For better or worse, Sony Pictures’ Venom is upon us. Maybe the movie blew you away, or maybe you wish it’d blow away like a turd in the wind. Maybe it makes you want to trace the antihero’s origins back to the comic books. If that’s the case, you’re in luck. We have a few suggestions on where to start reading.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but provides some good starting points. So get ready to sink your giant monster-y teeth into some comics.
The antihero known as Venom first debuted in 1988’s Amazing Spider-Man 299-300, although the symbiote first appeared as Spider-Man’s “Alien Costume” in Amazing Spider-Man 252 and Secret Wars 8 (1984).
Needing a villain for the landmark 300th issue of Spider-Man, editorial returned to the black costume and decided it should attach itself to someone with a grudge against Spider-Man. Eddie Brock was a disgraced reporter with a grudge against Spider-Man. Contemplating suicide, he visits the church where Spider-Man had previously rejected the suit. Sensing the mutual hatred for the webslinger, the suit bonds to Eddie and they become Venom. These early appearances as well as other stories are collected in Spider-Man: The Birth of Venom, in paperback and digital as well as the Spider-Man vs. Venom omnibus.
Venom developed into a “Lethal Protector” only seeking vengeance on those he felt were guilty, obsessed with protecting the innocent. Over the course of these stories, Venom would pop out several symbiote offspring, most of them only appearing briefly, longer lasting ones included Carnage and Toxin, deadly red creatures each with their own series.
In the 2000’s Eddie Brock rejected the symbiote, which eventually found its way to Mac Gargan, the former Scorpion. The new Venom joined Norman Osborn’s Thunderbolts (basically Marvel’s Suicide Squad). In New Ways to Die, Gargan confronts Eddie Brock, who becomes Anti-Venom, able to heal others and destroy the Symbiote. Spider-Man and Brock team-up to defeat Venom and prevent Osborn from manipulating the New York mayoral election. Osborn later took control of S.H.I.E.L.D. and turned the ‘Bolts into his Dark Avengers, with villains posing as heroes. Venom took the place of Spider-Man.
After Gargan was apprehended, the Symbiote was used to relaunch Project Rebirth, with the goal of producing a super soldier. The host chosen for the program was Flash Thompson, close friend of Peter Parker and Spider-Man’s biggest fan. Flash struggles with controlling the symbiote, mutating from good soldier to hulking monster based on his emotions. Under writer Rick Remender (Uncanny X-Force, Deadly Class), the 2011 Venom series contrasted Flash with Peter Parker and Venom with Spider-Man, while featuring very little of Spider-Man himself. Remender’s Venom was collected in two volumes.
Writer Cullen Bunn (X-Men Blue, Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe) takes over for the last chunk of the series which sees Flash fight Carnage, get a sidekick, and face Eddie Brock, now the host for the Toxin symbiote. Available in paperback and digital.
After Venom’s series ended, Flash and the symbiote appeared for a story arc in Superior Spider-Man. Doctor Octopus had swapped minds with Spider-Man and had stolen his life. Venom returns to New York to confront the seemingly returned Crime Master, but is assaulted by Spider-Ock. Using Flash as a test subject for his new prosthetics, Ock steals the symbiote and grows more and more out of control forcing Flash and the Avengers to team up and take him down. Collected in the Superior Venom paperback.
In the aftermath, Iron Man suggests he become the Avengers’ liaison to the Guardians of the Galaxy. Flash is on the team for several storylines, but only plays prominence in Planet of the Symbiotes, where we discover the origin of the alien. The Symbiote’s species, the Klyntar, are actually a peaceful race who provide symbiosis to make protectors of the universe. Reconnecting with its homeworld alters Venom into a more heroic figure. This launches a new series Venom: Space Knight.
The symbiote returns to Brock in Mike Costa’s Venom series. There’s not much to note here except a fun crossover with The Amazing Spider-Man. In Venom Inc., Lee Price, one of the symbiote’s former hosts, steals the Symbiote of Mania, Flash’s sidekick from the Cullen Bunn era. He’s able to make copies of it to mind control the New York underworld, bringing Spider-Man, Venom, and Flash Thompson (who becomes the new Anti-Venom) together to take down Price and his symbiote army. Collected in paperback and digital.
Donny Cates/Ryan Stegman’s Venom
The current Venom series by writer Donny Cates and artist Ryan Stegman take Venom to never before seen depths. Revealing the secret history of the symbiotes. They’ve secretly been on Earth for centuries. Controlled by Knull, the God of the Symbiotes, they’re ready to ravage the Earth and only Venom, Miles Morales and a Vietnam War vet with a Symbiote of his own can stop Earth from being permanently bonded…to DOOM!
In the universe of Ultimate Spider-Man, Eddie Brock was a childhood friend of Peter Parker. Their fathers worked together to develop a cure for cancer, however it was unstable and it would attack the cells of the wearer if they didn’t possess Parker DNA. After feeling Peter betrayed him, Brock bonds himself to “The Suit” and becomes Venom in digital and paberback.
Cullen Bunn has also returned to Venom to tell a story of What If…? The symbiote bonded to other characters, followed by Brock leading the charge against Poisons, genetically weaponized Venoms from other universes.
You can check out that saga in the following books: