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Every Version Of Venom Ranked From Worst To Best

In 1984, "Amazing Spider-Man" #252 hit the stands bearing a cover with a stark change: Instead of his trademark red and blue, Spider-Man's costume is black and white. Inside the comic, fans learned the new costume responds to Peter Parker's thoughts: It can disappear, transform itself into different clothing, and even store items like his wallet. Furthermore, Peter no longer needs to make web fluid, because the suit creates it all on its own. Neither Peter nor his fans knew at the time that one of Marvel's most popular anti-heroes had just been born.

It took Venom a while to get his live-action debut, which finally arrived in 2007's "Spider-Man 3." It took even longer for the monstrous hero to get his own movie in 2018's "Venom." But that doesn't mean fans had to wait until the 21st century to see the Klyntarian come off the page. Storytellers have been adapting Venom to the screen since the mid '90s. Considering just how much Venom content is out there, in fact, we thought we'd give you our own ranking of all the animated and live-action versions of the character, ranked from worst to best.

12. Gamma Venom

Spider-Man isn't the only Marvel hero on Venom's dance card in the Season 1 "Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H." episode "The Venom Within." In this episode, Hulk, his team, and Spidey clash with a Venom symbiote that eventually gets kaiju-sized. However, this isn't the Venom we're used to. Shortly after its arrival, we learn this symbiote is a new one created by Doc Ock, delivered to cause as much destruction as possible. The symbiote proceeds to bond with all of the different Hulks, and absorbs enough gamma energy to make itself incredibly powerful. 

Gamma Venom lands at the very bottom of our list because it's basically a symbiote without any character. The only difference between the Hulks it inhabits and the symbiote itself is that it refers to itself as Venom while belting out altered Hulk catch phrases like "Venom smash!" The powers, name, and Spidey logo might be present, but otherwise, there's no real Venom here at all. Not to mention how bizarre it is that it takes Spider-Man the entire episode to think of using sound against the symbiote when it's the go-to anti-Venom tool. Spider-Man forgetting to use sound against Venom is like a vampire hunter wondering why they're not finding targets at noon on a sunny day.

11. Dracula Venom

Season 4 of "Avengers Assemble" finds its heroes on the patchwork planet known as Battleworld. Hoping to find a way back to Earth, Black Panther and Falcon head to K'un-Lun to recover Heimdall's sword in "The Immortal Weapon". Once the heroes take the sword, they learn Iron Fist used it to imprison Dracula and his army of vampires. Freed from his imprisonment, Dracula surprises our heroes by revealing that he can no longer be hurt by sunlight: A satellite with a Klyntarian symbiote crashed nearby and bonded with the vampire king, boosting his already immense power. 

Like the Venom of "Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.," there really isn't much Venom here beyond Dracula's changed appearance — and even that is minimal. We don't even get to see the symbiote physically manifest until the very end of Dracula's fight with the Avengers. For most of the conflict, it shows up only as a shadow quickly moving across Dracula's body. 

What makes things even worse is that something potentially fantastic is mentioned, but we don't get to see it. During the battle, Dracula mentions that his bond with the symbiote allows him to sense a whole army of symbiotes to the east of K'un-Lun. While Iron Fist goes to hunt these aliens at the end of the episode, we don't see it happen, despite how truly awesome and terrifying a sight that would be.

10. LEGO Venom

While LEGO's version of Venom doesn't get much screen time in the animated special "LEGO Marvel Super Heroes: Maximum Overload," he's the big bad of "LEGO Marvel Spider-Man: Vexed by Venom". Voiced by Ben Pronsky, Venom starts off by teaming up with the Green Goblin. When Goblin gets captured early in the story, Venom is left to tackle Spider-Man, his arsenal of Spider-themed vehicles, and his new buddy Ghost-Spider (otherwise known as Spider-Gwen) all on his own.

The Venom of "Vexed by Venom" gets as high a spot on our list as he does because he shows up as an actual character and not just a plot device. Also, let's face it, LEGO's superhero stuff is almost always good for a few chuckles. But at the end of the day, LEGO Venom isn't even a particularly good caricature. He's a formidable foe, but his defining characteristic seems to be his stupidity. He comes off like Frankenstein's monster, constantly repeating the phrase Green Goblin says before his capture: "Destroy the city, destroy Spider-Man!" Sure, neither Eddie Brock nor his symbiote half have ever been portrayed as intellectual rivals of Reed Richards or Tony Stark, but that doesn't make them cavemen. 

9. Mission Marvel Venom

Danny Trejo of "Machete" fame voices Venom in the crossover special "Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel". Originally aired as part of Season 4 of Disney Channel's "Phineas and Ferb," this episode finds Iron Man, Hulk, Spider-Man, and Thor with their powers inadvertently stripped away by the series' incompetent evil scientist, Dr. Doofenshmirtz. Without their powers, the superheroes need the help of the titular brothers and their friends to take on the combined forces of the Red Skull, Whiplash, MODOK, and Venom. 

When it comes to dialogue, Venom is pretty much a non-entity, which is a major shame. Even Whiplash, a villain as popular as lemon juice on paper cuts, gets more lines than Venom. It really makes you wonder why they even bothered to hire a guy like Trejo to say next to nothing. "Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel" would inhabit a much lower spot on the list if not for two things. First, regardless of Venom failing to impress, it's a genuinely hilarious special. Second, in spite of the show under-utilizing a talent like Danny Trejo, "Mission Marvel" does feature one of Venom's most villainous and unforgivable acts: He steals hot dogs from a vendor voiced by the late Stan Lee. We know you're often a bad guy, Venom, but you don't have to be mean!

8. Guardians Venom

Venom makes a brief but memorable appearance in "Drive My Carnage," the third episode of the "Guardians of the Galaxy" animated series' final season. Spider-Man from the 2017 "Spider-Man" series guest-stars, teaming up with the titular space team in a battle against Thanos, who has become even more powerful by bonding with the symbiote Carnage. When Spidey, Rocket, and Star-Lord fetch the V-252 symbiote, it bonds with Peter and initially gives him the power boost he needs to go toe-to-toe with Thanos.

Thanos turns Spidey's advantage against him, however, by taking over the symbiote bonded with Peter and transforming him into something much more monstrous. Peter eventually breaks free of Thanos' control, thankfully, and uses the symbiote to defeat the tyrannical villain.

Like similar appearances in "Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H." and "Avengers Assemble," there isn't much character to Venom here. His "Guardians" appearance earns a higher spot on our list, however, because we do get a pretty cool and genuinely intimidating redesign for the famed symbiote.

7. Spider-Man 3's Venom

At last, we've come to the Venom of 2007's "Spider-Man 3". What can we say about this Venom that hasn't been said already, with plenty of the kinds of words that get bleeped out on TV?

On paper, this Venom works. The physical design of the merged Eddie Brock/symbiote form isn't perfect, granted — in particular, Brock's Venom doesn't have the Hulkish bulk he enjoys in the comics. But this is hardly the first time Raimi's trilogy strays from the source material. Moreover, the form the unbonded symbiote takes immediately before its death at the end of the film is genuinely nightmarish and impressive. On top of all of this, Topher Grace's passing resemblance to Tobey Maguire makes him a particularly good choice for an antagonist often seen as Peter Parker's dark side.

The problem with this Venom is that he simply doesn't belong in this film. Everything about his appearance feels tacked on, from the simple fact that Brock doesn't even bond with the symbiote until the film is close to done to the ridiculous way it's introduced as a meteorite from space that just so happens to land on a superhero's scooter. A villain as popular as Venom either should've dominated "Spider-Man 3" or shouldn't have been in it at all. 

6. Venom the Conqueror

Voiced by Ben Pronsky and Benjamin Siskind, the Venom of the 2017 "Spider-Man" animated series has a distinct look, achieved mostly by the redesign of his spider logo. Visually, he looks a lot like the version of the character from the comics who bonds with Mac Gargan, better known as the Spidey villain Scorpion. 

Initially referred two as V-252 — a nod to 1984's "Amazing Spider-Man" #252 — this Venom gets around. Initially bonding with Peter Parker, it goes on to merge with Flash Thompson, Eddie Brock, and Dr. Curt Connors, aka the Lizard. Ironically, considering its appearance, Mac Gargan is one of the few characters V-252 doesn't bond with. 

One thing sadly missing from this version of Venom is any kind of moral ambiguity. It's one of the few versions of the character who is purely villainous, with the ultimate goal of summoning an army of symbiotes to conquer the Earth. Of course, world-dominating alien bad guys are always fun, but Venom is at his most compelling when he isn't all good, but not quite all bad either.

5. Venom Unlimited

Whether he appears as an antagonist, protagonist, or unstable ally, Venom is at his best with a healthy degree of independence. In case you haven't noticed, one of the easiest ways for a Venom portrayal to earn a lower spot on this list is to have him play second-fiddle or make him just one more villain in a crowd. That's one of the main reasons the Venom of "Spider-Man Unlimited," voiced by Brian Drummond, doesn't climb quite as high as he could.

Most of "Spider-Man Unlimited" takes place on Marvel's Counter-Earth, where the High Evolutionary rules with his legions of human-animal hybrids. Both Venom and Carnage wind up there and fall under the sway of a symbiote hive-mind called the Synoptic. After that, the pair of symbiotes are little better than generic henchmen working for their god. 

