(Editor’s note: This is another in a series of irregularly-scheduled columns by Managing Editor Byron Brewer, mainly dealing with cosmic comics and their many denizens. Mr. Brewer’s opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CosmicBookNews.com. He welcomes both raves and opposing views.)
By Byron Brewer
What can you say about Venom? It started out as a change of clothing for Spider-Man in Secret Wars and from there hit movie star status in Spider-Man 3.
Venom is a symbiote, a sentient alien with a gooey, almost liquid-like form. It requires a host, usually human, to bond around for its survival. In return, the Venom creature gives its host enhanced powers. In effect, when the Venom symbiote bonds with a human to form a supervillain, that new dual-life form itself is also called Venom.
The creature that would become Venom was born to a race of extraterrestrial parasites which lived by possessing the bodies of other life forms. According to the Planet of the Symbiotes storyline, the Venom symbiote was deemed insane by its own race after it was discovered that it desired to commit to its host rather than use it up. The symbiote was then imprisoned on Battleworld to ensure it didn't pollute the species' gene pool.
Though it requires a living host in order to survive, the Venom symbiote has been shown on some occasions to be able to fend for itself with its own set of unique powers. The symbiote, even without a host, has shown shapeshifting abilities like forming spikes and expanding its size. It’s telepathic and does not require physical contact to influence the minds of others.
In Planet of the Symbiotes, the creature, after being rejected by its host, emits a psychic scream which drives nearby humans to states of extreme depression. Later, with the assistance of Eddie Brock, it emits an even more powerful variant of that power which results in the mass suicide of an invasive force of symbiotes. This creature can blend with any background, using an optic-camouflage type of effect, and shapeshift to resemble ordinary clothing. Venom is immune to the Penance Stare, an ability used by Ghost Rider. It also augments the strength of its hosts.
The symbiote originally rejected its species' habit of consuming its hosts, but in some interpretations it still required certain chemicals (human adrenaline) in order to survive. When starved of these chemicals, the symbiote developed a mutable exoskeleton, allowing it to form its own solid body which it used to hunt and kill prey without the assistance of a host. However, because of Brock's, and later Gargan's, influence on its personality the symbiote has developed a taste for blood, which both its hosts were forced to sate by physically devouring their victims.
Later, the suit's evolution progressed and as shown in the 2003 Venom series, its clone could spontaneously jump from host to host and after every departure said hosts would be left dead.
Because of its contact with Spider-Man, the symbiote cannot be detected by the hero's spider-sense. As Spider-Man's fighting style is partly dependent on his spider-sense, his effectiveness was somewhat hampered when he battled Eddie Brock, allowing the less experienced Brock to keep up with him. However, the symbiote is vulnerable to loud noises, such as the ringing of church bells.
The symbiote’s second host Eddie Brock, after bonding with the symbiote to become the first Venom, is one of Spidey’s greatest foes. Spider-Man was the first host it merged with before its evil motives were clear. (It was disguised as Spider-Man’s black costume from Battleworld.) After Spider-Man rejected it, the symbiote went on to merge with other hosts (starting with Brock) and so began its reign as the villain known as Venom.
Mac Gargan, the former Scorpion, became the third Venom and duked it out with Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel during Norman Osborn’s Siege of Asgard as a member of the Dark Avengers.
In late 2010, we received word from Marvel of a new "black ops" Venom owned by the U.S.government. The birth of this new Venom can be seen in The Amazing Spider-Man #654.1. And in January 2011, the identity of the "black ops" Venom was revealed to be none other than Peter Parker’s high school sparring podna/bully, Flash Thompson!
Flash was hired by the government to be a special agent wearing the Venom symbiote. He was only allowed to wear the suit for up to 48 hours, or risk a permanent bonding with the symbiote. The government also had a "kill switch" designed to take Flash out if he lost control. Along with the alien, Flash was equipped with a "multi-gun" designed to change into any type of gun Flash needed. Flash battled Jack-o-Lantern and Kraven the Hunter, among others.
And, as this Brew’s Crew goes to press, Flash is bonking around Philly, still trying to keep his ID secret while enjoying a status of covert Avenger!
There is no doubt that this famed alien will continue in the Marvel spotlight, no matter who – or what? – its host may be.