Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Octobersbest: The Life and Times of Venom Toys

Octobersbest keeps rollin' with a look at one of my old-time favorites: Venom, the Lethal Protector!

If you're not a fan of Venom, well, I can understand.  It doesn't take much imagination to say: "Evil version of the hero!" and be done with it.  However, if you've been reading this blog regularly (and somehow logged down all my interests in the process) then you're well aware that evil-versions-of-the-hero are my freakin' BAG, baby.  I love that crap!  Extra points if they're an evil robot version of the hero (to this day I still consider it a travesty that Toybiz never made a robot Venom back in the old days, when random and beautifully senseless variants were the norm).

From the moment I found out about his existence, I made it a point to find a figure of Venom.  I had no idea who he was beyond "evil Spider-Man", but that was all I needed, back in the day (hell, it's all I need now, too).  The first figure I ended up with was this guy:

This is "talking" Venom, who came with a backpack that spoke some phrases.

We'll get to that.

The main point is that THIS WAS VENOM!  I was so freakin' excited to get this guy, 'cause of reasons I already stated.  At the time, the figure he fought was this crazy Spider-Man with suction cups on his hands.  I made it a point to get a better Spider-Man.  I wasn't able to until...some birthday, I'm not sure which.  On that birthday, I obtained the super articulated Spider-Man right on top of my birthday cake!

That particular Spider-Man is possibly THE most used toy in my collection.

When I got him, I found that this Venom was....missing.  I didn't find him for awhile, until he turned up in a China cabinet...because who knows.  I was probably using it as a badguy base at some point and forgot Venom in there.  Point is: They were united, and much playing ensued.

As for Venom himself: He's an alright figure.  I was never a huge fan of the Frankenstein hands, though.  He always looked like he was ready for a high-five, or riding a roller coaster.

Plus, I guess those individual fingers weren't up to snuff when it came to rough play.

I mean, you can't punch figures with those hands!  You gotta claw 'em, I guess.  At the very least, this was the only finger I lost.

Venom came with two things: One of which is the web.

It didn't really stand the test of time.  You can see some blue on there from some Spider-Man or another.  Contact with it over time tended to peel off paint.

The other item is the famous backpack, which I sadly have to outsource for the sound.  I tried to get this poor bastard to work, but all it does is make scratchy sounds and go "KKKEEERRRRRKKKKKGGGKCCHHH" and won't shut up until I take the batteries back out.

It fits on his back and you press the three different colored buttons for three different phrases.

Since mine doesn't work, skip to about 4:21 on this guy's video to hear the sounds.

If you're not able to watch yet, he says:

"Die, Spider-Man!"
"I want to eat your brain!"
and a snarl of some sort that sounds like "HAAARRRAAH"

The great thing is that it sounds sped up, and comes out like this:


I've been mimicking it for years, and I'm glad to hear that it still sounds like how I remember it.  I'm sad the box doesn't work anymore, 'cause it STILL cracks me up.  Dunno why.

The video above informed me that this was, apparently, a controversial figure...what with the brain-eating threats from Venom.  I guess that's not out of place for the 90's, but it's kinda funny that they had a talking Punisher figure that just came with a ton of guns and he was somehow okay.  No brain eating, kids!  But you better believe that Punisher is gona shoot the SHIT outta some crime!

I guess we were all used to guns...just not brain eating.  That's a no-no.

Next on our list looks brand-new, because he just about is.  I never had this guy when I was a kid, but I wanted him pretty bad (mostly because he looked like he could hold things.  This was very important to me).  I ended up getting him pretty cheap in a trade (or a sale?  I can't remember).  He may have been still in the package too?

I love this guy, and I'm pretty sure my child-self would have used the crap outta him.  He's simple, but lacks the wacky open hands of the first version.  There's a more menacing open hand on the right, and a closed one (capable of holding things!) on the left, for punching!  Also the face looks creepy and weird and I like it.

