Screen Time [Venom Day]: Spider-Man (1994): “The Alien Costume” (S1: E8-10)

To celebrate the release of Venom: Let There Be Carnage (Serkis, 2021), Sony Pictures declared September 27 “Venom Day”, a fitting date to shine the spotlight on one of my favourite anti-heroes, who made their first full debut in May 1988 and have gone on to become one of Marvel’s most iconic characters.

Season One, Episode Eight to Ten:
The “Alien Costume” Saga

Air Date: 29 April 1995 to 13 May 1995
Network: Fox Kids Network
Christopher Daniel Barnes, Hank Azaria, Roscoe Lee Browne, Don Stark, Jim Cummings, and Edward Asner

The Background:
Given that Marvel’s resident wall-crawling hero proved to be popular enough to receive his own self-titled comic book barely a year after his blockbuster debut, it’s perhaps no real surprise that Peter Parker/Spider-Man has featured in a number of cartoons over the years. Nowadays, it seems like Spidey gets a new cartoon every other day of the week but, when I was a kid, his 1994 to 1998 cartoon was a must-watch piece of weekly entertainment. Produced by Saban following their success with the X-Men animated series (1992 to 1997), Spider-Man (or Spider-Man: The Animated Series) was a fresh and fun adaptation of many of the web-head’s greatest adventures, even if it was a little hampered by some unnecessary censorship. Given that I was super into Venom at the time, it’s no surprise to me that the cartoon’s introduction and depiction of the character rank as some of its best episodes; so popular were Venom at the time that they were introduced in the first three-part saga of the series (and well before the creators adapted the “Secret Wars” comic) and even returned for a two-part follow-up a year later.

The Plot:
After rescuing astronaut Colonel John Jameson (Michael Horton) from a shuttle crash, Spider-Man (Barnes) finds his costume and abilities augmented by a mysterious black goo. When Wilson Fisk/The Kingpin (Browne) sends a number of super-powered goons to retrieve the “Promethium-X” Jameson brought back to Earth, Spidey finds his aggression and character altered by the suit, which is revealed to be a symbiotic organism! After ridding himself of it, Spidey is confronted with one of his worst foes imaginable with the symbiote bonds with disgruntled reporter Eddie Brock (Azaria) and transforms them into Venom!

The Review:
The “Alien Costume” arc begins with astronaut John Jameson digging up a mysterious black rock from the surface of the Moon; after narrowly escaping a Moonquake, he makes it back to the shuttle and his return to Earth with the newly-discovered isotope, Promethium-X, attracts the attention of the Kingpin since it promises to be more powerful and valuable than Plutonium. However, John’s return is hampered when the rock secretes a seemingly-sentiment, tar-like substance that attempts to consume the astronauts and leaves the shuttle on a collision course with New York City!

The shuttle crash and the acquisition of Promethium-X forms the central conflict of the arc.

Despite the imminent danger, Kingpin’s lead scientist, Alistair Smythe (Maxwell Caulfield), assures him that the shuttle will land without causing any damage to the city so he (as in the Kingpin) contacts Aleksei Sytsevich/The Rhino (Stark) to retrieve the Promethium-X once the shuttle makes its emergency landing on the George Washington Bridge. There, he comes into conflict with Spider-Man and, thanks to his superior size and strength and the shuttle’s precarious position, is able to best the wall-crawler and make off with the isotope. Although he saves John and his co-pilot, Peter is aghast when he is fingered as the one responsible for stealing the Promethium-X thanks to John’s incoherent rambling, his father J. Jonah Jameson’s (Asner) unrequited hatred for Spider-Man, and disgraced photographer Eddie Brock selling J. J. pictures that incriminate the web-head. Having been introduced in previous episodes as an embittered man desperate to regain his job at the Daily Bugle, Brock jumps at the chance to capitalise on Jameson’s hatred of Spider-Man with his photos.

The black suit overtakes Spider-Man and augments his strength and negative emotions.

This results in Jameson placing a $1 million bounty on Spider-Man’s head, forcing Peter to lay low. However, while he sleeps, the mysterious black substance from the shuttle is revealed to have attached itself to his costume and, following a harrowing nightmare, the goo overtakes Peter, who wakes to find himself garbed in a sleek black costume that dramatically augments his speed and strength. Overwhelmed at the suit’s capabilities, Spider-Man discovers he can now shoot organic webbing and change his appearance by simply thinking about it, but it quickly becomes apparent that the alien substance is also affecting his personality. Far more confident than ever before, even Spider-Man’s voice is slightly altered when he’s wearing the black suit, making him sound tougher and more aggressive than usual. Equally quick to anger, Peter threatens Eugene “Flash” Thompson (Patrick Labyorteaux), snaps at his doting Aunt May (Linda Gary), and comes close to killing destroying the Rhino after handily dominating their rematch. Although he manages to get a hold of himself, Peter’s demeanour continues to degrade into an enraged fury as he is hounded at every turn thanks to Jameson’s bounty; his overconfidence and anger causes him to become sloppy, however, and he learns the hard and painful way that the alien costume is vulnerable to high-intensity sonic waves. Spider-Man does himself few favours when he confronts Brock and Jameson, threatening them in the Daily Bugle and driving him to visit his friend, Doctor Curt Connors (Joseph Campanella), to find out more about the suit.

While Spidey disregards Connors’ advice about the symbiote, he uses to science to outwit the Kingpin.

As you might expect, Connors reveals that the suit is actually a living, alien symbiote that is seeking to permanently bond with Peter. Although he stresses the very real danger of the alien costume, Connors is unable to convince Spider-Man to remove to suit since he needs it to recover the Promethium-X. When John corroborates Spider-Man’s story of a guy in a rhino suit, Jameson angrily lays into Brock for lying to him, fires him, and is begrudgingly forced to withdraw his bounty on Spider-Man. Embittered by this development, Brock’s mood is further soured when he is also evicted from his apartment and when he is targeted by the Kingpin, who sends Herman Schultz/The Shocker (Cummings) after him to tie up the loose ends from the shuttle robbery. After saving Brock from being blasted into dust, Spider-Man tracks the Shocker to Smythe’s laboratory and finally recovers not only proof of his innocence from Brock’s apartment but the Promethium-X from Smythe. While the Kingpin was more concerned with selling the rock to the highest bidder, Spider-Man takes the time to properly investigate the Promethium-X and discovers that, while it is incredibly powerful and dangerous, its radioactive half-life is ridiculously small, which results in the Kingpin being left humiliated and with an inert rock in his possession.

After ridding himself of the symbiote, Spidey unknowingly births his greatest foe: Venom!

However, Spider-Man’s tumultuous emotions are driven to the edge when Smythe lures him to a bell tower by taking John hostage in order to recover the isotope; overcome with rage, Spider-Man destroys the Shocker’s gauntlets and is seconds away from doing the same to the mercenary before memories of his beloved Uncle Ben remind him that “with great power comes great responsibility”. Guilt-ridden and desperate to be rid of the alien suit, Spider-Man frantically tries to remove the symbiote but his efforts prove useless until he takes advantage of the church bell to cause the creature enough pain to separate itself from his body. However, Brock (who followed Spider-Man in a desperate attempt to extract a measure of revenge against the well-crawler), finds himself enveloped by the injured and enraged creature as he hangs helpless beneath the church bell. The result is a muscular, embittered, monstrous union of man and symbiote, Venom, who vows to destroy Spider-Man for ruining both of their lives. Venom makes their presence known as Spider-Man is settling the score with the Shocker and the Rhino on a rooftop; Venom actually saves Spider-Man just as he’s about to be destroyed simply to have the honour for themselves. In the process, Venom proves to be far stronger than Spider-Man, immune to his spider sense, privy to his secret identity, and possessing all of his physical and superhuman abilities but augmented thanks to Brock’s rage and workout routine.

Overwhelmed by Venom’s superior strength, Spidey is left relying on his wits to triumph.

