Ok, so here’s a fun one.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve never liked Venom. The Spider-Man villain with the teeth and the drool and the biceps on his pecs? Never thought he was a good character at all. I mean, I certainly enjoyed drawing him. In fact, any time in school I started drifting off, the doodles in the margins of my notes would inevitably link together into his kind of crescent moon eye pads and exaggerated rictus grin. He was really fun to draw, but a really shit character.
The thing that always bugged me about Venom was that, while the rest of Spider-Man’s villains were kind of losers in cheap Halloween costumes (playing into the book’s pop-punk superhero aesthetic), Venom was a loser inside some kind of alien… we don’t know. Parasite? Costume? Goo? Wonder fabric? What the hell does this have to do with Spider-Man? He looks like the Predator on the outside, but really he’s just a guy in a battle suit like Iron Man. Those ideas separately work okay, but put together its really hard to get your head around, especially in a comic where the protagonist is, as I said, a loser in a cheap Halloween costume.
I’ve always tried to envision Venom as a more believable character. Perhaps as a full-on monster, representative of a species of alien beasts that stalk the acidic jungles of Battleworld until the Secret Wars occur and he stows away on Spidey’s ride back to Manhattan (my sketch of this version of the character has been attached to the article because, well, it’s my article). Or maybe he’d just be a big hulking psycho-path that hated Spidey enough to file his teeth into points and start wearing the tattered remnants of one of Spidey’s old black suits (cloth, not alien hate-goo). One idea or the other, not both.
So I’ve been sort of toying with Venom in the back of my head for a long time and then Christopher Nolan started releasing promotional art for “The Dark Knight Rises,” and in doing so reveals his treatment of Bane. Perfect. He’s a big hulking mad man wearing black tactical gear and a bizarre gas mask that suggests Venom’s piranha mouth. The mask even somewhat traces the outlines of where Venom’s eyes would fall on actor Tom Hardy’s face. If you were going to do a real world adaptation of Venom that maintains the spirit of the character but drops the harder to believe stuff, this would be pretty close to the result.
But then, when looking back at Bane’s history, certain clues emerge that would seem to indicate that Bane might have always been intended, on some level, as Batman’s real-world answer to Spider-Man’s Lethal Protector of an antagonist. Before Bane was introduced, there was a pretty interesting story in the series “Legends of the Dark Knight” called “Batman: Venom” in which Batman gets pretty strung out on the drug… Venom. After he rejects the Venom and purges it from his life, it is later co-opted by doctors at some fake Caribbean prison to juice up the craziest of the inmates and create Bane. He later escapes (smooth move, Carribean prison mad scientists), finds out where Batman is, and I think takes him to lunch, if I’m not mistaken. I don’t remember the Knightfall storyline too well.
So it sort of parallels the story of the Spider-Man character, in that Spidey was also getting strung out on a dangerous substance that he too rejected, and this substance would later go on to empower a psychopath that knew all of the hero’s secrets and could easily overpower him physically. He never went on to do anything too damaging, or even relevant, to Spider-Man during his run as the baddest villain in the Peter Parker rogues gallery, but the germinal idea is the same for both characters. It is just executed far better in the character of Bane (certainly with this new version from Nolan).
I will conclude this sort of fanboy conspiracy theory by debunking it and saying that I haven’t put much effort at all into researching whether or not there actually was a creative symbiosis in the genesis of these characters. I have, however, read a ton of comics and a decent amount of interviews about the background of these two characters, and I’ve never seen anything that indicated any kind of cross-pollination. Perhaps it’s just an idea that was floating out there in the ether that more than one creator was lucky enough to tap into at about the same time.
Whatever the case, the visceral concept of Venom is something that has stuck in the back of my head like a splinter for far too long. If there’s one character I could think of that has a world of potential as an idea but always just hit slightly below the mark, I would say it was this one. I’ve always wanted to figure out how to use him in a way that was legitimately frightening and powerful and threatening, but now I think that perhaps Denny O’Neil and Christopher Nolan have beaten me to it.