Probably the most infamous of Spiderman’s foes, Venom has grown to become one of the most popular character’s from the Spiderman stories, sometimes even eclipsing the webhead himself at times. However, it’s this very popularity that’s caused the character to come under much scrutiny. Many of have criticized the 90’s stories he took part in. Some even go further then that. Many older fans proclaim Venom is a lame or boring villian.
Film critic, editorial writer and avid Spiderman fan Bob Chipman had this to say about Venom in his thoughts on Spiderman 3.
“ Okay I get there are people who see something in Venom that I just don’t but I still don’t there’s nothing interesting about him other then he looks like Spider-man”
As much as I love Bob Chipman’s thoughts, I respectfully disagree. In fact, Venom is one of the best villains in the Spider-man rogues gallery, easily rivaling the likes of the Goblin or Doctor Octupus. Venom as both the symbiote and the Eddie brock hybrid, represents addictions, toxic relationships, A inverse mirror to Peter’s ego, a twisted “familiar” mirror to his alter-ego and a threat dangerous to him physically, emotionally and far more spiritually then any other villian in his rogue’s gallery.
Let’s first start with what Venom represents in his most basic form: An addictive and toxic relationship. The symbiote at first provides Peter with things he seems to want such as success in crime-fighting and a confident backbone. However, slowly it becomes clear that this all comes at the cost of Peter’s personnal life and health. The symbiote wears him like a puppet and he starts to lose his identity to more aggressive behavior. Thankfully, he realizes what happens and rejects it.
However, what’s terrifying is that experience didn’t come without a twisted price. Later the Symbiote would become Venom and wreck havoc on Spider-man. What’s even creepier is that it resembless real world toxic relationships and how intimacy with a person can be used against you. The symbiote was able to get into his thoughts and feelings and is able to use that “quality time” against Peter. He knows Peter’s identity, loved ones and a number of personnal details. The connections gives the Symbiote a perverse obsessions with Peter too. In additions Peter’s spider-sense, a self-perserving force, is completely powerless against Venom. To put it simply, The familiarity the two of them had makes the confrontation far deadlier and dramatic. (Improve)
However, the interesting master-stroke in this equation is in in character Eddie Brock. Originally planned to be a woman who lost her child to Spider-man, Brock is instead a muscle-bound thug-like man who blames Spider-man for his personal losses in life. Unlike the symbiote, Brock knew nothing about Spider-man as a person. But, he knew he hated him, blaming the wall-crawler for his greatest failings. Spider-man becomes a symbol in his mind for everything that is wrong in his life.
While their alter-ego’s are similar Peter and Eddie are polar opposites from demeanor to physique. While Peter was a scrawny nerd, Eddie is a large Body builder the size of a tank. Where Peter is intelligent and Clever, Brock is foolish and in some cases foolhardy. Peter Parker is constantly thinking about others, While Brock only cares about his goals of vengeance and not the pain it will cause. While Peter complains about his experiences, he ultimately remembers he has responsibility in life, Brock constantly blames and scapegoats everything around him.
This adds a new dimension to the character. It makes him less of an evil clone and more of a de-construction of everything Peter is. He’s not Peter’s double, he’s Peter’s anti-self.
This is what makes him such a great villian. He is the un-maker of Peter Parker and he doesn’t have the distractions or the strange “honor code” other villians do. Take Green Goblin for example. In Green Goblin stories, While Goblin does know his secret identity and occasionally WILL strike at Peter’s loved ones (famously Gwen Stacy), There’s a perverse sense of limits due to the interconnected of Peter and Norman’s personnal lives being connected and Norman having his own distinct goals and convoluted master planner madness.
This is not the case with Venom. Venom Hates Spider-man in every way and will take him every moment he can, only holding off on killing him So Peter can suffer more. It’s so disturbing because it comes from a much more human place instead of “evil for the sake of evil” mad scientist behavior that many of Spider-man’s rogue gallery possesses. Instead, combines the disturbing intimacy of an abusive friend, family member or ex-lover with the prejudiced bigot who barely knows you but is willing to murder you because of what you represent to him.
In addition to all that, Venom is a terrifying physical threat for Peter. As pointed out, he’s not merely a clone of Spider-man, he’s Spider-man amplified. He’s stronger, hardier and even has more powerful webbing then Peter. That mixed with his spider-sense immunity, means Peter always has a large disadvantage and has to win via his wits. Venom is so dangerous, that he’s one of the few villian’s that Peter actively has PTSD fear or nightmares about.
In both Spider-man the animated series and Spectacular Spiderman, Peter has visions and dreams of Venom even after defeating him. Again, this further connects Venom and the symbiote stories with elements of Toxic relationships, abuse and being “used”. Peter is emotionally scarred by Venom himself and the physical and emotional torments directed towards Peter. These conflicts are exactly what makes him so valuable as a villian. he forces Peter to respect who he is rather then constantly feeling “guilty” for what he’s not. Excellent evidence for this is the end of the first Spectacular Spider-man season 1 Peter pours out a potion that would have removed his powers permanently. He affirms to himself “Spider-man is who I am” This is the conclusion of a subplot of the season of where Peter had been questioning whether to get rid of hi spowers or not.
In the end, Venom represents a Physical, emotional and spiritual threat to Spider-man that the rest of his rogues gallery can learn from. His alter-ego destroys the spirit of Peter-parker, He emotionally torments people as the symbiote and the terrifying venom and he’s never going to be a villian he can punch away like a street thug. However, because of all that, it’s such a powerful triumph when he wins.