The History of Venom by Sean H.

October 19, 2022 Articles

When the first Venom movie was released a couple of years ago, I remember there being a fair share of complaints about how the character was not being taken seriously. He was too quippy, too erratic, too goofy. I recall specifically that one of the trailers featured the line “Eyes, lungs, pancreas… So many snacks, so little time…” which was derided as being “out of character”.

The thing is… That line was directly lifted from Amazing Spider-Man #374, written by Venom’s original writer and co-creator David Micheline.

Which brings me to my point: Venom has not always been a serious character. He’s one of Spider-Man’s unholy trinity of archenemies, true, but unlike Green Goblin or Doc Ock, he has the added caveat of being a dark reflection of Spider-Man, and thus he shares many of Peter’s characteristics. As such, Venom had a sense of humor of his own, twisted and warped, darker and edgier like everything published in the 1990s. They got a lot of mileage out of his self-delusions and obvious insanity. During Lethal Protector, when he tries to be the hero for the first time, Venom rescues a woman from a mugger in his trademark brutal style, and then proceeds to try and play the part of a noble hero, returning her purse and telling her that he needs no thanks and her safety is reward enough for him before leaping away, oblivious to the fact that the woman promptly runs away screaming in terror.

That same year, he had another memorable moment in Maximum Carnage, when Spidey and Venom finally decide to team up and are swinging through the city, Spider-Man is trying to process the events that have led them here. Meanwhile, Venom chooses that opportunity to sing “Strangers in the Night” by Frank Sinatra.

Because he felt like it.

These were not isolated incidents. He was just like this throughout his early years both in comics and out. Oh, sure he interacted with the dark and serious side of things over the years, having run-ins and team-ups with the likes of Punisher and Ghost Rider, and would still be a thorn in the side of one Spider-Man or another, but he still had a goofy charm to him. As late as Neversoft’s ‘Spider-Man’, released for the PS1 and N64 in 2000, Venom sheepishly asks Spidey to get Captain America’s autograph for him, much to Spidey’s chagrin.

So, what changed? Well, I could go on for several pages about this, but to oversimplify, the short version is that the times themselves changed. The 2000s brought with it a new wave of creators with their own ideas for the character and an editorial happy to oblige them. A wave of stories portraying Venom as a twisted, manipulative, violent monster would be published throughout the 2000s, such as the Hunger, Shiver, Venom vs. Carnage, and Ultimate Spider-Man to name a few. This depiction would take root in the public consciousness and be crystallized by his depiction in Spider-Man 3, which for all its faults, portrayed Venom as a full-fledged murderous psychopath. This, combined with the knowledge that Venom and Spidey had been known to team up, would create the idea that Venom was somehow both a mass murderer and a superhero at the same time, not as two distinctly different periods in the character’s evolution. The presence of Flash Thompson as the heroic Agent Venom throughout the 2010s only confused matters further for those not closely following the character. Only recently, with the advent of Donny Cates’ defining run on the character, have all those conflicting depictions been reconciled into one, more or less coherent arc, with a little bit of Geoff Johns-esque retconning to paper over the cracks.

To sum it all up, Venom has been a lot of things over the years to a lot of people. Whether you like him serious or like him silly, the fact is he has been both, and will probably bounce back and forth across that line for as long as he exists. So long as it’s entertaining, I’ll be there for the ride, and I really do hope you will be too. Because it’s never been a better time to be a fan of the Lethal Protector.

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