The untold truth of Venom

Few comic book characters conjure up horror and then heroism, and then back to horror again, better than Venom. Since debuting in Amazing Spider-Man #300, it wrapped its tendrils into the hearts of fans everywhere. The symbiotic super-suit also just landed its own movie at Sony, with Tom Hardy slated to play the lucky—or unlucky, depending on how you feel about extreme co-dependency anyway—host of the slinky super suit. But Venom has a long and curious history at Marvel that goes deeper than most people realize.

The costume's designer didn't care for its villainous turn

Traditionally, many comic creators tested their ideas on the fly (see Jack Kirby famously dropping Silver Surfer on an unsuspecting Stan Lee) or borrowed concepts from their competitors. The idea for Venom actually arrived with an inventive fan. The symbiote began life as an idea for a costume change, when Spider-fan Randy Schueller drew up what he called a "stealth suit" for Peter Parker—after all, he'd been rocking essentially the same red and blue set of pajamas for two decades by that point.

Then Marvel Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter bought the sneaky costume idea for $220, giving Schueller a chance to write the story. Not long after its announcement, fan backlash created resistance to Spidey's new look, and Marvel creator John Byrne altered the original concept by turning the black space costume into a self-repairing costume, much like Iron Fist's get-up—also explaining away Peter Parker's otherwise colossal tailoring bill each issue. Marvel readers took to the new garb after all, and Byrne's twist was changed into a symbiotic life form, before David Michelinie and Todd McFarlane gave Venom his signature look and characteristics.

Ironically, Schueller wasn't a fan of his design's villainous turn, saying he was "disturbed" by the costume-gone-wild. Watching "his creation" come to life on the big screen in Spider-Man 3, though, he's since come to terms with it. 

Eddie Brock also hosted Venom's "grandchild"

It's often said that children are the future. We sacrifice everything for them, nurturing them, passing on our values, filling them with knowledge—and the desire for succulent brainwaves—before trying to kill the little monsters for disagreeing with our murderous agenda. Of course, we're talking symbiotes' asexual reproduction and third-generation Klyntar life-form Toxin here. 

When Venom returned to break Eddie Brock—his favorite host after Spider-Man—out of prison, he left behind a homicidal bundle of joy named Carnage, who bonded with convicted serial killer Cletus Kasady in Amazing Spider-Man #361. Roughly a decade later, Carnage made Venom a grand-symbiote, bearing and then trying to kill its own rugrat, Toxin, in Venom Vs. Carnage #2. After Toxin's first host Pat Mulligan was killed, it found yet another kindred spirit in who else but longtime host Eddie Brock, and helped the then federal agent hunt down Carnage, who was trying to resurrecting an Elder God at the time. 

Sadly, it seems Toxin was killed during the escapade. But you know what they say: if you don't like the death in comics, wait five minutes.

Venom uploaded himself to into a video game

At the dawn of the modern video game age, killer games like Doom and Mortal Kombat conjured all sorts of aggressive feelings in helicopter parents. Marvel released their own entrant, Maximum Carnage in 1994, based on the comic story of the same name. In a super-meta move, they followed the game up with another comic, Venom: Carnage Unleashed, loosely based on the video games in general. The four-arc story involved an unscrupulous software company named "Excessive Violence" that develop a scroller based on Carnage's recent rampage through New York. After Carnage uploads himself onto "cyber-space" and starts killing people, Venom follows, trying to defeat him.

Naturally, the murderous antihero defeats the ultra-murderous outright villain, but along the way, readers are treated to loads of antiquated parlance like "the net" and "modem," as the slippery duo battle it out. Best of all, the landscapes are rendered in the classic '90s artistic interpretation Internet. Considering dial-up speeds at the time, it's shocking either one of them managed to upload a finger before the final panel ended. 

