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Friday, 9 February 2018

Comics Explained: Venom (Eddie Brock)

Yesterday, as of writing, Sony released a teaser trailer for their new upcoming movie Venom set to be released in October 2018. This movie is not associated with the MCU despite Venom being one of Spider-Man's greatest foes. Venom is personally one of my favorite Marvel villains, just after Ultron and Dr Doom, so I thought it would be appropriate to discuss the version of Venom which we'll be seeing on the big screen: the Eddie Brock version. Eddie Brock was the first to bear the title of Venom and he is one of two people to be considered the best Venom, the other being Flash Thompson. Despite only appearing as Venom in 1988 Eddie Brock has had a huge publication history, so today we'll only go over certain aspects of his history.

First Appearance of the Suit
The first appearance of the black suit
Venom first appeared in Marvel comics as an alternate version of Spider-Man's suit. In Amazing Spider-Man #252 Spider-Man suddenly appeared in a black suit just before the Secret Wars event. It was in Secret Wars #8 that we got the origin of Spider-Man's black suit. During this event, (which involved many heroes and villains being transported to Battleworld), Spider-Man's suit became damaged so he went to a machine which, according to the Hulk, could create clothing via thought. When he sees the machine a black glob attaches to his suit and spreads across his body forming the now iconic black suit. As Spider-Man had been thinking about the design of Spider-Woman's suit it changed to replicate that, and he also found out that it could mimic street clothing as well as produce webbing. What meant to be an interesting design choice ended up infuriating fans who loathed the new suit design. So much so that in Amazing Spider-Man #258 they got rid of it. Speaking to the Fantastic Four it was revealed that the glob was a sentient being which wanted to permanently bond with Peter Parker but it was also weak to loud sounds and heat. It turned out that the Fantastic Four failed to rid his suit of the symbiote so in Web of Spider-Man #1 Parker went to a church where he used the bells to create enough sound to rid the symbiote. However, by this point the fans had grown to like the suit design so the writers had Black Cat make him a cloth variant which he used interchangeably. 

Marvel has also given an in-universe origin of the symbiote itself. In several stories we found out aspects of the symbiote's life before Battleworld. The symbiotes were an asexual parasitic lifeform from the planet Klyntar which would bond with a host. These parasites would give the host powers but the symbiotes would slowly drain them of their adrenaline until they died. In Venom Super Special #1 it was revealed that after several hosts the Venom symbiote refused to drain the life of its host so, as a result, was seen as an aberration contaminating the gene pool. The symbiote was imprisoned until its prison was incorporated into Battleworld where its first host was actually Deadpool as apart of one of his zany adventures.

Eddie Brock
Brock was made by David Michelinie and Todd MacFarlane, someone who would later go on to create Spawn. Eddie Brock's origin was explained in a short series called Venom: Dark Origin and Venom:Lethal Protector. Eddie's mother died giving birth to him so as a result his devout Catholic father never bonded with his son and kept his distance. He was so devoid of his father's affection that he would steal items from classmates and then return them pretending he had 'found' the missing item in hope this could make him their friend. Brock decided to go into journalism and became a reporter. He thought he got a hot scoop when someone claiming to be the serial killer Sin-Eater offered to do an interview. Quickly the story hit headlines but his fame soon came crashing down. Spider-Man captured the actual Sin-Eater and the man whom Brock had interviewed turned out to be an impostor. Brock was fired and was forced to become a tabloid journalist. Shortly after his wife left him, he became diagnosed with cancer, and went into a spiral of depression. Brock started bodybuilding to exorcise his depression and anger, but nothing could shake his hatred of Spider-Man who had allowed his life to get into this state. Eventually, he went to pray at the same church where Parker had rid the symbiote and it was attracted to Brock. With a shared burning hatred of Spider-Man and Brock's physique through bodybuilding made him the perfect host for the symbiote.
Spider-Man trying to get rid of the suit
Venom's actual first appearance had a big build-up. However, Michelinie never originally intended to have Brock be Venom. Instead Venom was meant to be a woman. Michelinie has since stated his very dark origin for her; a pregnant woman has her husband flag a cab but as the car driver is distracted seeing Spider-Man fighting a villain hits the husband killing him. The woman goes into labor but the baby tragically dies. After briefly losing her mind she blames Spider-Man and then encounters the symbiote. When Michelinie had Venom sneak up on Parker several times in Web of Spider-Man. One time she pushed Parker onto a subway line just as the train was coming. Marvel editors thought fans wouldn't believe that a woman would be a physical threat to Spider-Man so Michelinie invented Brock and made him a body-builder. Venom would finally make his appearance over three issues in The Amazing Spider-Man #298 to #300. #298 has a figure in shadow observing him and the reader can see something black covering his hands. #299 in the last panel Venom appears and frightens Mary Jane setting up #300 where we go over Venom's origins, and they fight. Since then Venom has gone from villain to anti-hero flicking between the two regularly. Thanks to the symbiote Brock also knows that Parker is Spider-Man. Due to how many appearances Venom has made we'll go over a few major ones today.
First Appearance

The Rise of Carnage
Venom v Carnage
Carnage is Marvel's Joker and is one of my other favorite Marvel villains, (you can tell I really like Marvel's symbiotes). In The Amazing Spider-Man #333 the symbiote seemingly died but in reality it went into a comatose state. When it woke it returned to Brock, who was in prison, which he then used to break out. However, the symbiote asexually reproduced during the break out and its offspring attached itself to Brock's cellmate: Celtus Kasady. Kasady was made by Michelinie and artist Mark Bagley with him being a more darker version of the already dark Venom. Kasady was a sadistic serial killer who had an insatiable blood lust and bonded with Venom's brood they became Carnage. Unlike Venom which regularly uses plural pronouns to refer to themselves, Carnage considers itself one entity. Regretting allowing a psychopath like Kasady to get hold of a symbiote Venom teams up with Spider-Man to bring him down before turning on one another. Carnage has since been another one of Spider-Man's main villains.

Lethal Protector and Maximum Carnage
When Brock saw Spider-Man save his ex-wife Ann from a collapsing ferris wheel it made the villain try and do good. He moved back to San Francisco - where he had grew up - and decided to become the lethal protector of an underground homeless society. This became the plot of 1993's Venom: Lethal Protector by Michelinie and artist Mark Bagley. Venom would fight and lethally deal with those who threaten them. However, a corporate survivalist group named the Life Foundation captured Venom hoping to use the symbiotes for their own advantage. They successfully extracted five symbiotes, attached them to hosts, and released them into San Francisco to commit violence to test their abilities. Spider-Man headed to San Francisco where he teamed up with an escaped Venom where the two seemingly destroyed the symbiotes and the facility. Later in a fourteen issue series with Spider-Man Unlimited #1 the 'Maximum Carnage' story happened. When being moved to a new prison the symbiote inside Kasady reawakened allowing him to slaughter his guards and move onto New York. There he recruits a group of followers and they begin wrecking havoc. Feeling guilty in indirectly creating Carnage Venom returns to Manhattan, but Spider-Man refused his help for his violent actions. However, in the end Spider-Man had no choice but to fight with Brock where they finally defeated Carnage.

Other Hosts
Agent Venom
Eddie Brock isn't the only Venom host. His ex-wife Ann briefly was a host. Ann was shot by the new Sin-Eater so he gave her the symbiote to heal, but it started controlling her and she killed two muggers with it. Eventually Brock regained the symbiote. After 2004 Brock tried to get rid of the symbiote, although he still has hallucinations of it, and the symbiote bonded with Mac Gargan. Gargan was originally the villain Scorpion but adopted the symbiote in 2005's Marvel Knights: Spider-Man #9 after being enticed by the prospect of more power. However, Gargan was weaker than Brock and Spider-Man found it easier to beat him - Spider-Man believed this to be the fact that Gargan hated Spider-Man a lot less than Brock did. Unlike with Brock the symbiote had more control causing Gargan to become more violent and even cannibalistic, the symbiote made Gargan eat the Iron Spider's hand. The last host which we'll look at is a fan favorite: Flash Thompson. Flash was Peter Parker's bully but they eventually reconciled, and Flash went on to serve in the army which cost him his legs. In a government attempt to control Venom it was given to Flash who turned into Agent Venom. As Flash refused to kill the symbiote started to stop wanting to kill and began to have a genuine strong bond with Flash. In the recent Marvel Legends publications when the symbiote got a new host it refused to let him kill and tried to escape him to be with Flash. 

Anti-Venom and Return
Despite rejecting the symbiote Brock still had aspects of the symbiote in his blood. With his cancer killing him Brock decided to die quietly doing something good and continued helping the homeless by working in a homeless shelter. However, the owner turned out to be Mister Negative and when Negative touched Brock on the shoulder his powers awakened the symbiote in Brock's blood and cured his cancer. In The Amazing Spider-Man #569 in 2008 Mac Gargan was hunting Spider-Man and sensed a former host. Believing this to be Spider-Man he burst into the homeless shelter and attacked Brock. Coming into contact with the current Venom caused the symbiote in his blood to violently react turning Brock into the Anti-Venom. He would continue his Lethal Protector style of being an anti-hero violently killing drug dealers and he even formed an alliance with the Punisher. In 2012 he became the new Toxin, a symbiote born from Carnage, where he tried to destroy the Venom symbiote.

In Venom Vol. 3 #1 the symbiote gained a new host in the form of gangster Lee Price. In #6 Brock agreed to help the FBI and Spider-Man in separating Price from the symbiote. He succeeded and became Venom once more after a period of over ten years. Meanwhile, in Amazing Spider-Man: Venom Inc. Alpha #1 Flash hoped to regain the symbiote and it did try to return to Flash. However, Flash in the process became the new Anti-Venom.

That is a broad outline of the Venom version of Eddie Brock's history. Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed it. For future blog posts please see our Facebook or catch me on Twitter @LewisTwiby.

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