As the violent, monstrous antithesis of Spider-Man, the character (or characters, if we want to get technical) of Venom was destined for popularity as a fan-favorite villain, having been introduced to the Marvel universe at just the right time—in the late ’80s when comic book storylines were growing darker, more violent, and more serious in nature than they had ever been previously. While there are those who I’m sure would vehemently disagree with me, I don’t think it’s a major stretch to suggest that Venom—with his massive build, black suit (previously possessed by Spider-Man), and demonic alien features suggesting what Spider- Man might look like were he to examine himself in a mirror in Hell—has now surpassed classic Spidey rogues such as Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus as the Webslinger’s most recognizable and iconic foe. With Eddie Brock and his cherished symbiotic compatriot enjoying the release of their second solo movie, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, this autumn, I thought now would be an opportune time to examine the comic book storylines and media which led to Venom’s massive popularity amongst fans and audiences. Hopefully, I’ll also be able to shed some light on how this (relatively new) character has managed to both capture the imagination of the comic book community since his introduction in the late ’80s and retain enough “star power” to carry his own multimillion-dollar film franchise with nary a Spider-Man in sight.

Prior to the ’80s, comic books (and Marvel’s output in particular) had been regarded, perhaps not erroneously, as light-hearted kids’ fare. The comic book industry, by and large, hadn’t yet garnered the respect it deserved from literary purists and pretentious detractors. Spider-Man stories especially retained the mood of playful, ’60s-era wholesomeness that defined them when Stan Lee and Steve Ditko invented the character in 1962 (in Amazing Fantasy #15). Unlike DC’s Batman, whose brooding, tortured conscience and strained sense of ethics often lured him to the edge of corruption and back, Peter Parker never quite had the same temptations following his uncle Ben’s death. The closest he ever came was in Amazing Spider-Man #121 (1973) when the first Green Goblin caused the death of Gwen Stacy, resulting in the battle that resulted in that villain’s accidental “death.” Otherwise, the majority of Peter Parker’s struggles were relatable and everyday, balancing his superhero responsibilities with his love for his aunt and the women in his life (Mary Jane, Gwen Stacy), as well as work and school. As Spider-Man, he foiled bank robberies and archly nefarious plots by kitschy villains like the Green Goblin, Sandman, Mysterio, and Electro (all of whom have had their own big-screen debuts over the years, to varying degrees of success).

By the late 1980s, it was time for a change. The explosive success of Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) had turned the comic book industry on its head, proving once and for all that there was genuine drama and creative artistry (and enormous financial gain) to be found in superhero stories. Whereas before, comic books had been unfairly written off by the entertainment industry, by the end of the decade TV producers, publishers, and movie moguls were being forced to pay attention. The success of Burton’s dark, gothic take on Batman and the changing sensibilities of readers ensured that, going into the ’90s, comics were darker in tone, more subversive, and more accessible to teenage and adult audiences. Taking influence from horror films and the violent, stylized cinema of Quentin Tarantino, Alex Proyas, John Woo, the Wachowskis, and others, the comic book industry underwent a major reinvention in the early ’90s. And it wasn’t just a result of Marvel and DC maturing, either; underground companies like Vertigo and Dark Horse also churned out some of their most renowned content during this time. After single-handedly reinventing Batman in 1986 with The Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller returned in the early ’90s with his ultra-violent neo-noir series, Sin City (adapted excellently for the screen by Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino, and Frank Miller himself in 2005). In 1989, James O’Barr published the gothic revenge tale The Crow, while Neil Gaiman began his long-running, surrealist Sandman series. Both of these publications swiftly found an adult audience and extended their appeal to members of the goth and punk subcultures. By 1993, Dark Horse had introduced Mike Mignola’s character Hellboy, a demonic detective summoned from Hell who uses lethal means to vanquish supernatural threats. Such a character could not have existed a decade or two prior without major moral backlash. The same goes for Todd MacFarlane’s hellish Spawn. Thus, when McFarlane became lead illustrator for The Amazing Spider-Man in 1988, the time was ripe to inject a more macabre sensibility into Spider-Man. Originally designed as an evil foil to the Webslinger, Venom’s origin story is fairly convoluted, which is why his introduction into media has always proven tricky. Let’s start from the beginning.

