The Symbiote Solution
Fans everywhere rejoiced when news broke last year that Sony and Marvel were collaborating to reboot Spider-Man and graft him into Marvel's Cinematic Universe. Soon after, many of us began to wonder what this meant for the rest of the Spider-Man related characters. Would they be included in the deal as well? Few details were offered and the questions remained.
Earlier this year, The Hollywood Reporter published an article explaining that Sony was moving forward with a stand-alone Venom franchise that would be unrelated to the new MCU Spider-Man. While most want to see Venom on the silver screen again, the idea of separating Venom from Spidey was met with a collective sigh from much of the fandom. Why not incorporate Venom, and other symbiote characters for that matter, into the MCU slowly and reap the long-term benefits?
Fortunately, according to a more recent report, things may been developing in the way many of us had hoped. THR's report detailed that Sony was indeed planning on Spider-Man related films but that they would be doing it hand-in-hand with Marvel Studios. Chairman of Sony Pictures, Tom Rothman is quoted as saying:
Since you teamed with Marvel, do you plan to make a whole Spider-Man universe? Do you have plans for more work with Marvel?
Yes to both those questions. It’s been fantastic, our relationship with Marvel.
Who has greenlight authority?
Sony has the ultimate authority. But we have deferred the creative lead to Marvel, because they know what they’re doing. We start shooting the new Spider-Man in Atlanta [in mid-June].
Do you want to trim the costs of that franchise?
I don’t want to trim costs. I want to make money. And sometimes you make money by trimming costs and sometimes by investing in things that are profitable. A movie like Spider-Man by Marvel, that’s not inexpensive. But it’s a great investment. Knowing that Marvel has such a clear, creative vision, I sleep very well at night.
This news of continuing and expanding collaboration is very encouraging. So why does it matter? What's the difference? Who is Venom anyway, and what other Spider-Man characters does this affect?
Note: This is an extremely brief overview but there still might be a spoiler or two for those who are uninitiated with the comics.
Who/What is Venom/Symbiote?
After the events of "Secret Wars," Spider-Man returned home from the Battleworld in The Amazing Spider-Man #252 and debuted his new, black suit. Spidey and his new suit popped up in other titles as well. It wasn't until Secret Wars #8 was released months later that we learned the origin of the suit.
While searching for a replacement for his destroyed suit, Spidey happens upon the black, symbiote parasite and it attaches itself to him. The alien symbiote, also known as Klyntar, was a benevolent species. However, this particular symbiote was different and exhibited violent and evil behavior.
After some time, Spidey discovered the dark side of the symbiote: the alien parasite was attempting to bond with him permanently and was able to essentially possess him. Spider-Man sought help and was able to remove and contain the symbiote. It later escaped and made another effort to bond with Spider-Man. The symbiote is sensitive to sound and Spider-Man was able to thwart the attempt via the ringing bell at Our Lady of Saints church.
While Spider-Man was able to escape the clutches of the symbiote, its story was only just beginning. It has spawned numerous new characters and has become of fixture of the Marvel universe. There are plenty of related characters but there are three, outside of Spider-Man himself, that we'll briefly look at that would be exciting additions to Spider-Man's world and the MCU in general.
Eddie Brock acquired the symbiote soon after Spider-Man was able to discard it. Brock was a reporter who lost his job and was disgraced after Spider-Man exposed one of his stories as being erroneous. Brock was also diagnosed with terminal cancer. The symbiote was attracted to him because of his obsession with Spider-Man and his increased adrenaline due to his adrenal cancer. Once joined they became known as Venom.
Brock's experience with the symbiote was a complicated one. He initially and often fought with Spider-Man and was almost victorious on several occasions. After a time, Venom even engaged in vigilantism and become something of an anti-hero. His adventures were erratic as he also reengaged Spidey in battle on various occasions.
Over time, Brock became uneasy with the symbiote's insatiable need for violence. It wasn't a smooth road but Brock eventually parted ways with the symbiote though It was a struggle for him to do so. It'd would be great to see Brock/Venom brought to life in the MCU Spider-Man films. His arc, interactions with Spider-Man and others (including the next character we'll talk about) would be welcome additions to the MCU.
Cletus Kasady, an extremely violent serial killer, briefly shared a cell with Brock. Brock broke out but left part of the symbiote behind. This portion attached itself to Kasady to become Carnage, a fierce and terrifying foe. The combining of the two created a super-powered killing machine.
Carnage was extremely powerful and often battled both Spider-Man and Venom. He left corpse after corpse in his insidious wake. Once thought dead for a number of years in the comics, he once again appeared and remains a threat. He's a terrifying and menacing character that represents pure evil villainy.
He's also visually striking with numerous abilities that would be exciting to experience on the big screen. It would be a real treat to see Eddie Brock's arc in the MCU ending with him joining forces with Spider-Man to defeat Carnage. These characters are best served when engaging each other in stories rather than being parceled out.
Flash Thompson/Agent Venom
Flash Thompson, a classic supporting character in The Amazing Spider-Man comics, has a fascinating story that plays out over decades in the comics. Exploring his story would be a fantastic opportunity in the MCU with its long-form storytelling and many character crossovers.
Thompson's experiences are vast and interesting. He's initially a bully of Peter Parker's while simultaneously being a huge fan of Spider-Man. After college and some maturing, he and Parker develop a mutual respect and even something of a friendship. This friendship grows over time. Thompson serves in the military on different occasions and is a highly decorated war veteran. During one mission, despite already suffering wounds to his legs, he, inspired by Spider-Man, attempts to save a another soldier and further damages his already injured legs. This leads to the loss of both of his legs.
After being taken from another host, the symbiote is offered to Thompson by the military. It forms legs and enables him to walk again and gives him powers, creating Agent Venom. This spawns experiences that lead to Thompson becoming a member of The Secret Avengers, The Thunderbolts, and even Guardians of the Galaxy.
Much like Spider-Man, the symbiote belongs with him in the MCU. Sony could very well make a solid Venom film on their own, disconnected from Spider-Man and the MCU, but that's not the point. It wouldn't necessarily be a poor film, but telling that story separate from Spidey and the MCU would unnecessarily create a lower ceiling for characters. It would be capped off far too early.
Collaborating with Marvel Studios, being patient, and allowing these characters to be introduced within the MCU allows for limitless opportunities. I've been informed by a source that Tony Revolori will be playing Flash Thompson in Spider-Man: Homecoming. If that's correct, how great would it be to see the character change over many years and films and maybe even one day, arrive at a place where he is playing Agent Venom? I have no information as to what plans they may or may not have for the character, but the possibilities are very exciting.
This is why Tom Rothman's comments about building a Spider-Man "universe" with Marvel (rather than separately) and his even more recent comments about working with Marvel are so encouraging. The individual parts (films) are great fun but the whole (MCU) are greater than the sum of those parts. Spider-Man and his deep and wide array of villains and supporting characters will be best served brought to life within the MCU. The MCU will be better for it, and Sony will experience a cash flow that will never run dry.