Thursday, August 8, 2013

Legacy Character Study: Eddie Brock, Part 2

Part 1 here.
And so, Venom was in need of a bit of a retool, having lost his star power after the 90’s. At least they had the good sense to write out Venom's need for eating brains by having him eat chocolate to release endorphins.

Eventually, a man named Senator Steward Ward (who wanted to better understand his own alien infection) stole Venom’s symbiote, did some SCIENCE to it, and it ended up escaping captivity and rejoined with Eddie. But it came back… different. It became overtly bloodthirsty, and it was out of control. (Not that you could really tell, given some of Venom’s 90’s characterization.)

Up to this point, the symbiote could not make you do anything you didn’t want to do. People would do horrible things, but only because some small part of them wanted to. Now, it was the other way around; the symbiote was controlling Eddie. Not to mention that the symbiote was losing interest in Eddie, as his cancer (held at bay for years with the symbiote) was getting worse. And so, after Eddie watched a spiritual movie, the two went their separate ways, Eddie selling it off in an auction.

What became of the symbiote? We’ll discuss that another time.
Eddie, however, went into therapy for his cancer. He ended up losing a lot of weight and strength, wasting away to almost nothing, with no purpose in life. When he tried to kill himself, he was hospitalized. And so, mirroring what happened years ago, Venom came to him after his suicide attempt. Not the real Venom, but hallucinations, the remnants of Venom that were still in Eddie’s mind.

When Eddie saw Mary Jane with Aunt May (who took a bullet meant for Peter) in the same hospital, the hallucinations of Venom ordered him to put on a cloth version of the black costume and kill her. Realizing that Aunt May was innocent, no matter what Peter had done, he slit his wrists repeatedly to exorcise Venom, and jumped out the window, saved by Peter Parker shooting a webline. After waking up later in his hospital bed, the Venom hallucination hadn’t disappeared, but was under control.

Speaking of under control, Eddie regained some strength and started working for a local homeless shelter owned by a Mr. Li, after it was determined that Eddie was not responsible for his actions under the symbiote’s control. Mr. Li’s as-of-yet-unexplained powers revitalized Eddie’s white blood cells, both killing off the cancer, and removing Venom from his mind, for the first time in years. Eddie was once again a free man! I’m sure that’ll last forever. And Reed Richards is going to find a permanent cure for the Thing’s condition.

After the Thunderbolts, Norman Osborn’s team of government “superheroes,” crashed the shelter, Eddie was attacked by Mac Gargan, formerly the Scorpion, currently the new Venom.

Reunions with the ex are usually awkward.
The symbiote sensed Eddie’s health, and attempted to rejoin with him, but Eddie’s white blood cells formed a new symbiote-like covering on his body because SCIENCE/the writer said so. And he christened himself Anti-Venom.

Hmm I wonder what his new mission in life is do you think he might fight Venom.
And so, working with Spider-Man, he severely weakened Venom with his Anti-Venom touch. Anti-Venom helped Spidey with Osborn’s Thunderbolts, and he became a vigilante yet again, using his powers to cure people with a touch, like the time he cured a young girl named Jenna Cole with her heroin addiction. See? Curing kids means he’s a good guy now! He discovered that Mr. Li was actually a villain called Mr. Negative, but knew that no one would believe a monster-looking-thing like him. He and Jenna went around busting drug dealers and curing addicts, only to run into the Punisher doing the same thing (minus the curing). One grudging team-up later, they went their separate ways.

After helping Spider-Man confront Mr. Negative, Anti-Venom and Spidey made up with one another. Anti-Venom was later recruited into the “Revengers” to fight the Avengers, and was imprisoned afterwards, later escaping during the events of “Spider-Island” (where all of Manhattan gained Spider-powers). Eddie sacrificed his anti-symbiote and gave it to Reed Richards, who used it to cure Manhattan of Spider-powers. And so, Eddie became “the hero” of Spider-Island, but lost his powers again because of it.

Done with being Venom and Anti-Venom, Eddie Brock becomes Rambo.
With a new lease on life (again), Eddie obtained a cache of weapons and began his quest to destroy all the symbiotes on Earth, starting with Hybrid and Scream, two of the ones that Venom was forced to create that no one remembered after the 90’s. While trying to murder the new Venom (Flash Thompson), he was incapacitated and forced by the Crime-Master to become the host to Toxin, the spawn of Carnage.

If he starts eating brains, I'm walking away from this.
Eddie, as Toxin, hunted down Venom, but kept failing to destroy him. Eventually, Toxin and Venom teamed up in order to bring down the Symbiote Slayers, alien-robotic-organic-symbiote-things from space. After realizing that Flash was actively using Venom to improve the world, Toxin left him with an ultimatum: Venom would live as long as Flash was in control. And with that, Venom and Toxin went their separate ways.

Alternate Versions
And so, we get to the version that my sister fell in love with: the 90's Animated Series version of Venom.

Yep, that happened.
The 90’s series was famous for its censorship, not even letting Spidey throw a punch. So instead of focusing on the character’s fearsomeness, they focused on his being a dark mirror of Spider-Man. His banter was hilarious, but that’s what made him scary. Not the fangs, claws, or muscles, but the fact that he had absolutely everything that Spidey did, and more. Stronger, faster, funnier.

Eddie Brock has showed up in almost all the animated adaptations afterward, including Spectacular Spider-Man, where he was notably Peter’s best friend since they were young, creating a different, yet still tragic backstory for the character.

Finally, Spider-Man 3.

Okay, I’m not going to review that movie right now, so here are all the relevant points:
•    Eddie Brock in the movie is a skinny little photographer twerp played by Topher Grace instead of a body-building reporter. According to various sources, they were either going for Ultimate Eddie Brock, Jr. (who is just like that), or Sam Raimi was upset at having to include Venom in the movie at the studio’s request, so he miscast the character intentionally. All things considered, Topher does a great job, it’s the script that fails him.
•    The symbiote turns Peter into a dork. This makes sense; Peter Parker’s a genuinely good guy. When you let out his darker impulses… he becomes a petty little twerp. The only “evil” thing he does is try to kill the Sandman, who did kill Uncle Ben. Other than that, he’s not outright malicious, just sort of a jerk.

Final Thoughts 
Venom, in the hands of a talented writer, becomes a dark mirror of Spider-Man. In fact, some people think that Venom’s a better nemesis for Spidey than Norman Osborn, and we all know what he did. There were other Venoms after Eddie Brock, but Eddie was the best, at least in my mind. Able to use Spidey’s greatest strengths (humor, brains, and Spider-powers) against him, Venom is one of the best doppelgängers ever.

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