When it first appeared in “Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars” #8 over 30 years ago, very few foresaw the impact the Venom symbiote would have on the greater Marvel Universe. Created by Mike Zeck, fan Randy Schueller and Jim Shooter as part of a new look for Spider-Man, the striking black and white costume quickly evolved into one of Peter Parker’s deadliest foes.
Most recently, in the pages of the latest volume of “Venom” by Mike Costa and Gerardo Sandoval, the symbiote has found itself attached to Lee Price, finding in the former Army ranger a dark, formidable host, who threatens to take it to previously unexplored depths of ultra-violence. With former skin-suit Eddie Brock set to return in the series’ sixth issue, we felt there was no better time to run down a list of Venom’s 15 most infamous hosts.
SPOILER ALERT! Spoilers ahead for numerous stories published by Marvel Comics.
As one of Marvel’s most popular characters in print and on the big screen, the ubiquitous Merc with a Mouth known as Deadpool is popping up all over the 616 (and beyond), often in the most unexpected places. You know, kind of like a virus. Take the Venom symbiote, for example. For years, it was taken as canonical fact that Peter Parker was the symbiote’s first host, bonding with it during Marvel’s first Secret Wars. However, such was not the case, as was revealed by Cullen Bunn in 2015’s “Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars.” It seems before Peter Parker stumbled upon his new costume, Wade Wilson briefly bonded with the symbiote first.
Why Deadpool was present at such a pivotal moment in Marvel history is a story for another day. What’s important is the irreparable psychological damage caused by Deadpool’s brief contact with the symbiote. Imprinted with Wade’s singular madness, it eventually evolved into the sadistic, bloodthirsty killer that emerged a short time later. And it seems just one taste wasn’t enough. After Spider-Man rejected it, the symbiote bonded once again with the familiar Deadpool, proving that even a puddle of sentient black goo can’t get enough of everyone’s favorite nutcase.
14 GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
Only slightly less omnipresent than Deadpool in recent years, three fan-favorite members of the Guardians of the Galaxy also had the dubious honor of hosting the Venom symbiote. During his brief stint with Starlord and company, Flash Thompson took an increasingly unstable and violent Venom into space, where he learned the inky little darling simply needed to be recalibrated on his home planet of Klyntar, effectively psychologically rebooting its consciousness. If only it were that easy. Here’s how it all played out...
Before the Guardians reached Klyntar, the symbiote escaped from its containment tank, where it had been imprisoned after forcing Flash to go on a rampage. It first latched onto Groot, who embarked on a rampage of his own before Drax managed to take him down. Not known for their foresight, the Guardians figured the symbiote would simply slink back to Flash. However, nobody told the symbiote that, so it promptly bonded first with Rocket and then Drax in rapid succession. Eventually, it was all straightened out and the symbiote was able to return to its homeworld for a much-needed psychic cleansing, which is exactly as messy as it sounds and yet still slightly less messy than this retcon.
A minor Thor villain who first encountered the God of Thunder in 1972’s “Thor” #204, Mercurio started out as a guy who wanted to save his homeworld of Gramos from extinction. Although he managed to cross the cosmos and possessed the power to create both extreme cold and extreme heat, Thor made short work of the lone alien invader and sent him packing back to Gramos without breaking a sweat. In the intervening years, Mercurio kept a pretty low profile, until he got it into his head that he’d make a pretty passable galactic conqueror.
The would-be despot ran afoul of Flash Thompson in his role as Agent of the Cosmos, who took exception to his unsavory aspirations and teamed up with a huge, talking panda bear to take him down. The pair hatched a cunning sting operation, which required Flash to allow the symbiote to bond with Mercurio so that it could perform a little covert psychic recon. However, letting the symbiote bond with the raging megalomaniac might not have been the best idea. Although, the scheme was ultimately successful, Mercurio’s violent personality undid the symbiote’s recent psychological reboot and it began to exhibit signs of its old sadistic tendencies.
