Monday, September 10, 2012

Flashpoint Part 1: Looks are Everything

WELCOME! This is the first legitimate post of "MIND BOMB" and it's sure to be a doozy. This first post is also the beginning of a little series that I'm calling "Flashpoint" because I'm not that creative. It shouldn't be a surprise to you that, well... I love Venom and as such have developed a religious devotion to the character. Like any fanboy, I become what others often describe as "butthurt" when something changes to what I love, and I just won't bend to the will of the higher powers that be at work. Stickin' it to the man! So, for each part of this series I will be discussing the most recent host of the Venom symbiote, Flash Thompson (as you probably noticed by now) and why I believe he is one of the worst things to happen in symbiote history by examining one feature per post that I see as SACRILEGE to Venom. Bare with me, there's a method to my madness, and I will do my best to describe it as best as possible.

This first thing I'd like to point out should be quite obvious when one sees Flash donning the symbiote for the first time, the new duds. I can't speak for everybody, but I'd say most of us became fascinated by Venom sometime in our lives when we saw something that looked like the above images and asked ourselves, "HOLY CRAP WHAT IS THAT!?!?!?111?!/?!1/!?" But whatever your reason my be, Venom's classic look is iconic, a non comic reading person who has ever watched the cartoons, seen the movies, or played the video games could most likely be able to point Venom out. And this distinct look is what made this character so popular so quickly, but before I get to Flash's look I need to backtrack a little. Before Flash acquired the symbiote, it was under possession by Mac Gargan (aka the Scorpion) who also brought a new look to Venom.

There was another person between Eddie and Mac buuuut... meh. Anyway, this new look to Venom had human eyes within his eye patches that appear white, sometimes red, and rarely green along with a spider symbol that stretched across his entire body. I didn't have much objection to the new look, I could still tell that this character was supposed to be Venom with the eyes, and the teeth, and the tongue, and the symbol, and the puddin' pops!  However, there is that one small thing that may or may not be a huge deal... that was bad, I apologize. When Gargan joined the Thunderbolts he started this trend of "hulking out" when he felt like showing off or being the cool kid. It's hard to say why he started doing this, perhaps the most obvious reason is due to the success of the Ultimate Spider-man game, so his design changed to reflect the Venom that people enjoyed playing as on their game consoles. It would explain the size difference, though Gargan would be even more obnoxious in his size as you can see from the picture, and the cannibalism, and the purple hue... We'll never know, but it happened. Then when the deadly duo joined the Dark Avengers they stuck with the Black Suited Spider-man/classic Venom look for the most part, but did "hulk out" on occasion. But overall no complaining there... but that was the old, Venom tolerant me.

Fast forward to early 2011 when the world was greeted with an ad in various comics promoting this all new Venom, sporting a military like suit and a "hulked out" looking Venom with a new spider symbol including a belly button. I had not heard any news online about this new Venom, because at that point I was not heavily involved on the internet until this series came along... which made me stubble upon TheVenomSite, blah blah blah here I is. When I saw this ad I was not filled with a pit of bubbling venom ready to be spat upon any person that dared gaze upon me, I was actually curious and wondered where this new Venom would go. Before long we were offered another ad (that would be the Venom #1 cover) of a classic looking Venom  including the spider insect symbol with the caption "A Real American Hero," then the Amazing Spider-man #654.1 cover along with the variants which all featured a more Gargan like Venom made an appearance. At this point, as I'm sure everyone else was, I was really confused. We were presented with four different looks to this new Venom even before he deputed in a single issue! Which one could we expect when he finally made his debut? I would think if they were advertising a new version of a classic character they would keep to one specific look so not to cause as much confusion as they did with this.

When I picked up ASM #654 at my comic store, it had a little circle on the bottom with the Venom #1 cover inside with the caption, "PLUS: The debut of the All-New VENOM," stuff was about to get serious. First thing I did was flip to the back and read the origin of this brand new Venom before reading the main story and was... confused. The cover teased a classic looking Venom, but he was no where to be found in book. Why would they do that for? Another interesting point that was brought up in this origin story was that Flash naturally wanted to be called Spider-man, but nope! Venom isn't as scary as Spider-man, so Flash can't be Spider-man (hold on to that point). Next we would be greeted with the eagerly awaited ASM #654.1, a so called jumping on point for ASM that stars... Venom...? Ya got me. Anyway, Agent Venom is bouncing around doing his thing (don't worry, I'm saving the stories for another part) when he gets his legs blown off and he "Venoms-out" as it's put. At this point since the cover depicts a Gargan like Venom that's what I'm expecting to see. Well... as I'm sure you already know, it was not delivered, but I can't complain right? We did by the way see a more a classic looking Venom, but then why advertise the Gargan like Venom on the cover? Then March rolls around and Venom #1 is released, knowing what the cover is, what did I expect? That's right, I expected to see classic Venom, surprisingly it was not delivered, just one panel with a full out Venom lying on the floor with the newer spider symbol but different from the original sketches. At this point it really wasn't a huge surprise to me, for you see, the start of this new Venom was wrapped around the classic "bait and switch."