To be fair, there are signs of potential in the Venom of "Spider-Man Unlimited." In particular, one of the final episodes of the series — "One is the Loneliest Number" — delves deeper than expected into Eddie Brock's character. Unfortunately, the series never gets the chance to do more: "Spider-Man Unlimited" ended after only 13 episodes, and was canceled on a cliffhanger.

4. Ultimate Venom

Of Spider-Man's many animated series, one of the best is Disney XD's "Ultimate Spider-Man," which mashes together the best elements from Peter Parker's story in Marvel's Ultimate comics and those of the prime timeline. For Venom fans, "Ultimate Spider-Man" has one obvious benefit in that the symbiote shows up, in one form or another, more often in this series than in most. However, while there are upsides to more Venom, there's one major downside as well. 

Rather than bonding with Eddie Brock, this symbiote mostly merges with Harry Osborn, son of the Green Goblin. We say "mostly" because this Venom bonds with even more characters than the version in the 2017 "Spider-Man" series: He makes time for Peter Parker, Norman Osborn, Harry Osborn, and Flash Thompson, among others. In fact, the symbiote's second bonding with Thompson leads to the first adaptation of the comics' "Agent Venom" storyline. As in the source material, Thompson's time as Agent Venom gives the character a much more traditional superhero vibe.

Sadly, all this Venom results in a lack of cohesive characterization. This symbiote is the creation of Dock Ock, and as Ock creates more versions — including one at the behest of Loki — Venom comes off more as an army of villains rather than a single character. 

3. Venom of the '90s

"Spider-Man: The Animated Series" is Venom's first TV incarnation. Perhaps that's why it remains one of the best. Eddie Brock, voiced by Hank Azaria, is bonded with the symbiote for most of its time in the series. Brilliantly, the show gives us the opportunity to  get to know Brock long before his transformation. In particular, we see how much failure is heaped upon him, making him particularly susceptible to the temptation the symbiote offers. He's fired from his job multiple times, evicted from his apartment, and attacked by vengeful Spider-Man villains like the Shocker. By the end of the series, his character arc from the comics has been largely replicated: He's gone from being a guy down on his luck to being a villain, and finally, to being a redemptive hero. 

"Spider-Man: The Animated Series" is also the first time we see the symbiote impact Peter Parker's personality. It's easy to forget, but in the comics, the alien suit doesn't make Peter give in to dark urges (or engage in embarrassing dance numbers). It occasionally controls his body while his mind is asleep, but beyond feeling more tired during the day without knowing why, it doesn't impact his thoughts or actions. For better or worse, "Spider-Man: The Animated Series" is the first time anyone conceived of the symbiote twisting Peter's personality.

2. Spectacular Venom

While "Ultimate Spider-Man" may borrow the title of Spidey's Ultimate universe series, "The Spectacular Spider-Man" lifts one of the most intriguing elements from those stories. In "Spectacular," Eddie Brock and Peter Parker don't start off as rival photographers like they do in the prime universe comics, but as childhood friends. This connection makes it even more tragic when Brock transforms into Venom.

Visually, "Spectacular" is arguably the best Spider-Man animated series out there, and Venom's appearances are a perfect example of why. While he's stylized a bit differently, his overall look resembles the original Venom, from his bulk to the logo design. The fight scenes between Venom and Spider-Man are particularly glorious to behold. 

One thing missing from Brock's story is any kind of real redemption, leaving him as more of a vengeful villain than anything else — though he's a compelling villain at that. It's possible we could've eventually gotten stories in which Brock changed sides, but "Spectacular" was unfortunately canceled after its second season.

1. Tom Hardy's Venom

No one expected 2018's "Venom" to get any Oscar nominations, and its embarrassingly low Rotten Tomatoes score proves it was never going to smash those expectations. Yet in the latter half of a year absolutely packed with big-budget comic book adaptations, "Venom" managed to surprise naysayers by raking in gargantuan box office returns.

"Venom" isn't perfect, but it's everything it's supposed to be. It's a fun, suspenseful superhero action flick starring Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock — the most accomplished actor to take on the role. The symbiote is rendered in gorgeous detail: It looks liquid, insect-like, and monstrous at the same time. More than anything, the film perfectly reflects the complex, funny, and somewhat twisted relationship between Venom and Brock. Toward the end, as Brock argues with the symbiote while walking down the street — seeming, to any passersby, to be arguing with himself — you realize this is a superhero most people would think is absolutely bonkers. Embracing that is the movie's greatest strength.

Sadly, the film divorces Venom's origin from Spider-Man: Brock bonds with the symbiote without being so much as a passing acquaintance to Peter Parker, or even living in the same time zone. Antagonists are also able to physically separate Brock from the symbiote far more easily than seems reasonable. Still, it's tough to imagine a solo live-action Venom adaptation getting any better than this.