12 CAROL DANVERS
Carol Danvers has gone by a lot of names since her first appearance way back in 1968’s “Marvel Super-Heroes” #13. Created by the legendary Roy Thomas and Gene Colan as a positive female role model, Carol has constantly reinvented herself over the course of her long career. From Ms. Marvel to Captain Marvel, she has remained a strong symbol of female empowerment in a medium overrun by posturing male power fantasies... except maybe that one time she was Venom. During her final stint as Ms. Marvel, Carol fought with the New Avengers in the siege of Asgard and paired off with Spider-Man versus a rampaging Mac Gargan, who had become consumed by Venom’s cannibalistic urges.
After violently freeing Gargan from Venom’s clutches, the symbiote swiftly attached itself to Carol, easily taking control of her and renewing its campaign of terror. Spider-Man finally managed to free her of the symbiote, when he kicked her into a set of power lines. The symbiote slithered back to Gargan, who was then taken into military custody. Thankfully, Carol would get back to saving lives and eventually take up her latest role as the Marvel Universe’s most popular hero.
11 U.S. AGENT
During Norman Osborn’s siege of Asgard, John Walker -- better known to the world at large as U.S. Agent -- was grievously dismembered by fellow sociopathic flag-wearer Nuke, who blindsided him with the Spear of Odin. Losing an arm and a leg to the cowardly attack, Walker nonetheless showed some good ol’ fashioned American gumption and refused offers of high-tech prosthetics. After a stint as the warden of the Raft, Walker accompanied the Dark Avengers to a secret pocket dimension created by A.I.M. to run real-time simulations of their nefarious plans and salvage the inhabitants' unique technology.
While trapped in this alternate reality, Dark Avenger Toxie Doxie used the pocket dimension’s lobotomized version of Venom to regrow Walker’s lost limbs. Nobody’s quite sure how she pulled it off or if there will be unforeseen consequences down the road. What we do know is the physical upgrade did nothing to improve Walker’s notorious lack of brain muscle, considering how easily Hydra Cap duped him into attacking Sam Wilson.
10 RED HULK
"The Circle of Four" was a storyline that ran over two issues of the second “Venom” ongoing series and revolved around a demonic invasion fronted by Mephisto’s son Blackheart. The group consisted of the female Ghost Rider, Venom, X-23 and the enflamed testosterone hemorrhoid that was Thunderbolt Ross’ obnoxious Red Hulk persona. Unfortunately for Blackheart, his attempt to bring Hell to the earthly plane was only partially successful and barely encompassed the city of Las Vegas. Ross found himself trapped in Blackheart’s domain after following the fugitive Venom to the city, under orders from Steve Rogers. He ultimately banded together with the other three heroes against Sin City’s demonic overlord.
Initially unsuccessful, the group only won the day thanks to Flash Thompson willingly relinquishing the Venom symbiote so that it could bond with much more powerful Red Hulk, who had also bonded with Ghost Rider’s un-homed Spirit of Vengeance. This new ultra-powerful persona made short work of Blackheart, sending Hell back to its proper dimension in the process. Ross returned Venom to its rightful host and continued on his way, convincing Rogers that Flash could be trusted to control its urges.
9 ANGELO FORTUNATO
Many feel this Mark Millar creation was somewhat lacking as a host for Venom, not the least of whom was the symbiote itself. The disappointing scion of a powerful crime family, Angelo Fortunato first bonded with Venom after his old man picked it up on eBay for a song. You see, Eddie Brock was trying to go straight at the time and thought he’d try to pay it forward by donating the proceeds of the auction to charity. Although he’s never been considered the sharpest knife in the drawer, this misguided attempt at rehabilitation has to be one of Eddie’s stupidest moves.
But let’s get back to poor Angelo, who, despite quickly adapting to his new partner, once again failed to live up to his potential. After fleeing a fight with Spider-Man that he was actually winning at one point, the symbiote abandons Angelo mid-leap between two buildings high above the unforgiving city streets. Citing a lack of spine in the younger Fortunato, Venom moved on to find a more suitable host and would eventually land in the lap of the Scorpion, Mac Gargan.
