As many comic book lovers know, Venom is one of Spider-Man's biggest enemies. The character, first formed from the sentient alien black ooze known as The Symbiote, survives through a human host. And when we are first introduced to the venomous, tar-colored creature, it makes itself at home with the one-and-only Spider-Man, before the good-hearted character rejects the mean slime. The no-good goo eventually introduces itself to The Daily Bugle reporter Eddie Brock, with whom the bad muck forms a relationship with the muckracker and become the character we know as Venom today.
Of course, that's how the character came to be in the Marvel comics. And it is also how the character generally came to be in Spider-Man 3, with Venom being played to mixed response by Topher Grace. But if you're only familiar with the one-time antagonistic character through last year's Venom, starring Tom Hardy, this information may be a bit of a surprise. Even though the character's logo is based on the neighborhood Web-Slinger, which was subsequently reworked to look like "spider-like," there might be some moviegoers unaware of Venom's origins inside the Spider-Man lore.
Even though many people believe that Spider-Man is critical to Venom's formation, the popular superhero was nowhere to be found in Sony's newest comic book adaptation. Indeed, even though there were rumors of Tom Holland making a cameo in the last movie, there was no Spider-Man in Venom — and for some comic book fans, that seemed like an impossibility. Alas, this Venom movie not only happened, it became a surprising box office hit.
So, the reasonable question becomes: where the hell is Spider-Man? The character wasn't even alluded to in the new movie, although that doesn't mean that he'll be absent from future Venom sequels. But before we discuss the possibility of a future Spider-Man cameo, let's figure out why he wasn't in the first film to begin with. As you'd expect, there were a number of various reasons and factors leading up to a previously-baffling decision.
Spider-Man And Venom Don't Live In The Same City Anymore
As we all know by now, Spider-Man prides himself on being the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. In this case, the neighborhood is none other than the Big Apple itself: New York City. While there was once a point in time where Eddie Brock and Peter Parker were living in the same city, Venom makes a point to note that Brock did live in New York City, before an undisclosed event led to him being fired and moving to San Francisco instead.
It should be noted that, while Spider-Man has made his way to both space and Europe, he hasn't found time to make it to the City by the Bay yet. (At least, as far as we know...) They're literally on opposite sides of the country right now, so it's not like they would be passing into each other currently.
Venom was intentionally stealthy about this reveal, making it seem off-handed, but letting it be known to comic book readers that there could be a chance that Spider-Man and Venom inhabit the same world and they'll get connected — either briefly or more meaningfully — a bit later in the future. For now, however, the movie makes it clear that Venom and Spider-Man are not yet acquainted, and therefore, there is no reason for the characters to connect yet based on the rules established inside this film.
Venom Is Not Part Of Sony's Deal With Marvel
The story reason given up is the most simplistic movie-based reason for why Spider-Man and Venom don't know each other yet. But the studio-based reasons are a little more complicated, so settle in. With the growing success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Sony (like all the other major studios in Hollywood) wanted a piece of the pie. It dug out whatever characters it could find licensed under its distribution houses and wanted to make some quick change in the lucrative superhero genre. For Sony, that meant taking advantage of Spider-Man characters it's held since the 1990s.
It didn't take long for Sony to unveil The Amazing Spider-Man series, a reboot of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy which found Andrew Garfield in the lead role as the title web-shooter. The first movie made decent bank, but the second film underperformed severely, both critically and commercially. It was clear to even the questionable minds at Sony that a change was needed, and that meant teaming with their opposition. If you can't beat them...
With that, it was announced that Sony would be splitting the rights to Spider-Man, allowing a new actor to take on the reigns and letting the character live inside the well-established Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sony would be in charge of distributing the standalone movies and it would receive a lion's share of the success of these individual movies. But many of the creative decisions were left in the heads of Marvel.
It was sharing split custody with kids. It was an agreeable arrangement, but it also meant that Spider-Man didn't fully belong to Sony at this point. But they did hold custody rights to many other Spider-Man based characters, including Venom. And Sony didn't need to worry about interference when it came to making this move.
Hoping to capitalize on the renewed success of Spider-Man, Sony began announcing its plans to release standalone movies based on Spider-Man characters. Venom would kick things off. As far as Marvel was concerned, Sony could do whatever the hell it wanted to do, as long as it didn't infringe on its deal by incorporating Spider-Man.
This is the biggest reason why Spider-Man didn't factor into Venom, but it was clear to many folks — inside the Hollywood system and elsewhere — that Sony very much wanted to use Venom as another way to get intertwined with the money-makers over at Marvel. If it could slide as many characters as it could into this universe, it could reap even more benefits.