Hank Azaria voiced Venom on the Spider-Man cartoon

Life is looking pretty sweet for Hank Azaria these days. The longtime character actor always had a pretty good setup as one of the main voices of the long-running animated series, The Simpsons—where he portrays Moe Szyslack, Comic Shop Guy, Carl Carlson, and Apu Nahsa…hasape…you know, Apu, and other favorites. Azaria also landed a number of roles in the movie and television world, including one of the leads in Roland Emmerich's Godzilla remake, as well as recurring spots on Mad About You and Ray Donovan. His latest critical darling, though, places his face squarely in front of a camera, as washed-up baseball announcer Hank Brockmire in Brockmire.

Fans of Azaria and Venom might not realize his connection to the comic book antihero, though. On the classic '90s after-school cartoon, Spider-Man: The Animated Series, he provided the voice for Eddie Brock and his slippery alter-ego. Although he only appeared in eight episodes—including a retelling of the costume's now-classic Secret Wars origin story—Azaria voiced the menacing parasite perfectly. In addition to the Simpsons alum, the web-slinging 'toon had a list of legendary actors attached to it, including Golden Girl Rue McClanahan, Mark Hamill (as Hobgoblin, of course), Nell Carter, Ed Asner (as yet another cranky old guy, J. Jonah Jameson), and Nichelle Nichols. 

Even Stan Lee made a cameo as himself. Excelsior!

Eddie Brock auctioned off the Venom suit

For Venom fans, especially those who've been following the tongue-y threat since its inception in Amazing Spider-Man #300, there's only one true host: Eddie Brock. Eddie was first gifted (or cursed) with the Klyntar suit after the two down-and-out puzzle pieces met in Our Lady of Saint's Church, both seeking redemption—which didn't seem to work out well them. Since then, they've bombed around the Marvel Universe, putting Peter Parker through untold hell, as well as helping him out on occasion. However, when Eddie's cancer returned, even though his toothy amigo kept him alive, he chose to make a few changes to his vigilante lifestyle.

He decided the best way to be rid of the spiteful skein was auctioning it off for charity in Marvel Knights Spider-Man #7—nothing could go wrong with that plan, right? The winning bid went to local Mafioso, Don Vincente Fortunato, who gave the alien parasite to his son Angelo, so he could make, or more so, metamorphose, something of himself. The charming lad proceeded to assault and slaughter several of Peter Parker's classmates before realizing its new host was a creep. It rejected the Don's dastardly son in mid-building-leap, and he fell to his death.

Not long afterward, Venom found his best relationship yet, with super-suit fiend and Scorpion-enthusiast MacDonald "Mac" Gargan.

Venom has a voice and a personality of its own

Most of us would assume that, as a symbiotic entity from outer space, Venom is beholden to his hosts for a temperament—at least one beyond his Spider-Man hate-on—and voice. True, in the early days, the symbiote takes the back seat, content to sip succulent brain chemicals while imbuing its hosts with incredible strength and superpowers. However, Venom does have its own voice, and while often shunted into the royal we, it has on more than a few occasions voiced an opinion contrary to that of his hosts—although usually just as a way to get its hands on some fresh gray matter.

After being "cleansed" of its rage addiction by the Klyntar people in Guardians of the Galaxy #23, the symbiote took to its partnership with Peter Parker's former high school foe Flash Thompson with renewed vigor and valor. After it was separated from Flash in 2016's Venom reboot, it sought a new host in former Army Ranger Lee Price. Despite being weakened and unable to escape, thanks to Price's psychological training in the military, it continuously criticized Price's illicit behavior and callous violence—even trying to sabotage his criminal activities. Of course, once Spider-Man teased it with a reunion, Venom seems to have reverted to its rage-filled state. Way to crush all that character development, Spidey. Very uncool.

The Venom symbiote was an outcast from his home

Venom's origin varies, depending on which Marvel story you read. Beginning life as a costume change for Spider-Man, it grew into a creepy living skin, before finally being revealed as a sentient, symbiotic entity. In addition to self-awareness, Venom landed two official histories.

The symbiote's first backstory was established during the aptly named "Planet of the Symbiotes" story arc in 1995. Taking place throughout several oversized one-shots, including Venom Super Special #1, the narrative introduces a whole mess of slavering alien life forms. It seems members of Venom's species decided the Earth was looking far too delicious, what with its hundred course meal of unseasoned emotions and neuroses. During a trip to a conquered planet, the truth about symbiotes comes out. Unsurprisingly, the otherwise-unnamed race isn't exactly the sympathetic type (rather, more the hostile, domineering folks). As a result, sweet little Venom became an outcast due to his benevolent nature, as its whole cooperate and share feelings outlook didn't sit well with their conquer and command attitude.