In 1984, Marvel ran a series of issues known as the Secret Wars saga, in which Spider-Man and numerous other Marvel regulars (the Hulk, The Fantastic Four, members of the X-Men, and more) were transported to a foreign planet called Battleworld to face off against the cosmic threat of Beyonder and a legion of supervillains. After Spider-Man’s traditional red-and-blue costume was damaged in battle, the Webslinger stumbles across a mysterious black orb that releases a tarry, obsidian-hued substance (later referred to as an “alien symbiote”) which attaches itself to Spider-Man, regaling him with a super-cool new black costume. The new suit not only looks badass, but enhances Spidey’s strength and all of his abilities. Spider-Man comes to like the costume so much, in fact, that he takes it with him back to Earth following the conclusion of the Secret Wars storyline. It wouldn’t be until Amazing Spider-Man #258 (1984), however, that Peter Parker would finally discover—with the help of the Fantastic Four—that his new costume was itself, a living alien being. Using Mr. Fantastic’s sonic technology, Spidey manages to separate himself from the alien, only for it to break free, track down its host, and “re-bond” with him in Web of Spider-Man #1 (1985). At the end of this issue, Spider-Man, desperate to break free from the symbiote’s control, lures it into a bell tower, where the abrasive noise of the tolling church bells forces the symbiote off Peter’s body. Deprived of its host, the costume seems to die, but not before saving an unconscious Peter’s life.

Unbeknownst to Spider-Man, the symbiote survived and, in its weakened state, managed to find a new host in Eddie Brock, a disgraced journalist whose hatred for Spider-Man matched the alien’s animosity. Brock hides in the shadows for several issues before finally revealing himself as Venom in an epic introduction at the end of Amazing Spider-Man #299. Mary Jane (who at this point has married Peter and knows his alter-ego) comes home and spots Spider-Man’s signature white eyes and spider emblem staring at her from a darkened corner of their apartment. Thinking it’s her husband in his black Spider-Man suit, MJ flips on the light, only for Venom to reveal himself for the first time in all his terrifying glory—sprouting his signature toothy grin and uttering the immortal line, “Hi honey... I’M HOME!”

In the following issue, The Amazing Spider-Man #300, Spider-Man manages to track down Venom (after consoling Mary Jane, who’s been frightened out of her wits). In their first meeting, Venom identifies himself as both the spurned alien symbiote and former reporter Eddie Brock, who inadvertently lost his job because of Spider-Man. As it turns out, Eddie was reporting on a New York serial killer called the “Sin Eater” and published an exposé supposedly revealing the killer’s identity. However, Eddie’s suspect turned out to be a false confessor and the real Sin Eater was later apprehended thanks to Spider-Man. Eddie was fired for his false report, his marriage fell apart, and he was driven to the verge of suicide. When Spider-Man entered the church tower to remove the symbiote, it just so happens that Eddie was praying for forgiveness in the very same church. Weakened from the clanging bells and sensing Eddie’s “venomous” hatred for Spider-Man, the symbiote joined Eddie to become the being known as Venom.

Over a series of character-defining issues, Spider-Man comes to realize that he has his work cut out for him. First of all, Venom has all of Spider-Man’s powers (since the symbiote was first attached to the Webslinger), but he’s stronger, more vicious, and utterly relentless in his pursuit of vengeance against Peter. Before he even bonded with the alien, Brock was an Olympic bodybuilder capable of lifting nearly 600 pounds on his own accord. After bonding with the symbiote, Venom has the strength of both Brock and Spider-Man, but multiplied by about three. As if all of that weren’t enough, the alien’s time with Spider-Man allows Venom to block Peter’s “spider-sense” and remain completely undetectable. He could walk up behind Spidey at any moment and snap his neck before the Wallcrawler would even think to turn around. To make matters even worse, Venom’s burning hatred for Peter Parker/Spider-Man and his inside knowledge of his habits and secret identity ensures that none of Peter Parker’s friends or family members are ever truly safe from his wrath.