Hopelessly outmatched, Spider-Man is left physically overpowered; his attempts to appeal to Brock’s better nature fall on deaf ears and Spidey finds himself at Venom’s mercy. Venom threatens to target, and reveal Spider-Man’s identity to, Peter’s loved ones and even leaves him dangling over a rooftop without his mask on at one point! Narrowly escaping with his identity intact, Peter is stalked by Brock at every turn and starts seeing Venom everywhere; with no choice but to take the fight to his foes, Spider-Man taunts Brock with newspaper clippings of his failures and baits Venom into following him across the city to the launch of another shuttle at a military base outside of New York. There, the two have a final confrontation up the support gantry that ultimately ends with the symbiote being driven from Brock’s body when the shuttle launches. Spider-Man then webs the writhing creature to the shuttle, sending it back into space, and leaves Brock in police custody, finally free of his alien nightmare… for the time being.

The Summary:
As much as I enjoyed, and still enjoy, the 1994 Spider-Man cartoon, there are some elements of it that obviously haven’t aged too well. The video transfer to DVD isn’t the best and the animation can be a little jerky at times. The editing is quite rushed here and there, meaning that episodes can quickly gloss over and bounce around certain scenes despite being fully capable of telling a well-paced story at other times, and there is a bit of dodgy CGI and the music gets very repetitive. Still, these concerns are largely minor and can be said of almost any cartoon produced in the nineties (or ever, for that matter) and, for the most part, the episodes are bright, action-packed, and well animated. Fittingly, the animation and presentation benefits Spider-Man the most of all the characters in the cartoon; vibrant and athletic, Spider-Man is a very dynamic character in the cartoon and capable of many superhuman feats despite not being allowed to throw a punch. Peter, despite closely resembling Nicholas Hammond, oddly looks bigger than his web-slinging counterpart but Spider-Man is expressive and vibrant throughout. The depiction of his black suit is equally top-notch; one of the arc’s stand-out scenes is Peter’s disturbing nightmare where Kaiju-sized versions of the black and classic costumes battle over Peter’s soul and he’s left hanging upside down in the middle of the city garbed in the sleek, sexy black suit. “The Alien Costume” may also be the first instance of the symbiote augmenting Spidey’s superhuman abilities and characteristics as this didn’t really happen in the original comics (at least not to the extent as it does in other media) and the three episodes definitely set the standard for Peter’s struggles with the symbiote going forward.

Spidey looks great, despite some dodgy animation, and Venom benefits from the multi-part arc.

Brock’s introduction is handled far better in the cartoon compared to the comic since he was actually introduced, and featured, in a handful of episodes prior to these three; angry and bitter, he’s been the victim of a string of bad luck and bad decisions that cause him to grow increasingly resentful of Spider-Man. Consequently, his transformation into Venom empowers him, driving him even more maniacal thanks to the symbiote’s power and abilities. Unlike in the comic books (at least at the time of these episodes), the symbiote is revealed to be incredibly old, well-travelled, and possessing knowledge of the wider universe and numerous worlds, indicating that it’s far more than just a near-insane parasitic lifeform. Venom looks fantastic in the cartoon, sporting their trademark fangs, talons, and long tongue as well as a hulking physique and a distorted, monstrous voice that, again, set the standard for how Venom are portrayed outside of comics. The episodes also do a pretty decent job of portraying C-grade villains like the Rhino and the Shocker as formidable threats; thanks to the influence of the black suit, Spider-Man’s anger and emotions are constantly in flux throughout the arc and are only exacerbated by the duo’s tenacity. Still, once Venom enters the picture, they make all other villains irrelevant; possessing knowledge and physical abilities that make them superior to Spider-Man in every way, Venom plays mind games with Peter, taunting and stalking him and overwhelming him both physically and emotionally. Just like in their first comic book encounter, Spider-Man is forced to use his initiative and wiles to outsmart his maniacal foes rather than trying to match them blow-for-blow. The end result is a far grander conclusion to their confrontation since Spidey utilises a shuttle launch rather than simply wielding a sonic blaster, which is a fittingly dramatic (if temporary) end to Venom’s threat as their story started in space and technically ends in space.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

What did you think to the “Alien Costume” arc? Did you watch Spider-Man when it first aired or did you discover it later, perhaps on Disney+? What did you think to the depiction of Spider-Man’s black costume and how it influenced his powers and personality? What did you think to Venom’s depiction in the cartoon? What is your favourite Venom story or adaptation? How are you celebrating Venom’s dramatic debut today? Whatever your thoughts on Venom, feel free to sign up to leave them below or drop a reply on my social media.

Talking Movies: Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Talking Movies

Released: 15 October 2021
Director: Andy Serkis
Sony Pictures Releasing
Budget: $110 million
Tom Hardy, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Williams, Naomie Harris, and Stephen Graham

The Plot:
Over a year after the events of Venom (Fleischer, 2018), investigative journalist Eddie Brock’s (Hardy) struggles to adjust to life as the host of the alien symbiote Venom (which grants him super-human abilities in order to be a lethal vigilante) are further complicated when serial killer Cletus Kasady (Harrelson) is imbued with a spawn of the symbiote and becomes and begins a reign of terror as the maniacal Carnage.

The Background:
Originally depicted as a simple black costume acquired by Peter Parker/Spider-Man on an alien world, Venom eventually became their own character when the costume was revealed to be alive and bonded with the unhinged Eddie Brock to torment Spider-Man. Since their debut, Spidey-Man’s dark doppelgänger has become one of Marvel Comics’ most popular anti-heroes and one of Spider-Man’s most recognisable foes. So popular are Venom that they’ve made regular appearances in Spider-Man videogames and cartoons and were awkwardly shoe-horned into Spider-Man 3 (Raimi, 2008) for an impressive, if rushed, big-screen debut. Although the idea of a live-action Venom film had been doing the rounds in Hollywood since 1997, the idea only gained significant momentum after this film and eventually culminated in the frankly unprecedented casting of Tom Hardy in the title role for what became a commercially successful solo film despite mixed reviews and questions as to its relations to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Development of a sequel began in 2019; although Ruben Fleischer was unable to return, Andy Serkis took over directing duties and worked closely with Hardy to develop the film’s script. Although popular Venom antagonist Carnage was nixed as the main antagonist of the first film, Woody Harrelson appeared as the character’s human host as a tease for the sequel and took a gamble by signing on for the sequel before a script was even written. Although Venom: Let There Be Carnage was delayed several times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Serkis aimed to use the additional time to help spruce up the film’s visual effects and Hardy confirmed that he was signed on for a third film. Upon release, Venom: Let There Be Carnage was met with mostly positive reviews; reviews praised the madcap nature of the relationship between Eddie and Venom, while also criticising some of the film’s over-the-top moments, and the film has currently grossed over $352 million worldwide.

The Review:
After coming to terms with his newfound relationship with the alien symbiote known as Venom, Eddie Brock ended Venom in a pretty good place: he was determined to get back to written journalism,  and win back the heart of his old flame, Anne Weying (Williams), and reached a compromise with the symbiote where the creature would be allowed to live within Eddie’s body on the provision that it only attacked, killed, and, crucially, ate bad guys. Venom: Let There Be Carnage walks the characters back a little bit and finds the two not operating as a lethal protector, but once again largely at odds with each other.

Eddie is feeling burdened by Venom’s constant need to feed and desire to take out bad guys.

This is primarily because Eddie has been placating the symbiote with chocolate and live chickens rather than letting it ate the brains of bad guys; frustrated at being held back by Eddie’s morals, the symbiote frequently lashes out at him and demands to be let loose, but Eddie continues to exert his control over the alien parasite to avoid attracting undue attention. This gives the movie a very prominent “odd couple”/“buddy cop” feeling as Venom is basically an oversized toddler who just wants to go out and have a good time and doesn’t see why they have to hide themselves. A constant, nagging voice in Eddie’s head, Venom continually tries to give Eddie advice and push him into giving into his violent urges, which weighs heavily on Eddie; he seems to be absolutely burdened by the responsibility of housing and pacifying Venom, who represents his inner desires that he suppresses in order to live a simple life out of the spotlight. Venom resents Eddie’s hesitation in holding them back and wants to be out there, stalking bad guys and letting itself loose, rather than being cooped up in Eddie’s body and apartment. Still, Eddie’s concerns are largely validated; Detective Patrick Mulligan (Graham) is incredibly suspicious of Eddie, not just because he always happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and the unexplained events of the first film, but also because he’s the only person that notorious serial killer Cletus Kasady will talk to and Mulligan believes that Eddie is holding back information purely to bolster his own journalistic career.

