todmachead

Marvel Select
Venom
7 Inch Scale
By Diamond/Marvel Select
$23.99

Hello and salutations true believers! Batced here, as one of Infinite Hollywood’s newest contributors. I’ve been a long time reader of the site and have been an even longer fan of all things pertaining to pop culture, even previously maintaining a blog covering such subjects. Kicking things off, we’ll take a look at the newest product from Marvel Select: the man they call VENOM.

The vigilante known as Venom is actually a symbiotic being consisting of the human reporter Eddie Brock and a fluid, intelligent organism from outer space who feeds on his adrenaline, granting him all the powers of Spider-Man. When they first found each other, both held grudges against the hero, wreaking havoc in his life but Venom later became a hero on his own, protecting the innocent and helping to stop several other symbiotic beings that had split off from himself. At one point, Venom bonded with a second symbiote, causing him to grow additional arms and heads, as well as driving him mad. Both Brock and the symbiote have since bonded with other partners.

The bio from the back of the package is pretty clear from the get-go as to who this is supposed to be. It is not the Anti-Venom, or Ultimate Venom. Nor is it Flash Thompson or Mac Gargan, but good old Eddie Brock in all of his goopy glory.

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Now, I didn’t start reading comics seriously until I was in middle school – and before then I was mostly into the stable at DC Comics – but even then I knew that Marvel put out some of the better cartoons of the day (with the obvious exception of Batman: The Animated Series) and the best by leaps and bounds was the Spider-Man animated series. Although storylines were changed and altered for the timeframe of the cartoon, it proved itself – like relative series’ based on the X-Men, Hulk, and Iron Man – to be just as literary as its source material.

As such, while the show did a version of the ‘Secret Wars’ mini-series from the 80s that saw Peter first gain the symbiotic costume (issue #8 for those playing the home game,) within the timeline of the show, Peter and the viewers were first introduced to the alien costume in the episodes of the same name much earlier and under different circumstances. This didn’t change the eventual outcome, which saw Brock ruined by Peter Parker and swearing revenge in a church only to be bonded to the symbiote after Peter shed it from his body. I do believe that Sam Raimi used this origin begrudgingly in Spider-Man 3 as well, although I also do believe not a lot of people want to be reminded of that particular entry in the Raimi series.


Packaging:
Not much to say on the packaging. This is the first item I’ve ever purchased from Marvel Select, but I’ve browsed their products many times in shops over the years. Pretty much the same across the board: cardstock with a bubble displaying the figure along with accessories. I do believe MS tends to use larger bubbles for larger characters (e.g. Thanos, Hulk, Thing, or the equally recently released Rhino) but for Venom they are using the standard card and bubble.

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Behind the figure and along the sides of the packaging are illustrations showing off the different artistic representations of Venom through the years. On the back are stock photographs displaying the figure’s prototypes along with the ‘also availables’: Barbarian Hulk and the previously mentioned Rhino.

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Sculpt:
I’m old enough now to remember things from almost fifteen years ago as “back in the day” and in this instance it is of the early rumblings of what eventually became Marvel Legends in the form of Toy Biz’s Spider-Man Classics line. Intending to prove that you didn’t have to sacrifice articulation for a high end sculpt, that first wave featured the Eddie Brock Venom – but there were things not quite right with the final result. Lacking a lot of articulation in comparison to the rest of the line, he was also in mid-transformation, with a headsculpt that many likened to a duckface. Toy Biz tried again two more times: once again in the Spider-Man line, and later on in the Marvel Legends Fearsome Foes box set, both attempts being hampered by poor sculpting choices.

Ironically, Marvel Select has had enough practice with the character to get it right out of the park. There is no mistake that this is meant to be the Eddie Brock Venom, as the default head is clearly of his very appearance from Amazing Spider-Man #299 as illustrated by Todd McFarlane. A trademark that pinpoints the head as being from Hot Toddy is its bulbous appearance, as well as the wide, toothy smile that only Todd drew while on the title. Jean St. John, a former McFarlane Toys sculptor, gave his old boss’ character some nice detail: rippling veins, a rough texture…there’s a slick quality to the figure that suggests something otherworldly.