At the conclusion of their first few meetings, Spider-Man quickly learns that the only reliable way to best Venom is through deception and intellectual trickery rather than in a head-on fight. Thus, Spider-Man smartly employs the same sonic technology that originally allowed him to separate himself from the alien. Despite their first handful of defeats at the hands of Spider-Man, the bond between Eddie and the symbiote proves inseparable and the two are typically carted away to the Vault (a maximum security prison designed to hold super-criminals (essentially the Marvel/Spider-Man take on Arkham Asylum), where they are contained in a special cell that employs sound waves to keep the alien at bay. Perhaps the most interesting conflict that occurs between Spider-Man and Venom during the Todd McFarlane era is their beachside battle at the conclusion of Amazing Spider-Man #316, when a desperate Peter lures the symbiote away from Brock and back to himself in an attempt to incapacitate both Brock and the alien. It works, and Venom is apprehended once more.

By the dawn of the ’90s, it was apparent to the writers and illustrators at Marvel that Venom’s popularity not only as a villain, but as a general character, was growing exponentially among fans. Therefore, it was only a matter of time before Spider-Man’s black-suited menace was given his own run of issues. The first solo Venom story was printed in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #25, subtitled “Venom—In the Truckstop of Doom!” This issue marked the beginning of Venom’s portrayal as an anti-hero rather than a strict antagonist of Spider-Man (who is only mentioned briefly in “The Truckstop of Doom”), and saw Eddie Brock, following his latest escape from the Vault, battle a gang of thugs who take a bus stop full of innocent people hostage. While “Truckstop of Doom” is a brief and not altogether memorable issue, it sets up Venom’s future standalone “Lethal Protector” series and adds another layer to his warped, but unassailable sense of morality. While Venom’s hatred for Spider-Man remains, it is Eddie Brock’s self-image as an honest reporter and a purveyor of justice that leads him to use his symbiotic powers for good—the major difference between him and the Webslinger being that Venom isn’t particularly demure about dispatching “bad guys” through gruesomely lethal means such as suffocation, dismemberment, and on special occasions... consumption.

Venom’s next encounter with Spider-Man proved a major narrative benchmark in the history of the character. After tracking down Spider-Man once again, Venom runs afoul of villain Styx, a man whose very touch has been rendered lethal due to genetic experimentation. When Styx grasps Venom at the end of Amazing Spider-Man #333, it not only separates the alien from Brock—it also seems to disintegrate the symbiote completely. A very relieved Peter counts his lucky stars, believing the threat of Venom to be well and truly over. Of course, his naive self- assurance proves to be short-lived. Without his costume, Eddie is moved to Ryker’s Island Penitentiary, where he shares a cell with convicted mass-murderer Cletus Kasady. Kasady is a seriously disturbed young man whose grooming as a serial killer began practically from birth. Kasady was violently abused by both his family and the faculty at the St. Estes Home for Boys, which he burned to the ground in retaliation. A few other “greatest hits” from Kasady’s childhood include his torturing and killing both his grandmother and her dog, as well as an incident in which he pushed a young girl in front of a passing bus for rejecting his advances.

Following his horrific early years, Kasady continued his career as a serial killer, developing a philosophy and worldview centered solely around causing destruction and creating chaos. Accordingly, during their time in prison, both Brock and Kasady grow to hate one another. One night, as Kasady contemplates killing Eddie with a handmade shiv, a newly reformed alien symbiote returns to rescue Brock from imprisonment. The two reunite as Venom and break free while Kasady looks on in stunned silence. Unbeknownst to Kasady, the symbiote also managed to reproduce during the escape, leaving behind its spawn...

Reunited at least, Brock and the alien track down Spider-Man once more for a fight to the death which they believe will finally see the end of their hated enemy (The Amazing Spider- Man #347). Venom chooses a remote island off the coast of New York to act as the final battleground between himself and the Webslinger. Realizing that Venom is stronger than ever and will never give up his pursuit of Spider-Man until he’s laying six feet under, Peter hatches a plan as he stumbles upon an abandoned mining shaft while Brock hunts for him. Following a massive explosion, Venom enters the mine, where he finds a pile of skeletal remains, a tattered Spider-Man costume, and a pair of melted web-shooters. Venom celebrates the apparent death of Spider-Man while Peter, very much alive, sails back to the Big Apple undetected. With Spider-Man out of the way, Brock and the alien decide to remain on the island and live out the rest of their lives in peace.