Mulligan is convinced that Eddie’s holding out on him, while Eddie laments losing his chance with Anne.

Still a far cry from having his own, regular journalism show on television, Eddie endures Cletus’s repeated requests to talk to him primarily to help get his life back on track and to bring some relief to the families of Kasady’s victims. However, he comes across as being a selfish, self-serving reporter since to reveal the truth to Mulligan would mean his imprisonment, at best, and him and the symbiote being shipped off to some governmental facility somewhere. Venom’s near-perfect visual recall and artistic ability help Eddie to identify where Cletus has buried a number of his victims, instantly making Eddie an overnight celebrity and condemning Kasady to a lethal injection. Eddie’s exhilaration at his career turnaround is short-lived, however, when Anne reveals that she’s now engaged to the kindly Doctor Dan Lewis (Reid Scott); heartbroken at having lost his former love, tensions between Eddie and Venom finally come to boiling point, resulting in an amusing physical confrontation between the two that sees the symbiote separating itself from Eddie and heading out to live its own life. This results in a pretty amusing little side story where Venom jumps between multiple, unsuitable hosts, using them up one at a time as it tours through the colourful city streets and seeks out enjoyment. Being separated from Eddie causes Venom to slowly starve and realise how much it took Eddie for granted, while Eddie’s life generally improves without the symbiote weighing him down. This is where Anne plays her most prominent role; she doesn’t have as much to do as in the first film but makes for a great mediator between Edie and Venom, interjecting in their domestic dispute to bring them back together and force them to admit how much they need each other.   

Kasady and Shriek’s relationship is taken to the next level when he obtains his own symbiote.

The two are soon forced to make amends, however, when Kasady suddenly sprouts a symbiote of his own; an absolutely crackpot murderer, Kasady feels a connection with Eddie due to believing them to be very similar people, with comparable backgrounds. Heavily abused as a child and with a long history of violence, Cletus is seemingly out of his mind and completely unremorseful of his actions, which have condemned him to death. During his final interview with Eddie, Kasady suddenly snaps and takes a bite out of Eddie’s hand, consuming a part of the symbiote which violently bubbles to the surface while he’s receiving his lethal injection. Dubbing himself Carnage, Kasady goes on an absolute rampage throughout the prison, killing several guards and breaking free of his confinement; he quickly comes to an understanding with his newfound alien partner that sees them joining forces to destroy their “father” and to reunite Kasady with his old girlfriend, Frances Barrison/Shriek (Harris), a Mutant sporting an ear-piercing scream who was the one source of light in Kasady’s life as a child. Of course, like Venom in the first movie (and also this one), Carnage is somewhat hampered by the film’s 15 rating; in the comics, Kasady is one of the most extreme and brutal villains from the “Dark Age” of comic books, slicing and dicing people on a whim and causing… well, carnage…with no rhyme or reason and entirely for the thrill of it. The entire point of the character was to be a more extreme version of Venom so that the symbiote could shift into more of an anti-hero role but, in the movies, Eddie is a far more stable and much nicer guy than his comic book counterpart, and Venom repeatedly states its desire to protect people from bad guys, meaning that the two are already much softer than in the comics. Still, Kasady remains as nutty as his comic book counterpart, but also far more focused; he genuinely loves Frances and wants to not only reunite with her for a killing spree but also protect her from harm, a weakness not shared by his Marvel Comics incarnation. His motivation for targeting Eddie also stems from a need to feel a genuine connection with someone, which is a far cry from just desiring senseless slaughter, but the abilities of the symbiote certainly dial all of Kasady’s worst impulses up to eleven. While bloodshed is kept to a minimum and there’s little in the way of the slasher-villain antics of his comic book counterpart, Carnage quickly amasses a pretty impressive body count and certain looks completely unhinged thanks to some top-notch CGI and being augmented to be larger and more unhinged than its “father”. With Carnage going on a tear and endangering lives, Eddie and Venom are reunited by Anne and forced to once again realise that they need each other to survive and to be special, and come together once more to confront their progeny and establish themselves as a lethal protector.

The Nitty-Gritty:
Director Andy Serkis definitely ups the ante in terms of the film’s presentation and the balance between action and humour; flashbacks to Kasady’s past are rendered using both younger actors an crudely-drawn animations to depict some of the younger Kasady’s more violent acts, which all helps to add to the character’s unhinged state of mind. The banter and dialogue between Eddie and Venom is one of the highlights of the film; Venom is constantly popping out and threatening to eat people’s heads or berating Eddie for being “weak”, and its tentacles are often whipping around mashing together food or causing mischief, which was very amusing. Thanks to having spent the majority of Venom’s runtime establishing Eddie and Venom as characters, Venom: Let There Be Carnage doesn’t have to worry about being shackled by the restraints of an origin story for them and we get to see Venom in all their glory pretty soon into the movie, which is great but does result in a bit of a rushed beginning to the film where it seems like it’s going to be a mindless, jump-cut-heavy action film but, thankfully, Serkis soon gets the film’s pacing under control and focus on the evolving dynamic between Eddie and Venom.

The conflict between Eddie and Venom forms a central element of the film’s plot.

Since we know who these characters are, much of the time spent with them is focused on showing how tension between the two are growing. This is primarily so that Eddie can lose his “powers” midway through the film and the two can relearn just how dependant they are on each other, but also allows the film the time to flesh out Kasady’s character and backstory, something he sorely needed. I actually disliked how Kasady was just tacked onto the end of Venom as a mid-credits teaser; it kind of came out of nowhere and probably left a lot of audiences unfamiliar with the characters confused as to why Woody Harrelson was sitting in a cell and sporting a bizarre wig. Personally, I would have had a recurring element of Venom be Eddie trying to gain an audience with Kasady in order to turn his career around, and only be granted this by the end, just to help foreshadow their meeting a bit but Venom: Let There Be Carnage definitely makes up for this. Harrelson seems to be having the time of his life, chewing the scenery and stealing the show as the unhinged Kasady, a madman who writes postcards and letters in a bizarre script and brags about how many people he’s killed. He was a psychopath even before acquiring his symbiote, and joining with Carnage simple allows his sordid ambitions to be completely free from any mortal restraints.

The effects do a brilliant job of bringing Venom and Carnage to life and making them visually distinct.

The relationship between Kasady and Carnage is as different from the comics as the one between Eddie and Venom, too; in the comics, Kasady and his symbiote form a perfect union, a symbiosis so complete that they refer to themselves as “I” instead of “we” and the symbiote even merged with Kasady’s blood, making them functionally inseparable. Here, the two converse independently like Eddie and Venom and come to a mutually beneficial arrangement very quickly, meaning that there is no conflict between the two like there is between Eddie and Venom, which allows the character to fulfil its criteria of being the most violent impulses of Venom dialled up to eleven and completely off the hook. Carnage’s threat is also accentuated by the fact that its actually bigger and much more versatile than Venom, which is also a welcome change; unlike Carlton Drake/Riot (Riz Ahmed) in the last film, Carnage is so much more visually distinct, being red, rippling with tentacles and malice, and sporting so many different abilities that even Venom is hesitant to go head-to-head with it because of how violent and dangerous the “red [ones]” can be. This results in some far more impressive and visually interesting action and fight scenes; indeed, Venom looks better than ever, all glossy and shiny and ferocious, and the effects used to bring the symbiote and its tentacles to life look much more impressive this time around. Carnage, especially, looks fantastic; I love how its so visually distinct from Venom, which really helps make their fight scenes easier to follow and far more vicious than in the last film; Kasady’s transformations are didtsurbing and violent as well, and just about the only thing I disliked about Carnage was that its voice was a little low (I always imagined Carnage to just shriek like a madman).