Now, the reason his face looks creepy and weird is because of this feature.  There's a lever on his back.  You press that down, and:

BLEH!  Tongue!  Sticks out really far, too!  I don't know why, but I love this feature.  It's simple and kinda dumb, but in all the best ways.  He's fun to have around even as an adult, 'cause you can't stop making him stick his tongue out at people.



He comes with one weird accessory: His gooey chest.  Not sure what this is supposed to be.  I guess it's like a trap?

The thing is: if it's a trap, then why does it have abs and his spider symbol?  You'd think it would just be a black blob.  I suppose this could be an extra accessory meant for Spider-Man, like he's getting the black suit on him?  Hard to say.

I like it...it's just weird.

Now we come to the next Venom in Alexx's chronology.  This is the one from the Spider-Man Animated Series toyline.  He's a MAJOR improvement over the talking one, so I begged for this guy without hesitation.

As you can see: He's VERY used.

He's got an action feature in the form of good 'ol leg squeezing.  Meaning: You squeeze his legs together, and something happens!  Namely, this:

It's a little wobbly, but you get the idea.  It's a chomping action!  I'll admit: It didn't impress me much when I was a kid, and his left leg is super wiggly because of the feature, so I tended to avoid using it, in fear of breaking his leg (and I had good reason to fear it, since I broke two different Spider Slayer figures using this same action).

The major thing about this guy is that he was a fantastic looking Venom, for the time, and a super-duper upgrade to my old talking one.

This guy kept up with me through the years, and was my standard Venom well into my days when playing out stories was becoming less and less common.  Still, I was always on the lookout for improvements.  I still am!

This guy came in some multipack that was owned by a friend.  I borrowed this Venom...and *ahem* it seems I never gave it back.  I don't even know if my friend remembers this was his.  If he's reading this, he'll tell me.  And if he does: YOU CAN'T HAVE IT BACK IT'S MINE HAHAHAHA.

This brought back the weird hands, like talking Venom, but with a more "claw" like sculpt, so it was okay.  Plus: He looks awesome!  I mean, his head is a little big, but when has Venom not been at least a little bit deformed?

Here's the reason his head is so big: It's a mask!

Hey, it's Eddie Brock and his beefy meat-head!  It's pretty much how you'd expect Brock to look, and the mask slides on and off easily enough.  Sadly, the mask is rubbery, and some of the paint just flakes off with time and use (though it's not as bad as the Carnage version, which is even more rubbery and sticks to his head).

I really liked this guy, and he is officially the last guy of my playing-out-stories days.

I liked the mold so much that, later on (in the same purchase as the "tongue" Venom) I bought the "stealth" Venom variant.

This one is the same body with a new head (that doesn't come off).  He's normally smokey black with the standard white spider, eyes, and teeth, but this variant came out clear with black in place of the white.  I couldn't pass it up!  It's so creepy and, of course, CLEAR!  I love that junk.

Clear stuff also looks good in a blacklight, so there's that.

Stealth Venom comes with three accessories:

One is this goo that is just semi-hard plastic that is thin enough to bend.  It's not rubbery, so you don't have to worry about it taking off paint, but it can be broken if you stretch it enough.  It's one of those things that seems useful to me, so I keep it around the picture table in case I find a use for it.

...I haven't yet, but I still like it.

His other accessories....are these...

They snap on to his hands and I DON'T KNOW.  I just don't know.

One has a mouth on it and the other has an anus and I don't understand what they are or why they are here OH GOD.

You can chalk it up to "Toybiz" and leave it at that, I think.  Like I said: It was a time of senselessly awesome variants that were made strictly under the "Rule of Cool" clause.  It's the kinda stuff I would like to see remakes of, but no one is ever gona do it.

Alright, now we gotta fast-forward.  Like, WAY forward.  I bought a Venom in between, but I HATED him and just bought him to have one in the 6-inch scale.  I tore out his stupid sausage tongue and eventually got rid of him altogether, because he had CUT JOINT HIPS.  Ugh.  An insult.  To, uh...my delicate collector sensibilities. 