When Peter returns to New York, he begins to hear horrific news stories of mass murders being committed at random throughout the city by a man called “Carnage,” who writes his name in blood, Manson-like, on the walls of his crime scenes. Carnage even eviscerates one of Peter’s university lab partners. When Spider-Man finally tracks down this new menace, he’s horrified to learn that he is, in fact, a second symbiote with Cletus Kasady as its host. Following Eddie Brock’s escape from prison, the symbiote’s offspring bonded with Kasady and enhanced both his strength and murderous impulses in the process. With similar powers to both Spider-Man and Venom, Carnage also utilizes abilities appropriate to his psychopathic disposition, including being able to generate lethal projectiles and create weapons such as blades and axes using his costume. Carnage’s startling black-and-blood-red suit also mimics its host’s mental instability by constantly generating squirming tendrils and being far less stable in nature than Venom’s suit. The creators of Carnage have gone on record by stating that, beyond wanting to create a darker, eviler alternative to Venom, they were also influenced by Batman’s Joker when designing Kasady’s twisted and sadistic persona. And, just like Venom, Marvel’s newest killer symbiote gained immense popularity amongst Spider-Man fans.

Spider-Man’s first encounter with Carnage (see Amazing Spider- Man #361) nearly kills the Webslinger. Thus, much to his dread, Peter realizes that the only way to defeat this red-suited monster is to enlist the help of Venom, which means revealing that his death was a sham and bringing his greatest enemy back into his life. Accompanied by the Fantastic Four’s Human Torch, Spider-Man returns to the island where he left Venom following their last conflict and shows himself to be alive, much to Venom’s rage and disbelief. After both Peter and the Human Torch are almost single-handedly defeated, Spider-Man manages to talk Venom down by revealing that his psychotic former cellmate has bonded with another symbiote and the two are slaughtering innocent people. This creates an interesting dynamic in the relationship between Spider-Man, Venom, and Carnage. While Spider-Man blames himself for bringing Venom into the world (after all, the origin of both symbiotes originally lay with Peter), Venom sees himself as being responsible for the creation of Carnage, whom he views as the ultimate threat to innocence. This realization stays Venom’s hand and motivates him to temporarily join forces with Spider-Man to bring down Carnage.

Upon returning to New York, Spider-Man and Venom track Carnage down at a heavy metal concert, where Spider-Man uses the booming sound system to separate both Kasady and Brock from their symbiotes and capture them (going back on his word to allow Brock his freedom once Carnage has been defeated). Both Venom and Carnage pop up in several subsequent issues—one in particular being Amazing Spider-Man # 375, where Venom and Spider-Man make their final truce and agree to stay out of one another’s way after Venom saves Peter’s parents from a fire and Spider-Man rescues Eddie’s ex-wife, Ann Weying (a character played by Michelle Williams in Venom [2018]), from falling debris. Spider-Man allows Venom to go free and relocate to San Francisco, where he becomes the Bay Area’s aptly named “Lethal Protector.” Thus begins the six-part Venom: Lethal Protector (1993) arc in which Venom takes on the role as violent antihero, dispatching hordes of San Francisco’s criminal element without losing a second of sleep. The Lethal Protector series also introduced a slew of new symbiotic characters (such as Shriek and Riot), and provided much of the source material for Venom’s first, long-awaited standalone film starring Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock.

