A Brief History of Venom
The 1990’s was a mixed bag at best when it came to the quality and appeal of elements introduced in mainstream comics during the decade. You have the ones that really just missed the mark right from the get-go, such as that time Sue Storm got a boob window on her costume shaped like the number 4 or that much maligned image of Captain America drawn by Rob Liefeld that looks like the super soldier just had one too many vials of steroids. Then, there are the ones that seemed like a good idea at the time but didn’t have much staying power – a product of the times, if you will, and we can’t blame them for that – like Gen 13’s obvious attempt at pandering to the alternative rock scene, the character Grunge, or even arguably Todd McFarlane’s Spawn. But of course there are times when the whole “extreme” era struck at gold, such as the decade also being the heyday of Vertigo Comics and the phenomenal rise of Marvel Comics’ Venom to comic book superstardom.
Technically speaking, the character was created 2 years prior to the 90’s, in 1988. But, since we’re talking about superhero comics here, you know it’s bound to get convoluted! See, we can actually find the idea for the symbiote costume even earlier, in 1984, when the publisher bought the idea for Spidey having a new black and white costume from an avid Marvelite named Randy Schueller who came up with the concept in a letter he sent to them. Years later, artists and writers from the house of Ideas would develop the idea that the same black and white costume comes from a sentient alien species, and in The Amazing Spider-man #300, Venom was born.
Compared to other characters in the Marvel stable, Venom’s popularity rose relatively quick thanks in part to the whole 90’s comic boom that saw humongous sales (which would then lead to the inevitable popping of the comic book bubble that was disastrous for the industry), considering that it is now considered one of the most iconic villains our friendly neighborhood Spider-man has ever faced. There’s just a certain savage appeal to the image of a black and white reptilian alien taking over its host, and perhaps that’s another reason Venom lasted this long.
Now, when you think of the character, it’s more than likely that you’ll associate it with one of its earliest incarnations, which is the Eddie Brock version; it’s a classic. But a more often overlooked facet of the character is the way it is similar to characters like DC’s Flash or Marvel’s Yellowjacket in that it is a legacy title held by various characters throughout its history. And that makes the symbiotic monster all the more endearing. Sure, there will always be just one Peter Parker or one Wolverine, but the prospect of having Venom be passed from generation to generation, run to run, makes for a very exciting villain.
Throughout Venom’s whole publication history, though, its role has changed from straight up nemesis to becoming more of an antihero – and to an extent even a plot device –, but we’re not complaining; this alien has all the good parts of the “extreme years” and none of the needless sex and violence that came with it.