We Care a Lot Part 8: Brains! Brains! It’s Okay!

March 4th, 2009 by | Tags: , , , , ,

Yeah, that’s right. Two musical references in one title. I rule.

One of my few regrets about this site is that sometimes people don’t take my opinion seriously because I revel in stupid shit. I can give them my take on something and say it’s worth checking out, only for them to roll their eyes because I’m the guy who says that the Double Dragon comic was a good read or that the later issues of Mortal Kombat weren’t even all that bad. Now, sometimes when Venom is the center of a conversation, someone might explain that he’s actually a good character. Another person will ask, “Yeah? If he’s such a good character, name one of those good Venom stories.”

I could suggest the time he teamed up with Morbius against an army of goblins or Eddie Brock’s misadventures as a skateboarder, but those will just be seen as off-the-wall screwball stuff. Is there an actual true blue good Venom story out there from before modern days?

Yes there is and I’m going to tell you about it.

Venom: The Hunger (Venom #43-46), is that story. Don’t get this confused with the Spectacular Spider-Man story also called The Hunger, by Paul Jenkins and Humerto Ramos. We won’t get to that one for a while. This one is instead by Len Kaminski and Ted Halsted. What a fantastic creative team. Bagley may draw the true Venom to me, but Halsted’s creepy depictions of the symbiote anti-hero go perfectly with Kaminski’s writing.

Off-the-wall adventures against monsters and guys with flamethrowers is always good for a laugh, but you have to remember that Venom is insane. Why go for the colorful slugfest option when you can just go deeper and do a psychological story? I mean a real psychological story. Not that crap in The Madness where he screamed about being crazy and then got tossed into an alternate dimension where he fought Fake Spider-Man, Fake Wolverine and Fake Ghost Rider.

The first issue is all about this. Eddie Brock hasn’t slept for at least two weeks. He just walks the streets, growing more and more delusional. People appear as demons and monsters.

“The other doesn’t need to sleep. Now we have more time to get things done. Mostly we work on carrying out our mission, but it’s hard to protect the innocent in this city. Sometimes we can’t find any.”

He goes to the movies, narrating about how he’s never alone when he has his symbiote. He calls it a “happy ending”. Then some loudmouths start yelling at the movie and getting on Eddie’s nerves. He tells them to shut up.

He corners the three and prepares to feast on them, but stops himself at the last second and leaves them. He buys some junk food and goes back to his hidden bunker. In an action that spits in the face of comics completely, Eddie bites into a fresh Twinkie and spits it out, saying it tastes like sewage. Everything tastes awful to him. He has a craving, but he can’t figure out what it is.

Since Eddie used to be a reporter, he knows the big spots where trouble can be found. He goes to a bar filled with the scum of the city and starts a fight for the sake of punishing the guilty and working up an appetite. With ease, he takes down everyone in the barfight.

Sensing the open head wound, Venom starts to feed. One of the other bar patrons looks on and understandably freaks out.


Yep. After all these years of threatening it, Venom’s finally finds himself eating a dude’s brain. Good for you, Venom. Finally getting your New Year’s Resolutions done with.

Hearing the guy scream this snaps Venom out of it. He runs off into an alley and vomits into a dumpster. To Eddie’s disgust, he can feel the symbiote asking him for more. The symbiote NEEDS to feed on brains. Eddie stands up to his other and tells it that he won’t do it. The symbiote splits from Eddie and goes off on its own.

Hey, remember back in Planet of the Symbiotes when Eddie and the symbiote were joined on a molecular level and couldn’t separate ever again? Yeah… Though I guess the She-Venom arc is more to blame for that.

As you can guess, a crazy, sleep-deprived naked dude running around the streets screaming about how an alien is going about eating brains is going to end with a crazy, sleep-deprived naked dude getting arrested. We’ve all been there. Why do you think I was so late writing this article?

Enter Dr. Thaddeus Paine. I didn’t realize this until way after the fact, but Dr. Paine is a Morbius villain Kaminski created when writing that series. An accident involving anesthesia has removed all feeling from his body and has driving him mad. He is obsessed with performing horrible tests and experiments on freakish patients without any anesthesia. Oh, and he has cybernetic hands with scalpels and stuff that pop out. So he’s a fun guy.