In the years following the Lethal Protector storyline, both Eddie Brock and the Venom symbiote underwent numerous changes and alterations in the comics during the late ’90s/2000s. In the Planet of the Symbiotes arc, the Venom suit has its origin story altered slightly, detailing the alien’s existence prior to being discovered by Spider-Man on Battleworld. According to this series of issues, the symbiote was part of a greater race of alien creatures on the titular “Planet of the Symbiotes,” and was excommunicated from its home world due to its violent and eccentric tendencies, forced to live in solitude on Battleworld where it would later bond with Spider-Man. Comics creators also gave the symbiote a whole new series of hosts to control in the years following the character’s ’90s heyday—including Spidey villain the Scorpion, and Peter Parker’s former high school nemesis, Flash Thompson (setting up the Agent Venom arc). Eddie Brock, meanwhile, was diagnosed with terminal cancer after being separated from the healing abilities of the alien. Of course, in the New Ways to Die storyline, Eddie was miraculously cured of his cancer and encountered the Scorpion (who was, at this time, the most recent incarnation of Venom). When the alien leaves the Scorpion and attempts to re- bond with Eddie, Brock’s damaged white blood cells cause the alien to react and reverse colors—turning its body white and its eyes and spider symbol black. This creates a whole new symbiotic character in the form of Anti-Venom.

In 2018, with the release of Venom’s first solo live-action film, Marvel got back to basics and reintroduced the classic Eddie Brock/Venom pairing in their original glory for the self-titled Venom comic book series, developed and illustrated by Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman. In this series, the alien’s origin story is once again retconned. According to the newest incarnation of the Venom universe, the “Planet of the Symbiotes” never actually existed. Instead, the entire race of alien symbiotes were the creation of an evil symbiotic deity called Knull. Knull, of course, attacks Earth, leaving it up to Venom and a whole host of additional Marvel heroes and anti-heroes (mirroring the Maximum Carnage arc in more ways than one) including both the Peter Parker and Miles Morales versions of Spider-Man, the Hulk, Wolverine, Captain America, and more to protect the planet during the King in Black storyline. Additionally, Knull enlists the help of Cletus Kasady/Carnage during the fantastic Absolute Carnage run to wreak havoc on Venom and co. and ensure Knull’s reawakening and assault on Earth. The King in Black / Absolute Carnage issues are veritable love letters to Venom’s extensive comic book history, tying all of his best storylines together in a cohesive bow that makes for some of the best Venom material in comics since he experienced the height of his popularity in the late ’80s/early ’90s.

Prior to his live-action feature film debut, Venom appeared in numerous Spider-Man properties throughout the ’90s and 2000s (animated television shows, video games, and more) as an antagonist. For my money, his greatest iteration outside the comics was in Disney subsidiary Buena Vista’s animated Spider-Man series from 1994. In this version, Brock, voiced by Simpsons voice actor Hank Azaria, is (true to the comics) a ruthless, bodybuilding journalist, and a recurring character. The three-part episode arc in which Spider-Man bonds with the black suit, removes it after it begins altering his personality, and unwittingly creates Venom is arguably the most impressively rendered story arc of the entire show.

Knowing full well the character’s worth and enormous threat to Spider-Man, the writers and animators of Spider-Man dedicate an entire episode (“The Alien Costume Part 3”) to Venom’s torment of Spider-Man, beating him in several battles and threatening both Mary Jane and Aunt May before Peter finally manages to defeat him in an epic fight atop a space launch platform with the sonic assistance of a launching rocket. Venom returns in another fun couple of episodes (“Venom Returns” and “Carnage”) where the symbiote breaks Eddie out of prison and leaves its offspring to bond with Cletus Kasady to create Carnage, who—due to the show’s restrictions as a daytime cartoon for kids—is reimagined as a “really bad guy” rather than a remorseless serial killer. As per the comics, Spider-Man and Venom agree to temporarily put aside their differences to bring Carnage down.

The film industry’s first indication that Venom was a hugely popular (and profitable) character came with the concluding chapter to Sam Raimi’s still-great Spider-Man trilogy (2002, 2004, 2007). The first two installments were largely reliant on Raimi’s creative control and love for old-school Spider-Man, utilizing more “conventional” Spidey villains like Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) and Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina). However, with Spider-Man 3 (2007), Marvel producer Avi Arad stepped in, informing Raimi of Venom’s popularity amongst Spider-Man fans and imploring him to incorporate the alien symbiote into the plot of the film. It’s been well-documented in the years following Spider-Man 3’s release that Raimi was never a huge fan of Venom as a character, opining that he “lacked humanity” in comparison to ’60s and ’70s era Spider-Man villains. However, at the behest of the studio and the fans, Raimi relented and integrated Venom’s story into an already overstuffed plot centered around Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) succumbing to his inner darkness while also contending with the Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) and Harry Osborn’s (James Franco) version of the Green Goblin. Falling short of delivering the level of darkness that fans (myself included) expected and hoped for in the finished film, the presence of the alien only amplifies Peter’s goofier and dorkier qualities (that immortal James Brown street strut scene...), rather than turning him into a genuinely evil person.