What's worse, the first official "Legends" one (technically Spider-Man Legends) was this monster.  If you're not clicking on these, at least click on that one so you can see what I mean, because: EAGH!  What IS that?  It might as well be a statue!  This is the kinda thing that a Japanese figure would have as alternate parts, not the main figure.  It was neat, but pointless as a standard Venom, and I totally skipped him.  I just...I don't get what motion he's supposed to be in the middle of.  Is he being attacked?  Is it his first bonding with the symbiote?   I feel like they were trying to do the McFarlain thing and make a fancy figure/statue.

After that, he came out multiple times in Spider-Man toylines with varying levels of "bleck."  The worst was this one where his whole body looked like it was ready to burst with puss.  His jaw was nearly to his belly, the tongue was further, he was splattered with green goo, and he was just....ugh. 

He had a nearly decent one during Marvel Legends, but it was in a multipack that I couldn't afford, at the time.  All for the better, 'cause he honestly isn't that amazing either (though, the best for his time).
I didn't really get one I was happy with until they started shrinking down the figures:

FINALLY!  A standard Venom!  Granted, this is a variant that is lacking the tongue, but he still works out better than any Venom before him - and he's Joe sized!  I doubt they'll do another one that looks this good in this scale.  Chances are: this is my Joe scale Venom for a very, very long time.  

Now...he is missing a few things.  Namely: A chest joint (or a waist joint) and..knees.  I know, I KNOW.  You'd think a lack of knees would be a killer, but they actually don't get in the way much!  He's still dynamic!  The sculptors thought ahead and pre-sculpted them in a ready-to-pounce stance, and his hips can move forward and to the side, so he's got more range than you'd think.  

He's fun to play with, and honestly one of my favorites.

Hot on his heels was another Joe-sized figure that took after Venom's current look, at the time:

This Venom - I think - is supposed to be Mac Gargan, the guy who took over the Venom suit for awhile (and used to be The Scorpion).  Gargan had the usual Venom look, but was gigantic and wild looking, as well as sporting eyes....in his eyes.  If you get what I mean.  He's got the normal Venom "eyes", but then you can see where his eyes normally would be.  It's strange, and not one of my favorite looks, but somehow I couldn't pass this guy up.

...I mean I could, technically.  I did, because he never showed up in stores around me!  I had to have my buddy Zach pick him up in the wilds of Canada.

It's hard to explain...but he's bulgy in the right ways, while many before him were bulgy in the wrong ways.  Something about this guy's proportions, I think.  He just looks so much cooler than any of the monstrous Venoms before him.  Plus: He's got so much articulation!

His coloring is weird, but I am drawn to it, for some reason.  That color of grey and the shiny purple shading is just...pleasant to the eye.

I think my interest also comes from him not being Eddie Brock.  I figure that Mac's Venom looks different, so this guy makes sense and doesn't bother me as much, as a result.

Oh speaking of Mac Gargan: There was also this guy in the Marvel Universe line.  I believe it's Mac Gargan trying REALLY hard not to look like Venom, because of some "evil Avengers" storyline where this evil Avengers team had counterparts to other superheroes.  Mac was trying to be the "Spider-Man" counterpart.  So this is just the black suit, but on a larger body.

Before that came out, though: movie time!  This is the five inch venom from one of the two Spider-Man 3 toylines: One was "for kids" and one was "for adults", meaning Marvel Legends.  As usual, with stuff like that: Both are fun for everyone!

I liked the 5 inch line 'cause they were a bit simpler, though they didn't continue the scale.

I like this one, but I'd probably like him better in black.  I'm not sure why they went with the purple-ish plastic.  Otherwise, he's pretty well articulated and would fit in with old-timers like the Toybiz stuff at the beginning (might be another reason why I liked this scale).

Now, of course, I bought the Marvel Legends one as well, since I had a sizable collection of six inch figures, at the time (and that seems to be growing again...).