Since Brock has no ID or insurance, the people at the local asylum have no qualms handing him over to Paine. At first Paine thinks that Eddie has organic brain syndrome, but the various painful experiments dispute that. Considering all the weird shit going on in Eddie’s body, such as unknown proteins in his system, enlarged pores and a severe lack of phenethylamine in his brain, Paine decides to hear Eddie out.

Throughout the issue, Eddie has been seeing what the symbiote has been doing. It’s been creeping around through New York City, feeding on others and eating their brains. Interestingly enough, the symbiote focuses on those Venom usually targets, including a wife-beater, some gangbangers and some mafia goons. Eddie tells Paine about the experience and the sensations, to the mad doctor’s interest. All the while, the symbiote keeps changing forms. Sometimes it’s a giant spider, sometimes it’s a snake with a Venom head and sometimes it’s some kind of Giger creature.

After telling all this to Paine, Eddie is able to escape the hospital. Paine has planned this, since he’s interested in examining the symbiote himself. This leads us to the third issue, which may be the most interesting of the entire Venom run.

You see, we’ve never really got anything out of the Eddie/costume conflict. Back in Separation Anxiety they had Eddie realize the evil of the alien, but then it was waved away in the end of Planet of the Symbiotes without any actual development. The fact is, since this five years of comics is supposed to be about Venom as a good guy, it isn’t enough to have Eddie Brock as a reasonably good guy who is coaxed and controlled by a flesh-eating monster. There has to be some real conflict and growth. Eddie has to conquer his problems and change himself for the better.

Eddie makes a couple trips. He goes to the library to read up on explosives, hits the hardware store, the army surplus store and the black market. Shit, his skateboarding winnings must be working out better than I thought.

“My name is Eddie Brock, and I used to have a symbiotic relationship with an alien. When the Other left, it took half of me with it. Can’t live without it. Can’t live with what it’s become. I remember a t-shirt my ex-wife gave me a long time ago. ‘If you love something, set it free; if it doesn’t come back to you – hunt it down and kill it.’”

Here it is. Eddie Brock armed to the teeth vs. the Venom symbiote. Get your popcorn ready.

The extra bell and whistle in the fight is that the two are still linked, so the symbiote knows that Eddie’s coming for it. Meanwhile, Eddie can see that the symbiote has resorted to murdering cops. Eddie follows a trail through a sewer, but when he comes out of a manhole, he sees himself from above. Not only does the symbiote know Eddie’s after him, but their mental link allows Eddie to see through its attempt to ambush him. Eddie first tries to talk to the creature, but it rages at him and he has no choice but to fight it.

It ends up trying to eat him, but spits him back out as Eddie had doused himself in bug spray. With the symbiote right where he wants it, he turns on a loud sonic device and sets off a flair in the creature’s face. This downs the alien and Eddie has it at his mercy.

Awwwww! Look at that guy! He can travel through the internet AND he’s adorable!

Eddie says that the symbiote is sick and gives him the medicine in the form of phenethylamine, which he overheard Dr. Paine mention. It’s a chemical in the brain that is given off when you’re in love. The symbiote had eaten away all it could leech from Eddie, so it was hungry and needed it from other sources. The other brains couldn’t feed it nearly as much as Eddie’s due to his emotional attachment. The symbiote devours the phenethylamine and calms down into Eddie’s arms.

Look at the symbiote! Awwww, symbiote! I want one! The symbiote is way cuter than that old washed-up The Cheat I used to have!

But we still have another issue left of this, so there has to be a wrench tossed into the reunion. Dr. Paine and his goons attack the two and knock them out. They take the symbiote and leave Eddie to himself. Eddie’s still in danger, since he planted a bomb just in case he didn’t make it out of the earlier fight alive. He escapes at the last second, swims through the muck of the Hudson River, then mercilessly beats up some punks on a pier with a chain.

He can sense that Paine is torturing and experimenting on the symbiote. He thinks of how Paine is so stupid not to think that Eddie would go after him out of revenge of all the innocents he harms. He sneaks into the complex and finds the symbiote in a big tube.

Paine and his men are waiting for him, natch. One goes after Eddie, but gets his face shoved into the tube a couple times until breaking the glass and setting the symbiote free. Eddie becomes Venom once again and goes to town while singing David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” until realizing that he can’t remember how the rest of it goes. He corners Paine and asks him if he doesn’t like his singing.

