In Sony’s new Spider-Man universe movie, “Venom,” Tom Hardy plays Eddie Brock, a disgraced reporter chasing down stories he’d often rather not be doing. Hardy’s Venom is not very far off from the one introduced in Marvel Comics more than 30 years ago, but the on-again-off-again Spider-Man villain has a long and twisted history in Marvel — both as a kind of anti-hero who protects the innocent at all costs and as a ruthless villain who threatened Peter Parker’s family and allies. Which is why it’s so surprising that the creature’s origins stem from Parker’s desire to get himself a new costume.
Venom is an alien symbiote who will take on the characteristics of the person or entity that it bonds with, usually heightening strength, rage and aggression — with a slight side effect being the desire to eat others. The symbiote cannot survive long without a host, and it usually manifests as an external suit, but the connection is much deeper than that. As Hardy prepares to step into the role, the Times looks back at the character’s onscreen and comic book origins, including its most influential incarnations.
Due to the way comics were released in 1984, “Secret Wars” #8 (below) was the first time Spider-Man wore the suit but not the first time readers saw it. That was in “The Amazing Spider-Man” #252, which was released in May, months before “Secret Wars” #8’s December debut. The events in “Secret Wars” happened before the events in #252.
It was later discovered by Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four that this costume was actually an alien symbiote. The symbiote had been taking control of Parker’s body while he slept and went out to fight crime at night, beating criminals senseless. Spider-Man subdued the symbiote — its weaknesses being fire and sonic waves — and imprisoned it.
The symbiote somehow escaped, bent on revenge and a need for a host. It was drawn to Eddie Brock because of his hate for Spider-Man (more on that later). The symbiote knew Parker’s life, having bonded with him, so now Brock knew Parker’s life. The symbiote is also able to somehow mute Parker’s spider sense.
“Secret Wars” #8 (1984)
Backing up a bit … In 1984’s “Secret Wars,” in one of the biggest events in comics history, a group of heroes including Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Avengers were kidnapped along with a group of villains that included Doctor Doom, Ultron and Doctor Octopus, to do battle on a hastily constructed planet by an all-powerful being named the Beyonder. In “Secret Wars #8,” after one of the many skirmishes, Spider-Man’s suit was shredded, and he went looking for a machine that could rebuild costumes. He found what he thought was that machine, and wished into existence a small black ball that suddenly surrounded him with a black-and-white costume complete with its own webbing.
"Web of Spider Man" #s 18 and 24. Partial appearances of Eddie Brock as Venom.
“Web of Spider-Man” #18 (1986) and “Web of Spider-Man” #24 (1987)
Marvel subtely introduced Eddie Brock as Venom in cameo shots, building anticipation for something big. In “Web of Spider-Man” #18 (September 1986), Brock shoved Peter Parker in front of a subway train without Parker’s spider sense warning him, though only Brock’s hand was seen on the comic book panel.
Venom next appeared, kind of, in “Web of Spider-Man” #24 (March 1987). While changing into his costume on a building ledge, Parker was grabbed through a window and thrown.
"The Amazing Spider Man" #s 299 and 300. First full appearances of Eddie Brock as Venom.
“The Amazing Spider-Man” #299 (1988) / “The Amazing Spider-Man” #300 (1988)
After a long and mysterious piecemeal introduction, Venom made his first appearance on the last page of “The Amazing Spider-Man” #299 (April 1988). He made his complete-with-story appearance in the next issue, “The Amazing Spider-Man” #300 (May 1988). After a grueling battle in which Brock lets Parker know who he is and why he wants to kill him, Spider-Man is able to subdue “them” and takes both Brock and the symbiote to the Fantastic Four for safe-keeping.
Eddie Brock as Venom is who most would consider the original character. Though the Venom symbiote was introduced in 1984, the 1993 limited series “Venom: Lethal Protector” was the first to explore Brock’s history before he bonded with the symbiote.
As a reporter, Brock investigated the serial killer Sin Eater but then accused the wrong man after pressure from the cops. The real Sin-Eater is caught by Spider-Man, though, which disgraces Brock and causes him to hate Spider-Man. Hence, the natural hate-bond between Brock and the symbiote.
The black costume originated in 1982 from an idea by a 22-year-old fan named Randy Schueller. Marvel had a contest to garner new ideas, and Schueller’s idea impressed then-editor Jim Shooter, who bought it for $220. Writer Tom DeFalco and artist Ron Frenz first established that the costume was an alien being with nefarious intent.
There’s really been only one Venom to hit the big screen in a live-action sense -- Topher Grace in 2007’s “Spider-Man 3.” Grace’s Eddie Brock was a vengeful, broken man who hated Peter Parker for ruining his promising photography career by reporting his fraudulent photos. He hated him so much that he prayed for Parker’s death. An alien symbiote that crash landed on Earth found Spider-Man and bonded with him as he slept. It was in a church where Brock inadvertently was taken over by the symbiotic creature after Parker as Spider-Man had struggled to rid himself of the creature once he realized its parasitic nature. Brock’s hate for Parker and the symbiote’s new hate for its former host made a potent mix.
“Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars” (2015)
In a bit of revisionist history, it was revealed in 2015 that Deadpool was also among the heroes back in “Secret Wars” in a series called “Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars.” After causing much mayhem, Wasp somehow caused all the participants to forget that Deadpool was ever there. During the series, Deadpool donned a suit before Peter Parker got to it, becoming the first human to bond with the alien. Deadpool’s uniquely disjointed mind actually caused the alien to go crazy. Deadpool got rid of the suit and, soon after, Spider-Man came along to pick it up (if you choose to believe that happened).
In the newest version of Venom, Tom Hardy’s incarnation of Eddie Brock doesn’t seem to harbor any ill will against Spider-Man/Peter Parker — at least that we’ve seen in the trailers. As a reporter, Brock goes looking for the source of illegal experiments perpetrated by a Dr. Carlton Drake (played by Riz Ahmed) and stumbles across an alien symbiote that slowly seems to take over his life. Hardy’s Brock seems to want to use the creature for good but strains to curtail its violent tendencies.