Last time I promised you the Spider-Man fight of the ages! No, it doesn’t involve the Green Goblin. Or Doc Ock, for that matter. Or even Stegron (sorry George). In fact, this greatest Spider-Man fight doesn’t even include Spider-Man! Get ready boys and girls. This fight is between reigning heavy-weight champion David Michelinie and the contender Erik Larsen. This battle will have it all, folks. We’ll even throw in a little Louise Simonson and Peter David, just for fun.
And since you are a Crawlspacer and have discerning tastes, we are bringing you something guaranteed that you have not seen anywhere else.
And now friends and fellow fans, it is time. We had a virtual bloodbath as we cut through pretenders to the title. Now we will see when all is on the line, who will be THE LAST CREATOR STANDING?
Last post we made an argument that Venom is the symbiote; therefore, the character existed long before it got the name Venom and appeared in ASM #299. However, there is a better argument that Venom is only the merger of Eddie Brock and the symbiote. Reasons for that would include:
- Eddie Brock is a separate entity, so the suit is also a separate entity – it is only by coming together through their mutual hatred of Spider-Man that they bond as Venom.
- In the latest issue of Venom: Space Knight, the suit is considering taking a new name for itself – not itself and Flash, just itself. Combine these two together and it paints the image that each, on their own, are separate beings and are only Venom when joined.
- David Michelinie has flat out stated this and even states that Venom is only Eddie Brock and the symbiote and anyone else who is joined with the symbiote is NOT Venom.
So if we are going to accept this argument, we need to consider all involved. That would be Louise Simonson, David Michelinie, and Todd McFarlane and there are those who endeavor to give all three co-creator titles.
Let’s check Simonson’s claim. I have not found anywhere where she says she ought to have credit, but others have and I feel that after the last post, we really should explore ALL claims (we did, after all, even entertain Byrne’s claim as creator of Venom). So what’s her stake in the creation of Venom? That comes from the end of Web of Spider-Man #1. In this issue, the symbiote has broken free of the Baxter Building and attempted one more time to bond with Peter Parker. Peter fights his own suit to try and make his way to the Fantastic Four before it bonds to him. While this is happening, we get the panel that establishes that the Spider-Sense doesn’t work on the suit (right) and the one below that establishes that the suit has strong feelings for Spider-Man (below).
Now, while we do not have an Eddie Brock/Symbiote bonding here, we have the elements that set it up. David Michelinie has said on multiple interviews that Venom’s main character points are the inability for the spider-sense to pick it up and the mutual hate that the suit and Eddie Brock have for Spider-Man. If these are your basis for Venom, then one could make the case that Simonson “created” it first.
If you are a Peter David fan, then you may be familiar with his take on the issue. PAD uses the WACKO theory (Writer As Creative King/Overlord). He sides with Michelinie in a But I Digress article in which he addresses two letters written to Wizard magazine. PAD does what everyone does when mentioning these letters do – they just mention them. Getting the actual letter proved to be quite difficult. Special thanks to Joe Doe who came through for me on this and got me copies of the letters. Apparently in an earlier issue, co-creator status of Venom was given to McFarlane. Here is Michelinie’s response to that:
I just wanted to drop a note to correct an error in your January issue. First I’d like to thank you for making Venom #1 you top pick of the issue. I hope everyone gets a kick out of the book when it hits the stands. However, I did take exception to being referred to in the issue as ‘co-creator’ of Venom. I assume your writer was thinking of Todd McFarlane, the artist of Amazing Spider-Man at the time Venom made his first appearance, as the other ‘co-creator’. Todd’s visualizations were fabulous, and I’m sure Venom would never have reached the heights of popularity it has if it had been initially drawn by someone with less talent and imagination. Todd’s unique and intense visuals freed me to push the envelope in both dialogue and characterization, and his artistic contributions to the first Venom stories can’t be overemphasized. However, there was only one person who actually created Venom, and that was me. I hate to sound like I’m blowing my own horn, but after 19 years of writing comics, this is the first time I’ve created something that’s resulted in action figures, t-shirts, and its own (unplanned at the time of creation) series. So I guess I’m a little jealous about sharing the credit.
To set the record straight, Venom’s earliest incarnation was actually in Web of Spider-Man #18 (collectors take note!) in an epilogue sequence in which Peter Parker was pushed in front of a subway train, and was spooked by the fact that whoever did it, didn’t trigger his Spider-sense. I’d planned to make the mysterious attacker female, and her background was entirely different from the character who would ultimately become Venom, but the basic idea was still there: someone who hated Spider-Man had joined with the alien symbiote to try to kill our hero. When I left Web, the character I had started to develop went into limbo. Then when Amazing #300 rolled around and editor Jim Salicrup wanted to introduce a new villain in that issue, I brought up my anti-Spidey symbiote-woman. Jim liked the concept, but thought that readers might have trouble accepting a female character smashing Spider-Man through walls. (Feminist readers can take that up with Jim!) So, I made the character male, and came up with the Eddie Brock persona to fit the new origin. The name ‘Venom’ was then derived from the venomous stories the character was forced to write for sleazy tabloids. The new character’s first appearances were in Amazing #298-299. The plots for those issues, including the visual descriptions of the character, were bought by the editor before a regular artist had even been assigned to the book.
