Since his introduction as an actual, fully-realized character in Amazing Spider-Man #300 in 1988, Venom has become one of Spider-Man’s most popular foes. Of course, the character’s history goes back further than that. It goes back to the 1984 series Secret Wars, in which Spider-Man found a machine that he thought would create him a new costume. Instead, it dispenses a strange, black sludge. This sludge would become his all black costume and, eventually, Venom.
As I’m sure everyone knows, Spider-Man rejects the costume when he discovers it is actually a symbiotic alien that is trying to permanently bond with him. However, it’s not long before the Symbiote finds itself a new host in the form of Eddie Brock — the most well-known Venom host.
He is a disgraced reporter for the Daily Globe newspaper. He loses his job when he identifies the wrong person as the super-powered serial killer, Sin-Eater. After the real Sin-Eater is caught and revealed by Spider-Man, Brock is fired from his job and blames the wall-crawler for his misfortune. Depressed and suicidal, Brock takes solace in a church while he mulls over what to do with his life. In a twist of fate, it turns out to be the very church where Spider-Man had cast off the Symbiote. Discarded and filled with hate towards Spider-Man for rejecting it, the Symbiote senses Brock’s loathing of the hero. Thus, it bonds with him, creating Venom.
However, Marvel reveals that Brock has had cancer the entire time in the 2003 storyline The Hunger and the Symbiote, tired of having a sick host, leaves Brock. Brock then quickly begins to submit to cancer, as the Venom Symbiote kept the disease in check.
Looking for a new host, the Symbiote approaches Mac Gargan, AKA Scorpion. Offering him new abilities and the promise to make him stronger, Gargan agrees. With Gargan as the host, this new Venom is much more brutal and partial to bloodlust. Brock holds Venom’s vicious nature in check, but Gargan fully unleashes it. The villain even eats several of his enemies. Eventually, The Thunderbolts draft Gargan. They are a black-ops Avengers-like team of villains and anti-heroes. The Symbiote was previously kept in check by electrical implants that allowed Gargan to access Venom’s increased strength and some abilities, but not its brutal tendencies.
Later, Norman Osborne ends the secret Skrull invasion when he kills the Skrull queen. As a result, Osbourne is placed in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D. and creates his own Avengers team, known as the Dark Avengers. Osbourne recruits Gargan for the Dark Avengers, and he gives the Symbiote a serum to make it more closely resemble human proportions. Osborne wants the general public thinking Gargan is Spider-Man once again wearing his black suit.
Soon after, we have the Siege event in which Osbourne tries to invade New Asgard with the Dark Avengers. With this betrayal, they reveal the truth behind the team. They are arrested for treason. The government forcibly removes the Symbiote from Gargan and they take it for study.
In 2010, Venom next appears quite differently to how we have seen him previously. After being researched by the government, they feel that they can use the Symbiote as a weapon. The government drafts Flash Thompson – Peter Parker’s old “friend” and a double amputee who has been fighting for the US military – and recruit him to become the black ops Agent Venom. With the research done by government scientists, Flash can harness all the positives of the Symbiote without any of the negatives… for 48 hours, at least. Wearing the Symbiote for any longer than this risks Flash becoming permanently bonded with the alien.
During this time, Flash joins up with the New Avengers, a new team of Thunderbolts, and becomes a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy. However, during a battle with an FBI agent decked out in a special suit who wields a weapon that agitates the Symbiote into a crazed state — the Symbiote flees and leaves Flash behind. Eventually, the Symbiote returns to Eddie Brock.
While many consider Brock, Thompson, and Gargan to be the main hosts of Venom throughout the characters lifetime, there have also been a few who have briefly bonded with the Symbiote. Lee Price bonds with the alien for a brief time between Thompson and Brock, only to be killed by Cletus Kasady, AKA Carnage.
Anne Waying, the ex-wife of Eddie Brock, is so far the only woman to have bonded with the Symbiote. Learning that Brock is Venom, she follows Spider-Man to a fight with him and tries to talk the two out of their feud. She succeeds; however, the villain Sin-Eater shoots Anne later and, in an attempt to save her life, the Symbiote bonds with her, creating She-Venom. As a result of the bonding, She-Venom lashes out against men who have shown cruelty to Anne, killing them. Brock manages to call the Symbiote back, and it leaves Anne. But, the sudden realization of what she has done drives her to madness, and she takes her own life.
Both Marvel 2099 and Ultimate Spider-Man also have their own versions of Venom. The Venom of 2099’s host is Kron Stone, half-brother of that time’s Spider-Man. A life-long bully who enjoys others’ pain, he is mortally wounded and thrown down a sewer by one of his many enemies. There, the original Venom Symbiote finds him. It grew and mutated over the years and developed new abilities. It now possesses acidic blood and saliva, and a terrifying new look. The Symbiote bonds with Korn on a subatomic level, meaning he can never truly be parted with it unless he dies.
In Ultimate Spider-Man, the Venom Symbiote is not an alien life form, but rather a protoplasmic dip designed as a cure for cancer. Peter Parker and Eddie Brock Jr’s fathers developed the dip, nicknamed The Suit. It had to be made on a case-by-case basis as the cure is encoded with the wearer’s DNA.
Eddie Jr reconnects with the Spider-Man of the Ultimate universe, as they were schoolyard friends. Knowing that their fathers worked together, Eddie shows Peter the Suit and explains its intention. Intrigued, Peter takes a sample of the suit to study himself. During the study, he accidentally spills some of it on himself, and it expands, covering his whole body. Initially, the suit reacts to Peter’s thoughts, enhancing his abilities, and creating its own webbing. However, when Peter tries to chase down a robber, the suit suddenly grows giant teeth and tries to eat Peter’s quarry. Scared, Peter returns to the lab to destroy it. However, Eddie Jr interferes and takes the suit for himself.
Initially appearing simply as a more muscular Spider-Man, the suit begins to develop extra mouths, tentacles, and other deformations. They discover that the suit will consume anyone wearing it whose DNA does not match. For the wearer to stay alive, they must allow the Suite to consume others, which generally means other people. As such, the Ultimate version of Venom is much more grotesque and monster-like than the original Venom.
The Future of Venom
While the Symbiote has infected others – indeed most of the Marvel Universe at one point – Venom also has offspring. The most famous of these is the murderous Carnage. With the success of the Venom film, a sequel is currently in the works. There is also a new Venom-centric event story coming soon from Marvel. It seems that we have seen far from the last of Spider-Man’s symbiotic foe.
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