Marvel Comics recently announced that Eddie Brock, the original man beneath the evil symbiote, will be returning in this April's "Venom" #6. With such a momentous occasion, we felt it only appropriate to take a look at the history of Eddie Brock, which is sadly a pretty bleak history when all is said and done.
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Eddie Brock debuted in the classic "Amazing Spider-Man" #300 by David Michelinie and Todd McFarlane, where he confronted Spider-Man and revealed just who he was and why he had bonded with the alien symbiote that Spider-Man had brought to Earth from "Secret Wars" but had then had broken away from with help from the Fantastic Four and the symbiotes weakness to flames and sonic weapons.
Eddie, you see, was a successful columnist for the Daily Globe, a rival newspaper to the Daily Bugle. He wrote a series of very popular columns about the serial killer known as the Sin-Eater. The series gained so much attention that he was contacted by the Sin-Eater himself! Or at least, a man named Emil Gregg, who claimed to be the Sin-Eater. He gave Eddie a series of interviews. They became a media sensation, but Eddie was hounded by the authorities to turn over the identity of the Sin-Eater. He refused, until finally, in one sensational story that was on the front page of the Globe, he revealed to the world the identity of the Sin-Eater!
The problem, though, was that Emil Gregg was not the Sin-Eater! Police detective Stan Carter was. When Spider-Man defeated the real Sin-Eater and unmasked him, Brock's career was ruined. He was fired from the Globe. Brock's mother died in childbirth, and his father blamed him for it the rest of Eddie's life. Eddie did everything he could to impress his father, but it never worked. So when he became an actual disgrace? It was too much for Eddie. He got work for some tabloids, but his life was in a spiral. His new obsessive hatred for Spider-Man also led to his wife divorcing him. Eddie began working out heavily at this time, transforming his body into basically a bodybuilder, but further separating him from his past. The pain was so much that he went from church to church trying to figure out a way to kill himself that wouldn't violate his Roman Catholic beliefs. While at one church, the symbiote was hiding there (following a confrontation with Spider-Man in "Web of Spider-Man" #1 after it escaped from the Fantastic Four) and when it learned that Brock hated Spider-Man, as well, it bonded with Brock and they formed Venom! Since the symbiote had bonded with Spider-Man, it knew his secret identity, so now Venom did, as well. Spider-Man barely defeated him by forcing him to use up too much of his webbing.
Venom only appeared in two stories during McFarlane's "Amazing Spider-Man" run, with him escaping from custody in "Amazing Spider-Man" #315 (by Michelinie and McFarlane) in a story that showed a disturbing aspect of Brock. He believed in protecting innocents, but he still had to kill sometimes, so he would really mourn the people he killed. He was truly broken as a person, as he believed he was doing good.
Brock's desire to protect innocents (which Spider-Man, of course, was not), led to a bold gambit by Marvel. You see, after McFarlane's run, Venom appeared in a very popular arc in the Erik Larsen stint as artist that followed. This was during the early 1990s when comics were selling millions. Venom was extremely popular, so Marvel wanted to cash in on that popularity. However, he was still a villain, so they felt kind of weird making him a feature character. But in "Amazing Spider-Man" #361 (by David Michelinie, Mark Bagley and Randy Emberlin), they introduced the spawn of the Venom symbiote, who merged with a serial killer named Cletus Kasady. The merged being called itself Carnage, and unlike Venom, it killed indiscriminately.
This was very important for Marvel as now they a villain to replace Venom, while Venom could become, in effect, an anti-hero, or, if you prefer, a "lethal protector." This came to a head in "Amazing Spider-Man" #375 (by Michelinie, Bagley and Emberlin), where we first met Eddie's ex-wife, Anne Weying. Brock had kidnapped Peter Parker's parents (although he did not tell them that Peter was Spider-Man, as he wanted to protect their innocence) and Spider-Man, in turn, tracked down Anne so that she could try to reason with Eddie. When Silver Sable's Wild Pack (who had been hired by J. Jonah Jameson) showed up to take Venom down, the battle knocked a tower over, which was going to crush Anne. Venom couldn't stop it by himself, but then Spider-Man stepped in to aid him. This led to the famous Spider-Man/Venom truce of 1993. Venom would stop hunting Spider-Man, using his information about Spider-Man's secret identity, and Spider-Man would not actively try to stop Venom (so long as Venom wasn't going around killing people, of course).
Venom headed off for San Francisco, where he became a champion, of sorts, for the homeless population in that city. During his time there, he also spawned a few more symbiotes. Interestingly enough, almost immediately after finally leaving New York, Venom returned to fight alongside Spider-Man against Carnage in the crossover event, "Maximum Carnage," where Spider-Man debated whether he had to adopt a more aggressive, Venom-like, approach to stop the evil Carnage and Carnage's cronies. At a time when he was back in New York, Anne Weying ended up shot by a new Sin-Eater, so Brock makes the symbiote bond with Weying to heal her. After temporarily becoming She-Venom, Anne decided she wanted nothing to do with Brock or Venom ever again.
