So the trailer for the Venom movie is out; let’s figure out what’s up with that. Firstly Spider-Man is a household name and most everyone knows at least the basics of Peter Parker’s story, maybe a few villains tossed in as well. The most popular villain through the ’90s was Venom, an angry psycho guy in a liquidy black suit that had similar powers to Spider-Man but was… mean. The new Venom movie is another attempt at some of the darker, edgier corners of the Marvel universe. Is he a bad guy? Is he an anti-hero? Will he save people or eat their face off? Oh, the suspense. Oh, the CGI.We’ll have to see if this will end up being a film that is recommendable to a non-comic fan audience, but it’s always good to get some variety of characters and stories in a world overrun with super heroes. Unlike Deadpool, who appeared at roughly the same time and quickly went from elite assassin to unabashed Looney Tunes character, Venom has maintained some of his original menace and threat and as successful as the brighter and poppier Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy movies are in their own comic booky way, there is always an audience- in film and print- who want the blood and violence turned up a bit.
There’ll also be a pull to watch just for the star Tom Hardy, universally agreed to be better for the role than Spider-Man 3’s attempt at casting Venom with Topher Grace. Tom Hardy’s success as Bane cemented him as “comic book legit” so if he can do the same with Venom, then this will work. Just sprinkle some of his Bronson or the rabbi from Peaky Blinders in there and we’re good to go.
But enough about Hollywood, that place is lame; all the cool kids care more about the comic books.
It’s the ’80s, things are getting cooler, things are getting grittier, no one wants to read the same ol’ Spider-Man… but Spider-Man in a cool new black suit? Buy. So the story is Spidey is in outer space with his nerdy Marvel friends like the Fantastic Four. He ends up getting his hands on this sci-fi black goop that can form itself into any shape – perfect for a secret identity – street clothes, business casual, black Spider-man outfit. It’s a super suit for a superhero. Years roll by and Spidey is looking cool in the ’80s, turns out it shoots better webbing than his old inventions, this stuff is awesome! But whoops… it’s actually an evil alien creating a symbiotic relationship with its host and trying to take over your mind and body. We’ve all been there. Struggle, struggle, and finally Spidey frees himself; it turns out the alien symbiote is weak against intense heat and intense sound. Peter Parker goes back to his old school outfit and the symbiote eventually finds its way to Eddie Brock, a guy with anger issues who just sucks and doesn’t like Peter Parker. Mix the symbiote with Eddie Brock = Venom.
Now, in the comic-collecting world people like first appearances. So when was the first appearance of this black costume/alien symbiote? Most will say Amazing Spider-Man #252, but then thousands of other comic nerds join in on the debate then it’s Spectacular Spider-Man #90. No, it’s Marvel Team-up #141, no it’s Secret Wars #8. No it can’t be Secret Wars #8 because it came out a couple months after the others. No, but, that’s where it appears in the story first. No, so maybe that’s the origin story? Not the first appearance?
…. Life is now more complicated.
Jump forward to the ’90s and the symbiote has left Peter Parker and taken over Eddie Brock. So where is the first appearance of Venom? It was in Amazing Spider-Man #300! But no … someone else is saying it was #299. But that was more of a cameo. Are we counting cameos or full appearances? Does a hand in the shadows count as an appearance? What about Web of Spider-Man #24? Even with his first appearance(s) he’s popping up all over the place and making a big splash. Add to that, Todd McFarlane of later Spawn fame was the new artist on Amazing Spider-Man at the time and you have the top hot shot artist of the ’90s illustrating the top hot shot villain of the ’90s and you get yourself a solid new popular character. Well, if you’ve got a popular character you’ve got to beat that horse long past it’s dead and give the people more than they ever wanted; Venom is evil, now Venom is reformed and a good guy, now the symbiote is off Eddie Brock, now it’s back on him, now it’s in a different form and changed colors. Make a red one that is crazier. Make a white one, that’s cool. Make the symbiote get used as a military weapon to cover Flash Thompson while he fights as a good guy. In outer space. Now he’s… Venom Space Knight.
Turns out there’s a whole alien race of these things. Turns out one of them is in a magic sword? Short version is that comic books have no boundaries and go all over the place with these stories. Some people only like Venom as a villain. Some people like it when he’s a good guy. Some people like it when he can shoot lasers in outer space and join the Guardians of the Galaxy. Every writer has their own take on where they want the story to go, their own ideas on what would be cool to add to the character if they ever had a chance to do it. Sometimes it makes something awesome, sometimes it makes a story that sucks. It’s an evolving medium and the stories are fluid and always moving forward.
For most people films are a good way to keep up with the basics, have an idea of what characters are out there and get some quick entertainment. For the hardcore fans (and this applies to fans of any characters) the Venom story can go back to 1984 and many have followed every twist and turn along the way. A movie isn’t going to be able to capture that level of minutia or that breadth of storytelling, obviously, but for those looking to pick up a hobby or are more interested in delving into a deeper world past just the films, there is a whole world of collecting and reading and storytelling that is available to people who are into it. Hit up the comics before you head to the movie theater when Venom is released.
Release date: Oct. 5, 2018. Official site: Venom.movie
J Paige has two decades of experience in the nerd culture of New England through convention, event, and retail management. He is co-owner of NeonBomb at 260 Mammoth Road in Manchester (neonbomb.com). Do you have an event coming up? Do you have a nerdish hobby you are looking to connect with fellow nerds on? Interesting input that you would like to get the word out on? Send it over to firstname.lastname@example.org, subject line: Nerd Alert.