In addition, Sam Raimi cast That ’70s Show star Topher Grace as a slimmer, sleazier version of Eddie Brock in an attempt to frame the character as a morally bankrupt counterpart to Peter Parker. It’s a move that might well have worked for Raimi’s purposes if, in fact, Grace’s Brock had a sense of menace to him. Instead, he’s a rather pathetic and wormy character who struggles for development in a script packed with B-plots (Mary Jane, the black suit, Sandman, Harry, Gwen Stacy, the list goes on and on). When Grace’s Brock finally does bond with the suit and he becomes Venom (within the last 20 minutes of the film), he’s unthreatening and underutilized, opting to team up with Sandman (if the comics are anything to go by, Venom would never team up with anyone to share a crack at Spider-Man) and kidnap Mary Jane—the third time this happens during the course of three films.

While Venom’s trim, “evil Spider-Man” look wasn’t entirely a bad decision, his muted, cat-like shrieks, and the ease in which he’s kicked around by Spider-Man and Harry’s Goblin left fans of the character supremely disappointed. And while many critics pointed to Raimi’s forced inclusion of the symbiote as the straw that broke the movie’s back, Venom fans such as myself would argue that Spider-Man 3 would have been better served by removing extraneous characters like Sandman and Gwen Stacy and focusing on Peter’s struggle with the symbiote and his dark side. It likely would have allowed more breathing room, pleased the fans, complemented the film’s themes of darkness and revenge, and could have introduced Venom halfway through the movie instead of during the final 20 minutes. Not to mention that, despite his negative feelings about the character, Venom seemed to be a villain all but tailor-made for Raimi to bring to life, especially considering his background in horror and dark fantasy (the Evil Dead trilogy [1981,1987, 1992] and Darkman [1990]). But, I digress. In spite of the fact that Spider- Man 3 is easily the worst of the Raimi trilogy, it broke box-office records at the time—in part because of the hype generated around Venom’s inclusion in the film. Also, don’t get me wrong—Spider-Man 3 is still loads of fun (especially when viewed in an ironic light), but its presentation of Venom still leaves a lot to be desired.

Almost as soon as Spider-Man 3 hit screens, a Venom solo project was rushed into development as Sony grew wise to the character’s enormous popularity and cinematic potential. The script went through multiple iterations, writers, concepts, and potential directors in the years following the conclusion of the Spider-Man trilogy. With Sony’s own misguided attempt to revitalize the franchise with The Amazing Spider-Man films (2012, 2014, starring Andrew Garfield, in which the only redeeming quality, for my money, was Emma Stone’s endearing and earnest portrayal of Gwen Stacy), fans’ hopes for a new stab at a Spider-Man vs. Venom movie were dashed. Even more so when Disney acquired the rights to Spider-Man from Sony, who retained the rights to Venom due to his inclusion in Spider-Man 3. It wasn’t until 2017 that a trailer finally dropped for 2018’s Venom, revealing Tom Hardy’s (who proved himself a natural fit for Eddie/Venom with his menacing portrayal of Bane in The Dark Knight Rises [2012]) Venom in all his burly, toothy, monstrous glory via some truly marvelous effects work. Though not sporting his iconic white tarantula logo (in an effort to distance him from Spider-Man), this was the Venom that fans had been yearning to see on screen ever since being let down by Spider-Man 3.

