Venom In Animation - A Retrospective

Part One - Part Two - Part Three - Part Four - Part Five

Looking back now, it always surprises me how much crap I watched when I was a kid. My baby blues watched countless episodes of an ungodly amount of shows when I was a wee lad, some of which I greatly enjoyed such as MIB, Extreme Ghostbusters and Animaniacs but if you asked me to name a specific episode or even the supporting characters names of these shows, I’d struggle. I think everyone has shows that they find impossible to dislike even if they aren’t really all that good simply they remember enjoying them so much as a child – the DVD market has made a fortune from nostalgia and it seems to be seeping back into our pop culture even now.

The Alien Costume, Part One is something I still vividly remember watching now. I remember that my next-door neighbour and I used to try and guess which villain would be appearing in the show. I tended to suck at this game because I could only name a small handful of Spider-Man villains at the time but this week, I correctly guessed Rhino!

The episode wisely ignores the Secret Wars origin of the book and instead, has the symbiote brought to earth by Colonel John Jameson as a strange residence found on Promethean X, a new isotope discovered on a strange asteroid in space. The Kingpin sends Rhino to steal the isotope while Spider-Man attempts to rescue Colonel Jameson and has a short but nicely staged fight with Rhino, as Rhino slamming Spidey into the wall actually looked like it hurt. The animation throughout the episode was killer too. Rhino had a relatively dull design but the animation really helped it. He never, ever looked this cool again in the show.

Brock then lies to Jameson accusing Spider-Man of taking the Promethean. Jameson then placed a million dollar reward on Spidey’s head, he decides it’s best to lie low for a while, all too unaware that the “Hudson river pollution” is in fact an alien costume, and he awakes in one of the coolest, fanboy senses tingling scenes in the show.

“Parker, what on Earth are you doing in the middle of Manhattan, hanging upside down in a costume you’ve never seen before?”

This would probably be the best time to talk about the new costume. Visually, I thought it looked great. I’ve always loved his black costume and it simply shined on screen. It looked far, far cooler than the red and blue suit ever did and TMS simply made it look absolutely brilliant in every shot. Immediately effecting his emotions and turning him into a more confident, aggressive person, Peter finally gets a rematch with Rhino and utterly lays the smack down on him. I thought they used Rhino especially well in this fight scene as he obviously has a much bigger than Spider-Man and Spidey is shown to be toying with him, lifting him up with one hand and spinning him on his horn. With Rhino then admitting defeat, Chris Barnes gets to show off his impressive ‘angry Spider-Man’

SPIDER-MAN: Who said anything about jail?
RHINO: I... I don't get it?
SPIDER-MAN: You will. It's like this... I'm through with not getting what I want!
RHINO: Wha.. what are you doing? I told ya... I give up!
SPIDER-MAN: That's funny. I give up too. I give up trying to be a friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man!

He then realises what he’s doing and quickly snaps out of it. Barnes again shines as he reverts back to his normal tone, it gave a good impression of how much the symbiote was controlling him as he went back and forth with the voices. Some of Barnes’ best work is found in this and the following episode.

The episode ends on a creepy note as Spidey reflects on the events which just transpired and sees Venom staring back at him in the reflection. It was a cool visual, and a great metaphor of what could’ve happened if Peter had let the anger take over him.

The anger starts taking over him once again in part 2 as people trying to collect in on Jameson’s $1 million reward attack him. He then realises the suit is making more aggressive and approaches Curt Conners for help, pleading with him to examine the suit. I always liked this angle – I think Conners works much better as a regular supporting character who occasionally becomes a supervillain rather than just some random villain who occasionally pops down from Florida.

After examining the suit, Conners deduces that the suit is a symbiote – an organism that thrives by bonding with another. He also believes the suit actually “thinks” and strongly advises Spider-Man to dispose of it before it takes over him. Ignoring Conners advice, Spidey instead goes to search Eddie Brock’s apartment for photos of The Rhino robbing the shuttle to try and clear his name. Meanwhile, The Kingpin of Crime is concerned that Brock may be able to incriminate him and hires The Shocker to take him out.

The Shocker has been treated as something of a joke in the comics in recent years but his animated counterpart is so much cooler, mainly thanks to superb casting in Jim Cummings. He was cocky, arrogant and damn cool. He spends the entire show working as a lackey for The Kingpin but I thought this cartoons version of The Shocker was the balls. If The Amazing Spider-Man ever gets around to using him, they’ve got a lot to live up to! He also gets some brilliant dialogue in these episodes. They even managed to make his somewhat lame costume from the comics look cooler than ever.

Their rematch is one of the show’s greatest moments as Spidey snaps and his rage overcomes and he goes to town on Shocker and promises to do the same to Brock.

“You? I’m saving you for desert. But you… you’re the main course!”

He eventually controls himself after he realises what he is supposed to be doing with these great powers and promptly rejects the symbiote with some help from the church bell. Immediately leaving, Peter is unaware that the symbiote attaches itself to Brock. Presumably, he was more worried about having to make it home without being arrested or freezing to death – the poor lad had to head home in his underwear.

The came the moment everyone was waiting for... Venom!