Following a summer of superhero mega-hits such as Disney’s “Avengers: Infinity War” and Fox’s “Deadpool 2,” Sony will release its latest comic-book film “Venom” this Friday, October 5th. While he’s very familiar to Marvel fans, Venom has yet to prove himself to wider moviegoing audiences. Who is Venom? What are his comic book origins? How does his movie connect to other superhero films?
Venom’s comic book origins are deeply entangled with Spider-Man. In the early 1980s, Peter Parker received a new black-and-white costume. Made of a stretchy, slimy substance, it was a definite upgrade from his previous outfit: it produced stronger webs, enhanced the wearer’s physical strength, and constantly regenerated. However, Parker soon discovered that the costume was actually a parasitic alien creature feeding on his energy that he called “the Symbiote.” After noticing its vulnerability to sound, Parker detached himself from the suit by weakening it with church bells.
After Spider-Man abandoned the Symbiote, it attached to a new host: Eddie Brock, a disgraced journalist whose career was inadvertently ruined by Spider-Man’s actions. As Venom, Brock and the suit both sought revenge against Spider-Man. Venom has the same powers as the Symbiote’s previous host, the ability to shape-shift. Venom appears as a hulking dark reflection of Spider-Man with an enormous tongue, grotesque teeth, and a white spider symbol on his chest. However, the white spider detail will probably be absent from his upcoming film.
Why might Venom lack his signature spider ensignia? The answer dates back to the 1990s, when Marvel Comics was on the verge of bankruptcy. In a last-ditch effort to save the company, Marvel sold the film rights of its most popular characters to various movie studios, including Sony, which purchased Spider-Man and his supporting characters. Sony had a string of hits with the Spider-Man trilogy starring Tobey Maguire: the trilogy made over $2.5 billion and featured Venom as a secondary antagonist in its final film.
However, the “Amazing Spider-Man” series underperformed financially, which led Sony to collaborate with Disney’s Marvel Studios for a third try at the character. Sony and Disney’s deal gave Marvel Studios the freedom to use Spider-Man in films like “Captain America: Civil War,” while Sony developed the new Tom Holland series with creative input from Disney. The financial success of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” rejuvenated Sony’s faith in the brand and prompted it to hastily produce “Venom” without Disney’s creative approval.
It’s possible that Sony will attempt to include some vague references to the events of other Marvel films, but since Disney didn’t have any creative input, the movie’s chances of integrating with the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe are slim to none. “Venom” will almost certainly ignore Spider-Man or any references to him, which means his origin will probably be vastly different from the comic books. “Venom” stars Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock and releases this Friday, October 5th.