In this penultimate instalment we address why Brock chose Spidey as the guy responsible for his problems.
In this penultimate instalment we address why Brock chose Spidey as the guy responsible for his problems.
Perhaps one reason for why many readers adhere to their criticisms of Venom’s motivations is his choice of Spider-Man as his target. Let’s address that in this penultimate part of the series.
As before, here Is a little reminder of Brock’s origin and what those criticisms boil down to.
· Eddie Brock’s motivations for hating Spider-Man are weak and make no sense
In previous instalments I’ve spoken a lot about Brock’s psychology in order to illustrate how mentally unhinged he was. However, even if a reader did recognize Brock as delusional, the fact that he targeted Spidey specifically can still seem either illogical to them and/or overly convenient from a creative point of view.
To address this we need to remember that a major part of Brock’s intentions as a villain was that he was a super villain stalker for Spider-Man. As such the character has to be viewed through that lens and judged in the context of that archetype.
With this in mind we could counterpoint the above criticism by simply saying that a delusional person by their nature doesn’t need to have a rational reason for their actions. And since the point for the character was to be a delusional psychotic stalker it is thereby invalid to reprimand said character for not having a strong reason to hate the protagonist. That is to say that the point is that his hatred is irrational and unreasonable.
This is actually an idea somewhat corroborated by this excerpt from Fettinger’s ‘The Dark Side of the Spider’ essay.
… in real life, nutcases often don’t need an excuse to stalk or murder someone. I read not too long ago about a serial killer who murdered several people because he just didn’t like the way they looked at him. He stalked and killed one woman because she accidentally bumped into him with her radiology cart at the hospital he was working at and he believed that she gave him radiation poisoning!…
For myself I actually vaguely recall a story about someone who set their mind to killing a musician because they interpreted their songs to be coded messages about how they wanted to kill him.
And to give a final real life example, let us consider Mark David Chapman, more infamously known as the man who murdered John Lennon of the Beatles.
Putting aside how Chapman’s mother was apparently unmoving towards him (something we later learn was echoed by Eddie Brock’s father) or how both Chapman and Brock (to varying extents) allegedly held strong religious beliefs, Chapman after killing John Lennon was diagnosed with being in a delusional psychotic state when he carried out the murder. Reportedly the murder was motivated by a desire for notoriety, because Lennon ‘was a phoney’, because Chapman hated celebrities in general, and a host of other reasons. Notice how rationally these also do not make much sense at all.
These examples demonstrate how it is sadly perfectly realistic for unstable individuals to act in an anti-social manner towards people for no sane or rational reason.
However in the case of Eddie Brock his hatred for Spider-Man wasn’t simply arbitrary.
Of course his choice makes a certain amount of warped sense when you think about it from Brock’s point of view, a view which is trying to absolve himself of any blame.
Spider-Man was involved in the apprehending of the Sin Eater who’s capture directly led to Brock’s story being debunked. It wasn’t as though Brock’s downfall was completely divorced from anything to do with Spider-Man and he chose him at random; though again this wouldn’t be unrealistic.
However you do have to wonder why Brock didn’t place any blame onto Daredevil, who was also involved in the capture of the Sin Eater? In fact why didn’t he also blame the real Sin Eater or Emil Gregg who’d deceived him? Why hinge so much of his fall from grace on Spider-Man’s shoulders?
The answer is because Spider-Man was the person who simply stood out the most (even next to another superhero and especially compared to two ‘normal’ people) and was simply the most enticing target for Brock’s unhealthy mind. The reasons for this have much to do with Spider-Man’s appearance, fame and anonymity.
Daredevil might’ve been mentioned in the news reports about Sin Eater’s capture but the reports more than likely placed greater focus upon Spider-Man’s involvement. Partially this is because he was the person who physically incapacitated the Sin Eater and partially because he’d had the most reported history of confrontations with him in the course of the case. For instance he was involved in an earlier street shoot out with Sin Eater where the latter fired a shotgun into a crowd of bystanders.
Spider-Man is also much more famous than Daredevil. To begin with Daredevil mainly sticks to Hell’s Kitchen whilst Spidey tends to roam around NYC more. Unlike DD, he also began his career as a televised celebrity where he became a sensation. After this he became the focus of a lot of news put out by Jameson and his various media outlets. Heck in the Marvel Universe Spider-Man is so famous he even had his own parade float!