8 ANN WEYING (SHE-VENOM)
If ever there was a cautionary tale about Venom, it would belong to Ann Weying, the first woman to take on the persona of She-Venom. A successful lawyer and the estranged ex-wife of Eddie Brock, Ann disapproved of his venomous alter-ego and even helped Spider-Man defeat him on at least one occasion by convincing him to drop his beef with the wall-crawler. Ann first became She-Venom after she was almost fatally shot by the insane vigilante Sin Eater. Brock selflessly compels the symbiote to bond with Ann, saving her life.
On a separate occasion, while bonded with Venom, Ann violently dismembered a pair of thugs who attacked her and Eddy. Fearing for her sanity, Eddie promptly takes the symbiote back, although Ann would bond with it one final time to escape prison, during a botched police operation to capture her ex-husband. Irreparably damaged by her experience as Venom’s host, Ann tried to reconcile with Eddie but succumbed to a mental breakdown upon witnessing his transformation into Venom first hand. After he departs to try and kill his arch-nemesis Spider-Man for the umpteenth time, Ann takes a swan dive off of her apartment, ending her personal torment.
7 PATRICIA ROBERTSON (SHE-VENOM II)
This entry comes to us courtesy of the proverbial left field and writer Daniel Way, who dreamt up perhaps the most bizarre permutation of Venom seen to date. Long story short, with the help of a mysterious extra-terrestrial called the Suit, who believed the Venom symbiote was destined to be the host of a species of cosmic nanites (who for some inexplicable reason also caused the Biblical Flood), Patricia Robertson became bonded with a clone of the Venom symbiote while stationed in the Arctic as an army communications officer.
The Suit wanted to use Pat as a weapon against Venom, believing it was destined to spawn an army of symbiotes with which to overrun the planet. Pat eventually ends up in the Big Apple as “She-Venom,” where she engages Eddie Brock in battle. During the fight, Pat begins to lose control of her symbiote clone and is taken into custody by Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, who want to use her as bait to capture Brock. Their plan is sabotaged by the Suit’s fellow aliens and Brock manages to reabsorb the clone into the Venom symbiote, thus ending a fleeting chapter in Marvel history probably best left forgotten.
6 ANDI BENTON (MANIA)
Andi Benton had the extreme misfortune of living in the same building as Flash Thompson during his career as Agent Venom. She also attended the same Philadelphia high school where Flash worked as an assistant coach and deduced he was Venom, when he used his powers to bounce a football off of a bully’s noggin. You can probably see where this is heading -- nowhere good for Andi. During a battle with the villainous Jack O’ Lantern, Flash uses a portion of the symbiote to save Andi from the assassin’s poison gas attack.
However, Andi bonded with the neophyte symbiote, becoming Mania and immediately tried to kill her attacker for shanking her father. If that weren’t enough, the portion the symbiote gave up to Andi just happened to contain Mephisto’s Hell-Mark, which it had procured during a recent sojourn to Hell. Andi’s psyche was eventually subsumed by the demonic Mania and it fell to Flash and his old pal Spider-Man to stop her hellish rampage. The last anyone saw, Andi was still bonded to Mania, but it remains to be seen if this is still the case, given Venom’s new status quo.
5 MAC GARGAN
Arguably the most bloodthirsty member of the “Venom Corps” on our list, Mac Gargan already had a pretty good bad guy gig going as the classic Spider-Man foe, the Scorpion. Okay, so maybe he was third rate at best, but still, the guy had the proportionate strength, speed and all around nasty disposition of a Scorpion. The Venom symbiote discovered Gargan on its quest to find a suitable host to exact its revenge on Spider-Man. Gargan’s already substantial powers were augmented by the symbiote, making him one of its most powerful hosts. He became increasingly addicted to his new powers and despite genuine misgivings about its terrible hunger for human flesh, ultimately degenerated into a raging, super-powered cannibal.
Thankfully, Gargan’s stint as Venom was cut short by Ms. Marvel and Spider-Man during his involvement in Norman Osborn’s siege of Asgard as part of the Dark Avengers. The military stripped him of the symbiote during his incarceration on the Raft and subsequently had his jaw punched clean off his face by the Superior Spider-Man, Otto Octavius. Gargan most recently popped up, with jaw relatively intact, as the chief enforcer of the Black Cat’s criminal organization, where his curiosity has been aroused by Venom’s most recent host, Lee Price.