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MS could have stopped there, but to ensure that fans got what they paid for they included two alternate heads. The second one will probably be displayed most often as it is of a classic Venom: tongue splayed wildly, mouth agape with green liquid coming from who knows where. I’ve heard that this could have been based off of the cover for Lethal Protector #1 by Mark Bagley but I can’t confirm that. The tongue is removable, but be warned that it is a snug fit inside the head. I don’t see myself removing the tongue much so it’s not a huge a bummer.

The final head is one that is called “Eddie Brock,” but it could go either way as powering down or up depending on how you choose to look at it. Remember how I said that Toy Biz had attempted a mid-transformation head with their first Venom offering? MS outdid that old one by miles with the fine detailing given. Presented is Venom revealing portions of Eddie Brock’s face. It’s not quite based on McFarlane’s art, so I’m not quite sure which source material they are working from but the sculpting is quite effective. As an extra attention to detail, St. John made sure to elongate Venom’s mouth to show where in the costume Eddie Brock’s head lay.

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Paint:
As is the case with a predominately black costume, things aren’t going to be cleanly applied. There was a small smudge on mine along the left ribcage and some mess along the back where some white paint spilled into a crevice, but that’s nothing to really cry over. Under the right light it looks as though a blue wash was applied to the figure to make some of those details pop. Being a higher-end collectible figure, there aren’t going to be many issues to write home about, but keep a sharp lookout for such errors as they are prone to happening.

Articulation:
There was a time when MS was more coveted for their accessories than the figures, since the figures back then were just a few steps from statues. That’s been changing over the past couple years with more articulation being added to figures, but just enough to keep them different from the retail Marvel Legends offered by Hasbro. Venom moves at the wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, waist, knees, and ankles, with a ball jointed neck and peg thighs. He does have something of a point of articulation in his abdomen, but its movement is minimal, hampered by design more than anything. Despite that, this Venom can move, with little obstruction in the needed joints.

Accessories:
Aside from the previously mentioned heads, Venom comes with a pair of fists, a pair of hands, and a pair of giant claws. Keeping with the theme of giving enough bang for buck, MS included artist specific hands, with the more normal-looking of the hands being closer to McFarlane’s, and the larger pair is more in line with everyone else who drew Venom over the years. Mentioned earlier in the bio was an additional symbiote that led to madness. That’s not completely correct, as the actual story had Venom falling into a vat of chemical waste and triggering a mutation, thus leading him to have multiple heads and arms.

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Toy Biz had previously made a version of this mutation many years ago, and MS remembered this even if the story itself was kind of garbage and included the additional heads with Venom. They don’t plug in anywhere on the figure, rather being shaped to fit on Venom’s back like a jacket or backpack. The sculpting is effective, with four of the six heads having a point of articulation thanks to ball joints inside. Along with the heads, there are additional arms which are on a ball joint at the shoulders and swivels at the elbows. Adding to the interchangeability of the figure is the fact that those arms are also removable along with their hands, and can be added to the main Venom figure. I don’t know of any previous MS figure that had this much playability.

Value:
A friend of mine picked this up for me for $30 at a convention. That’s dealer room prices, where everything is gouged higher than it has any right to be. At retail, Venom should go for about $20-25 depending on your local comic store or Disney Store. Given the plethora of accessories and fun factor that is involved with the figure, that’s getting off very easy in comparison to other offerings that are climbing in price but give very little for that price. Venom may be a little on the bigger side, but compare that to his Toy Biz figures which were also larger than most Marvel figures, and the fact that his size has never been 100% consistent and he’ll fit in fine with many 6” figures.

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Final Thoughts:
Venom is a victim much like Gambit, Cable, Wolverine, Sabertooth, Punisher, and (to a certain extent) Batman, in that he is an anti-hero shoved everywhere by his parent company in the 90s, meant to represent everything cool about the decade. The flip side is that when the comics industry suffered its implosion in the mid to late 90s, Venom came to represent the glut and overindulgence of that time period and he hasn’t really recovered in terms of popularity. Only recently has he started to climb back into relevance within the Spider-Man universe. My memories of the character are firmly attached to the show, and he’s a reminder of days when waking up on Saturday mornings meant action heroes and science fiction alongside a nice hot plate of waffles.

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