Likely spurred on by things like that, Brock began to question his relationship with the symbiote, but during the "Planet of the Symbiotes" crossover, he ended up having to fully commit to the symbiote, bonding permanently (well, as permanent as these things go) in "Web of Spider-Man Super Special #1 (by David Michelinie and Steve Lightle).
However, as the 1990s came to an end, Venom's popularity had fallen a bit, enough so that Marvel decided that they could stop doing Venom series (neither of Marvel's Editors-in-Chief of the decade, Tom DeFalco and Bob Harras, were fans of giving Venom his own series, which is why he only had a series of miniseries. They did not like the idea of giving a villain such a high profile). So there was a "Venom: Finale" book that ended with Eddie separated from the symbiote and with amnesia, and the character took a bit of a break.
When he returned in 2000 in the two relaunched "Spider-Man" titles, he fought Spider-Man a few times, but wasn't really into it, not until "Amazing Spider-Man" #19 (by Howard Mackie, Erik Larsen and John Beatty), where Eddie tried to win Anne back, but Anne had locked herself up as she was afraid of the world and, most of all, the symbiote. Eddie forced her to open up her shades, and wouldn't you know it, Spider-Man happened to swing by wearing the black costume (he was running low on costumes at the time). She freaked out and Eddie turned into Venom, which freaked her out even more. He didn't notice that, of course, he just saw that Spider-Man upset her. When he returned, Anne had killed herself. Eddie blamed Spider-Man and the rivalry began again! It was cut short, though, when a villainous senator stole the symbiote.
It returned to Eddie later on. The next big change in Eddie's life occurred in "Spectacular Spider-Man" #4 (by Paul Jenkins, Humberto Ramos and Wayne Faucher), when the symbiote was trying desperately to re-attach itself to Spider-Man. This was because, as Eddie revealed to Spider-Man, Eddie was dying of cancer!
The symbiote kept Eddie alive for a while, but finally, in "Marvel Knights: Spider-Man" #6 (by Mark Millar, Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson), he decides to auction off the symbiote so that he just get on with the end of his life.
He made $100 million, which he gave to charity (the symbiote was purchased by a mobster, but it quickly dropped the son of the mobster and bonded with another Spider-Man villain, Mac Gargan, the Scorpion). Without the symbiote, Brock's cancer got progressively worse, but since Brock was such a popular character in his heyday, writers seemed like they were hesitant to be the be the one who finally killed him off. So he would keep making guest appearances as he got sicker and sicker and sicker. He began to hallucinate that the Venom symbiote was still talking to him and at one point the hallucinations almost got him to kill Aunt May. At the end of that story, he does try to kill himself, but he fails.
He later went to work for a soup kitchen owned by Martin Li, who was secretly the criminal known as Mister Negative. Li's magical powers cured Eddie of his cancer. What Eddie didn't know is that Li cured him by sort of super-charging the white blood cells in his body. When Eddie got involved in a fight between Spider-Man and the then-current Venom, Mac Gargan, touching the venom symbiote kickstarted residual traces of the symbiote within himself and, combined with the almost magical effect Li had on him, Eddie created a white symbiote that was deadly for the original symbiote. He called himself, appropriately enough, Anti-Venom!
When Anti-Venom figured out that Li was a bad guy, it messed him up pretty good, since Li was his savior, after all. Plus, if Li was his savior and hewas evil, then did that make Anti-Venom evil? He ultimately figured out that it did not, and he teamed up with Spider-Man to take Mister Negative down (well, at least expose Martin Li as a villain).
However, soon afterwards, Eddie had to give up the Anti-Venom symbiote for it to be transformed into a serum that would cure everyone during "Spider-Island."
As we have seen a lot of times over the years, Eddie is pretty easily rattled and very easy to use faith as an excuse for him to do some awful things. So now that he was sans-symbiote, he decided that it was his duty to kill all other symbiotes, as he determined that symbiotes were inherently evil. He showed up in the pages of Flash Thompson's "Venom" series. While working his way up to Flash Thompson's symbiote, he killed a few other symbiotes along the way.
Back in the last year or so of Eddie's original time as Venom, a new symbiote shown up, that was spawned from Carnage. This symbiote was called Toxin and it bonded with a police officer. In the pages of "Venom," Eddie was captured by the evil Crime Buster and forcibly bonded with the Toxin symbiote, which had been removed from its original host (tragically, the heroic host was killed in the process). This was not a pleasant experience for a man who had just devoted himself to destroying all symbiotes.
As Toxin, Eddie has most recently become part of a team of people hunting down Carnage in the pages of "Carnage." Eddie has a little bit more control over the symbiote, and he appears a bit like how Flash Thompson did when Thompson was Agent: Venom.
In the history of comic books, characters tend to eventually revert to the most famous version of those characters. Eddie Brock is clearly the most famous version of Venom that there has been, but he has now been separated from the symbiote for over a decade. That's a long time to keep from reverting to the original status quo, but it appears as though that time has come to an end. We don't know if Eddie will be permanently bonding with Venom, though, so we still have to find out come April. If he does, though, we will see if it ends up with Eddie Brock being any happier than he has been in the past. It doesn't seem particularly likely.