The Summary:
My expectations for Venom: Let There Be Carnage were quite low, to be honest; I enjoyed Venom but I think it was a major misstep to do the character’s story without involving some version of Spider-Man. The film just about pulled it off, but I still feel like critical elements of the character were (and continue to be) missing as a result; still, it was a pretty decent, if somewhat flawed, little action piece that was only hampered by its rating. I knew all along that Venom: Let There Be Carnage wouldn’t be rated any higher than a 15 as it just makes business sense to help it make the most money it possibly can, so I was fully prepared to see a more neutered version of Carnage but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this film. The odd couple dynamic between Eddie and Venom was brilliant, as was their banter and their tumultuous relationship in general, and it’s great seeing Tom Hardy’s physicality and dedication to these characters on show. The special effects were far better this time around as well; I may not like that Venom is lacking their iconic spider-symbol, but they look phenomenal here and there are far more scenes and action sequences of Venom this time around, which I greatly appreciate as a long-time fan of the character. Woody Harrelson absolutely stole the show as Cletus Kasady and Carnage, though; sure, the character is notably altered and he’s not tearing hapless innocents apart with reckless abandon, but I think this is the closest and most accurate portrayal of the character that we’re ever likely to get and they did a great job of accentuating Kasady’s madness and the ferocious nature of his symbiote. In the end, I expected Venom: Let There Be Carnage to be little more than just more of the same of the last film but it ended up being so much more and something far closer to the Venom I grew up reading in Marvel Comics.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

Have you seen Venom: Let There Be Carnage? If so, what did you think to it? Did you like the relationship between Eddie Brock and Venom and their odd couple dynamic? What were your thoughts on Celetus Kasady and Carnage? Were you happy with the action and pace of the film and how do you feel it compares to the first movie? What did you think to the mid-credits teaser and where would you like to see the character go in the future? What are some of your favourite Venom and/or Carnage stories from the comics? Sign up to leave your thoughts on Venom: Let There Be Carnage down below or comment on my social media with your opinions.

Game Corner [Spidey Month]: Spider-Man: The Video Game (Arcade)

Easily Marvel Comics’ most recognisable and popular superhero, unsuspecting teenage nerd Peter Parker was first bitten by a radioactive spider and learned the true meaning of power and responsibility in Amazing Fantasy #15, which was first published in August 1962. Since then, the Amazing Spider-Man has featured in numerous cartoons, live-action movies, videogames, action figures, and countless comic book titles and, in celebration of his debut and his very own day of celebration, I’ve been dedicating every Wednesday to talk about everyone’s favourite web-head!

Released: 1991
Developer: SEGA

The Background:
Having achieved success with the creation of the Fantastic Four, Marvel Comics editor and head writer, the immortal Stan Lee, was searching for another title to match the success of Marvel’s first family. Inspired by a spider climbing up a wall, influenced by pulp vigilante the Spider, eager to capitalise on the surge in teenage demand for comic books, and working alongside artist Steve Ditko, Lee conceived of Spider-Man and was granted permission to feature the teenage superhero in the final issue of Amazing Fantasy. Marvel publisher Martin Goodman was shocked to find that Amazing Fantasy #15 was one of the publication’s highest-selling comics and a solo Spider-Man series soon followed, with Spidey quickly becoming Marvel’s most popular comic book character.

Spidey has been Marvel’s flagship character and has crossed over into numerous other media.

Since then, Spider-Man has seen success in numerous other media; in 1967, he featured in a self-titled animated series, he famously appeared as a guest character on The Electric Company (1971 to 1977) and starred in his own live-action series in 1978, and heavily influenced my childhood through the fantastic Spider-Man cartoon (1994 to 1998) before eventually featuring in a number of live-action films. Furthermore, Spider-Man has also featured in numerous videogames, the first of which was the aggravating Spider-Man (Parker Brothers, 1982) for the Atari 2600. Before debuting in arcades, the majority of Spidey’s videogame efforts were sidescrolling action/platformers but this was the early nineties and button-mashing beat-‘em-ups were all the rage thanks to titles like Double Dragon (Technōs Japan, 1987), Final Fight (Capcom, 1989), and The Simpsons (Konami, 1991) so Spidey’s arcade debut naturally came in the form of a sidescrolling beat-‘em-up.

The Plot:
Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime in New York City, has sent his minions out into the city to retrieve a mystical artefact and only Spider-Man and his allies (Prince Namor McKenzie/The Sub-Mariner, Clint Barton/Hawkeye, and Felicia Hardy/Black Cat) can hope to defeat some of Spidey’s most powerful and iconic villains and oppose the Kingpin’s plans for domination.

Spider-Man: The Video Game is a fairly standard sidescrolling beat-‘em-up in which players can pick from one of four characters (Spider-Man (obviously), Sub-Mariner, Hawkeye, and Black Cat) and make their way from the left side of the screen to the right beating up wave-upon-wave of nameless thugs. The game allows any player to select any character and allows for up to four players to play simultaneously, which is always an appreciated feature of such titles.

Each character is quite sluggish to control, and gameplay is shaken up by some ugly platforming sections.

Upon selecting your character, you’re dropped into the streets of New York and quickly learn that the game is quite limited in terms of the moves available to you. Each character controls in exactly the same way, with a few subtle differences: Spidey and Black Cat can swing from webs/lines to attack enemies (if you can pull off the attack, which kind of requires a very specific combination of jumping and attacking) and each has a slightly different jumping attack (Namor dives fist-first down into enemies, for example) and melee attacks (Black Cat is much more about the fancy kicks than Hawkeye). While you can perform a signature special attack (shooting webs or arrows, for example) at the cost of some health points, each character is just as sluggish and apathetic as the next thanks to a lack of a dash function. However, after beating up a few thugs and taking out a sub-boss, the game suddenly shifts to an entirely different perspective; the camera zooms out and the game becomes more of an action/platformer as your character must scale a vertical and horizontal map taking out more goons as they go. In this zoomed out mode, your characters are no longer able to perform melee attacks and must rely on their projectile attacks: Spidey shoots webs, Hawkeye shoots arrows, Black Cat attacks with a grapple hook, and Namor….shoots lightning…? Spidey and Black Cat can also scale and climb walls to navigate these areas faster and Hawkeye and Namor can hang on to overhead platforms to shoot at enemies but it’s a bit weird that you’re not given full access to each character’s abilities in this mode.

Your health is constantly ticking down an player’s are rated after each stage in place of a traditional scoring system.

Unlike many videogames and beat-‘em-ups, inserting coins not only allows you to continue from death but also boosts your health, which is represented by a series of numbers under your character’s name. Your health numbers also double as a time limit as they’re constantly ticking down and this is quite a unique and clever way to get kids to waste their hard-earned pocket money as, while you can find health (in the form of hearts) strewn around the game’s stages at various points, you’ll quickly be pummelled into submission by the game’s enemies and forced to drop more coins to pump up your health and continue on a little further. Sadly, in a marketplace crowded by fantastic beat-‘em-ups, Spider-Man: The Video game fails to stand out in a lot of ways; you can attack and destroy parts of the environment but there’s not much motivation to do this as there are no weapons to find and use and no items to pick up to increase your score. Your score isn’t even displayed onscreen as you play, for God’s sake, which is really unusual, despite the fact that your progress is rated at the end of each stage. Instead, the game’s primary selling point appears to be exclusively the Spider-Man brand and the odd inclusion of action/platforming sections.

Graphics and Sound:
For the most part, Spider-Man: The Video Game looks serviceable enough; sprites are large and colourful but, like the backgrounds, are a little lacking in variety and detail. None of the playable characters have an idle animation, which lets the game down somewhat, and Spider-Man, especially, just looks bored and depressed as he plods around at a sluggish speed. When the game zooms out for its platforming sections, sprites take on a largely pixelated appearance but the backgrounds become much bigger and more detailed. Stages initially seem quite short as you come up against your first sub-boss in almost no time at all and, after defeating them, you’re tasked with climbing up to the rooftops of New York’s skyscrapers and the stages really open up.

Sound effects are limited but decent, and platforming sections expand the game, with “Latvelia” being the most visually interesting.

