It’s safe to say Spider-Man fans have had a fairly mixed reaction to Sony’s upcoming Venom movie so far. On the one hand, it’s great to see Eddie Brock being given another chance on the big screen. On the other, you’d hardly know we’re getting a new Spider-Man universe movie just based on the first trailer.
But while that trailer may have played things pretty close to the vest, the movie is definitely drawing inspiration from the source material. The film’s director, Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland), has said that it’s based mainly on two different comics arcs: Lethal Protector and Planet of the Symbiotes. So let’s breakdown how this new Venom looks to be adapting Marvel’s comics and those stories specifically…
The 1993 mini-series Venom: Lethal Protector established Eddie Brock’s origin story, revealing him to be a star athlete and pupil who nonetheless suffered an unhappy childhood under a cold, disapproving father. Eddie developed a keen interest in journalism while in college and set about trying to make a name for himself at The Daily Globe. While his career got off to a promising start, Brock was disgraced while covering a supervillain serial killer called the Sin-Eater. Brock published an expose on the Sin-Eater’s identity, only to realize he had been duped when Spider-Man captured the true killer afterward. That failure ruined Brock’s career and sparked his hatred of Spider-Man.
From what we can tell, the movie will be sticking reasonably close to this established backstory for Brock. The first still released for the film makes it clear that Eddie is a journalist, while the trailer shows that he’s got plenty of pent-up rage and psychological issues to deal with. The fact that the film takes place in San Francisco also calls back to the comics, as that’s where Eddie grew up before moving to New York. The film may deal with the character’s painful homecoming after being disgraced in New York.
Eddie transforms from ordinary man into super-powered villain after bonding with an alien symbiote. That symbiote had previously bonded with Spider-Man (who didn’t realize at the time that his fancy new black costume was actually a living being). The symbiote granted Brock boosted versions of Spider-Man’s own powers (including super-strength and the ability to shoot webbing) while also revealing Spider-Man’s secret identity and making Brock immune to the hero’s Spider-Sense. In effect, Venom became Spider-Man’s worst nightmare, one willing to target Peter Parker’s loved ones as well as Peter himself.
However, neither the symbiote nor Brock himself are inherently evil. After his initial skirmishes with Spider-Man, Venom shifted in a more morally neutral direction. This “Lethal Protector” began to protect innocent lives, though unlike Spider-Man he had no qualms about killing criminals in the process. That paved the way for an uneasy relationship between Spider-Man and Venom, with the two occasionally being allies but often clashing in battle.
Venom’s anti-hero status is one reason why the character is being prioritized for the solo movie treatment. The film is able to explore Brock’s efforts to be a hero and live up to his squandered potential while also showcasing his darker nature and conflict with his symbiotic partner.
It remains to be seen how much of the symbiote’s origin story will be referenced in the film. The comics have established that the symbiote is a member of an alien race called the Klyntar that first bonded with Spider-Man during 1984’s Secret Wars. However, the film may be drawing more inspiration from the 1994 Spider-Man cartoon, where the symbiote was recovered on the moon and brought back to Earth for study. The comic series Ultimate Spider-Man established a completely different origin story for the suit, revealing it to be a prototype medical device created by the parents of Peter Parker and Eddie Brock and designed to cure all human diseases.
Perhaps the biggest mystery surrounding the Venom movie is what role Spider-Man will play, if any. Can fans look forward to an appearance by the wallcrawler at some point? Will the feud between Spider-Man and Eddie Brock factor into the plot? Will the film establish Spider-Man as a previous host for the symbiote?
While Venom is intended to be the first entry in Sony’s new shared universe of Spider-Man movies, there have been conflicting reports about whether this shared universe is also connected to Spider-Man: Homecoming and, by extension, the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Signs increasingly point to Tom Holland putting in some sort of appearance (either in or out of costume), but it seems clear the film will be downplaying the Peter Parker/Eddie Brock connection no matter what. The MCU has established Peter as being relatively new to the superhero business, and certainly much younger than Tom Hardy’s Brock. We doubt the film will attempt to establish any prior history between Peter and the symbiote. Instead, Brock may turn out to be the first and only human host for the Venom symbiote.
The first still released of Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock is more forthcoming than it might seem at first glance. The writing in Brock’s notebook reveals that he’s investigating a an organization called the Life Foundation. In the comics, the Life Foundation is essentially a doomsday cult formed from various wealthy donors who hope to build a survival shelter to wait out a nuclear apocalypse. This group forms a team of symbiote-powered villains that includes Agony, Phage, Riot, Lasher and Scream, each of whom are spawned from the Venom symbiote itself.
That alone offers a much better idea of the story driving the Venom movie. Brock will likely travel to San Francisco to investigate the Life Foundation (possibly while dealing with his own professional disgrace). That process could result in him becoming exposed to the Venom symbiote and eventually battling the Life Foundation’s own symbiote minions. It stands to reason that Riz Ahmed’s unnamed character is connected to the Life Foundation and may transform into one of these symbiote villains.
The symbiote creating new offshoot villains has been a hallmark of the Spider-Man comics. The most famous of these offshoot characters is Carnage. Brock’s one-time cellmate Cletus Kasaday is exposed to the symbiote and transforms into a psychotic killer strong enough that Spider-Man and Venom have often been forced to join forces to defeat him. At one point Carnage was slated to be the main villain of the film (with the working title being “Venom Carnage”), but it’s unclear if that still holds true.
Director Rubin Flesicher has revealed that the film is drawing from a 1995 storyline called “Planet of the Symbiotes,” which involves Venom teaming with Spider-Man to battle a worldwide invasion by the Klyntar symbiotes and a powered-up Carnage. This story also deals heavily with the psychological conflict between Brock and his own symbiote, something that seems certain to be a major focus in the film.
The teaser trailer features, among other things, Hardy’s Eddie Brock undergoing an MRI scan. While those scenes may involve Brock trying to figure out what’s wrong with his body after being exposed to the Venom symbiote, it’s also possible he may have more conventional reasons for seeking medical treatment. In the comics, it’s eventually revealed that Brock has cancer. In fact, one of the reasons the symbiote chose to bond with him is that his tumor causes Brock’s body to emit heightened levels of adrenaline, thus fueling the symbiote’s appetites.
It’s easy to see how that element might be worked into the film. Hardy’s Brock certainly looks physically haggard and weary, something that may be a result of more than just hard living. A cancer diagnosis could fuel Hardy’s desperation to expose the Life Foundation and establish his reputation as a journalist. And it could play into his relationship with the symbiote. Brock may see Venom as a means of clinging to life, even while knowing that his life will never be entirely his own again.
That could in turn open up the door for future Venom sequels to focus on characters other than Eddie Brock. At one point in the comics, a terminally ill Brock auctioned off his symbiote to the highest bidder before attempting suicide. That began a process where the mantle of Venom passed from gangster Angelo Fortunato to former Scorpion Mac Gargan to Peter Parker’s high school bully-turned-friend Flash Thompson and back to Brock again. Venom is bigger than any one character, and Sony may try to take advantage of that fact in the years to come.