When Spider-Man villain Venom appears in his own movie Oct. 5, he/they/it will be a lot less complicated than his comic book counterpart — and a lot less Spider-Man-y.
As everyone who watches the Marvel Cinematic Universe knows — and that’s pretty much everyone — the Tom Holland Spider-Man is licensed to Marvel Studios. So he’s unlikely to appear in “Venom,” which is located at Sony Pictures.
Which is not to say there’s zero chance Spider-Man will appear in the film, which stars Tom Hardy. “Venom” director Ruben Fleischer remains coy about the prospect.
“Who's to say whether it's with or without Spider-Man?” Fleischer said at the San Diego Comic-Con. “But I will say this, that there's more than enough Venom to go around. Venom is a really huge character, and Hardy's an amazing actor, and so there's plenty to mine just from Tom's performance, the character, and the world that he inhabits.”
Which tells us exactly nothing. But what you will definitely not see is Venom’s comic book origin, which figures on Spider-Man’s clothes.
Back in 1984, Mattel had the license to make Marvel toys, and wanted a big publishing event from which to launch a line of action figures. Marvel’s editor-in-chief responded by writing “Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars,” which consisted of taking Marvel’s biggest heroes and villains, dumping them on an alien planet with pre-existing plot devices, and having them fight each other for 12 issues.
In the course of the story, Spider-Man’s uniform was damaged. He was directed to a clothes-making machine — I don’t recall if it had an actual name — which manufactured an all-black costume with a stylized white spider emblem. Amazingly, the outfit could mimic Peter Parker’s street clothes (or any other kind of clothes) and manufactured its own webbing.
That’s because, as subsequent adventures would prove, that it wasn’t a costume at all. Spider-Man had picked the wrong machine in “Secret Wars,” and had released a sentient. shapeshifting alien creature called a “symbiote” that was feeding off him.
I think we can all agree that the correct response to this is “yuk.”
Fortunately, Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four) helped separate Parker from his unwelcome visitor and trapped it in a big glass jar. But that wasn’t the end for Blackie McBlacktights.
After a short build-up, “Amazing Spider-Man” #300 (1988) introduced Venom — the black costume and his new “partner,” a disgraced former journalist named Eddie Brock. They had been united by an evil outfit called the Life Foundation, which had been researching the symbiote via secret human experimentation.
Eventually we learned that Brock had become disgraced some years earlier when Spider-Man revealed the identity of a supervillain named Sin-Eater, whereas Eddie had “proved” in various articles for the Daily Globe that Sin-Eater was someone else. He was fired, and he blamed Spider-Man for his journalistic snafu.
And that’s what attracted the symbiote, who felt “rejected” by Spider-Man. Brock was perhaps the one other creature on Earth who hated Spider-Man as much as it did. Together, Brock and his “other” became Spider-Man’s funhouse-mirror arch-enemy — a character who wore Spider-Man’s alternate costume, had all of his powers, was stronger, and could negate the wall-crawler’s spider-sense.
Venom’s savagery and hideous visual struck a chord of some kind among a percentage of Spider-fans, and the character became very popular. And with great popularity, as no one has said but someone should, must come great duplication.
In 1992, the symbiote managed to spawn an offspring. It bonded with a serial killer named Cletus Kasady, to become the extremely lethal Carnage.
(Do not think about how a symbiote might spawn. Do. Not.)
In 1994, the Life Foundation forced the Venom symbiote to spawn again — in quintuplicate. The result was five more symbiotes, named Agony, Lasher, Phage, Riot and Scream. In 2008, in an origin so brain-mushingly convoluted I will not dare summarize it, another Venom spawn became Anti-Venom — a symbiote with all the usual shapeshifting and Spider-powers, but also lethal to the other symbiotes.
And in between, came “Planet of Symbiotes” (2005), a five-part story where we met an entire race of symbiotes, now called Klyntar. Because why stop with a handful of Venom-like characters, when you can have an endless supply from outer space? Think of the sales, man!
Along the way — more than 150 issues of various series and miniseries, as well as virtual co-star status in Spider-Man comics in the ‘90s — Venom has been both a good guy and a bad guy, and a few things in between. The original symbiote has bonded with lots of other people besides Brock and Parker, including Brock’s ex-wife, Spider-villain Mac “Scorpion” Gargan and mobster Angelo Fortunato. For a while the symbiote’s host was longtime Spider-Man supporting character and Vietnam veteran Eugene “Flash” Thompson, who used the symbiote powers for the U.S. military as “Agent Venom.”
And what super-character worth his salt has never been cloned? “None” is the correct answer, which is why a character named Mania was cloned from Venom’s severed tongue (2003). Yes, you can say “yuk” again.
The Venom story has continued to grow — some would say “fester” — with a variety of new series in 2018:
• The new “Venom” ongoing has introduced the “god of the Symbiotes,” created an origin of the Klyntar species, re-written the history of The Celestials and created something called the Necrosword. It’s a huge, sprawling, cosmic-horror background that will inform the character’s stories going forward.
• The recent “Web of Venom: Ve’Nam” one-shot includes not only the worst Vietnam pun you’ve ever heard, but a Klyntar ancestor recruited by a young Nick Fury to fight the Viet Cong. That resulted in a Wolverine appearance, because Wolverine is required, by law, to appear whenever possible in a Marvel comic book. (Well, it sure seems like it.)
• The new “Venom: First Host” miniseries reveals some of the Venom symbiote’s pre-Secret Wars history. It involves a Kree warrior named Tel-Kar, who has returned for his old symbiote buddy.
Almost none of which will appear in “Venom” the movie. According to reports, the film lifts bits and pieces to create its own origin for the character which, thankfully, does not involve an alien clothes-making machine.
Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) will, indeed, be the symbiote’s host. The Life Foundation will be involved, as it was in the 1993 miniseries “Venom: Lethal Protector” — supposedly the source material for the screenplay. Straight from that series comes Life Foundation leader Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmad), who will bond with a symbiote to become Riot.
Just don’t expect Spider-Man to show up. Unless, of course, he does.
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