Alas, it's not that simple. But there's no denying that, while the reviews for Venom were pretty dire, this big standalone comic book adaptation was an undeniable hit. It even made more cash than Marvel's own Ant-Man And The Wasp. It was certainly a surprise to many, most likely including the folks over at Marvel, and it vindicated the heads of Sony to continue making movies like Venom that stat characters based around Spider-Man, but don't actually feature him.
That also includes Carnage, played in a mid-credit tease by Woody Harrelson, who wasn't the main villain of this movie for a specific reason, but will likely play a big role in the forthcoming Venom sequel, which is currently on the quest to find a director. Names like Andy Serkis and Travis Knight were thrown around.
Tom Holland Was Not Under Any Contract To Appear in Venom
If you want Spider-Man in your movie, you need the actor. In this case, you need Tom Holland, and it's not as easy to get him to sign on to the film. It was made clear that Tom Holland's original contract found the actor slated to make three general appearances as Spider-Man, while also making three standalone movies.
He already cleared that bar with Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame when it came to his three appearances, which meant that he wasn't under any current obligation to appear in Venom even through a cameo mid-credit appearance. And if the current contract is to be believed, Tom Holland is only slated to make a second sequel with Spider-Man before he'll (presumably) renegotiate with Marvel.
Therefore, if Sony wants Tom Holland to appear in Venom, it'll need to print up a new contract for the actor to sign, allowing him to appear in some standalone movies. But it's not that easy. In order for that to work out, if it can work (and that's a big if), Sony will need to allow Marvel to expand its cinematic universe to include Venom.
That's not impossible, but it's easy to imagine that Marvel isn't going to sign this deal readily. It has a reputation to uphold, after all, and if it opens the doors for this project, that's going to make a lot of other people feel like they can be included in the mix too.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. In this particular case, Sony does have some leverage. It has the proven global financial success of Venom to show that there's an audience for these new movies, and it'd probably be to each of their mutual benefits (at least in terms of box office success) if they could get the characters to crossover, almost like the horror movies of yesteryear like Freddy Vs. Jason or Alien Vs. Predator.
But that's assuming we're talking about Spider-Man getting a leading role, and not merely a cameo. Even if it were just a brief "hello, and how do you do?" from Spider-Man, Sony needs to get Marvel's blessing to include this billion dollar character, and there is good reason to believe that it is not going to allow this readily.
Eddie Brock's Origins Are Much Different This Time Around
As mentioned earlier, there is something that happened in New York City. It's left unclear what, but it's apparent that Eddie Brock's brash and pushy brand of journalism probably got him into some serious hot water, causing his job to be terminated and leaving him to pick up another job in a totally different city. Since Spider-Man is so young in this current iteration of the version, the young high schooler isn't even exploring photography yet, let alone looking to get into the journalism field and potentially making company with Brock in The Daily Bugle.
SPOILER WARNING FOR SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME INCOMING!
When Venom first came to theaters in the fall of 2018, it was believed that Eddie Brock was fired from some variation of The Daily Bugle. But the mid-credit tease for Spider-Man: Far From Home also made it clear that in the world of Spider-Man, The Daily Bugle is a controversial, seemingly one-man-show operation similar to, say, Alex Jones' Infowars outlet. In that sense, if these characters were ever to cross paths, they would likely not be doing so through this particularly famous comic book news source.
With that in mind, the lack of a traditional Daily Bugle leaves the window wide open for how Peter Parker and Eddie Brock could meet, and with this warped origin story for Brock in mind, the traditional story avenue for how these characters could form a rivalry is frayed. Whether or not this decision was made intentionally or not, it is clear that Spider-Man and Venom have a lot of catching up to do before they can square off in any sort of fashion.
These are admittedly only a few of the reasons why Venom and Spider-Man have not crossed paths yet, although the producers have made it vaguely-yet-abundantly clear that they would be open to the possibility of the characters meeting up — either briefly or seriously — in the not-too-distant future. Whether or not that happens (and Sony seems eager for it to happen), there are plenty of good reasons why Spider-Man — both story-wise and studio-wise — didn't show up in Venom.
Let us know if you know any other reasons —or can speculate any possible explanations — below.
Will is an entertainment writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. His writing can also be found in The Playlist, Cut Print Film, We Got This Covered, The Young Folks, Slate and other outlets. He also co-hosts the weekly film/TV podcast Cinemaholics with Jon Negroni and he likes to think he's a professional Garfield enthusiast.
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