As you attack enemies, and are attacked, big comic book-style sound effects appear onscreen (as is pretty standard for comic book beat-‘em-ups) but I found sprites go a bit transparent when they pass over other sprites and graphics (though this could be due to emulation issues rather than a flaw of the title itself). The game does feature some limited voice acting but, despite featuring a female voice (who just loves to cry out “Spider-Man!” every time you insert a coin), no female voice work accompanies Black Cat. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the male voice acting is the same for every character and hardly of a high standard and when you realise that Namor and Black Cat’s attacks are accompanied by some really weird sound effects that make them sound like they’re drowning or a robot, respectively. As you might expect, comic book-style cutscenes tell the game’s story; these take the form of still images with some accompanying text (though these don’t change depending on your character and mostly just feature Spidey by himself) and in-game cutscenes with some fitting word balloons. Finally, while the game’s stages are fairly standard (the streets, the rooftops, flying through the skies, construction sites and the like), they don’t really stand out much until you crash-land into the hellscape of “Latvelia” and the game suddenly busts out some decent fire effects. Finally, the game’s music, while interesting and serviceable enough, doesn’t really feel very unique to the Spider-Man brand or compared to other beat-‘em-ups.

Enemies and Bosses:
The majority of the enemies you’ll encounter throughout your journey are literally nameless, faceless goons; weird kabuki-mask-wearing, purple-spandex-clad thugs are the order of the day here but they are soon joined by such cliché beat-‘em-up enemies as martial artists (who can duck your attacks), rotund enemies (who can belly flop you), and robots (which shoot projectiles). Spider-Man: The Video Game honestly doesn’t have much going for it in terms of enemy variety; you’ll fight the same enemies over and over and only encounter some weird and memorable foes with you reach “Latvelia” and encounter some weird ape-like monstrosities.

Most of the game’s bosses are fought multiple times and in different forms.

However, Spider-Man: The Video Game is absolutely loaded with some of Spidey’s most iconic villains; after only a couple of minutes into the first stage, you’ll encounter Mac Gargan/Scorpion and, just as you’re getting into that fight, a massive containment unit opens up and Eddie Brock/Venom emerges. Although Scorpion soon runs off after a few hits, you’ll have to endure a handicap situation for a while as enemies spawn in, Venom teleports around the arena and chokes you with their goo, and Scorpion attacks you relentlessly. Once you whittle down Venom’s health, they use a mysterious artefact to grow to monstrous size and you’ll have to chase them to the rooftops for another encounter. This becomes the basic set-up for the majority of the game’s sub-bosses and bosses; you’ll fight them at one point and then have to give chase and battle them again in a slightly different situation after navigating the game’s zoomed out sections.

You’ll face Spidey’s most iconic foes while swarms of enemies pile in on the action!

You’ll battle Dr. Curt Connors/The Lizard (who has a nasty tendency to chomp down on your crotch), Flint Marko/Sandman, and Venom in a pretty standard beat-‘em-up format where you’ll be confined to an arena and have to fend off waves of additional enemies. Each boss reappears for a rematch later in the game but the strategy remains largely the same; keep your distance and land attacks while dispatching their support and things only really get hairy when Venom spawns a bunch of symbiote clones to fight alongside them!

The Goblins pose a significant challenge thanks to the game’s odd perspective.

Boss battles are mixed up a bit when you take on Norman Osborn/Green Goblin and Jason Macendale/Hobgoblin; while you’ll battle the Green Goblin on the ground, dodging his weird glowing hand attack, these two bosses stand out by taking to their iconic gliders and rushing at you from the air while tossing pumpkin bombs at you. These can be troublesome encounters as it’s difficult to judge where the Goblins are positioned to land your attacks or to successfully hit them with your jump attacks. Plus, when you battle Hobgoblin, you’re limited to your zoom-out attacks and will have to blast him with your projectiles and destroy large cannons to make things easier.

While Kingpin is a marginal threat, Electro and Doc Ock really get the shaft!

You’ll also do battle with the Kingpin in a standard beat-‘em-up encounter; Kingpin’s attacks are limited to headbutts, swipes, and a shoulder barge, making him little more than an inconvenience than a formidable boss fight even in his second phase. Still, at least he actually gets a proper boss fight; Max Dillon/Electro and perhaps Spidey’s most famous foe, Dr. Otto Octavius/Doctor Octopus are relegated to mere semi-sub-bosses who randomly appear as you’re navigating the game’s later platform stages and they’re little more than a joke as you can easily damage boost through their attacks and pummel them into submission.

Doctor Doom is the game’s final boss and takes numerous forms.

After defeating the Kingpin, though, Dr. Victor Von Doom/Doctor Doom randomly appears to claim the mysterious artefact and reveal himself to be the game’s true big bad. When you reach Doom’s Castle, you’ll have to dodge mines and battle through the game’s previous sub-bosses and bosses to confront Doctor Doom…only to find you’ve battled a Doombot all along! However, when you finally do get your hands on the real Doctor Doom, the fight is still little more than a standard affair once you take out Doom’s nifty floating battle craft: Doom is fast and slippery but doesn’t attack with magical bolts until the final confrontation and even then he’s not much more of a threat than the likes of the Sandman or the Lizard.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As mentioned, there’s pretty much nothing on offer to spice up your gameplay in Spider-Man: The Video Game. You can’t pick up and use weapons or power-ups and the only thing for you to pick up is hearts to increase your health, making gameplay decidedly more repetitive and monotonous compared to other beat-‘em-ups.

Additional Features:
Again, there’s basically nothing here (as is pretty much the standard for most arcade games). However, the fact that you can select any character to play as and play with up to four players, each who accumulate their own separate score at the end of each stage, does add some replay value (if you have friends to play with, of course…)

The Summary:
Spider-Man: The Video Game is a decent enough beat-‘em-up; it’s bright and colourful and includes all of Spider-Man’s most iconic villains but it doesn’t really offer a whole hell of a lot when it comes to gameplay or variety. Beat-‘em-ups are generally quite monotonous as a rule but they usually compensate for this with kick-ass music, detailed sprites, and some cool weapons and super moves; Spider-Man: The Video Game has none of these attributes, meaning it’s a step behind other arcade titles released at the same time and even ones released years prior. The game’s unique selling point of having action/platforming sections incorporated into the usual beat-‘em-up formula is interesting but its execution is flawed thanks to the graphics taking a hit. Throw in an odd assortment of playable characters (I get why Black Cat is there but why are Namor and Hawkeye here?), some repetitive boss battles, and disappointing use of some of Spidey’s more visually striking foes and you have a gameplay experience that is fun enough (and probably better alongside friends) but hardly worth choosing over the likes of Final Fight or even Double Dragon. Put it this way: X-Men (Konami, 1992) released the very next year and is everything Spider-Man: The Video Game wishes it could be; hell, even Captain America and the Avengers (Data East, 1991) offers more in terms of gameplay variety and character abilities despite being graphically less impressive and that’s really saying something.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

Did you ever play Spider-Man: The Video Game out in the wild? Which character did you pick, or get lumbered with, and which did you think was the best or the worst? What did you think of the game’s unique incorporation of platforming elements and the way it handled Spidey’s villains? Which characters do you think would have been more suitable to play in place of Namor and Hawkeye? Which Spider-Man videogame, or arcade beat-’em-up, is your favourite? Whatever you think, feel free to drop a comment below and be sure to pop back for more Spider-Man content next Wednesday.

Back Issues: The Amazing Spider-Man #300

Story Title: Venom
Published: May 1984
Writer: David Michelinie
Artist: Todd McFarlane

The Background:
In 1982, Marvel Comics’ editor-in-chief Jim Shooter took a liking to an illustration from reader Randy Schueller that depicted Spider-Man in a smooth, black outfit with a large red spider motif across the chest; after purchasing the concept for a mere $200, writer Tom DeFalco and artist Ron Frenz conceived of the costume being a living organism and Spidey’s new black suit debuted without explanation in The Amazing Spider-Man #252 before Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #8 revealed that Spidey acquired the suit during the “Secret Wars” event. Over the next year or so, Spidey revelled in the costume’s unique and helpful ability to form both clothing and organic webbing until Reed Richards/Mister Fantastic revealed its true nature as a symbiotic lifeform. Out of fear, Spidey rejected the symbiote, using the cacophony of church bells to drive it from his body and began wearing a cloth version of his black suit.