Moving on, if we accept that Brock might’ve felt genuine compassion for Emil Gregg when he thought he was a murderer, then he might not have blamed him for his deception. This might’ve had something to do with Gregg’s proven history of mental illness. Similarly Stan Carter’s mental issues were public knowledge and he had had a respected history as a police officer and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, people who to Brock were worthy of respect (see ASM #362). Furthermore as I already mentioned, Carter and Gregg were both men of God like Brock himself, the latter apparently even Catholic. In Carter’s case this is somewhat supported by Brock’s claims that he might’ve wised up and stopped killing since he knew he couldn’t have been caught, demonstrating a leniency for the man.
Further food for thought is provided by the timing of ASM #300. In Spectacular Spider-Man #134-136 Stan Carter had re-entered the public eye as seemingly rehabilitated individual coping with physical handicaps inflicted by Spider-Man’s assault on him. Apologetic for his actions, he’d begun telling his own story to the public before ultimately committing suicide by cop.
The events of this story were published and chronologically occurred prior to ASM #298. They were also indirectly referenced in that issue.
In Spec #134-136 Spidey battled and was defeated by Electro.
In ASM #298 Brock’s wall of news clipping in ASM #298 displays a headline which (like the above image) references Spidey’s encounter with Electro.
Brock likely would’ve been aware of these very public events surrounding Carter, including his crippling at the hands of Spider-Man and (like some other members of the public) might’ve been moved to further sympathy for him. In his own mind Carter’s injuries and Spidey’s public harassment of him thereafter might have even provided further proof of Spider-Man’s malevolence.
Whilst this potentially addresses why Brock didn’t blame Carter or Gregg, it doesn’t quite explain why (beyond him simply being irrational/delusional) he chose Spider-Man as the bearer of his loathing.
To answer that let us consider the nature of Spider-Man himself, particularly in the context of Brock’s role as a stalker character.
Spider-Man in the public eye has simultaneously been characterized as a big time hero (note the TV screen in Brock’s flashback) and/or a major public menace. Many (maybe even most) people in New York seemingly buy into the latter perception of Spidey thanks largely to the years long slander campaign by J. Jonah Jameson and the Daily Bugle.
With this narrative being so prevalent it makes a lot of sense Brock as a New York resident (who worked of the Daily Globe, which also slandered Spider-Man) would subconsciously gravitate towards Spidey in his despair and anger. When looking for someone to blame for your problem on ‘that public menace’ Spider-Man would be all too inviting a scapegoat; particularly when you so deeply want anyone but yourself to blame for your life falling apart.
Whether viewing Spider-Man as a hero or a menace the fact is that Spider-Man was immensely famous; and famous for nothing less than having literal super powers.
In terms of his place within the pop culture of New York/America and the degree of his penetration into the public consciousness, Spider-Man was on a similar level to an A-list actor or musician in the real world. Actually that analogy is all too appropriate for Spidey since he first burst onto the scene as a wrestler and television performer, meaning he had a degree of celebrity about him from the get go. In truth given how Spidey is a bright, colourful, mysterious and literally superhuman figure who routinely engages in spectacular battles with equally larger than life colourful characters, he (and other superheroes) probably outshine the regular celebrities of the Marvel Universe.
Spidey also regularly saves lives and has been seen and (sometimes) recognized as the very definition of a hero. This could only further his place in the collective consciousness of the residents of New York as well as make him seem yet larger than the largest life figures of pop culture. Even putting his uncommon altruism and self-sacrifice aside, we have to consider some of the (relative) realities of his being a super powered being.
Forget being larger than life, Spider-Man to the common observer seems to be someone figuratively and literally beyond human and (in more ways than one) above mere mortals. He literally swoops down from the air, flips around, bench presses a car and suspends crooks upside down all in the blink of an eye. That is going to leave an impression on anyone, hence why Spider-Man photographs in the Daily Bugle and other publications sell so well.
Consider how much news and other such material is printed about the lives of celebrities in the real world. Consider how everyone in the world you and I live in knows who Spider-Man is, even though he isn’t even real. Now consider how much Spidey (one of the first heroes to emerge after the Fantastic Four) would stick in the minds of residents in Marvel Universe New York City. In fact between the Bugle and other news outlets’ efforts, seeing or hearing about Spider-Man and his exploits would be inescapable. He’d be shoved in your face whether you liked it or not.*
Unfortunately as Mark David Chapman and countless other examples prove, celebrities, due to their larger than life prominence in society, inevitably attract the attention of mentally unhinged individuals.
