There are few Marvel Comics characters that have stood the test of time better than Venom. Originally created as a Spider-Man villain in 1988, he went on to become an antihero. This year, Venom celebrates his 30th anniversary, and a lot is going on this year. The Venom movie is out now, the comics have taken the character into game-changing new territory, and he remains a player in Marvel’s animated work.
In this article, we will be revisiting some highlights of Venom’s 30-year history.
Technically, the Symbiote was first created in 1984, as it bonded with Peter Parker and gave Spider-Man his iconic black suit. However, it wasn’t until 1988 that the Symbiote bonded with Eddie Brock, creating Venom.
Traditionally, Brock was a reporter who pursued the identity of the Sin-Eater, until Parker publicly exposed the villain’s true identity. This led to Brock’s journalistic career being ruined, and he later fell into depression. Brock blamed Parker/Spider-Man for his downward spiral and grew to hate him.
After Parker rejected the Symbiote, it united with Brock, forming the being known as Venom. The two worked together to repeatedly fight Spider-Man, going on to become one of the Web-Slinger’s deadliest adversaries. Brock and the Symbiote’s mutual hatred of Parker and Spider-Man only fueled Venom’s strength.
Venom’s popularity exceeded that of your typical Spidey villain, and it led to his eventual solo debut. Titled Lethal Protector, the comic sees Brock move from New York to San Francisco, where he and the Symbiote become more of an antihero/vigilante figure. Venom even teams up with Spider-Man (briefly) to take on five new Symbiotes – Scream, Phage, Riot, Lasher, and Agony – which were created in the Life Foundation.
However, the Symbiote didn’t always stay with Brock, as the Venom mantle has been adopted by several other characters over the years. The second Venom is Mac Gargan, aka the former Scorpion. As Venom, Gargan joined several teams, including the Sinister Twelve and the Thunderbolts. During this time, Brock took on a second Symbiote and become Anti-Venom. Gargan and the Symbiote were later separated when he was imprisoned in The Raft.
The next Venom is a bit different from what’s come before. As part of a black ops program, Flash Thompson used the Symbiote and became Agent Venom. Thompson could only wear the Symbiote in 48-hour intervals, and the government implanted a kill switch in case he went rogue. Thompson would go on to join the Secret Avengers, Thunderbolts, and the Guardians of the Galaxy during his run. He even became a Space Knight for a while. Eventually, the Symbiote was removed from Thompson, and it went on to find another host.
The Symbiote later bonded with Lee Price, a discharged Army Ranger who is part of Black Cat’s gang. Price convinces the Symbiote to return to its more villainous ways, using it for his own personal gain. However, this didn’t last too long, as Price was eventually arrested and separated from the Symbiote, which returned to Brock. In the current run, Brock is discovering the true origins of the Symbiote and its god, Knull, from outer space.
These weren’t the only ones to bond with the Symbiote, however. Ann Weying, Brock’s ex-wife, briefly adopted the Symbiote and became She-Venom, an identity later assumed by Patricia Robertson. Other hosts include Angelo Fortunato and…Deadpool?
Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg, as many alternate forms of Venom exist. But this shows how the character can exist beyond one host, opening up countless storytelling possibilities.
Venom’s popularity also got a boost from the character’s animated appearances, starting in the 1990s Spider-Man series, where he’s voiced by Hank Azaria. This portrayal is your standard Spider-Man vs. Eddie Brock story, and it really popularized the character in the eyes of the public. Venom returned in Spider-Man Unlimited, this time voiced by Brian Drummond. In this series, Eddie Brock and Carnage work together for the Synoptic on Counter-Earth. Unfortunately, just as their master plan begins to unfold, the series was cancelled.
Brock’s Venom played a key role in The Spectacular Spider-Man, where he is voiced by Benjamin Diskin. Like the classic portrayal, Brock hates Peter Parker, and that only increases when he bonds with the Symbiote. He attempts to expose Parker’s secret identity to the world, but he was unsuccessful in that. After that series, Venom appeared in Ultimate Spider-Man, where the Symbiote is a creation of Doctor Octopus’s. The Symbiote bonds with multiple hosts, including Parker and Flash Thompson, before bonding with Harry Osborn and becoming Venom. And finally, Brock’s Venom is a villain on the current Spider-Man series on Disney XD.
Eddie Brock and the Symbiote also appear in various other Marvel animated shows, including Avengers Assemble, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel. And let’s not get into the many, many video games that Venom has appeared in.
Venom also has quite the history on the big screen. Originally, New Line Cinema had the film rights to the character, with David S. Goyer writing a script. The story would have seen Venom as an antihero and Carnage as the villain. However, the film never made it to production, and the Spider-Man series kicked off at Sony.
Venom made his big screen debut in Spider-Man 3, where he was played by Topher Grace. The film tells a story that comic fans already knew: Peter Parker bonds with the Symbiote, he ruins Eddie Brock’s journalistic career, Brock hates Parker, Parker rejects the Symbiote, and Brock bonds with the Symbiote to become Venom. Despite an alliance with Sandman, Brock and the Symbiote were destroyed in the film’s final act. The film’s take on Venom received mixed to negative responses; this could be down to director Sam Raimi’s lack of interest in the character and how he was only included because the producers pushed it.
From there, Sony pushed to give Venom his own movie. At first, it would have been a Spider-Man 3 spinoff with Gary Ross at the helm. Then, Sony tried to fit it into The Amazing Spider-Man franchise, as part of the studio’s cinematic universe plans. We briefly see the Symbiote in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 along with multiple Spider-Man villain references. Josh Trank was in talks to direct at first, before Alex Kurtzman signed on. However, with Sony cancelling The Amazing Spider-Man series and rebooting with Marvel Studios, Venom’s big screen future was put on ice…at least initially.
Sony finally moved forward with Venom, directed by Ruben Fleischer and starring Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock. The film is intended to kick off a new slate of Marvel films for Sony, and for now, it is being kept separate from the Spider-Man series in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Except for that, the movie aims to be a faithful adaptation of Venom lore, depicting the duality of the character and multiple Symbiotes. Will the film succeed in its franchise plans? We’ll have to wait and see.
Really, this is just the tip of the iceberg for all things Venom. But from this alone, it’s clear that he has made quite the legacy in his 30-year history. Whether he’s on his own or he’s tied to Spider-Man, Venom has proven to be one of the most fascinating characters in Marvel Comics lore.
We are Venom, indeed. Here’s to another 30 years.