THIS one I like, and is still one of my favorites!  The ankles are a little weak, but they're my only gripe.  I love how this guy looks!  Remember how I mentioned that I wish Toybiz had made some nonsensical robot Venom?  Well this kinda fits the part!  I love how the silver webbing and the texture of the suit almost makes him seem robotic.  All he's need is a metallic tongue and teeth!

Beyond that: He's also the first Venom in this scale that I had liked in a LOOONG time.  Not too big, not too small, and the tongue isn't totally out of control.  I'm able to look past the fact that he doesn't look classic 'cause of my crazy interest in robotic variants, but he also makes a decent Venom, if you need one in a collection (and your current choices were crap).

Also...though I don't play out stories anymore, my brain still works on the old junk I left off with, so I kinda consider him to be a nano-machine infected Venom from later in my own personal little stories (which Dr. Doom had a hand in, of course.  Who else?)  What can I say?  Sometimes a figure is appealing strictly because your brain made up some wild story when you were a kid, and it randomly lines up with it.

I'd like to leave on a more classic note, but the last Venom I bought was...Anti-Venom!

This is apparently Eddie Brock in a new suit based on his white blood cells.  It gives him healing powers!  It's crazy.  Point is: I bought him because he reminds me of the clear stealth version above, and lets be honest - he's really freakin' cool looking!

Marvel Legends are kicking back into gear by erasing nearly all the things I hated about them, so I'm back into them in a big way.  Anti-Venom displays a lot of what I love about the new stuff!  His articulation is amazing, the sculpting is top-notch, AND he's a fun toy!  The only thing better would be a classic Venom using this body----------

--------WHICH IS ON THE WAY!  I'm pretty excited for it (understatement).  I think Venom is finally getting back around to where he started, which was my all-time favorite.  I can't wait!

Now where's my remake of Stealth Venom?  Come on!  I know toy companies like to reuse molds!  Give me some senselessly awesome variants!


  1. You're talkin' my language! I loves me some Venom figures, too! I have many of the ones you've featured. A couple of my faves you didn't spotlight are the little Playskool Heroes version and the Hasbro Mashers version. The Playskool one can be bought with a Venom cycle which makes no sense but is completely awesome in an over-the-top 90's kinda way. The Playskool line is also just simple and fun (like the more simple toys I grew up with in the 80's). The Mashers version was made before Hasbro got rid of the nice shoulder articulation and has a removable tongue. The best Venom, in my opinion, will always be the Eddie Brock version and I miss that version. I have nothing against the current Flash Thompson version, he's just not the same (although the new Venom: Spaceknight comic has me intrigued).

    1. BAH, I forgot about the Mashers one! Dangit! He's so easy to get at, too! Come to think of it, I also have a Minimates one I could have grabbed. I may have to do a sequel to this at some point and dig out some more. There's one I REALLY wanted to find for this shoot, but I couldn't take any more time looking for him: it was a big ten inch figure from the animated series. I loved that thing! For the life of me, I can't find the dang thing anywhere.

      I've eyed the Playskool ones time and again, but I haven't picked any up yet! Honestly not sure why. Probably because I'm afraid of starting up yet another collection - if I get Venom, I'll want a Spider-Man, and so on and so forth (I DO have Doom from that line, though. Can't pass up Dr. Doom). Chances are, I'll probably end up getting him.

      I've seen the Flash Venom a few times at a Walgreens, but each time I'm just not terribly interested. Not sure why. I guess the "guy with guns" thing kinda kills the whole "Venom" thing and makes him more like a super powered Punisher, and that kinda bores me. I looked up the Spaceknight thing, since you mentioned it, and MAN, I might be interested in a figure of that!

    2. Wait a dang minute, does this have something to do with my long-lost bro, Rom the Spaceknight? *rushes off to google*

  2. Okay, that Anti-Venom is freaking cool. And now that I look at him again, something about his face makes me think of the Turians from Mass Effect. It's not the same shape... Maybe its the black on white look of the face. The Turians all wear face paint. Well, except for those BAREFACED BAS...!!! Nevermind. Point is - cool design, yo.

