Venom is a fictional character appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics, commonly in association with Spider-Man. The character is a sentient alien symbiote with an amorphous, liquid-like form, who survives by bonding with a host, usually human. This dual-life form receives enhanced powers and usually refers to itself as “Venom”. The symbiote was originally introduced as a living alien costume in The Amazing Spider-Man #252 (May 1984), with a full first appearance as Venom in The Amazing Spider-Man #300 (May 1988).

The Venom symbiote’s first human host was Spider-Man, who eventually discovered its true nefarious nature and separated himself from the creature in The Amazing Spider-Man #258 (November 1984) — with a brief rejoining five months later in Web of Spider-Man #1. The symbiote went on to merge with other hosts, most notably Eddie Brock, its second and most infamous host, with whom it first became Venom. As one of Spider-Man’s most enduring villains, Venom quickly established himself as one of his arch-enemies, with many regarding him as a dark reflection of Spider-Man. The character later became an anti-hero, working both with and against superheroes. Other notable hosts of the Venom symbiote include the villain Mac Gargan, formerly known as Scorpion, and Flash Thompson, who became the superhero Agent Venom.

The character has been featured in various other media, including animated series, films, and video games. Most notably, he was portrayed by Topher Grace as one of the main antagonists of the film Spider-Man 3 (2007), and by Tom Hardy as the titular protagonist and antihero of the Sony Pictures Universe of Marvel Characters film Venom (2018) and its upcoming sequel, Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021). The Eddie Brock incarnation of Venom was rated 33rd on Empire’s 50 Greatest Comic Book Characters, and was the 22nd Greatest Villain on IGN’s 100 Greatest Comic Villains of All Time. Comics journalist and historian Mike Conroy writes of the character: “What started out as a replacement costume for Spider-Man turned into one of the Marvel web-slinger’s greatest nightmares”.

FIRST APPEARANCES

The symbiote was first introduced as Spider-man’s new black costume in The Amazing Spider-Man #252 (May 1984) as part of a story called “Homecoming!” The story takes place after Spider-Man’s return from the events of the miniseries Secret Wars, where he first obtains the black costume. The full first appearance of Venom is in The Amazing Spider-Man #300 (May 1988), after the symbiote bonds with Eddie Brock.

POWER and ABILITIES

Though it requires a living host in order to survive, the Venom symbiote has been shown to be adept at fending for itself independent of a host. The symbiote is capable of shapeshifting abilities, including the ability to form spikes or expand its size, as well as mimic the appearance of other humanoids after it has obtained a host. The organism can additionally use its shape-shifting abilities to conceal itself by altering its coloration or by becoming completely invisible. It also contains a small “dimensional aperture”, allowing its hosts to carry items without adding mass to the costume. The symbiote also exhibits telepathic abilities, primarily when it needs to communicate with its host.

ORIGIN STORY

The story of how Spider-Man gets his new black costume is recounted in Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #8 (December 1984), in which writer Jim Shooter and artist Mike Zeck depicted the heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe transported to another planet called Battleworld by a being called the Beyonder. After Spider-Man’s costume is ruined from battles with the villains, he is directed by Thor and the Hulk to a room at the heroes’ base where they inform him a machine can read his thoughts and instantly fabricate any type of clothing. Choosing a machine he believes to be the correct one, Spider-Man causes a black sphere to appear before him, which spreads over his body, dissolving the tattered old costume and covering his body to form a new black and white costume. To Spider-Man’s surprise, the costume can mimic street clothes and provides a seemingly inexhaustible and stronger supply of webbing.

ENEMIES & ROGUES

Venom is among the rogues of Spider-Man.

ALLIES

Sinister Six, Dark Avengers, Project Rebirth, Thunderbolts, Secret Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, New Warriors, S.H.I.E.L.D., Agents of Cosmos, Venom-Army, X-Men Blue, Symbiote Imperium, Kree Empire, Savage Avengers

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