Ignoring the symbiote’s new origin story sans Spider-Man, the majority of the film turned out to be fairly true to the comics, particularly the Lethal Protector arc. Venom, as a whole, is admittedly not a particularly great film—scenes are rushed, some of the humor falls flat, and Ruben Fleischer’s direction isn’t all that impressive—but it’s really enjoyable popcorn entertainment and, as a fan, I believe it does a good amount of justice to the character. It’s admirable as well that Fleischer and his creative team garnered influence from films such as Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), and the work of David Cronenberg, the Canadian king of body horror. They even included a scene where Venom bites the head off a henchman. Awesome. Plus, Tom Hardy’s unhinged performance characterizes Eddie Brock in a way we’ve never seen before (not even in the comic books), and his natural chemistry with the also great Michelle Williams helps carry the film. Not to mention that Williams also gets her own little scene as She-Venom when the alien uses her body to find its way back to Eddie. By far the film’s most ingenious aspect, however, is its twisted “buddy movie” aesthetic, pitting Eddie and the alien against one another like a pair of feuding roommates.

While fans had been chomping at the bit for years for a Venom film featuring Carnage as the villain (which was the original plan), the studio opted to use Kasady (Woody Harrelson) as a post-credits franchise hook and instead went with Riot (the bonding of villain Carlton Drake to a silver-colored “boss” symbiote) as the film’s antagonist. Riot utilized several of Carnage’s powers, including the ability to use its form to generate weapons. Therefore, it stands to reason that Andy Serkis’ upcoming sequel, Venom: Let There Be Carnage (pushed back to a October 1st release due to COVID) is going to have to bring a whole lot of crazy Carnage shenanigans to the table to make its version of the symbiotic serial killer stand out.

Based on the teaser trailer, released as recently as May 10th of this year, Serkis and the creative team behind Venom 2 seem to be drawing influence from the 14-part Maximum Carnage (1993) arc, in which Carnage, bolstered by a team of supervillains—including his psychotic “girlfriend”, Shriek (who’s also set to appear in Venom 2, played by Naomie Harris)-- wreaks havoc on New York, leaving it up to Spider-Man, Venom, and their own assembly of superheroes/vigilantes (including Morbius and the Black Cat) to put an end to Carnage’s murder spree. One of the darkest arcs in the history of Spider-Man comics, Maximum Carnage finds Peter at odds with both himself and Venom over whether or not to break his own moral code to put an end to Carnage’s slaughter spree. Though of course Spider-Man won’t be involved, the trailer also hints at what will undoubtedly be a standout scene where Kasady, scheduled to be executed by lethal injection, instead bonds with the Carnage symbiote. Considering that Serkis (known for his legendary motion capture performances as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Caesar in the Planet of the Apes films, and Snoke in the Star Wars sequel trilogy) is at the helm, I have no doubt that the film will deliver in spades.

If there were ever a question as to just how beloved by fans Venom is, the enormous response to both Spider-Man 3 and Venom alone have all but quelled any doubts. He is the most iconic and beloved villain from Spider-Man’s rogue gallery, challenged only by the Green Goblin. The physical similarities and moral duality of Spider-Man and Venom are what make them such a great hero/villain duo in the context of the Spider-Man universe. By the same token, the standalone Lethal Protector comics storyline and the blockbuster success and positive fan response of the first solo Venom film have all but silenced skeptics who claimed Venom could never work if removed from the Spider-Man universe. There will always be those who adore Spider-Man for his conscience and his moral purity. But for those who prefer their vigilantes meaner, scarier, and morally tenuous—Venom fits the bill perfectly... and he likely will for a very, very long time.

  • Gray Underwood
    About the Author - Gray Underwood

    Gray Underwood is a Los Angeles-based screenwriter, film reviewer, and devout cinephile. Gray became drawn to horror when he was six years old and discovered that Halloween was his favorite day of the year.

    After a relatively sheltered childhood, during which he discovered films such as Spielberg’s Jaws and the Universal Monsters catalog, Gray made it his mission- beginning in middle school- to study horror cinema and expose himself to every notable film, both classic and contemporary.

    Gray attended college at University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where he obtained a Bachelor’s in screenwriting. He lives and breathes the macabre, both in his professional and personal life, and is always on the lookout for the latest advancements in dark culture, both as a storyteller and an avid consumer.