Venom impales Paine and prepares to torture him, but Paine tells him that he wouldn’t be able to feel any of it. Instead, Venom reaches into Paine’s brain and sucks out all of his phenethylamine. It renders Paine a crazed mess with an insatiable hunger for human brains. Which is kind of an irresponsible move on Venom’s part, but Paine hasn’t shown up since then, so I guess all’s well that ends well.

Then again, it does add more flavor to the Morbius rivalry. Morbius is the Living Vampire. Paine can’t feel pain and is hungry for brains. That does sort of make him the Living Zombie.

As time goes on, we see that Eddie is more well-balanced and gives a homeless man some money. He goes to his home in the sewers and enjoys a heart-shaped box filled with chocolates.

“Funny thing. Turns out choclate’s a good source of the phenethylamine the Other needs. So, as long as I remember to buy it presents now and then – we’re gonna live happily ever after.”

What a great arc. Unfortunately, it’s time to sweep it under the rug for a really lousy couple of issues. Larry Hama returns and has Joe St. Pierre do the art for the three-issue story Tooth and Claw.

Yes, folks. It’s time for part two of the Wolverine vs. Venom Holy Shit This is Awful Trilogy. This is why we can’t have nice things.

Hama was writing Wolverine at this time, which translates to this story being a Wolverine story with Venom as a guest star and some of Venom’s supporting characters hanging out in the background. I haven’t read a single issue of Hama’s Wolverine run for research, nor do I intend to, but the gist I get is that considering Wolverine’s been through just about everything, Hama had gone balls-to-the-wall crazy with his writing. This lends itself into Tooth and Claw, where Wolverine teams up with Emmett, a heavily-armed little boy who works for Landau, Luckman & Lake (LL&L, most well-known for their role in Joe Kelly’s Deadpool run). The villains I’ll get to as I get to them.

Thing I found funny about this story is that Tom Brevoort is the editor and spends so much time popping in asterisks to let us know what issues certain quotes of dialogue are referencing that he forgets to actually edit. It has its share of typos.

You remember the skaters from The Hunted, right? Two of them are hanging out in a subway, reminiscing about how awesome Rad Eddie was, only to discover a metal football in a storage closet. They accidentally open it up and cause it to grow into the size of a car. Meanwhile, Donna (the redheaded host to the symbiote Scream) is in the area, trying to find that device herself. That Xenophage that tried to eat her was too efficient at hunting down symbiotes. He probably had a spaceship hidden somewhere with some way to track them down. She finds the storage closet and steps into the ship, which is small on the outside, but incredibly spacious on the inside. The skaters futz around with the controls and accidentally cause it to go seek out Venom. The ship folds back down into a football and off they go!

Jesus. Christ.

With that out of the way, let’s get to the main plot. Eddie Brock is just walking down the street when a talking rat asks him to enter a nearby alley. Eddie seems kind of calm about this and goes with it. The rat is actually Dirt Nap, a mutant with the power to devour others and steal their appearances, but defaults into a rat for his appearance. He ends up devouring Venom with little problem and takes the form of Eddie Brock. As he walks towards his appointment to meet with his boss, he finds that he’s having trouble digesting his latest meal.

Dirt Nap enters a room to find Wolverine sitting around, reading an old magazine, waiting to meet up with someone. Dirt Nap tries to play it cool and read his own magazine, but sweats at the memory of Wolverine slaughtering all of his Dark Rider buddies. Wolverine notices a couple familiar smells and gets in Dirt Nap’s face. Emmett shows up and sees with some doohickey that this guy has three separate nervous systems. Backed into a corner, Dirt Nap starts fighting Wolverine. He then vomits out Venom, who he just couldn’t process.

Yes, it’s mome other than Venom. That masty Venom just popped out of Dirt Map. Nana nia!

Wolverine wants to kill Dirt Nap, but Dirt Nap morphs into a teenager he devoured in an earlier story. Wolverine knows that if he kills Dirt Nap, he destroys any chance of that kid being brought back. Venom, meanwhile, could give less than a shit. He wants Dirt Nap dead, which gives us the obligatory Wolverine vs. Venom fighting.

Then that silver football barges in and conks Venom on the head. Dirt Nap escapes into a portal with Venom and the football ship giving chase. Logan gets his Wolverine duds and prepares to follow.

Thus begins a half-trippy/half-hideous chase sequence with Venom chasing after Dirt Nap while getting repeatedly beaned in the head by the tiny spaceship as Wolverine and Emmett follow on a motorcycle. Wolverine crashes his motorcycle into Venom to prevent Venom from killing Dirt Nap. Scream and the skaters finally get out of the spaceship, leading to Scream fighting Dirt Nap and promptly getting swallowed. Emmett continues to be annoying by speaking in 1930’s newsboy slang (ie. “I’ll moiderize him!” and “Ahh, yer mudda wears army boots!”).

Then Chimera shows up. She’s some kind of evil dominatrix with a talking hand who… shit, I don’t know. I do know that she’s currently hanging out with Madelyne Pryor in Uncanny X-Men and that her hair changes to red with no explanation on the next page. She attacks Wolverine and Venom with Plasma Wraiths, which are ladies dressed completely in leather with glowing red eyes that exist at the end of time. As Chimera and Dirt Nap escape with the skater kids, Wolverine and Venom finish off the Plasma Wraiths and decide to put aside their differences. They put them aside the correct way.


Chimera leads Dirt Nap around her trippy universe and yells at him for gumming up her plans. She set up for Dirt Nap to meet up with Wolverine in an attempt to lure him into her world, but Dirt Nap had to go get Venom involved and complicate matters. With the anti-heroes on their tail, Chimera sets up a trap by throwing a black hole grenade in a room so that when Wolverine busts through the door, he’s dragged in. Venom comes to Wolverine’s rescue and saves him, but Emmett is the one who stops the black hole by blowing it up. That does lead to the one good piece of dialogue in this entire story.

“Looks like I owe ya one, Venom!”

“We both owe the kid! And we wonder if you would have pulled us back if we had been the first one through the door!”

“Next time you can go first and we’ll find out.”

“Won’t that be interesting?”

The two make their way into another trap, where Dirt Nap is tied up as bait with Chimera and more of her Plasma Wraith gimps hanging out nearby. Venom and Wolverine know it’s a trap and counteract it by… well, randomly getting into a fight. Chimera thinks that they’re for real, so she sends her Plasma Wraiths at them. Venom takes them on while Wolverine goes one-on-one with Chimera and her green flame powers.

Soon after, Venom uses a toothpick to get the pieces of chewed leather out of his mouth. He takes Dirt Nap and beats on him until Scream is able to escape from his mouth. Then as Wolverine and Venom argue about whatever, Scream strangles Dirt Nap with her hair and demands he lets go of all his other victims. Dirt Nap is forced to oblige and vomits out the little boy Wolverine was out to save, a rat and a big, thugged out black guy. Now without any DNA to copy, Dirt Nap is forced to show his true form.

That guy, Agent Daryll Smith, is pretty important for the rest of Venom’s comic run. We’ll deal with him later. Though we do see that he’s high ranking enough to have read Wolverine’s super-secret government file. And according to that picture, he carries a gun called the Booger 2000. Huh?

Chimera tosses out more of her black hole grenades and tries to destroy the place. All the good guys get into the spaceship and fly off, leaving Chimera and Dirt Nap to get sucked up. Which is weird, since Chimera was mentioned as having some kind of device that keeps her immune to black holes in the previous issue. Maybe I missed something.

To get back home, one of the skaters suggests setting the ship’s tracker on Carnage, since they know he’s on Earth. The good guys won and everything’s grand, so for the sake of being badasses, Wolverine and Venom get at each other’s throats once again.

One of the kids yells at them and forces them to spend the rest of the trip on opposite sides of the ship. The two reluctantly agree.

This story is the last real appearance of Scream in the comics. Though she gets a mention in the Civil War: Battle Report book, she hasn’t done anything since. Yet for some reason – probably due to the lack of good female villains for Spider-Man – she appears as a member of the Sinister Syndicate during the Spider-Man ride at Universal Islands of Adventure. Yeah, go figure.

I have room for one more comic in this update. This time it’s a special taken from Marvel’s Flashback event. This is a story taking place before the whole symbiote nonsense. It’s a story strictly about Eddie Brock as a reporter… with an old-school Marvel twist.

Venom: Seed of Darkness is by the team of Len Kaminski and James W. Fry III. It shows Eddie Brock as a reporter who’s deep into the way news used to be, and as he believes, should still be. For instance, he’s made fun of by his peers for still using a typewriter. He doesn’t mind, since he believes he’s on his way towards hitting his big, successful story.