In fact I vaguely recall a story about someone who set their mind to killing a musician because they interpreted their songs to be coded messages about how they wanted to kill him. Sadly celebrities just attract such people. It is a point illustrated through the character of Mary Jane Watson as she has had numerous stalkers due to her prominence as an actress and model, several during the very same run that Venom was introduced during.
Thus it actually makes all too much sense that Spider-Man would similarly draw the attention unstable individuals like Brock who stalk him out of revenge for imagined slights. It all feeds back into the stalker conception and presentation of the character I spoke about back in Part 4. To tweak an earlier assertion of mine, Venom/Eddie Brock as a villain is not just intended as a super powered stalker, but a super powered celebrity stalker.
Spider-Man would particularly make for an enticing target for anyone inclined towards stalking, and especially for someone like Brock who was looking for a scapegoat. Believe it or not this has a lot to do with his outfit.
Spider-Man’s costume (in this era, his particularly intimidating black suit) covers his entire body, giving no hint as to his identity beyond his general build and to a lesser extent gender. His mask doesn’t even evoke a human face containing no hint of ears, a nose, a mouth; just large white shiny eyes of a distinctly inhuman shape.
The overall effect of the costume (especially the black one) serves to profoundly dehumanize Spider-Man to the outside observer. It is an effect exacerbated when you consider that he shoots spider-like webbing from his wrists, has the ability to literally crawl on walls and ceilings, can apparently know when you are behind him and can perform feats of strength and acrobatics which are well beyond human capabilities. Putting aside the bad reputation spiders tend to have as creepy crawlies, it’s easy to see how Spider-Man could be unnerving to a lot of people if he really existed.
As some food for thought consider how the highly religious Eddie Brock outright referred to Spidey as a demon at one point in ASM #300.
Whilst Spider-Man’s costume makes him easy to demonize, his anonymity exacerbates the problem.
Thanks to his identity being secret and his costume completely obscuring any features of his face Spidey becomes an ideal blank canvas for unstable people like Brock to project their frustrations onto. This is not a dissimilar psychological phenomenon to how executioners (such as World War I gun men) found it a lot easier to kill when the prisoner’s face was covered. The act of dehumanizing them made hating, and by extension hurting, their targets a lot easier.
Between his larger than life celebrity status, dehumanizing powers and costume as well as his anonymity Spider-Man would make an attractive receptacle for any disturbed individual. In Brock’s case though gravitating towards Spidey was greatly helped by the fact that he was directly involved in the case which brought led to the ruination of his career. This put made him the quickest and easiest scapegoat for the delusional Brock to latch onto when he desperately wanted one?
In the next and final instalment we look at some tangential points related to Venom along with my conclusion.
*And wouldn’t having Spidey shoved in your face (say by the TV) be especially irksome if he was being praised in some way (like being called a hero) when you felt screwed over by him? Couldn’t it even exacerbate those negative feelings you’ve been feeling?
P.S. Despite his bright costume (which reveals some of his face) and choice in theme, Daredevil next to Spider-Man seems much more ‘normal’, although he’s very athletic. Whilst his ability to seemingly know where you are no matter what is impressive, he isn’t doing anything obviously super human like crawling on walls, spinning webs or even bench pressing heavy objects.
Anyone who might get a hint that Daredevil has superpowers is probably just a common crook in Hell’s Kitchen. The average person on the street probably has even less clue about his super senses than they do about Spider-Man’s Spider Sense.
Plus a guy running around in a bright red costume with devil horns is realistically probably going to look less scary and intimidating than someone in all black with big bug eyes.
Between all this and his comparatively better public reputation, Daredevil was a lot less dehumanized to Brock and seemed less ‘above’ him than Spider-Man, making him a less attractive receptacle for his frustrations.
Furthermore in the Sin Eater case the news at most might have mentioned DD’s efforts to stop Spider-Man from killing Carter, and later trying to protect the latter from an angry mob.
If Brock had felt any kind of sympathy for Carter then these actions would’ve more positively inclined Daredevil towards him, making it less likely he’d gravitate to him as a target. In fact DD’s role in fighting off Spider-Man (if that was reported) might have caused Brock to outright like him due to his dislike of Spidey.
Author: Alex Evangeli
I’ve loved Spider-Man, Spider-Girl and the Clone Saga since I were but a wee lad living in the United Kingdom. Glad to be here!