From fan concept, to stalker, lethal protector, and cosmic Avenger, Venom has certainly evolved.

At the conclusion of Web of Spider-Man #24, though, a mysterious assailant attempted to push Peter in front of an oncoming train and a shadowy figure was clearly stalking him throughout 1988 before the symbiote, now known as Venom, made its full and dramatic reappearance. Since then, Venom has evolved from a gruesome, twisted killer into a violent anti-hero and a more morally righteous hero, with the symbiote jumping from numerous hosts and spawning a number of similarly-powered offspring. Acting as Spider-Man’s dark doppelgänger, Venom was an immediate favourite for me and many readers thanks to their knowledge of Spidey’s true identity, resistance to his spider-sense, and having all of Spidey’s powers (and more) but being far for vindictive, sadistic, and lacking Peter’s strong moral compass.

The Review:
“Venom” opens with the startling image of Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Peter’s former fling turned wife, huddled in the corner of their apartment nearly out of her mind with fear. When Peter returns home, still garbed in his cloth black costume, initially Mary Jane recoils in horror before gratefully embracing Peter. Peter, though disturbed by Mary Jane’s condition and the fact that she was attacked in their apartment, is even more troubled by her description of her attacker and worries that the alien costume might have survived their dramatic break-up. Mary Jane, ever the feisty and capable woman, is largely back to her old self after a good night’s rest in a hotel and immediately makes arrangements for them to move so she can put the whole thing behind her.

The usually strong-willed and brazen Mary Jane is left a trembling wreck by Venom.

However, overcome with his characteristic worrisome nature, Peter retrieves a Sonic Blaster from the Fantastic Four (a formidable weapon against the symbiote, which is highly vulnerable to sonic waves and intense heat), but is too highly strung to notice a mysterious stranger stalking him or to properly socialise with his friends and family, despite Mary Jane’s best efforts to perk him up. It’s an extremely effective way to introduce Venom without even seeing them on-panel; although Venom doesn’t physically hurt or molest Mary Jane, their mere presence and alien nature are enough to reduce her to a shivering wreck. Her condition greatly disturbs Peter, who points out through his internal monologue what a strong, impendent, and capable woman Mary Jane usually is; she’s always been very brazen and outspoken so to see her reduced to little more than a frightened child is a chilling moment for him (and us, the reader).

Brock has specifically trained his body to enhance his strength and fuel his mania.

At their house-warming party, Peter suddenly leaves after spotting his alien costume swinging around town and is immediately blind-sided by a muscular doppelgänger of himself baring a horrific grin. Although the reader was introduced to Eddie Brock, a large, stone-faced, muscle-bound man who is in possession of the alien costume, earlier, we don’t actually learn who he is or any of his backstory until this moment. Previously, we saw that he lives in a rundown apartment full of weightlifting equipment and newspaper clippings of Spider-Man, openly converses to the symbiote (though it doesn’t answer him back), and that he religiously pumps iron to increase both his physical strength and the strength of the symbiote.

Brock was driven to the edge before bonding with the symbiote and becoming Venom.

Peter, however, recognises not only the symbiote but also Brock, who is revealed to have been a respected reporter whose reputation was tarnished when he was duped by a compulsive confessor. Because Spider-Man captured Stan Carter/The Sin-Eater, Brock’s big story was discredited and he blamed Spider-Man for the sudden downturn in his fortunes. Brock’s mania was so complete and had blinded him so completely that he was driven first to strenuous exercise and, finally, to suicide; however, right as Eddie was contemplating the worst sin imaginable to his Catholic upbringing, the symbiote found him and, joined in their hatred of Spider-Man, they formed a bond so complete that Venom was born.

Spidey’s mercy proves to be his downfall as Venom are easily able to overpower and defeat him.

Though Spidey tries to use Brock’s monologue to edge his way towards his Sonic Blaster, Venom easily overpowers him with their superior strength. Spidey is, however, able to knock Venom down with a massive girder and blast him with the Sonic Blaster; Spidey hesitates, though, when he realises that the two have formed an unbreakable symbiotic bond and that further exposure to the high-intensity sound waves could kill Brock and decides to regroup and think of a new plan. This is all the hesitation Venom needs to recover, though, and with one massive blow, they knock Spidey out.

Brock foolishly leaves Spidey to his fate, giving him ample time to wrench himself free.

When he awakens some hours later, Spidey finds that he has been webbed up to a church bell by Venom’s far stronger and much thicker webbing. Brock, now garbed in a priest’s robe, revels in the delicious irony and fitting nature of Spidey’s impending death since Peter tried to use the same massive bells to destroy his “Other”. Like any good, overconfidant villain, Venom leaves Spider-Man to his fate and, as such, misses their chance to keep Peter from using his sheer force of will and brute strength to keep himself from being pounded into mush and breaking free of Venom’s webbing.

Spidey outsmarts Venom by forcing them to expend their webbing and tire out.

Unable to match Venom’s strength and at a serious disadvantage since Venom doesn’t set off his spider-sense and appears to have all of his strengths and abilities, Spidey decides to outsmart Venom by forcing them to expend their webbing and tire themselves out, draining the symbiote’s energy and sending Brock crashing to the street below. The story ends with Brock, and the symbiote, being held captive at Four Freedoms Plaza, the high-tech home of the Fantastic Four; there, encased within a cylinder and rendered inert by a constant barrage of sonic waves, Venom’s threat is effectively neutralised. Upon safely returning to Mary Jane, Peter and his wife agree that it is no longer appropriate for him to wear the black costume given Venom’s sadistic nature and he finally returns to the classic red and blue for the first time in about four years.

The Summary:
“Venom” is a really great introduction for one of Spider-Man’s most complex and vicious foes; this story took place during the much lauded Micheline/McFarlane pairing, which results in some absolutely fantastic and detailed artwork. McFarlane always drew a brilliant Spider-Man, emphasising the complexity of his webs, the inhuman positions and poses he would strike while web-slinging, and giving every character an edgy, nineties make-over to help them stand out a little more. Venom, in comparison, is far more subdued, visually, than he would later be, appearing as simply a jet-black, muscular version of Spider-Man with a demonic grin; it wouldn’t be until Mark Bagley came onto the title that Venom would take on some of their more recognisable characteristics, such as the writing tentacles, mass of teeth, and long, drooling tongue.

Brock is a hypocrticial, deluded, sadistic individual in his debut.

Still, Eddie Brock makes for a unique and interesting new addition to Spidey’s rogues gallery; Brock is one of a handful of Spidey’s villains who actually knows his secret identity and the only one (at the time) able to use that information to his full advantage thanks to his ability to circumvent Peter’s spider-sense and the many attributes of his alien costume. Brock is, of course, a complete madman here and in his early appearances; slighted by Spider-Man’s involvement, he blames all of his failings on Spidey rather than admit to being duped by a compulsive confessor. Eddie believes that Spider-Man is an evil and malevolent individual and that it is his sacred duty to put an end to his (Spidey’s) menace; his obsessive mania is so complete that he kills an innocent police officer and then justifies it as being necessary to his “righteous revenge”. He openly admits to being disgusted by innocent death but is all-too-happy to torment Mary Jane, stalk Peter, and attack Spider-Man with a maniacal glee.

Despite all their power, Venom are defeated quite easily through Spidey’s guile and cunning.

If there’s a downside to the story, it’s simply that Venom is defeated rather anti-climatically; the Sonic Blaster proves effective but Peter is too concerned with Brock’s well-being to press his advantage and, unable to match Venom’s brute strength (which is on par with Spidey’s and further augmented thanks to Brock’s intense physical training), Spidey simply has the symbiote exhaust itself and that’s it. However, Venom’s threat wouldn’t end here by a long shot and this is a simple way to leave the door open for their subsequent, far more impressive return and defeats. Furthermore, this tactic shows how blinded by his rage and spite Venom are and how adaptable and intelligent Peter can be; he doesn’t win through sheer mindless brute strength, as Venom are attempting to do, and must instead rely on his wiles and intelligence to overcome Venom’s very real and lethal threat.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

Have you read “Venom”? Did you purchase a copy of The Amazing Spider-Man’s landmark 300th issue back in the day? What did you think to Venom’s introductory story; were you a fan of the concept and character or do you feel they are a product of a darker time in comics? What did you think to Spider-Man’s black costume and the revelation that it was an alien symbiote? What is your favourite Venom story? How are you celebrating Venom’s dramatic debut today? Whatever your thoughts on Venom, do please leave a comment below.