Elsewhere, in a once-abandoned mansion on a creepy hill in the middle of nowhere, Dr. Nigel Donlevy works on his newest experiment in dimensional travel. He’s your usual genius who has been shunned by the science scene for his radical ideas. After all, this is a parody/homage to the old Tales from the Crypt comics. His device works and brings in a visitor from another realm.

Krobaa needs to join with Donlevy’s form and chases him through the lab before taking him over.

At the Daily Globe, Eddie gets a horrified call from a woman looking for fellow reporter Cal Carlchok. Eddie tries to take a message, but he hears a scream and an inhuman laugh before losing the call. He asks around for Cal in a hurry, but the others just laugh at him and say that the old lush is probably getting drunk somewhere.

I barely even noticed it the first couple readings, but this scene is full of cameos. In the background of the Daily Globe offices we see Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Perry White and… Harry Osborn for some reason. I wonder if Clark knew that that one reporter with the typewriter was going to hand him his ass years later.

Cal Carlchok is a reporter who used to deal with the strange and the unexplained. He’s someone that Eddie looks up to. Unfortunately, time and failure have broken his spirit. As he explains to Eddie, news isn’t about the truth. People want to know that the truth is out there, but they don’t actually want to know what it is. They don’t want to know about Skrulls and Dire Wraiths and vampires. That’s why Cal is now just a guy who covers fluff pieces and dog shows for the sake of getting checks.

Eddie bitches Cal out and says that he won’t end up like him. After Eddie storms off, Cal sighs and says, “No, kid, you won’t end up like me. You’re going to fall a lot farther…”

As all this has been going on, Krobaa has been viciously destroying a commercial area near the Hudson River. Eddie crashes his car and gets out unscathed, only to run into Krobaa himself.

Krobaa tries to kill Eddie, but he dodges long enough to realize that Krobaa’s weakness is intense light. He takes out his camera and hits the flash a couple times. It affects Krobaa and causes him to change personality. Suddenly, he’s horrified and disturbed by the cosmic joke that is humanity.

“Such… great… horror. A terrible abundance of sorrow. What monstrous gods would create a race with so much buried greatness – yet curse them with souls born wounded?”

He then collapses in a cloud of yellow gas and apologizes to Eddie. He is committing suicide so as not to infect the universe with the “Seed of Darkness”. He vanishes, revealing Dr. Donlevy underneath. He says that the creature was a peaceful explorer from another world that was out seeking new worlds and needed to survive with temporary symbiosis.

Eddie leaves Dr. Donlevy to cry into the streets. Eddie writes up his article and gives it to his editor, who refuses to print it. It isn’t about proof. Hell, the Globe has tons of unprinted articles about monsters and the like. It’s just that they don’t make money from the sales. They need advertising and they don’t get advertising with stories about Krobaa.

Eddie has a bit of a breakdown that involves him throwing his typewriter out of a window. He eventually calms down and thinks about the future.

Ah, Len Kaminski. You should have written more Venom.

There’s less than a year’s worth of Venom’s solo series left to talk about, but I won’t be going into that just yet. In the next article, I’m going to be discussing the spinoff character that didn’t get anywhere. No, not him. The other one.

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8 comments to “We Care a Lot Part 8: Brains! Brains! It’s Okay!”

  1. Is it the one I’m thinking of that ended up in a Rifftrax?

  2. Is the spinoff character Hybrid?

  3. Probably Toxic.

  4. It’s too early for it to be Toxin.

  5. Toxin comes later. I know he first appears after Paul Jenkins’ “The Hunger” act, so I’m fairly certain it is Hybrid now, unless there’s yet another spin-off symbiote around.

  6. Damn, I have a lot of these from the quarter bins, but I just realized, I think “Nigel Donlevy” is a reference to the old Quatermass Hammer horror movies, where the scientist fights weird alien crap.

  7. Ha ha, wow. That image of the little silver spaceship with a woman, a guy, and another guy wearing pointy sun glasses all uncomfortably packed in is like an incredibly shitty version of Gurren Lagann.

  8. “Cal Carlchok”

    Another shout-out, to Kolchak the Night Stalker?

    “a newspaper reporter — Carl Kolchak, played by Darren McGavin — who investigates crimes with mysterious and unlikely causes that the proper authorities won’t accept or pursue. Each week Kolchak investigated murders involving supernatural and science fictional creatures.”