In my recent Vindication of Venom essay series I mentioned how I talked at length about the character with a former psychology.
They corroborated a little No. Prize theory I had about Brock to explain his notoriously inconsistent portrayals over the years.
Upon his debut, Eddie Brock he was a twisted psychotic killer bent on murdering Spider-Man in a gruesome manner.
But with each of his consequent appearances he became less and less bad…or at least more ‘redeemable’ qualities were introduced into the character.
In the original Venom story Eddie Brock gruesomely suffocated an innocent young police officer for ostensibly no reason and shrugged it off by saying innocent death was unpleasant.
In his next appearance in ASM #315 Brock similarly murdered someone guarding his prison cell but notice how his reaction is more emotional than before.
Later in the arc in ASM #317 Brock threatens Aunt May and makes an offhand comment about avoiding hurting innocent people ‘when possible’.
In the third overall Venom story though we see these two aspects of him taken several steps further as he outright claims that he’d NEVER hurt Aunt May because she was innocent and even abandons his quest for vengeance upon Spidey to rescue an endangered baby.
This trend continues in his consequent appearances, perhaps most poignantly leading to his temporary alliance with Spider-Man against Carnage.
Eventually it became difficult to recognize Venom as the same character from Amazing Spider-Man #300 as he was given his own spin-off series where he operated as an (alleged) anti-hero ‘the Lethal Protector’.
However he changed his tune somewhat in Spider-Man: the Venom Agenda one shot where he resumed his vendetta against Spider-Man, even claiming he intended to reveal his identity to the world, contradicting his earlier appearances.
In the same story he developed amnesia forgetting Spider-Man’s identity as Peter Parker. However in a later story, Venom the Finale he seemed to have little knowledge of who Spider-Man was in general, seemingly contradicting the Venom Agenda.
In the same story he regained some of his memory but still did not remember Peter’s identity. He was also forcibly separated from the Venom symbiote and taken into police custody. To my knowledge his very next appearance was in the pages of Peter Parker: Spider-Man written by Howard Mackie during his abominable tenure on the series. In this next appearance two things are noteworthy. The first is that Brock is somehow NOT in prison for reasons unknown and the second is that he seems both afraid of and reluctant to join with symbiote.
He changes his tune though once they do bond again
Later they are once more forced to separate which leads into Paul Jenkins infamous Venom storyline which established that Brock had cancer before he bonded with the symbiote back in ASM #300 and showed a mutual animosity between Brock and the symbiote. For Brock he felt abused by the symbiote and didn’t want to be a bad person anymore, for the symbiote it didn’t want a sickly host like Brock, preferring it’s original ‘love’ Spider-Man. Part of this was motivated by it being ‘pregnant’, although older stories implied that it could never again produce offspring.
Brock then appeared again in Marvel Knights Spider-Man where he’d had a religious awakening (because he saw Passion of the Christ, no I am dead serious) and sold off the symbiote at an auction. This is despite the symbiote claiming in the previous arc that the next time it bonds it will bond permanently with it’s host.
There is much more to dive into for Brock and the symbiote’s history but I think you get the idea.
Whilst the real reason behind this is bad writing or a lack of communication and research between the writers I wish to offer a potential No Prize attempt to resolve Brock’s inconsistenties.
Again speaking to the former psychologist I know they said that these vaciliations in behaviour could be explained by virtue of Brock’s mental state.
That is to say Brock was someone profoundly stressed by the loss of his job and consequent isolation just prior to his meeting the symbiote. He developed a full blown obsessive hatred for Spider-Man alongside a delusional psychosis which led him to believe Spider-Man was at fault for the ruination of his life. His mental state deteriorated to the point where he was considering suicide. Then later the symbiote bonded with him. Having another voice literally talking to you in your head would be grounds for mental instability for anybody, but for someone already unstable like Brock it would be particularly damaging. Furthermore the power it afforded him sent him on a very abrupt and unhealthy power trip.
Of course during his career as Venom Brock also committed several murders and exerpeinced instanced of severe physical and mental pain, such as when he was separated forcibly from the symbiote.
Together all of these tends to have psychologically unhealthy affects on the human/Klyntar mind. But consider also that in the Venom Agenda Brock developed amnesia from a blow to the head.
This is poignant because we are all of us a product of our memories. How we remember events and experiences in our lives affects how we think and feel about them and consequently act upon them. Furthermore people with amnesia are not necessarily consistent in what memories they recall and do not recall. It is mostly entirely random as to whether they will consistently not remember a set of memories or not.
This explains why Brock in the Venom Agenda initially seemed to know who Spider-Man was but did not remember that he was Peter Parker specifically only to later forget who Spider-Man was altogether.
But we can go further. Eddie Brock as I illustrated was an incredibly mentally unstable person. Perhaps most pertinent among his mental conditions was his psychosis and the his delusional disorder which accompanied it. This meant he did not perceive reality correctly. I do not mean that he was hallucinating but rather what a rational person might see as a compliment Brock might see as an insult for no logical reason.
Someone with Delusional Disorder is not necessarily consistent in their delusions. That is to say there is no reason why Brock could not arbitrarily have become delusional in regards to something else in his life or even hypothetically stopped being delusional over Spider-Man’s role in ruining his career. And since how we perceive and interpret events in our lives and the world around us is directly tied to our actions…perhaps you see where I am going with this.
When you combine his Delusional Disorder with his amnesia alone (even disregarding other sources of his mental instability) Eddie Brock becomes something of a time bomb.
At any given moment Brock’s memories could shift and with them his sense of self, his sense of morality, the way he thinks and feels about the world in general and the people he knows. And at the same time at any given moment how he perceives all those things could also arbitrarily shift through the filter of his delusions or any new delusions he might develop at the drop of a hat.
Consequently Eddie Brock as a person is all but guaranteed to behave in an inconsistent manner at any given time.
This could be then used to explain his gradual move away from being so cold blooded in Amazing Spider-Man #300, his fluctuating love/hate relationship with the symbiote and essentially anything else you could notice about the character.
And since the Venom symbiote itself was bonded to Brock and could absorb and learn emotions and other things from its hosts (symbiosis is after all a two way street) it stands to reason that it’s own inconsistent behaviour in regards to Spider-Man, Brock, etc was the result of it developing similar mental instabilities from it’s long term exposure to Brock.
None of this is me trying to excuse the poor way Brock has been mishandled as a character or the poor writing practices at play. I just think these can be used to serve to reconcile otherwise troubling inconsistencies within the narrative and have it make sense even if it is not satisfying to read.
From a creative point of view you could even argue in a metatextual sense the inconsistencies are all too appropriate fro Brock.
The symbiote itself is a a creature with a flowing, fluid like body that has the ability to adopt different shapes an appearances. Metaphorically Eddie Brock’s mind and by extension morality does the same thing.
P.S. Significant parts of what I discussed above and in my Vindication of Venom essay series is touched on in Venom: the Hunted #1 when psychologist Doctor Ashley Kafka throws her two cents in on Venom.
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!