Venom & “Secret Wars”
Spiderman’s costume went through changes over the years, and that’s not counting the side-Spiders (like Ben Reilly’s Scarlet Spider hoodie), but one in particular led directly to the creation of Venom. Geek Prime talked to Venom artist Todd McFarlane at New York Comic Con, and got the lowdown on the Symbiote’s genesis.
McFarlane’s first opportunity to work on Spiderman came in 1988, after spending time illustrating The Hulk’s 80s run. Picking up just after the Secret Wars storyline ended, Spiderman’s suit was black and white as a result of a strange alien encounter. But McFarlane was having none of it.
“To me, Peter Parker isn’t a guy dressed in black. To me, Peter Parker is a guy dressed in red and blue.”
When the offer arrived, McFarlane told Marvel’s editors that he was very interested, but the black suit had to go. When McFarlane got pushback, he offered a compromise: “I’m not saying kill it, just move it.”
So McFarlane pitched a new character to wear the black suit, and it wasn’t hard since Secret Wars established the costume was alien in origin.
“It’s an alien, so it must be a monster. So I’m gonna create a monster.”
Building a Monster
McFarlane drew up Venom’s claws, teeth, and exaggerated features to make him both grotesque and imposing. After designing his horrifying alien, writer David Michilinie told McFarlane the Symbiote suit would bind to journalist Eddie Brock, leaving McFarlane at a loss. He created such a strange monster, that arms and legs were the only things it had in common with humans. According to McFarlane, if he knew the suit was going on a human being, he would have designed it differently. Thankfully, Michilinie waited until McFarlane was done, otherwise we would have missed out on an amazing character.
The pair now needed to figure out how to get a human into the alien, and drew inspiration from the Hulk/Bruce Banner relationship to inform how Venom and Brock would interact. Venom’s size also challenged Spiderman, since the Symbiote was too powerful to be defeated hand-to-hand. With that, Michilinie was faced with smartening up Peter Parker, equipping him with the know-how and ingenuity to trap, evade, and tire out Venom.
McFarlane, meanwhile, got to draw his ’60s & ’70s inspired red and blue Spiderman. The world got a villain that has possessed nearly everyone in the Marvel universe at some point or another. All because Todd McFarlane didn’t like Spiderman’s threads.