Spider-Man To Venom: The Symbiote's Journey

-Editor's Note

I originally posted this write up on October 23, 2019. However, I soon after pulled it because as I dug further and further into the pages of Spider-Man, I found the information initially provided was not exactly correct, nor was it the full story.

After much reading and research, I think I finally have a full scope of the original intentions of my article, and so I present to all of you once again, the fully revised "Spider-Man To Venom: The Symbiote's Journey". Even if you read the original post, I hope you'll take time to read through it again for the further information now available.

When people think of Venom, they think of Todd McFarlane and (sometimes) David Michelinie. While it's true these two comic book powerhouses ultimately created the character, this is a mere tip of the iceberg in the story of the villain who would become Spider-Man's most fearsome foe.

Step into your way back machines with me to 1982. Marvel Comics hosted a contest where aspiring writers and artists could submit their ideas, and if chosen, would be paid for their creations. Enter Randy Schueller, a twenty-two year old comic book fan. Schueller submitted the idea of Spider-Man wearing a black costume.

Initially, it was presented where Spider-Man would only be slightly upgrade, in terms of his abilities and appearance: He would don a new black, stealth-like suit designed by Reed Richards and The Wasp of the Avengers. Composed of the same unstable molecules found in the Fantastic Four's costumes, this new suit would be more durable and stealth-like than the handmade red and blue costume.

Seeing potential in the idea, Writer / Artist / Editor of Marvel, Jim Shooter, purchased the concept from Schueller for $220.00. Additionally, the creator was given multiple opportunities to create the story surrounding his concept. While he submitted multiple suggestions, ultimately, all of these ideas would be rejected and Marvel would take creative control.

The hint of the events unfolding began subtly in issue 249 of The Amazing Spider-Man. During an outing with Mary Jane Watson, Peter Parker suddenly has a massive surge from his spider sense. However, the sensation comes and goes instantly.

As Peter ponders this, the ominous third party narrator of the book informs readers, "That questions will haunt Peter for days to come. When it is finally answered, his life will never be the same."

While most readers moved on from this moment, and possibly even forgot, in the following issue, number 250, Peter would once again have a surge of spider sense hit him.

While an epic, yet random moment in the middle of the book, some fans would once again miss the important foreshadowing occurring.

Marvel Age was a series of promotional comic book size magazines which showcased interviews with artists, writers, editors. In addition, it provided behind the scenes looks at upcoming Marvel books and / or events.

It was in issue 12 of this magazine that comic book readers got their first glance of a black suited Spider-Man, albeit a slight different version from what would become the final design and eventual iconic design.

This particular version featured the iconic black suit, but inlaid into it were a red spider emblem, as well as, red glove tops. It also introduced the concept of the character's new web shooters, which would disperse from the top of his hand, versus his lower wrist. The notes scribe above them asked the question of if the webs were organic or mechanical.

For a teaser, it was fantastic and the speculation began as to how this dark suited origin of Spider-Man would play out.

With interests piqued and speculation running among comic book fans, events began to unfold within the Marvel universe. The main focal point of this article being about the Symbiote's journey, I'll mention the various other issues which tie in, but will reserve photos for the books surrounding Spider-Man.

In the final pages of The Amazing Spider-Man 251, Spider-Man finds himself having another surge of spider sense. However, this time, it sticks with him and eventually leads him to a structure in Central Park. As if drawn to it, he enters the building and disappears in a flash of light.

Readers are prompted to continue the tale in Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars number 1. However, and as mentioned above, it wasn't just the pages of Spider-Man where incidents were occurring. If you truly wanted to delve deep within the story, you would need to read several monthly titles of the time. These included:

The Avengers 240 - 243
Captain America 292
Fantastic Four 265 and 277
The Incredible Hulk 292 - 295
Iron Man 181 - 183
The New Mutants 13
Quasar 8
Rom 53
Thing 10 - 22
Thor 341 - 342 and 383
The Uncanny X-Men 178 - 181

These issues not only lead up to the events of the Secret Wars, but also the return of the heroes to Earth. In the case of Thing 11 - 22, they also include the further story of Ben Grimm, who stayed behind on Battleworld.

Because one telling of Spider-Man entering the portal to Battleworld wouldn't be enough, the story was showcased two more times, once in Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man 89 and again in Marvel Team-Up 140.

Both books reserved this for the last page of the story, tying it into the events which originally unfolded in The Amazing Spider-Man 251.

