Most comic fans will tell you that Venom and Eddie Brock took years to go from a villain to an antihero, but Marvel Comics has now shown that it was Wolverine who started Venom's rise to the role of superhero. Just... don't expect him to admit it.
The connection of Venom to Wolverine makes sense, since the pair rose to the highest heights of comic book popularity during the 1990s - an era that almost drowned beneath a wave of violent, edgy, "badass" superheroes. Wolverine found his way to becoming one of Marvel's most iconic X-Men heroes, embodying selflessness and service to the greater good. Venom would eventually follow suit - and thanks to his fight with Wolverine in a Venom Annual flashback, fans get to hear the wise words of Logan for themselves.
The story is one of several told in Venom Annual #1, as the villains of Marvel's Universe gather 'round to tell ghost stories starring the infamous Venom. All are worth seeing for diehard fans, but it's the bartender of the group who may have the best tale to tell. A story that takes place years earlier in Venom's career, back when he was still just a monster looking for Spider-Man. The bartender was serving drinks when Venom smashed in on just such a hunt... but found the Wolverine instead.
The story, titled "Round Two" establishes that Venom and Wolverine have crossed paths already, meaning Logan is less than intimidated by the gooey giant's bravado. Venom's rage and ego get the better of him, allowing Logan to slice and dice him with extreme prejudice. Of course, Venom has little actual edge in a fight with an un-killable mutant whose claws can cut through anything. So eventually, Wolverine decides to target Venom's claim that he has been wronged by Spider-Man, and is seeking revenge. After all, Wolverine knows more than a little about anger, rejection, and an overwhelming lust for vengeance.
While Venom wildly tries to attack him, Wolverine grows calmer, easily dropping the raging symbiote psychopath to the ground, ending up with his claws drawn for a killing strike. But Logan gives his enemy a question to consider instead of a trip of adamantium blades: will Venom keep living as a slave to his hate, anger, bruised ego? Or will he be something "more"?
Calling this show of mercy and suggestion of introspection "a chance" for Venom to become so. Etching more than he is, Wolverine retracts his claws and leaves the bar. Venom's priceless, blank stare at the bartender (before inaecurely screaming at him) shows that Logan's actions and words have struck a chord. And not long before Venom and Eddie Brock eventually decide to head out to San Francisco, and become a hero in the Venom: Lethal Protector series. The same story that was used as the foundation for Tom Hardy's movie version of Venom.
Before any comic enthusiasts criticize this changing of history, the story is provided by writer David Michelinie, one of Venom's co-creators, and artist Ron Lim, whose contributions to the character earned him his own Venom movie Easter Egg. The idea that Wolverine would show Venom a way to be a hero, without sacrificing any of his gruff, antihero exterior is an easy one for fans to accept.
Coming from two of the talented artists who helped shape Eddie Brock into the heroic version of Venom - and having the impartial bartender tell this story - means fans can add it to their existing mental pictures of how Venom grew from bad guy to Marvel mainstay. Even if it took them time to become "more" than they started as, Venom has Wolverine to thank for giving him the advice in the first place. Who knew?
Venom Annual #1 is available now from Marvel Comics.