt the directing could have been so much better. The opening scene of Eddie working out was almost perfect, except we should not have seen Venom’s face at the very end. The scene where Venom takes down Shocker and Rhino inside of thirty seconds was great, except we should not have seen Venom then either. The second part had it right in that Venom’s face wasn’t shown, but his power and voice both were. Even though he’s in the bloody opening, it would just have added so much to the atmosphere if you see the giant web holding Shocker and Rhino together, and then see Eddie Brock standing triumphantly over Spider-Man. It’s nice on its own, but it would have been so much better had the audience saw it through Spider-Man’s eyes, and had not seen Venom eight seconds earlier.
Barring that miss-step, I imagine if you were a Spider-Man fan in 1994 and had not dropped the books you would have been happy with how Venom was treated here. Generally. Like Spectacular Spider-Man, this version of Brock is indeed different from the comics. The whole Catholic guilt aspect of the character is gone, which isn’t really noticeable until Venom threatens Aunt May and Mary Jane. Back in the comics, that’s something he repeatedly said he would never do. At the same time you get the feeling he was just goading Peter on. Like a Black Lantern tugging at the heart strings fro emotion, the scene where he counter’s Peter’s webshooter was directly after he started to threaten the people in Peter’s life, which makes it seem as though it was a scare tactic to get Peter to lose focus. I actually perfer this version’s personality best of all, thanks in large part to Hank Azaria. Once again, he is a perfect voice for a modern day 90s Venom. (Ben Diskin is still awesome, but he serves as a young Brock) His interspersing of the Venom voice and his voice was really cool, and some of his lines came off really sinister in that New York accent, particularly as he has Spidey in a headlock “We’re your old clothes, kid. Yer hand-me downs…” The subtle pleasure he takes in torturing Spider-Man comes through in every line, which makes him just as good in his role as Barnes is as Spidey IMO.
Design-wise, this was a bit of a letdown. Part of it goes towards the animation which really needed to be as good as the first two parts, but failed to measure up. It wasn’t bad, just fairly average. There were some nice scenes here and there, like where Venom webs up Spider-Man in that piñata pose, and some of the fighting. But where the design in concerned, why does Venom have to be half red? Why is that necessary? That is easily the worst thing about this interpretation, partly because it’s just a distracting color choice. Partly because Spider-Man’s black design was so cool and Venom’s fails miserably. Partly because it looks even worse at night. As a kid, I took it to be a bit of visual foreshadowing to get ready for Carnage, but I doubt seriously that that’s what they were going for. I can only imagine how cool the design could have been with the former part’s animation teams, but at the same time Venom was probably hard to design for the show in the first place. In the comics, his design basically went from a pumped up version of Spider-Man black costume with a creepy smile, to “Mr. Aligator Jaw and Gene Simmons tongue” They were trying to keep up with the times, which is why Venom is in the first season to begin with. It’s still no excuse for the half red coloring.
As said before, the second act is when Venom really began to shine. The mind games he played with Peter, and the hallucinatory effects Peter began to suffers from as a result were great. Even though I’ve seen this episode countless times before, seeing Eddie with Mary Jane outside of the theater made me laugh out loud, because it was so…not nice. Likewise with him buttering up Aunt May, which is straight out of the second MacFarlene Venom fight. It was a nice range of push and pull. It never went over the top, yet it was pushed when it could get away with being so. Following Peter and Mary Jane into the subway as Venom just walking down the sidewalk was awesome, as was going from being cordial with Aunt May to single handedly pushing a tree over the house. It was great all around, and it’s an aspect of the character that could have gotten old quickly, yet wasn’t pushed far enough in the comics. Only three stories that I’ve read, all consecutive, have had Venom act that way. It really was very entertaining.
Getting away from the tongued one for a moment, the other scenes with the supporting cast were hit and miss. The scenes with Jameson and Robbie at the Bugle were nice because it tied the three parter all together. This episode could have easily just stuck with Venom and gotten away with it, but this way is better as it gives off a sense of continuity and the passage of time. Conversely, the scenes with Mary Jane were not very good at all. Not where Venom was stalking her and Peter, but just her portrayal. MJ’s first two appearances were really nice, but in this episode she just comes off as “the girlfriend”. I really don’t think she would blindly follow Peter’s instructions to not ask any questions, yet go with him wherever especially after their second date, even considering that *SPOILERS* this version doesn’t know he’s Spider-Man. It’s obvious why she was in this episode, despite not being in the previous two parts. Her fear of Venom in ASM #300 was a memorable part of that issue, and so adding onto her and Peter’s relationship in a Venom episode makes sense. But the character introduced and established in the two previous episodes was made of better stuff than what was presented here, and it just felt wrong to me.
One final thing about the other characters, where did Shocker and Rhino come from? I guess Shocker got away after part 2, and maybe Rhino did as well but they come out of the clear blue in the episode’s beginning with no explanation. Speaking of zero explanations, didn’t Brock get evicted from his apartment in the last episode? How’s he back?
As a whole, the Alien Costume saga stands alone as a significant part of not only the series’ first season, but the series itself. I agree with Gerard in that it would have served the show better to do what Spec Spidey did years later and have Venom be introduced in the season finale instead of the November sweeps. Nevertheless, despite how much I bigged the three parter up in the first part’s review I am surprised how much all three parts hold up even today. The latter two have their respective faults, but no show is perfect. Comparing to the much more overally sucessful show Spectacular Spider-Man, this series’ version of the Alien Symbiote is still the version most burned into fans’ minds, as it should be. It’s action packed, psychological, and stands the test of time as loud and strong as Christopher Daniel Barnes yelling in a church.
4 “MARY JAAANE!!!”s/5
Best Quote Contender:
Spider-Man: “Brock, I know you hate me but-“
Venom: “Hate you? What made you think that?” *Hurls a fan blade at Spidey* “We’re your biggest FAN!!”
all images taken from marvel.toonzone.com and drg4.wariocompany.com respectively