With the upcoming Venom relaunch introducing a new host for the symbiote, and an upcoming Deadpool mini-series revealing that Deadpool hosted the symbiote before Eddie Brock, it’s worth looking at the symbiote’s best-known host.
One of the things that makes Venom unique among Spider-Man villains is the way the character was set-up before he made his first appearance. There was a cameo in Amazing Spider-Man #298 that suggested that someone with super-powers really hates Spidey.
The next issue, he paid a visit to Mary Jane. We get our first sense of what the character looks like, and learn that he knows Peter Parker’s secret identity, and is willing to go after his loved ones.
Readers sent in letters speculating on the identity of the character. In Amazing Spider-Man #302, Tom Dohman had a guess.
Lastly, the epilogue. Is the mystery man, perhaps, Kraven the Hunter?
David Pliel was more confident.
Concerning Spider-Man #298, KRAVEN’S BACK. Can’t wait for #300.
Jack Sutor had a different prediction.
I think I know who the mysterious character at the end of the issue was: SPIDEY’S CLONE! All those pictures of Ol’ Web Head up on the wall are all the proof I need. It shows that the clone was studying up on the original to see how he’d changed over the years. Who else would be able to mentally control the creature like Spidey did?
In the letters pages of Amazing Spider-Man #303, James Friend had a prescient guess.
Who is Venom? From what I’ve seen he is powerful, revengeful, insane and knows the identity of Spider-Man. There is only one person that adds up to—Norman Osborn. But that’s impossible, he’s dead. Hmm, I wonder.
All of these predictions would come to pass in later storylines, just not this one.
David Michelinie confirmed that he had seeded Venom in his run of Web of Spider-Man. In the end of #18, Peter Parker was attacked by a villain who didn’t set off his spider sense.
In an interview, Michelinie explained this was the genesis for Venom’s existence. He figured it would be impressive to have a villain who can’t be detected by Peter’s spider-sense.
Whenever I got a chance to write a new (for me) character, I tried to figure out what makes that character unique and then I exploit it. In Peter Parker’s case, his early warning Spider-sense stood out as something unmatched in the Marvel Universe. It has saved his life countless times by warning him of danger before he could be harmed. So I wondered…what would happen if there was a villain that didn’t trigger that Spider-sense? It had already been established, in the Secret Wars story line, that the alien symbiote which had been Spider-Man’s living costume for a while didn’t activate his Spider-sense. And since Spider-Man had cast the symbiote aside, the creature was likely feeling hurt and angry about that rejection. So attaching the symbiote to a host who shared a similar hatred for the wall-crawler seemed like it would make for an interesting-and very dangerous-spider-foe.
In a later issue, Venom attacked Peter again.
This was a bad guy with a lot of set-up. You’d think the payoff would have to be impressive. Then, in Amazing Spider-Man #300, Venom was unmasked as a guy who had never appeared in the comics before. Peter recognized him due to his professional reputation, rather than any previous interactions.
Brock had a connection to the Sin-Eater story, an idea David Michelinie ran by Peter David, who later recalled how he quickly approved it.
Indeed, although David doesn’t mention it, I recall very distinctly when he was putting together the basics of the character—particularly because he discussed them with me. Not that I contributed anything to the character’s development: I didn’t. But there was a connection with the Sin-Eater/Jean DeWolff story I’d written, and David ran it past me in a “How does this sound to you as a tie-in?” sort of manner. It seemed pretty keen to me. And Todd was nowhere in sight, or even connected with the title at that time.
While the comics introduced Eddie after he became Venom, pretty much every adaptation of Venom’s first appearance introduces Eddie Brock as someone who knows Peter Parker, before showing his downfall and encounter with the symbiote. He was a rival photographer at the Daily Bugle in the 1990s cartoon.
He was the son of scientists who died in the accident that took the lives of Peter’s parents in Ultimate Spider-Man. This was a soft retcon as an earlier storyline featured another Eddie Brock who was a photographer, like the one in the comics. Bendis explained the changes in an interview for Comics Explorer magazine.
Ultimate Venom (is) the most-overhauled villain of all the Spider-Man villains, because of the way Venom was created — the alien symbiote, whatever that means, that doesn’t fit into the book that Ultimate Spider-Man is. We created a drama around Peter, his past and his parents, that involves Venom, and we think it’s pretty damn interesting. It’s about friends, it’s about the past, and it’s about family. On top of all that, it’s about the corporate greed that Ultimate Spider-Man’s been about since the beginning.
In Spider-Man 3, Eddie Brock worked at the Bugle and tried to hit on Gwen Stacy.
One factor is that when writers are adapting the alien costume saga, they know what the endgame is. This wasn’t clear when the original comics were made. When Tom DeFalco revealed that the costume was a living thing, and Louise Simonson pit the alien costume against Peter in Web of Spider-Man #1, they weren’t thinking of how cool it would be for a bad guy to get their hands on it. When Michelinie had his insight, it was some time after the costume was believed to have been finished off.
Michelinie’s original plans for the character were quite different from what later ended up happening. As he explained in an interview with Tom DeFalco in Comics Creators on Spider-Man, he wanted it to be a woman who has a reason for hating Spider-Man.
I originally wanted the character to be a woman. She was pregnant and about to give birth. Her husband is rushing to get her to a hospital. He runs into the road trying to flag down a cab, but the cabbie is looking up at Spider-Man who is fighting someone—it might even be the Living Monolith from my graphic novel. The cabbie doesn’t see the husband and accidentally hits and kills the guy. The woman sees her husband splattered in front of her and she just goes into labor. She loses the child and her mind at the same time, and is institutionalised. Though she eventually gets her mind back, she blames Spider-Man for the death of her husband and her child. The alien costume, which has also been hurt by Peter Parker, is drawn to the woman because of her intense hatred of Spider-Man. The costume then bond with her to try to kill Peter.
When I was switched to Amazing Spider-Man, Jim Salicrup told me that he wanted to do something special in issue #300, and he suggested I introduce a new character. I hit him with the idea of using the alien costume. Though he liked it, he wasn’t sure the readers would see a woman as a physical threat to Spider-Man, even a woman enhanced by the alien costume.
There was a gap of one year between Venom’s cameos in Web #24 and Amazing #298, so the earlier cameos probably fit the original plans, prior to Salicrup’s veto.
In Comics Creators, Todd McFarlane explained his rationale from drawing Venom the way he did. This is likely a significant factor for Venom’s appeal.
Dave originally described Venom as a big guy in the black costume. Now, I’ve always had an affinity for monsters, so 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 the face looked. I just wanted to make a little kooky and creepy, and not just some guy in a black suit.
The famous cover for Amazing Spider-Man #316 might exemplify this approach to Venom.
While it was a weird moment when a mystery character turned out to be someone new, that wasn’t enough to spoil the issue, which appears on several “Best Of” lists. Venom had a great look, and an interesting combination of abilities—he was a physically imposing mirror of Spider-Man, but he also knew Peter’s secret identity and he could get around the spider-sense—and attitude. The first appearance sold out, and the character would soon make annual returns, with his first two storylines collected in one of the first Marvel TPBs ever: Spider-Man VS Venom.
So, what do you guys think of Venom? Why was he so popular, and could he have been any more successful with some tweaks? Or was this a case where everything came together just right, and any changes might have spoiled the result?