So there you have it – the true ‘secret origin’ of Venom! Once again, I hope no one takes this as a swipe at Todd in any way, form, or manner. I had a great time working with him on Amazing and he deserved every bit of fame and fortune that’s come his way. It’s just that Venom sprang from a single, demented mind (my own) and I appreciate your giving me a chance to clear that up.”
Wizard made no introduction nor follow up comment to the letter (but they do answer the next letter that asks if Superman can bend adamantium*).
Today, we would have had a creator just get on Twitter or Facebook and just blast the other guy in an Internet battle. Thankfully Michelinie was writing this before that (although a Twitter blast would have taken a lot less time to retype here), so we get a nicely worded, well thought out response that makes a case for his assertion. Peter David recalls David discussing the Eddie Brock character tying in with the Sin Eater story line before McFarlane was ever assigned to the title, also adding some corroboration to this assertion.
Now his revelation that Venom was originally a female character probably comes as no surprise, but just in case we have a reader who hasn’t heard this before, here is the original idea for the origin of Venom.
During Spider-Man’s battle with the Living Monolith in the graphic novel Revenge of the Living Monolith (but not shown in the actual comic), a pregnant woman started to go into labor. Her husband runs out to flag a cab, but the cabbie is watching Spider-Man and doesn’t see the guy. The guy gets hit and dies. The woman is so distressed that she loses the baby. When she awakens in the hospital, she blames Spider-Man for the loss of her husband and baby. The church she goes to for comfort and solace just happens to be the same church that Spider-Man fights the symbiote. The hurt symbiote finds her and they bond over their mutual hatred of Spider-Man. Readers can see evidence of this when a woman’s hand pushes Peter Parker in front of a subway train in Web of Spider-Man #18.
In just about every interview that Michelinie gives, he praises the story telling ability of Todd McFarlane’s pencils. This letter is no different and he ends with a plea that no one take this as a “swipe” at McFarlane.
Erik Larsen, however, does just that. Larsen wrote a response letter, in Peter David’s words, “using a somewhat more aggressive tone than Dave’s letter,” in which he shows the remarkable ability to foreshadow Internet wars of the future. Here is his take on it:
Brother, that Michelinie clown’s got a lot of gall. He swipes the existing alien Spider-Man with its existing powers (it already hated Spider-Man) and puts it on a poorly motivated and poorly conceived character. Todd takes Dave’s description of a big guy in the existing Spider-Man outfit and adds his own touch of grinning face, with accompanying fangs, slobber, long teeth, and claws – and then Dave claims sole creation of the Venom character! Yeah, right. I suppose he’d claimed to have created Spider-Man, too, if he could get away with it. I’ll give Dave credit for co-creating Eddie Brock if he’d like (McFarlane was still responsible for designing the character visually) but that’s not much to crow about. One-dimensionable, hate-driven, revenge-hungry characters are a dime a dozen. Eddie was the main reason I disliked the character so much. Eddie’s motivation for disliking Spider-Man, as you may recall, is that he was a reporter who believed a guy who was claiming to be the Sin-Eater. Eddie got canned from the paper for writing his series of fact-lacking articles. His rationale for hating Spidey was that if Spidey didn’t catch Sin-Eater he’d never get caught and he could continue writing his bogus articles, is completely idiotic. Sin-Eater would have eventually been caught be somebody else. The man who confessed to Eddie didn’t have his name printed in the paper, so it wasn’t like the world would know he was talking to the wrong guy. What would Eddie have poor Spidey do – allow innocents to be slaughtered just for the sake of maintaining his journalistic integrity? DUMB. The whole Venom/Spider-Man conflict could be resolved in two panels of half-way thought out dialogue, if only a writer capable of such a feat could be given the assignment.”
So Larsen gives his views of the situation for McFarlane’s defense and even though he makes a mistake by attributing the long tongue to McFarlane when it was actually Larsen himself that created it (Why? Who knows? Blinded by hatred of Michelinie (Michelinie did say in other interviews that Larsen hated him, but did not know why)?) Faulty memory? Crush on McFarlane?), we cannot rule out his argument that Todd created the look of Venom, which, by all rights, would give him co-creator status. This letter IS given a response by Wizard. They point out that they gave Michelinie a chance to reply due to “its volatile nature”, but that Michelinie declined the opportunity. They then go on to cast their vote that the visual interpretation of the character is as important to the creation of the character as is the writing of it.
