Since the dawn of the Silver Age, legacy characters have been a staple of superhero fiction, and having a new character step into a well loved role can open up new opportunities for writers and artists to tell different kinds of stories. In The Replacements, we’ll look back at the notable and not-so-notable heroes and villains to assume some of the most iconic mantles in the superhero genre.
Spider-Man discovered the mysterious symbiote while on Battleworld, but after returning to Earth it proved to be a malevolent and obsessive force that craved a permanent bond. After Spider-Man freed himself from the symbiote's influence, the alien has gone on to bond with some of the toughest heroes and villains in the Marvel Universe.
Venom (Eddie Brock)
Created by David Michelinie & Todd McFarlane (Web of Spider-Man #18)
Eddie Brock was a disgraced reporter with a grudge against both Peter Parker and Spider-Man, and was unknowingly present when Spider-Man separated himself from the symbiote. It bonded with Brock, seeking out his pain and need for revenge, and together they became the first Venom, one of Spider-Man’s deadliest enemies.
Brock and the symbiote shared a similar hatred for Spider-Man, and proved to be especially dangerous due to their immunity to Spider-Sense. Venom's knowledge of Spider-Man’s true identity led to him placing Mary Jane in peril in an effort to get to the hero.
In later years a truce was established as Venom left New York for San Francisco, and Eddie Brock has flip-flopped over time from being a villain to hero to something in-between. After being apart from the Venom symbiote for some time due to cancer, his illness was cured by Mr. Negative, which in turn transformed him into Anti-Venom and started him on a crusade to eradicate all symbiotes.
After being purged of his Anti-Venom powers to cure those infected during Spider-Island, Eddie Brock became the new Toxin, and joined Crime Master’s Savage Six, enemies of the latest Venom. He was later hunted down by the FBI, who were able to somewhat rein him in and use him as part of their efforts to track down and capture Carnage.
Venom (Angelo Fortunato)
Created by Mark Millar & Terry Dodson (Marvel Knights Spider-Man #7)
When Eddie Brock had enough of being Venom and decided to put the symbiote up for auction, it was bought by crime boss Don Fortunato, who gifted it to his son Angelo in the hopes that he could use its power to make something of himself.
Angelo had one notable fight with Spider-Man, but the symbiote didn’t appreciate being attached to someone it saw as a coward, and left his body mid-swing, leaving the mobster’s son to fall to his death.
The Scorpion (Mac Gargan)
Created by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko (The Amazing Spider-Man #19)
The villain known as Scorpion was approached by the Venom symbiote in search of a powerful new host that also hated Spider-Man as Brock once had, and after bonding, the pair joined Norman Osborn’s newly formed Sinister Twelve. After a defeat and brief jaunt on the newly restructured Battleworld, Venom was drafted into Osborn’s newly formed Thunderbolts team with the remit to hunt down unregistered superhumans.
As a member of the Thunderbolts, Gargan lost control to the symbiote and ballooned to a monstrously grotesque size. He developed a taste for human flesh after devouring the arm of Steel Spider, and the one-time private detective turned crook began to question his own safety as part of Venom.
When Norman Osborn founded his own Avengers, he created something to help Gargan gain control of the symbiote so he could be the new Spider-Man. However the process made Gargan more sensitive and less ruthless, and he was often left behind on missions when it seemed he wouldn’t be effective in the field.
After Norman Osborn’s failed siege of Asgard, Gargan was taken prisoner and separated from the symbiote. Suffering from health problems due to withdrawal from the symbiote, Alistair Smythe created a new Scorpion suit for him to inhabit and he returned to his original codename.
Agent Venom (Flash Thompson)
Created by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko (Amazing Fantasy #15)
Flash Thompson went from being Peter Parker’s childhood bully to a respected war hero, and lost his legs while serving in Iraq. Returning to America, he took on a role as an ambassador for the Department of Veterans Affairs, but was recruited to be a host for the Venom symbiote as part of a new government initiative to use it as a weapon in covert situations.
Initially, Flash was only allowed to bond with the symbiote for small amounts of time due to the risk that came with prolonged exposure. However when clashes with the Crime Master threatened his personal life and relationship with Betty Brant, Flash went AWOL to protect her and was forced to lie to his superiors about his growing need for the symbiote.
After helping to solve the Spider Island crisis, Flash was recruited into the Secret Avengers by Captain America. He was later chosen to be the Avengers’ representative on the Guardians of the Galaxy, where he discovered the true nature of the symbiote species (known as the Klyntar), and Flash was able to purge the murderous tendencies of his own Klyntar partner.
Welcomed back into the Klyntar collective, Venom became an Agent of the Cosmos, but the symbiote’s violent side began to re-emerge and Thompson was forced to fight for what he considered to be his friend and sought out the Fountain of Purity to cleanse Venom once and for all.
The Superior Venom (Otto Octavius)
Created by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko (The Amazing Spider-Man #3)
While Otto Octavius’ mind was in the body of Peter Parker and living his life as Spider-Man, he ran into Flash Thompson. Unaware that Venom was a hero now, Octavius fought Venom and discovered Thompson’s identity. Later, Flash turned up at Parker’s apartment seeking a place to crash, and Otto used Peter’s friendship to manipulate Flash into a situation where Octavius could disconnect him from Venom.
However, during the procedure, the Venom symbiote got loose and attached itself back to Peter Parker. With Octavius referring to himself as The Superior Venom, he attempted to reign the symbiote in, but discovered its presence was too strong. With the help of the remnants of Peter Parker’s personality, Otto was able to cast the symbiote out, but unknowingly gave Parker enough of a foothold to mount a return to his own body.
Luckily for Octavius, when The Avengers questioned his motives and behavior over recent weeks, he was able to blame everything on a sliver of Venom symbiote that had infected him and slowly began its corruption. The Avengers bought the lie, and the Venom symbiote was returned to Flash Thompson.
Deadpool (Wade Wilson)
Created by Fabian Nicieza & Rob Liefeld (New Mutants #98)
While semi-canonical at best, a recent story suggested that Peter Parker was not the first person to wear the black suit; it was instead Deadpool who first bonded with the symbiote. In the pages of Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars, the Merc With A Mouth came into contact with the symbiote moments before Spider-Man did.
He discovered the shape-changing abilities and tried on several different variations of his own and other people’s costumes, but ultimately discovered that the black suit was another life form in its own right. Feeling that no-one deserved to share brainspace with someone as messed up as him, Deadpool relinquished the black suit and suggested that its brief time with him may have been what resulted in it being corrupted.
Moments after letting the symbiote go, Spider-Man walked into the room looking for something to fix up his costume, and the rest was history. Deadpool’s brief time with the Venom symbiote was popular enough with a fans that a full miniseries titled Deadpool: Back In Black was announced for October 2016.