This week, Venom is returning to movie theaters with a new cinematic adventure. Tom Hardy is stepping into the title role of Venom, and Spider-Man's greatest enemy is going to have to carry the story without Marvel's wall-crawling hero at its side. Fortunately, there are literally decades of comics to draw upon for Venom's latest iteration.
While Sony's Universe is said to have over 900 Marvel characters at its disposal, Venom is one of the few who should be able to easily headline his own film. One of the main reasons for Venom's longevity is that he has an actual character arc that unfolded over time. Readers were able to follow Eddie Brock's journey as he became a deadly villain before slowly transforming into a wildly popular antihero. Venom had a few setbacks along the way, but he's still playing a large role in Marvel’s comic book universe.
Ahead of Venom's release on Friday, we've put together a list of the 10 essential Venom stories to hit up before the film. For any new or lapsed fans, these are the comics that will give you everything you need to know.
The Amazing Spider-Man #298-300
Venom has rarely been scarier than in his first official appearance when he greeted Mary Jane with a sinister grin in the dark. Technically, the Venom symbiote debuted in Amazing Spider-Man #252 as the alien costume Peter Parker picked up during the original Secret Wars. The symbiote attempted to bond with him, but he rejected it. To get its revenge, the symbiote bonded with Eddie Brock and an epic rivalry began.
The Amazing Spider-Man #361-363
Believe it or not, this was the beginning of Venom's redemptive turn. When the symbiote rescued Brock from jail, it spawned a child that bonded with a serial killer named Cletus Kasady. As Carnage, Kasady proved to be too much for Spidey to handle alone. Therefore, Spider-Man was forced to team up with Venom for the very first time to take down their mutual foe.
The Amazing Spider-Man #374-375
Venom returned shortly thereafter for his "final" showdown with Spider-Man, which coincided with Spidey's 30th anniversary. This story also introduced Anne Weying, Brock's ex-wife, who is played in the new movie by Michelle Williams. Anne played a decisive role here as she convinced Venom to give up his vendetta against Spider-Man. With a new lease on life, Venom decided to become his own kind of hero, and his "Lethal Protector" era began
Venom: Lethal Protector #1–6
This is one of two Venom arcs that directly inspired the new live-action film. Following Venom's armistice with Spidey, he relocated to San Francisco to carve out a new life for himself. But it wasn't that simple, because Venom killed plenty of people during his attempts to eliminate Spider-Man. A group of mercenaries attempted to help a grieving father get his revenge on Venom, which led to the introduction of five new symbiote villains: Riot, Agony, Lasher, Scream, and Phage.
Venom: Sinner Takes All #1-5
In Brock's backstory, his career as a journalist came to an end over a story he wrote about the Sin Eater, a serial killer who killed one of Spidey's friends. That history came back to haunt Brock when a new Sin Eater emerged. To save Anne's life, Brock allowed the symbiote to join with her to become She-Venom. Somehow, we suspect that this twist could be on the docket for a future movie, if Venom does well enough to get a sequel.
Venom: Planet of the Symbiotes #1-5
Planet of the Symbiotes is the other Venom arc that was used to craft this latest movie's story.
For this event, Brock was the one who rejected the symbiote and expelled it from his body. The symbiote's pain and anguish summoned its alien race, and they began to attack Earth as a prelude to a full invasion. This story also established the Venom symbiote as an anomaly among its race, since it wanted to bond with a host rather than dominate it.
Venom: Dark Origin #1-5
This miniseries offered a modernized spin on both Eddie Brock's past and his early days as Venom. It even gave readers a glimpse of Brock's childhood and the way he desperately wanted to gain his father's approval. Eddie's downfall was a long time in the making and he didn't have many redemptive qualities in this retelling. It's an intriguing character study, even though subsequent comics seem to have moved past this take on Venom.
Venom #1–5 (2011)
Close to a decade ago, Marvel tried an even more heroic spin on Venom by turning Flash Thompson into the symbiote's new host. As Agent Venom, Flash finally achieved his dream of becoming a superhero, but he also had to deal with the symbiote's darker appetites. This story also revisited Flash's history with his abusive father while giving him his own nemesis in the form of the new Jack O'Lantern. If Marvel and Sony ever decide to let Venom into the MCU, then perhaps Agent Venom will make it to the big screen as well.
Venom: Space Knight #1-6
It may sound outlandish, but Flash's incarnation of Venom managed to join both the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy. The symbiote was finally healed for the first time in years, which allowed it to become a true force of good in the universe. Venom: Space Knight turned the Flash and symbiote duo into intergalactic heroes. This may be an unlikely incarnation to see on film, but it's an interesting sub-chapter in Venom's history.
Venom #1-6 (2016)
A more recent relaunch brought Venom back to basics, with an initial twist. The symbiote had been truly changed by its experiences with Flash Thompson. However, its new host, Lee Price, forced the symbiote to commit violent acts of evil that repulsed it. And for the first time in nearly a decade, Eddie Brock once again rejoined with the symbiote to become Venom. That set the stage for Venom's more prominent role in the Marvel Universe, including the Venomverse and Venomized crossover events.