So what exactly does McFarlane have to say about it? In an interview on Comics Creators on Spider-Man, he described Michelinie’s description of the look of Venom as “a big guy in the black costume.” This agrees with Larsen’s letter. He goes on to say, “I wondered if the alien costume was more like a shell that sort of swallowed the man. That meant Venom didn’t have to look like a guy wearing a suit, which is why I was able to hunch him over a little bit and change some of the muscle structure. I also changed the way his face looked. I just wanted to make him a little kooky and creepy, and not just some guy in a black suit.”
Just going by this, it would appear that McFarlane does indeed deserve some creator status in setting up the look of Venom.
These are the pages that the debate is all about.
So it really just comes down to how much of the visuals did McFarlane contribute? If all Michelinie said was “a big guy in the black suit,” then certainly McFarlane can get some credit, especially for that evil smile Venom has (gives the Spidey suit a very strange look indeed). If Michelinie detailed out exactly what Venom looks like, then I feel that McFarlane’s claim is down to character developer rather than co-creator. The problem is that the plot for the pages below do not exist on the Internet.
Until now, that is. BD in his infinite awesomeness gave me David Michelinie’s contact information and I was able to ask Michelinie for a clarification on what was actually written for the description of Venom. I was hoping for a response and would have been delighted with a summary of what Michelinie remembered. Michelinie, however, went above and beyond and gave me the EXACT wording of the plot. So, in a CRAWLSPACE EXCLUSIVE bcause you the fans DEMANDED IT, here is the plot of the last two pages of Amazing Spider-Man #299 (plot dated May 26, 1987), picking up just as Mary Jane comes home to a dark apartment and turns on a lamp:
“…she starts as she looks over to a still-shadowy corner where she sees the white spider and eye-shapes from Spidey’s costume. Thinking that Peter is home, she starts to scold him gently–but stops, surprised, as she sees a white smile form beneath the eye-shapes. Not a pretty smile; a scary smile. Like that of a predator sure of a quick kill. The form then steps from the shadows and we see that it is dressed in a Spider-Man costume, but it is definitely not Peter Parker. Besides the feral smile, the man’s body is huge, massively muscled–like Arnold Schwarzenegger on a good day. MJ backs up, terrified, as the stranger reaches a hand out towards her, his lopsided animal smile stretching to the point where it almost connects behind his head, a totally inhuman gesture. Then, at last, he speaks: ‘Hi, honey…I’m home!’”
For those of you who wondered if McFarlane created the bulky body or the mouth which might be grounds for co-creator status, this should settle that matter. It appears that Michelinie had very clear vision of what Venom should look like and McFarlane did a great job of bringing that vision to the page. And I absolutely love the clarification that it is Schwarzeneggar on a GOOD day. Wouldn’t want Venom looking like Arnold on a BAD day.
Not only does this answer the question of creatorship, it also gives us a glimpse of how the sausage is made. I wish we had more access to what the scripts and pots look like before the artist brings it to life.
So there you have it. We have assessed the creation of Venom going all the way back to the original idea of a black suit by Randy Schueller and tracked it all the way to the binding of Eddie Brock and the symbiote. While many can claim development status, and while there are those who argue if Venom’s origin is the introduction of the symbiote or the combination of Eddie Brock and the symbiote, this writer is going to have to come down firmly on David Michelinie and David Michelinie alone.
David, Peter. “The WACKO Theory.” Peter David. Word Press, 5 July 2010. Web. 19 Feb. 2016. <http://www.peterdavid.net/2010/07/05/the-wacko-theory/#more-4742>.
DeFalco, Tom. Comics Creators on Spider-Man. London: Titan, 2004. Print.
Douglas, Brad. “David Michelinie Podcast Interview Online.” Spider-Man Crawlspace. N.p., Podcast. 20 Sept. 2008. <https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/1533034b76a6e04d>.
Gvosden, Dan. “Spider-Talk and Their Amazing Friends w/ David Michelinie.” Amazing Spider-Talk. Superior Spider-Talk, Podcast. 23 July 2015. <https://superiorspidertalk.com/spider-talk-and-their-amazing-friends-w-david-michelinie/>.
Larsen, Erik. Letter to the Editor. Wizard #23 July 1993: 11. JPG Scan.
Martineau, Shaun. “Venom: Spaceknight #4 Review (Spoilers).” Spider-Man Crawlspace. WordPress, 29 Feb. 2016. Web. 3 Mar. 2016. <http://www.spidermancrawlspace.com/2016/02/29/venom-spaceknight-4-review-spoilers/>.
Michelinie, David. Comic Book Writer. Personal Interview. 1 Mar. 2016.
Michelinie, David. Letter to the Editor. Wizard #21 May 1993: 12. JPG Scan.
“Revenge of the Living Monolith (Marvel Graphic Novel #17).” Comics Chronology. SuperMegaMonkey, N.d. Web. 5 Mar. 2016. <http://www.supermegamonkey.net/chronocomic/entries/marvel_graphic_novel_17_reveng.shtml>.
Marvel Unlimited Scans
* According to the editors at Wizard, the answer is yes – Superman can bend adamantium with incredible effort.