All of these events finally lead us into the Secret Wars. However, this is where the history of Spider-Man gets a little convoluted and actually confuses some comic enthusiasts. While it's true that the twelve issue mini-series began in May of 1984, it wouldn't be until Decmber that issue number 8 would hit newsstands. At this point, all three ongoing Spider-Man titles; (1) The Amazing Spider-Man, (2) Marvel Team-Up and (3) Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man continued their normal publications and this included stories surrounding Spider-Man in his new black suit.

It's because of this that people confuse Secret Wars issue 8 as being the first appearance of Spider-Man in his black suit. However, as you've seen above, that honor technically goes to Marvel Age number 12. Sure, you could take the stance that Marvel Age was a magazine showcasing an article, and not a true comic book. Despite this, it still wouldn't make Secret Wars number 8 the first appearance.

Calendar wise, Spider-Man debuted his black suit in The Amazing Spider-Man number 252. This was followed by his spin-off book debuts in Marvel-Team Up number 141 and Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man number 90. All three books were released in May of 1984, seven months before Secret Wars number 8 was released. In fact, before readers would even learn how he got the suit, Peter Parker would have already rid himself of it.

However, before reading the three issues above, for continuity sake, this would be the point in time to read the Secret Wars story arc.

You could skip ahead to issue number 8 and cut right to the chase of Spider-Man getting his black suit. Technically though, you should read all twelve issues of this mini-series if you want the whole story.

Issues one through eight lead up to why Spider-Man needs a new suit, as well as, him getting it. Essentially, and to cut to the chase, his red and blue suit gets torn up from consistent battles with the various villains who have also arrived on Battleworld. In fact, several other characters also need new costumes as a result.

After witnessing some of the heroes coming out of a room with fresh clothes, Spider-Man inquires about where they got them. He's directed inside to a machine which provided them with the outfits. It's here, in this room, that a black ball is dropped into his hands from one of the pieces of equipment. The ball bonds with Peter, and the suit takes shape, dissolving his tattered one in the process.

Spider-Man remains a somewhat predominant character in the final four issues. However, it's in the finale issue, when other heroes once again need new suits, that he discovers his came from a different machine. Rather than worry about it, Spider-Man shrugs it off.

With the aid of Mr. Fantastic, the heroes return to Earth and this is where the aforementioned three debut issues come back into the fold chronologically.

The Amazing Spider-Man Issue Number 252

Marvel Team-Up Issue Number 141

Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man Issue Number90

From there, Spider-Man would have several more adventures in each title. However, as these would unfold, Peter Parker would start to change in personality. He would become more aggressive as his alter ego, while becoming a jerk to those who loved him, such as Black Cat and Aunt May.

The Amazing Spider-Man 253*Marvel Team-Up 142*Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man 91

The Amazing Spider-Man 254*Marvel Team-Up 143*Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man 92

The Amazing Spider-Man 255*Marvel Team-Up 144*Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man 93

The Amazing Spider-Man 256*Marvel Team-Up 145*Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man 94

The Amazing Spider-Man 254*Marvel Team-Up Annual 7*Marvel Team-Up 146

You'll notice in the photo below that Marvel Age issue 19 is included. While this issue features Spider-Man in his Symbiote suit on the cover, there are no articles about him within the pages. He's just there to introduce the world to Star Comics. However, I'll go ahead and count it as an appearance since it falls within the timeline we're in.

Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man Annual 4*Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man 95*Marvel Age 19

The photos above show the chronological release order for these books. However, the recommended reading order is:

The Amazing Spider-Man 253
Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man 91
The Amazing Spider-Man 254
Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man 92
Marvel Team-Up 142
Marvel Team-Up 143
The Amazing Spider-Man 255
Marvel Team-Up Annual 7
Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man 93
Marvel Team-Up 144
Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man 94
Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man 95
Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man Annual 4
Marvel Team-Up 145
The Amazing Spider-Man 256
The Amazing Spider-Man 257
Marvel Team-Up 146

Peter would eventually seek out Reed Richards of The Fantastic Four, who would remove the suit and imprison it in a large capsule. A fun side note, this issue was also the first appearance for Peter Parker in his Bag-Man costume.

This would also lead to the return of Spider-Man in his traditional red and blue suit, but not indefinitely. Black Cat would present him with a cloth version of his black suit in the pages of Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man issue 99 but he wouldn't wear it until The Amazing Spider-Man issue 263.

To keep readers up to speed, flashback pages were included in Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man issue number 96 and 97, as well as, Marvel Team-Up issue number 147 and 148.

Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man Issue 96

Marvel Team-Up Issue 147

This story arc would pick up in the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man 259, which features a section where Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four is examining the Symbiote.