Eventually, Spider-Man, Venom, and Scarlet Spider managed to beat back the savage skins. Perhaps due to their defeat (but probably thanks to the magic of retroactive continuity), the nasty symbiotes' backstory changed into a peaceful one twenty years later. In the meantime, it made for a curious adventure into the darkest heart of codependency.

Venom was originally pitched as a woman

As Spider-Man quickly found out, it's never a good idea to reject a symbiote—especially one who hooks up with Spider-Man hater, Eddie Brock. Just imagine what would happen if the symbiote had attached itself to someone with a real ax to grind, such as one of Peter's longtime enemies or exes.

In Comic Creators on Spider-Man, Spidey writer David Michelinie discussed the origins of the Klyntar alien. When planning for Amazing Spider-Man #300, Editor Jim Salicrup sought a killer hook for the anniversary issue. Michelinie took the opportunity to break down his idea: a man is run over and killed by a cabbie, who's distracted by a Spider-Man-related battle, right in front of his wife. Due to the trauma, she goes into labor and her child tragically dies during birth. Consumed by misdirected hatred, the Spider-hating woman is sought out by the symbiote, who also has a beef with the Web-head. The two bond over their loathing and hunt down Spider-Man.

Ironically, Salicrup shot down the idea, worrying readers wouldn't believe a Venom-empowered woman could take down Spider-Man. We guess he forgot the old saw that hell hath no fury like a symbiote scorned.

Deadpool wrecked Venom before Spider-Man

Long before the Secret Wars of 2015, which rebooted the Marvel Universe, Marvel's first Secret WarsBattleworld, in particular—introduced Spider-Man to a sleek, freakily responsive black suit that eventually transformed into one of his greatest enemies. Because comic book companies love to futz with continuity, or at least, the writers of Deadpool do, the Merc with a Mouth also played a retroactive role in symbiote abuse during Deadpool's Secret Secret Wars.

The continuity side-step, brought to us by writer Cullen Bunn, turns the worm so Wade Wilson first discovered the fancy costume. Not only does the twisted revamp revel in lampooning the epic crossover, one of Marvel's first major events, but it also gives Deadpool a chance to rewrite history in his inimitable fashion. After the Hulk discovers a "super-science seamstress," Deadpool decides to get a few alterations. 

Now covered in the self-adhesive suit, Wade quickly recognizes that the suit isn't just a suit. It's sentient. Spending any amount of time inside his mind, though, Wade worries "isn't fair" to the creature. So he rejects the symbiote, worrying that he's "driven it nuts or something," while setting up decades of carnage (pun intended) to follow.

Venom's species didn't get an official name until 2015

When it came to Venom, Spider-fans probably pondered the symbiote's true beginnings at first. In the long run, though, all it took was an attachment to complicated, old Eddie Brock to drive the story forward. Nevertheless, Venom received a semi-backstory in the "Planet of the Symbiotes" arc in 1995, during the height of alien death-skin fever. Even though the tale revealed an entire planet of the parasitic life forms, the alien race didn't receive a designation—along with a revamped origin story—for another 20 years.

During his time kicking it with Flash Thompson and the Guardians of the Galaxy, Venom finally received an official origin story. Guardians #23 introduced the Klyntar species, while also clarifying them as a benevolent group, misconstrued by the kookier elements of their race. Apparently, the symbiotes need to bond with the evenly balanced individuals. When their hosts don't have their you-know-what together, a symbiote easily becomes corrupted—much as what happens with Venom and Eddie Brock's intense Spider-loathing. 

It also didn't hurt that Venom spent some time with Deadpool, thanks to a retcon. 

