Venom: The Sordid History of Spider-Man's Black Costume

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By Sean Viola

Venom. In comic circles, it's a name that conjures up images of a murderous, hulking creature garbed in a twisted, black version of Spider-Man's costume. For fans eagerly awaiting Spider-Man 3, the black costume--and the inevitable rise of Venom--could signal the end for Peter Parker. But what's the story behind the alien costume that would come to be one of Spider-Man's most feared foes? Read on to find out! It all began during the battle dubbed Secret Wars, when Spider-Man found a machine he thought to be a fabric replicator. Reaching for the black sphere produced by the alien machine, Peter Parker's arm, then his entire body, became engulfed in black goo. The substance seemed to acknowledge Peter's thoughts and oozing over Spidey's body, fashioned itself into a new outfit for the Web-Slinger. Now sporting a black variation of his original costume, Spider-Man found that the suit not only augmented his abilities, it also possessed some powers of its own; the suit generated its own supply of webbing and could change appearances according to Spidey's thoughts. Returning to Earth, Peter soon discovered that the suit had a mind of its own, using Peter's body while he was sleeping. Peter brought the suit to Reed Richards, and the two learned that the suit was actually a symbiotic life form that had physically and psychically bonded to Peter. Reed needed to use powerful sonic waves to forcefully separate the symbiote from Peter. Contained in the Fantastic Four's headquarters, the symbiote eventually escaped and returned to Peter's home. Camouflaging itself as an old red and blue costume, Peter unknowingly put the symbiote back on. Peter broke the symbiote's hold over him by using the loud sounds in a church bell-tower. After splitting with the symbiote, Peter watched it slither away, assuming it would die in its weakened state. Unfortunately for Peter, the symbiote fell inside the church where journalist Eddie Brock prayed. Brock wrote an article revealing the identity of a murderer called the Sin-Eater, but Spider-Man exposed the true identity of the killer and in the process caused Eddie to lose his job and spiral into depression. Sensing Brock's hatred of Spider-Man, the symbiote bonded with the dejected reporter. As Venom, Brock possessed the same powers Peter had with the symbiote, but had two advantages crucial to hunting Spider-Man: he knew Spider-Man's secret identity and the symbiote could shield Brock from Peter's spider-sense. While Venom operated under a twisted moral code of innocence, he battled Spider-Man on numerous occasions, becoming a sinister rival not seen since Peter fought the original Green Goblin. Though they sometimes fought side-by-side, Venom was ever a thorn in Spider-Man's side. Recently, Brock was diagnosed with a case of terminal cancer. While the symbiote could keep Brock alive, a spiritual epiphany left Brock wanting to make a final good act before dying. Brock auctioned off the symbiote and donated the money to several charities. The winning bid came from gangster Don Fortunato who gave the symbiote to his son Angelo, hoping he could make a name for himself. Now bonded to the symbiote, Angelo immediately sought out and attacked Spider-Man. Spider-Man quickly defeated Angelo and the symbiote rejected its host as an unworthy successor. Splitting from Angelo in mid-air, the symbiote left Angelo to fall to his death. It found another host in the form of criminal Mac Gargan, infamous for adopting the supervillain identity Scorpion. The symbiote offered Gargan a chance to elevate his power and Gargan, a man whose hatred for Spider-Man nearly matched Eddie Brock's, willingly accepted. Enlisted to join the new Thunderbolts, Venom now stands on the side of the angels, hunting heroes and unregistered individuals for the government. But can this murderer and madman remain on that side for long? Time will tell.

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