"Woh, woh Bizarnage calm down! We weren't bait and switched! Each artist just had their own interpretation of Venom and wanted to express it!" Ask yourself this: if Marvel was so confident in this new Venom and his new military look, why did they decide to advertise the classic Venom, hm? It's because Marvel knows that people love classic Venom, Venom just has always been able to turn heads. I believe while Dan Slott and Stephen Wacker were coming up with this new design, they weren't sure if it would catch on. So they decided that the best way was to make sure people understood who this person was to bait and switch with the Venom everyone loves. But it's not like this new Venom started all of this, Gargan had his cover and interior designs swapped too from time to time. Also look at what they did with the new Scarlet Spider with Point One, they teased the classic Ben Reilly hoodie including a teaser for Spider-Island with Ben's hoodie being burned. I'm not a huge fan of clones nor do I understand the love for Ben, but people were going CRAZY thinking it was Ben all because that classic blue hoodie gave them hope. Only to be bait and switched with Kaine and a new suit soon after. The best way to sell something new is too show off something old.

Hopefully at this point you're saying to yourself, "Ok Bizarnage, you raise some interesting points, but what's wrong with the new, military look?" I'll tell you... and it may shock you... are you ready?... it just isn't Venom. As I said before, Venom's look is iconic and it is not easy thing to completely redesign him and somehow make it work while still getting the point across that it's Venom. But you can't tell it's Venom, and it's addressed many times in book. Remember when I said earlier that Flash could not be called Spider-man because it just isn't as scary as Venom? No? Well I did you a favor then. Flash's involvement with the Hijacker should help my point. In Venom #9 Flash witnesses a mother and child being run over by the Hijacker and loses control of the symbiote.When Hijacker first sees Flash he doesn't know who this guy is and keeps going, but when he sees classic Venom and puts together who that guy was, needless to say, he's scared $&!#less. And it doesn't end well. Now if a person can't identify it's Venom, how can he "scare" the bad guys? Flash could waltz in and proclaim that he's Venom, but you aren't going to be scared of a black Deadpool lookalike, the evil Spider-man with teeth would scare the crap out of you, it defeats the point. Speaking of Deadpool...

I know some people will disagree with me on saying that the new look looks similar to Deadpool, but that's what it is. When comic readers thing of a masked superhero with spandex and guns, they're gonna think Deadpool. C'mon, look at those pictures! Don't lie to me... It also doesn't help that Rick Remender wrote "What If? Venom Possessed Deadpool" before his initial Venom run and it came out right before it started. This new look is also a complete reversal that wasn't needed for Venom; he certainty wasn't broken. It baffles me how you can go from a black, skin tight suit (well... sometimes skin tight) with teeth to a Deadpool. What if we did the same thing to Deadpool? Took away his mouth, cleaned up his skin, took away his costume and guns, and gave him powers more suited for hand to hand combat? How can that go wrong?

Ohh... right.
It truly baffles me that a role reversal can work with Venom but not with Deadpool. It's something that I can't really understand. Maybe it is because this new Venom saps the Deadpool fan out of some, or maybe it's not how he looks, maybe it's really the character that counts (more on that later). Perhaps the fact that this new Venom occasionally turns into the Venom that we all love deep down inside keeps us sane. Could you still love this new Venom if he didn't "Venom-out?" I know I couldn't, but Venom does come with an advantage: the symbiote is alive, it's its own character. That being the case one cannot simply just define it to one form. If Venom was simply a name any vigilanty dressed in black called themselves and the suit was not alive, I most likely would've stopped reading years ago and just called myself an Eddie Brock fan not a Venom fan. But as long as the symbiote remains I hope that Venom will return to it's roots, giving us that sick, twisted smile and look that many first fell in love with. One could argue that all of this is based on nostalgia, but what's wrong with that and sticking with the old status quo? It certainty works with many other characters. Would Venom #7 have had that epic feel if it was Anti-Venom vs. a beefy Venom with a newer spider symbol?

Let me close with this: with the news of Venom moving to Philadelphia we were greeted with the above image which is the cover to Venom #28. Marvel hopes this will be big news and aspire to new comic book fans, and with all the publicity that it's getting it's sure to sell well. I'm not sure if you noticed this... but Venom is sporting a, well, Venom like face. With that publicity, new comic fans and residents of Philadelphia are bound to pick it up. But is this more evidence about what I was saying earlier? That to attract a new crowd Marvel needs to point out something old about the character that some people could identify? Is Marvel still insecure about Venom's new look, or is this a complete change for the better that Venom will undergo after his move? We'll have to wait and see, even though the new look is starting to grow on me... yes, I admit it.

Well that's it! My first post is done. It probably wasn't a good idea going into something big in the first post, my mind is most likely scattered throughout this post. But you can help me out by leaving a comment, and be sure to let me know what you think about Venom's new look and what you hope or not hope will change about it. I'll be happy to entertain questions. Next time I'll do something less complicated and something not so controversial...

Hell yeah...

1 comment:

  1. I agree with most of what you've written except how you rag on flash declaring him the worst thing to happen to venom. I mean seriously did you not read venom the madness terrible story terrible terrible art. I agree with how you feel marvel tricked us in to a classic venom appearance and then delivered a dead pool carbon copy ( never noticed that before thanks). I don't like the hulked out venom we've come a costumed to lately however do enjoy flash loosing control. I hate I mean hate Ben Reilly he was whole reason I stopped reading comics and the clone wars was the worst thing marvel ever did to spidey closely followed by brand new day. So when I saw the image of Ben Reilly outfit burning I was conserned but ended up releived as scarlet spider reborn would kill me. I would just like to add this is my opinion I don't wish to set off the Ben Reilly fan club .