4 LEE PRICE
The most recent carrier of the Venom symbiote represents something of a departure from past hosts. Lee Price is a small-time thug and former Army ranger, who lost a couple of fingers while stationed in the Middle East. An embittered man with a violent background, Price uses the resistance to “psychic incursion” he gained from his military training to counteract the symbiote’s control over his mind and body. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Lee forces the symbiote to perform acts of horrifying violence, jeopardizing its recent rehabilitation while bonded to the heroic Flash Thompson.
Creators Mike Costa and Gerardo Sandoval’s treatment of Venom represents a refreshing twist on how the symbiote relates to its hosts, inverting the power dynamic so that dominance resides with Price. How their tenuous relationship will play out as Price seeks to join the Black Cat’s criminal organization is still up in the air, but with Eddie Brock’s imminent arrival in a few issues and Costa hinting at the return of the inexplicably absent Flash Thompson, we’re betting it ain’t going to be pretty.
3 FLASH THOMPSON
Perhaps even more than Peter Parker, Flash Thompson’s tenure as Venom’s host showed the symbiote what it truly means to be a hero. Good ol’ Flash came by the symbiote after both his legs were blown off while serving in Iraq, courtesy of a reawakened Project Rebirth. In this incarnation, the clandestine program sought to repurpose the symbiote as a formidable suit of battle armor. To combat its mental control over its hosts, Flash was only allowed to wear the armor while on missions and was provided a drug that would counteract the symbiote’s mental influence.
Through much trial and tribulation, and thanks to another ham-fisted retcon from the keyboard of Brian Michael Bendis, Flash was able to bond freely with the symbiote, which had been “recalibrated” after a trip to its home planet of Klyntar. Thus made whole, Venom was recast as a Space Knight and Agent of the Cosmos, until they returned to Earth to save his friend, Andi Benton. For reasons yet to be revealed, Flash seemingly parted ways with the symbiote, leaving it secured in a tank very similar to the one Project Rebirth used. Flash’s relationship to the symbiote currently is anyone’s guess.
2 PETER PARKER
For those who read it as it happened, Peter Parker’s adoption of the black costume was one of the most memorable and pivotal moments in the history of comics. Never before in Spider-Man’s history had he undergone such a dramatic redesign. The high-contrast black and white color scheme added yet another layer of mystery to the wall-crawler’s aura and made perfect sense for the stealthy urban superhero on the go. When it was revealed that the costume was not only alive but also an actual sentient being, we all kind of lost our minds in the best possible way.
Here was a hero with a history of questioning his identity and place in the world, who was suddenly embroiled in a desperate fight for his sanity versus his own costume. It was the ultimate identity crisis, giving physical form to Spidey’s characteristic insecurity, while resonating with hordes of teenaged fans, many of whom were struggling with their own evolving personas. Although he was only bonded to the symbiote for a short time compared to some of our other entries, there’s no denying the impact Venom has had on your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
1 EDDIE BROCK
Created by Todd McFarlane (along with writer David Michelinie) during his heady days at the top of the Marvel heap, Eddie Brock was always as much a foil for Peter Parker as Venom was for Spider-Man. For many fans, Venom will only ever be Eddie Brock, thanks to McFarlane and Michelinie’s solid foundational work on the character. Quite simply put, without Eddie, there would be no Venom. His jealousy and hatred of Peter Parker fueled the symbiote’s own maniacal hatred of its first host for years and set the template for most of the hosts that came after him.
Although he’s suffered the same fate as many a bad guy whose popularity informs misguided attempts to humanize them, Eddie has remained a dangerous and unpredictable element of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery. With an upcoming appearance in the latest volume of the “Venom” ongoing series set to drop in a few months’ time, we can only hope that it’s the Eddie of old who shows up to plague the symbiote’s current host Lee Price. And if he gets a little sidetracked by his old vendetta against Puny Parker, so much the better.
Feeling snake-bit? Then let us know which Venom hosts we missed in the Comments!