10 FTW: Dark Doppelgängers


If there’s one thing any hero can count on it’s that, at some point in their illustrious career, they’re going to have to face off against themselves. Sometimes, like with the classic Demon in a Bottle (Michelinie, et al, 1979) this is a metaphorical battle against their own inner demons and foibles but. More often than not, it’s a literal battle against an evil version of the themselves. Sometimes they’re from another world or a parallel dimension, perhaps they’ve used stolen technology or been cloned from the hero; other times, they are of the same race or seek to replicate the hero’s powers and usurp them. Whatever the case, I’ve always enjoyed a good doppelgänger, generally because they’re just like the hero but dark and edgy or more violent and, being as I grew up in the nineties, I like that kind of stuff. An evil version of a hero can help to elevate the hero by allowing them to overcome their failings and, sometimes, will even edge out of villain territory and become either a full-fledged hero in their own right or a line-towing anti-hero. In either case, today I’m going to run through ten of my favourite dark doppelgängers; evil versions of heroes who are just cool through and through.

10 Dark Link / Shadow Link

First appearing in Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (Nintendo EAD, 1987) this shadowy version of the heroic Link gets the number ten spot purely because he isn’t really much more than a glorified henchmen for main series villain, Ganon. In true Peter Pan (Barrie, 1902) fashion, Dark Link often takes the form of a pitch-black shadow or a dark, distorted reflection and is able to perfectly mirror all of Link’s attacks and abilities. In recent years, he’s appeared more as a phantom and been given more definition but he’s generally relegated to being a sub-boss for a game’s dungeon and never the true threat to the land of Hyrule.

9 Wario

Debuting in Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (Nintendo R&D1, 1992), this bloated, disgusting, twisted version of Mario is everything Nintendo’s cute and cuddly mascot isn’t: he’s rude, crude, mad, bad, and dangerous. Where Mario jumps on blocks and Koopa heads to save a delightful Princess, Wario barges through walls and tosses his enemies at each other to steal, loot, or recover treasure. Wario even has his own version of Luigi, Waluigi (who exists more for the sake of existing, I would argue) but, while he crashed onto the scene in a big way by taking over Mario’s castle, Wario has softened over the years. He’s transitioned from an anti-hero and begrudging ally to simply a master of ceremonies as Nintendo moved him away from being the star of his own series of unique games and more towards party games and mini games.

8 Black Adam

Created by Otto Binder and C. C. Beck, Teth-Adam was originally gifted the magical powers of the wizard Shazam and chosen to be his champion, Mighty Adam. After being bewitched and corrupted, however, Adam was stripped of his powers and withered away to dust but, centuries later, was reborn when his ancestor, Theo Adam kills Billy Batson’s parents to lay claim to Adam’s power. Black Adam possesses all of the same powers as Captain Marvel/Shazam but is also gifted with a pronounced mean streak and tactical genius; he briefly reformed for a time, even joining the Justice Society of America and building a family of his own, but his quick temper and deep-seated contempt for humanity generally always drives him into a murderous rampage that few heroes can hope to oppose.

7 Alec Trevelyan / Janus

Appearing in what is still probably the best James Bond film ever made, GoldenEye (Campbell, 1995), Alec Trevelyan (masterfully portrayed by Sean Bean) was one of MI6’s top 00 agents. However, wanting revenge against the British government for the death of his family and comrades during World War Two, Trevelyan faked his death and formed a criminal organisation named after his new alias, Janus. Trevelyan makes the list because he’s everything James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) was but twisted towards villainy; he and Bond were close friends and partners and his “death” weighed heavily on Bond’s conscious for nine years, making his betrayal even more sickening. In facing Trevelyan, Bond not only faces his biggest regret and mistake but also himself and what he could easily become if the fates were different.

6 Slash

First appearing in ‘Slash, the Evil Turtle from Dimension X’ (Wolf, et al, 1990), Slash was originally an evil violent mirror of the heroic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles who often appeared in Turtles videogames and merchandise as a sub-boss for the Turtles to fight. For me, his most iconic look is when he’s sporting a black bandana, some spiked apparel, razor-sharp, jagged blades, and a heavy, armour-plated, spiked shell. Slash’s look and characterisation have changed significantly over the years as he’s gone from a somewhat-eloquent villain, to a rampaging monster, to an ally of the Turtles depending on which version you’re reading or watching.

5 The Master

Originally (and, perhaps, most famously) portrayed by Roger Delgado, the Master was a renegade Time Lord who rebelled against his overbearing masters to freely wander through time and space. While this closely mirrors the story of his childhood friend, the Doctor (Various), the Master was the Doctor’s exact opposite: evil where the Doctor was good, malicious where the Doctor was kind, and wanted nothing more than to extend his lifespan, conquer other races, and destroy (or break) his oldest rival. Though sporting a deadly laser screwdriver and able to hypnotise others, the Master gets the number five spot simply because he’s been overplayed to death in recent years. Time and time again we’ve witnessed the Master at the end of his regeneration cycle, or destroyed forever, only for yet another incarnation to appear and wreck more havoc. He’s even redeemed himself and turned good before, and yet still returns to his wicked ways to plague the Doctor even when his threat should long have ended.

4 Metal Sonic

Speeding onto the scene in Sonic the Hedgehog CD (SEGA, 1993), Metal Sonic stands head-and-shoulders above all over robot copies of Sonic the Hedgehog simply by virtue of his simplistic, bad-ass design. A fan favourite for years, Metal Sonic has made numerous appearances in multiple Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic Team/Various, 1991 to present) videogames, comic books, and other media. Sporting a sleek, aerodynamic design, chrome plating, and a massive jet engine on his back, Metal Sonic did something no one had done at the time of his debut and not only matched Sonic’s speed, but outmatched it on more than one occasion. While Sonic CD is far from my favourite Sonic title, it’s hard to downplay the iconic race against Metal Sonic in Stardust Speedway or his impact on the franchise.

3 Reverse-Flash

Versions of the Reverse-Flash have plagued DC Comics’ speedsters over the years, most notably Edward Clariss (The Rival), Eobard Thawne (Reverse-Flash), and Hunter Zolomon (Professor Zoom). Sporting a yellow variant of the classic Flash suit and shooting off sparks of red lightning, the Reverse-Flash is generally characterised as using his powers to torture the Flash out of a twisted desire to make him a better hero. Reverse-Flash’s threat is increased by his tendency to travel through time, evading death and plaguing different generations of the Flash; Professor Zoom was even able to manipulate the Speed Force to jump through time and appear to be faster than the Flash. Reverse-Flash has also been the cause of numerous agonies in the lives of multiple Flashes; he’s killed or threatened those closest to him (including Barry Allen’s mother) and delights in bringing the Flash to the brink of his moral code.

2 Judge Death

Hailing from an alternate dimension where life itself is a crime (as crimes are only committed by the living), Judge Death is the dark counterpart to no-nonsense lawman Judge Dredd. First appearing in 1980 and created by John Wagner and Brian Bolland, Judge Death assumes the appearance of the Grim Reaper and uses his demonic powers to kill with a touch. Rocking a metal design (recently evoked by the Batman-Who-Laughs, another contender for this list), Judge Death takes Dredd’s uncompromising enforcement of the law and ramps it up to eleven. Alongside his fellow Dark Judges, he once slaughtered over sixty million citizens of Mega City One and, despite his corporeal form being destroyed or trapped, has returned time and time again to bring judgement upon the living.