The symbiotes only have one known natural predator

When you're a symbiotic life form, capable of adapting to almost any environment and giving your host superior strength and killer powers like web-shooters and wall-crawling, life is pretty sweet. For the most part, Venom really didn't have much to fear, aside from its established dislikes, such as fire and sonic blasts (turn-ons include brain chemicals, codependency, and Spider-Man hating). However, aside from Peter Parker on a bad day, the Klyntar do have one known predator.

In the 1996 miniseries, Venom: The Hunted, our friendly neighborhood conjoined antihero was stalked by a Xenophage. Apparently, these nasty alien critters have a taste for symbiote-host brainwaves that just can't be sated—well, aside from an all-you-can-eat buffet at the Symbiote Sizzler, anyway. Xenophages can also transmute themselves into other shapes, at one point it even hid out as a china cabinet. It took the force of every symbiote on the planet to take out one of these nasty armoires—er, aliens.

Ethan Allen, eat your heart out. Scratch that: Ethan Allen eats your brain out.

Church bells first defeated the symbiote

Before Deadpool was retconned as Venom's first host, Spider-Man was the first human to don the alien skin. Upon his return from space, after Secret Wars' intergalactic superhero showdown, he discovers his new duds have feelings and gets Reed Richards to blast it off with a sonic weapon—always handy to have around. When the suit returns in Web of Spider-Man #1, sneaking into Peter's closet and disguising itself as his classic Spidey-suit, it tries to perma-bond to Peter. Peter knows the symbiote is vulnerable to sound and fire, but lacking a lighter and hairspray or an air horn, he has to improvise— or find himself a perpetual resident of codependence city.

Since Peter's a long way from the Baxter Building, the home of the Fantastic Four, he's quickly running out of time, at least until the bells at Our Lady of Saints begin to chime. Their cacophonous ringing, coupled with Peter's rejection, forces the alien suit to flee the scene. Suffering from the bad break-up, it stumbles into the church, finding an angry young Spider-foe in the making named Eddie Brock. The rest, as they say, is history.

Venom snacks on chocolate instead of brains

Despite brain-eating being established early on in the mythos, Venom rarely if ever indulged in this practice—at least until the Mac Gargan days, when they munched on a human or two, as well as a gaggle of Asgardians. During the 1996 series, Venom: The Hunger, the symbiote's blood, er, brain-lust gets the better of it, though. Fortunately, for those of us who enjoy their cerebellum in one piece, Brock discovered an antidote, chocolate.

Early on, Brock is separated from the symbiote after refusing to indulge in its brain-eating—way to choose your enabling moments, Eddie. Forcibly detained by a not particularly therapeutic therapist, Venom goes on a brain-hunt, which is similar to a vision quest but with a lot more mind munching. Eventually, it's revealed that the alien skin doesn't crave juicy gray matter as much as a chemical it produces known as phenethylamine. After the ordeal, Eddie digs up another source for so-called "love drug": sweet, sweet chocolate.

Now that's a cranium chomping cure-all we can all get behind.

The Vulture was originally the main villain in Spider-Man 3

Some Spider-fans consider Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy the definitive wall-crawler saga. However, Spider-Man 3 came as a major disappointment to many devotees, despite its box office haul. Not only did it slow momentum in the otherwise wildly popular series—there was a planned fourth flick in the works—but it introduced antihero Venom in a rushed and unsatisfactory manner. In addition, Topher Grace, previously known as Eric Forman on That '70s Show, was miscast as the usually meat-headed Eddie Brock. Heck, the entire feature had a slapdash feel to it, something off-kilter coming from the meticulous and stylized Raimi.

There's a very good reason for the shortcomings of the movie: years later, Raimi discussed the changes and what could have been. The Vulture and Sandman were intended to be the main villains initially, but producer Avi Arad (understandably) felt an old guy in a bird getup wouldn't crank out toy sales. As a result, he pushed the director to include Venom and the full-circle story where Harry Osborn becomes the new Goblin. By the time the studios interjected Captain and Gwen Stacy into the mix, the story was overloaded with characters and the picture simply became unwieldy.

Hopefully, Venom gets a more admirable reintroduction in his solo flick. Plus, it would be awesome if Raimi gets another shot at a Spider-flick, studio meddling-free.