Whether you prefer him as a gigantic, slobbering fiend that haunts Peter Parker’s nightmares, or as an antiheroic ‘Lethal Protector’ of the innocent, there have been few Venom comics that have struck as big a chord with fans as Donny Cates’ 2018-21 ongoing series. Favouring the latter approach to the character, the book flew off the shelves and was constantly brought up in discussions of the best comics out there at the time.
This run, along with the Tom Hardy-led Venom movies, is often credited as propelling Venom into stardom, a superhero worth bringing up in the same discussions as characters like Iron Man and Captain America.
What was it that Cates and co did to so drastically shift readers’ perceptions of the human/alien symbiotic goo-duo?
10. Separating Venom From Spider-Man
While both the Peter Parker and Miles Morales incarnations of Spider-Man do appear as supporting characters during certain arcs, Donny Cates made a point from the early issues to distance this relationship that had defined the character for so many years. Before the release of the first Venom movie, a major concern from fans was that the character would not be able to function without the Web-head’s input.
Cates, however, rewrote elements of the canon to make Venom stand on his own two feet, specifically through the introduction of Knull, God of the Symbiotes. The warped rendition of the spider-symbol across Venom’s chest was revealed to be a depiction of the symbiote dragon known as Grendel, with Knull himself sporting a similar image in red. Our symbiote’s reconnection to the hive resulted in the discovery of a long-dormant power, a huge pair of red-and-black wings, allowing the antihero an alternative mode of transport from the decidedly spiderish web-slinging.
The evolved depiction of Eddie Brock’s relationship with Peter Parker was also interesting to see, Eddie having seen the error of his ways and wishing to build some form of friendship with the man he had been vindictively targeting for the past 30 years of publication history. Even during Venom’s good guy revamp in the ‘90s, no writer ever allowed him to truly make peace with Spider-man, presumably because the rivalry was so popular.