1 Venom

Perhaps the most popular (or, at least, mainstream) of all dark doppelgängers is the alien symbiote who, when bonded to Eddie Brock (or others), is known as Venom. Created by David Michelinie and Todd McFarlane, Venom began life as a black alien costume that absorbed Spider-Man’s powers and abilities and sought to permanently bond with him. When Spidey rejected it, it turned to Brock and, through their mutual hatred of Spider-Man, Venom was born. Sporting a super simple design (pitch-black with a white spider logo, emotionless white eyes, deadly fangs and claws, and a long, drooling tongue), Venom plagued Spidey for years. Immune to Spidey’s Spider-Sense and sporting all his powers, but double the strength and viciousness, Venom has evolved from a sadistic villain, to an anti-hero, to all-out hero over the years but, thanks to their equally violent offspring, has been the source of much death and woe to Spider-Man since day one.


What dark doppelgänger is your favourite? Were there any I missed off this list, or do you, perhaps, feel the evil copy is a played out trope? Drop a line in the comments and pop back for more lists and articles.

Talking Movies: Venom

Talking Movies

Released: October 2018
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Distributor: Sony Pictures Releasing
Budget: $100 million
Stars: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, and Riz Ahmed

The Plot:
Disgraced reporter Eddie Brock (Hardy) is bonded with a psychotic symbiotic alien lifeform and becomes a superhuman anti-hero forced to choose between protecting the innocent and enacting revenge.

The Background:
A Venom spin-off has been in the works since Spider-Man 3 (Raimi, 2007), if you can believe that. Sony, once a studio capable of making good decisions and responsible for kicking off the modern superhero crazy with Sami Raimi’s first two Spider-Man movies (2002; 2004), have been determined to produce a Venom movie, even after the character was unceremoniously killed off in Spider-Man 3, and when the Amazing Spider-Man (Webb, 2012; 2014) series was ended prematurely, and now, when the rights to Spider-Man are shared with Marvel Studios. This means that, while Sony can produce spin-offs of Spider-Man characters like Venom, it doesn’t look like they can actually include Tom Holland’s version of the web-head. This has created some confusion, even amongst the two studios, with some at Sony stating that Venom exists adjacent to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and others proclaiming that it is a standalone story, and still others claiming that it’s both! Seemingly inspired by the success of R-rated, violent superheroes like Wade Wilson/Deadpool and Logan/Wolverine, Sony fast-tracked Venom and brought the production back to life, even managing to snag Tom Hardy in the process. Unfortunately, it seems that, at the last minute, someone at Sony lost their balls and, rather than a violent R-rated affair, Venom is more a watered down, studio-friendly version of the character in order to sell more tickets.

The Review:
Venom takes inspiration from three prominent arcs of the character’s self-titled series: Lethal Protector (Michelinie, 1993), Separation Anxiety (Mackie, 1994-1995), and Planet of the Symbiotes (Michelinie, 1995), whilst also taking some inspiration from the character’s origins and portrayal in the Ultimate Spider-Man (Bendis, 2000). This means that Venom is quite a talkative, violent character who isn’t necessarily interested in saving lives but is also driven to punishing only those who do wrong by others, which should result in an interesting and layered character and, instead, produces a fun, if kind of dumb, action movies that could have been really violent but was hampered by studio interference.

Hardy really captures the duality of Eddie and the symbiote.

Therefore, Venom is an interesting beast; the film lives and dies by the strength and versatility of its star and Tom Hardy is brilliant as a likeable, downtrodden underdog who is trying to do what’s right but is tempted by the power offered by the symbiote to strike back at those who have wronged him. Hardy pulls double duty in this film, playing both Eddie Brock and voicing the alien symbiote, and is portrayed as a loser who screws up his life and blames others for it.

Here’s an eccentric in a suit. He’s a bad guy.

Unfortunately, the same praise can’t really be said for some of Hardy’s co-stars. Carlton Drake (Ahmed) is every wacky evil corporate villain you’ve seen on film before and, while I didn’t exactly hate him or dislike his performance, I am personally just tired of seeing guys in suits being evil for no real reason. Rounding things out are Anne Weying (Williams), Eddie’s former fiancée who is serviceable enough but sure drops Eddie’s ass pretty quickly after he screws up an important interview.

I think I have a little crush on Jenny Slate now…

One person who did stand out for me was Dr. Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate), who was super cute and spunky and had a nice little character arc going on. I almost wish that Eddie had started the film with nothing and developed a romance with her rather than trying to find ways to repair his relationship with Anne as Dora had a lot more potential in her.

The symbiote offers Brock the power…but at a price.

Effects wise…well, Venom by its very nature requires substantial special effects and CGI to create the brain-eating anti-hero and it definitely seems like the studio put all of the money into making Venom look as good as possible and, honestly, Venom does look fantastic when he’s on screen. The problem is he’s just not on screen enough; a lot of the runtime is focused more on Eddie as a character and slowly developing his rapport with the symbiote and discovering what it can do, which is great as we really didn’t get to spend enough time with Brock (Topher Grace) in Spider-Man 3 but, as a massive fan of the character, I just wanted to see more Venom in my Venom movie. Other effects, though, are a bit hit and miss; in its non-bonded form, the symbiote is little more than writhing, liquid-like goo that honestly looked a bit dodgy. The effects used in Spider-Man 3 actually looked better and made the symbiote appear more vicious and dangerous; similarly, I wasn’t a fan of how the symbiote formed tentacles and appendages from seemingly nowhere with no ill effect on people’s clothes or skin. In the comics, the symbiote’s mimic clothing and cling and tug at skin like sticky webbing (an effect also nailed in Spider-Man 3) but none of that happens here; it’s seemingly just generated without any noticeable issues. Instead, Venom focuses on the duality between Brock and Venom, with the symbiote constantly talking and expressing itself to Eddie and threatening to devour his organs or takeover his body completely. This is a smart move, as it means we get a much more accurate version of Venom than anything seen before, but the symbiote’s motivations and behaviour is questionable at times, almost as much as those of Drake, and no amount of character work or amazing effects can change that some of those aspects are jarring and glaring flaws.

The Nitty-Gritty:
The Life Foundation obtains the symbiotes and hopes to use them to save humanity from extinction (which is kind of daft but okay, I guess); Eddie stumbles upon their plot and becomes bonded with the symbiote, which helpfully doesn’t kill him in the same way that others were killed from exposure. In an odd addition, the symbiote refers to itself as “Venom” right from the start, which is normally a name the two create to describe their union, and it is driven by hunger for living flesh and the desire to destroy humanity. However, it has a complete change of heart after being bonded to Eddie and decides to protect humankind instead because it randomly decides that it likes life on Earth. Drake, meanwhile, also bonds with another symbiote to become Riot, who wants to bring the rest of their kind to Earth to take the whole show over.

When he’s actually on screen, Venom looks fantastic!

A lot of fans will probably be annoyed at the decision to include Riot, who is a forgettable footnote in Venom’s character history compared to someone like Carnage, and is simply a return to the tired old formula of a villain who is exactly like the hero but eeeeevil! Riot even looks almost exactly like Venom in the right (or wrong, I guess) lighting, though he is separated by a distinct colour scheme and the ability to form different weapons. Carnage would have been a better choice by far but the neutered rating means that Sony would never have done the character justice. Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson) appears in a mid-credits scene, promising to unleash “carnage” when he escapes from prison, which is great as it might mean that the studio finds their balls and does a really violent sequel but it’s weird because the scene is so random and out of nowhere and so obviously put in for fan service. I would have preferred to see Brock chasing Kasady for an interview throughout the movie as his big break and stumble upon the Life Foundation’s plot that way, maybe have Cletus be a captive of theirs. But, still, if they get a sequel and if they go full on with the violence, I look forward to seeing Carnage unleashed in full the next go around.


The Summary:
Venom is loud and fun and full of potential but doesn’t exactly do anything new or even that exciting. Tom Hardy is great and Venom looks amazing, but the rest of the film kind of crumbles around them and the inclusion of Spider-Man would not have helped to stop that from happening, I love Venom and I wanted this movie to be great but, in the end, it only turned out to be just okay. Here’s hoping for an extended, bloodier cut on DVD and a more violent sequel if it makes enough green.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good