Meanwhile, in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual 18, Peter Parker takes a moment to briefly reflect on his recently shedding of the alien parasite. These excerpts serves as nothing more than an exposition used to keep readers who may have missed an issue, or just recently started reading, up to speed.

As for Marvel Team-Up 148, this provides a look at the Symbiote's desire to break free from its encapsulated prison at the Baxter Building, AKA the Fantastic Four's headquarters.

To follow the story further, you'd need to wait for, and then turn to the pages of, Fantastic Four 274. Though the Symbiote is not the main focal point, but rather an epilogue, it would escape its prison in the final pages of the story and make its way out into the city.

Fantastic Four Issue 274

Free at last, the Symbiote journeys throughout the city in an effort to find its way back to Peter Parker. His arc unfolds within the pages of Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man issues 97 through 99 and The Amazing Spider-Man 260 and 261. During this period, citizens of the city mistake the alien for Spider-Man, and some get ruthlessly attacked as a result.

Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man 97*The Amazing Spider-Man 260*Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man 98

The Amazing Spider-Man 261*Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man 99

The Symbiote eventually finds Peter's apartment in the final pages of Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man issue 100. Here, it hides in his closet and waits patiently.

Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man Issue 100

Enter the all new monthly series, Web Of Spider-Man.

The first issue picks up immediately following the events of Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man issue 100. The Symbiote disguises itself as Spider-Man's classic red and blue suit, waiting for Peter to put it on. When he does, the creature envelopes him in the black suit.

As the story unfolds, Spider-Man attempts to make his way to the Fantastic Four headquarters to get Reed Richard's help. Unfortunately, the suit won't allow him to do so. Additionally, his efforts are thwarted by the Vulturions, a relatively throw away gang of villains.

At the end of the story, Spider-Man is able to fend off the Symbiote in a church bell tower, ringing the bells to send it fleeing from the sonic sounds of the clanging bells.

With the Symbiote defeated, things seem to return to relative normality in the now four monthly Spider-Man titles. That is until Web Of Spider-Man issue 18.

Though it's gone unnoticed by several comic book fans, in this particular issue, there's a scene where Peter is standing at a train station, waiting for a train. Suddenly, someone pushes him from behind onto the tracks. Odd that someone could do so without alerting his spider sense.

An equally odd instance would occur in Web Of Spider-Man issue 24. As he's climbing the side of a building, someone from a window grabs Peter's leg and pushes him off the building. Once again, his spider sense fails to warn him.

Who is this mysterious person who keeps trying to kill Peter? Fans of Spider-Man, even those who missed these subtle clues can see what is building up here.

Which leads to the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man issue 298. This book is noteworthy for a couple reasons. First and foremost, it's the first issue in the series drawn by artist Todd McFarlane. Second, it begins the story-arc for the villain this article has been building up to, Venom.

While the story mostly involves the villain, Chance, the final pages show the reader an exciting cliffhanger. A mysterious man's hands change over the panels to be surrounded by the iconic black Spidey suit.

Issue number 299 wraps up the story of Chance. However, the very last page gives us our first look at the character from the cliffhanger of the prior one. Venom, in his debut glory.

While the look captures the essence of Venom, it doesn't showcase his now iconic long tongue and drooling teeth image. This wouldn't come to fruition until issue 332, when Erik Larson would take over the series, and would get even more so over the top with issue 346.

All bets are off in the spectacular issue number 300 of The Amazing Spider-Man. Venom's story unfolds, telling the tale of Eddie Brock, disgraced reporter, angry at Spider-Man for ruining his career. He's now host to the Symbiote, who is equally angered at the web slinging hero.

It's here that Peter realizes that Venom somehow negates hi spider sense, leaving him vulnerable to attacks. Put that concept together with Peter's prior accidents being pushed onto train tracks and off buildings.

It's a pure tale of revenge which sadly culminates in a rehashed ending from the pages of Web Of Spider-Man issue 1, bells and all.

Venom had officially emerged and fans ate him up. It was a finely crafted origin story over the period of December 1984 through May 1988, and with it, wrapped up a story arc which began as a novel concept in the mind of an average comic book fan responding to a simple contest.

Since then, the character's story has only served to get bigger, broader and sometimes better. A stand out concept would be the birth of Carnage. However, some aspects of the stories have also gotten worse, and some even retconned. Still, if you're looking to follow a wonderful villain, Venom is certainly one who, for the most part, is well structured and written. Plus, he just looks so cool.

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  1. Black suit Spidey was huge for me as a kid.I also liked how Captain Americas got the black treatment ,later becoming U.S. agent.

    1. You and me both. My ultimate favorite style for Peter Parker!