So for the fifth (FIF) day of the Celebration of Wickedness, I present to you for your crooked examination, the greatest Spiderman villain ever: VENOM! (also known as Eddie Brock—that’s E for Eddie for you A to Z Challengers).
If you saw Spiderman 3, then you wasted your money. And your time. And you don’t know Venom—he didn’t even have a name in the movie. And while Sony laughs as it carts its $890M take to the bank for what I consider a piece of crap movie, we’re going to look at the original Venom, the one from the comic.
Venom is two separate characters brought together through their mutual hatred of Peter Parker, better known as Spiderman or the Kid in the Red and Blue Pajamas. One of those characters is a journalist named Eddie Brock who thought he was unmasking a serial killer/domestic terrorist called the Sin-Eater. When Brock went to claim his Pulitzer, he discovered he was dead-ass wrong and Spidey unmasked the real killer in front of the whole world. Eddie’s face was cracked and on the floor. The other half of the Venom persona is a symbiote—a parasitic entity that Spiderman picked up on another world during the Secret Wars. The symbiote was able to give Spidey a brand new suit, let him get rid of the web shooters and mimic his clothes and powers. The bad part is, being a parasite, it tried to kill Spiderman and, once he rejected it, it went off to lick its wounds.
Until it found Eddie Brock. Human being who hates Spiderman + symbiote who hates Spiderman AND mimics his powers AND knows who he is = VENOM.
(As I am writing this, I realize my nerd quotient is on HIGH! I better watch an episode of Mad Men so I can get some cool points back.)
I’ve been a fan of my Friendly Neighborhood Spiderman since I saw him jump on the Electric Company and point to a schwa. And when I heard “Is he strong? Listen bud/He’s got radioactive blood/Can he swing from a thread/Take a look overhead” I was hooked. Why? Because he’s a true hero. This is an ordinary kid, a lil nerdy—well, a lot nerdy—who got bit by a radioactive spider and suddenly had powers. I’ve watched as he’s grown over time, watched him make mistakes, get his ass kicked, build a family he cares about, love a girl, lose her and win her back. He’s an average guy made heroic because of the whole responsibility thing. This is not a “watch the villain kill the hero ‘cause he annoys me” post: Spidey’s my guy.
But Venom, man, Venom is freaking FANTASTIC! This villain completely takes apart the hero. He doesn’t set off Spiderman’s spider-sense so he gets entirely too close. He knows who Peter Parker is so he terrorizes Mary Jane and shows up in Aunt May’s kitchen. He’s stronger than Spiderman (because he works out Clubber Lang-style). And he wholeheartedly enjoys breaking Peter down.
We’ve all heard, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Everyone thinks it’s from the Godfather; it’s actually from the Art of War by Sun Tzu. This is what Venom does, literally: he systematically breaks Spiderman down, repeatedly, by staying underneath his radar, just around the corner, just within reach, keeping him off kilter. All the things that made Spiderman a superhero, Venom took from him. Made them irrelevant.
And he made Peter Parker a better hero in the process.
Oh, he kicked Spidey’s ass. No doubt about it. But, at the end, Spiderman was wiser, more resilient, and had a much better idea what was truly important. That’s the thing about an excellent villain. For all their dastardly deeds, for all the pain they inflict, all the grief they cause, the power of a great villain is forging a formidable foe. A worthy opponent.
And that’s my word! And my letter E. Tomorrow is Day 6, Letter F and that means the master of the nightmare, Freddy Krueger! HAHAHAHA!!
Fascinating! I know so very little about Spiderman lore, and the name Eddie Brock meant even less to me until now. Thanks for educating me!
Thanks so much! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’d like to think I’m not ALWAYS this nerdy but, for today, I couldn’t resist. Love this guy! I hope you stick around for more villains and more wickedness! Thanks again!
Another good point – “the power of a great villain is forging a formidable foe.” If the goal of a story is for the character to grow over time, then they need to be given the most powerful, relevant villain possible.
Ed, what do you think about the responsibility of making the villain evolve over time? Do we have more compelling villains if they have similar emotional/developmental arcs?
I think they are more compelling, because it becomes a moral lesson for the audience. Two similar characters at some point branch out from the same event – a shared childhood, a trauma, a disappointment. Faced with two choices, one aims for morality and the other for base revenge. It’s a choice we all have to make, and I think it makes the villain that much more terrifying, because we realize how easily we ourselves could be that villain.
I think that’s why I love Magneto and Lucifer for that matter–quite the emotional arcs and growth as characters. I think Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader could have some of that arc as well but they movies don’t deliver the same emotional weight