    1. Yeah, he really turned out awesome! One of those guys I would have been ALL OVER when I was a kid, and I totally would have had a place for him in the old story (as if I wasn't already fitting him in). He's straight out the comics, but his design has that old 90's random-variant feel.

  3. Wha...uh...oh my. What a nice surprise. A Venom review and funny Alexx pics? Shut. Down. Everything. Right. Now.

    Freaking sweet Alexx.

    Venom is my favorite comic book character of all time, and in point of fact one of my favorite fictional characters period.

    This was a wonderful Halloween surprise.

    My gift to you: A Venom WWE titantron esq video for your viewing enjoyment. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TpjLNFndQ9w

    Rock on you Symbiote Slavering Super Fans!!

    1. Thanks, I'm glad this hit all the right notes for ya! It's funny that I don't have MORE of him, considering how much I've liked the character over the years. They just spend a good chunk of years (after the old Toybiz days) making these nasty and weird looking Venoms. I'm glad they seem to be done with that!

      Now I gotta search up wrestling game stuff on youtube and see if someone made a hilarious Venom in one of those wrestling games that have custom-character makers.

  4. Incidentally, massive props for the "Strangers in the Night" panel reference from AMS #363.

    1. Yeah, whenever I pose the classic-looking Venom in a swinging pose I can't help thinking of him singing!

  5. I had an early Toy-Biz Venom figure that definitely had the same body as the talkin' one, but I don't think it came with the talker? Maybe I got it used and I just didn't have the accessories. I also bought the purplish Venom from Spider-Man 3 because I was so hype for him in that movie. I...was let down.

    But my strongest memories of Venom actually come from playing Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 with my best bud in high school, because he would always use a team consisting of Venom, Shuma-Gorath, and Blackheart, and he'd always win. Venom was probably the strongest character in that lineup and he'd always surprise me with his "cover the screen in a big web, then trap the player and hit them a lot" special.

    Also I like how one of his taunts was just him saying "VILLAIN!" It's the equivalent for me of your "Die, spidaman!"

    1. The one you're thinking of was after the talking one (if it was controversial, then I assume the one you had was the response to it). Did yours have a spot on his chest with a hole on it? They used the same mold for a "venom spitting" one, where you pump goo through a hole...in his chest. For some reason.

      Yeah, Venom always felt a little OP in that game, but it's possible I just spammed some movies like an ass and ended up winning from that. He's awesome, though! I'd usually add him to my party, making it Spider-Man, Venom, and Mega Man. Not that I was any good at that game.

      Another video game appearance also stuck out to me (and makes me REALLY lament my inability to find my ten inch Venom): There was some side-scrolling brawler only for arcade called "Spider-Man: The Video Game" where the first boss is Venom...and he randomly grows HUGE and chases you around. That always stuck with me, and I used that ten inch Venom a lot, just because of that game!

    2. I do recall mine having an, er, squirting action, yes. Hey, if Venom can trap someone by throwing his entire chest at them, I guess he can...squirt them...with his chest...too? VILLAIN.

      Incidentally, MvC2 is among the least-balanced fighting games in terms of serious play. I'm not really on that scene, but I have read about it, and the best players only use something like...six? Seven? Of the 50-some-odd characters available? I know they include Magneto, Cable, and Storm, and I'm pretty sure you HAVE to use Cable. I don't think I would enjoy that tourney scene very much. (My typical team was Tron Bonne, Captain Commando, and Jin.)

  6. Removable mask one was my fav. I have a ton of Venom Minimates which I suppose is no surprise. RE: Robot Venom, they made a near-12 inch figure in the ToyBiz Marvel Universe (KB Exclusive jumbo figures) line which was like...silver, and similarly colored to that Stealth Venom (except his teeth weren't black), so...you kinda got one, he was just real big. I had 'em. He saw a lot of play for some reason.

    1. Yeah, I've got one minimates one, at least. I kinda dropped the ball on covering ALL the Venoms I have, but EH.

      I saw that big silver Venom when I was hunting for pics of some of the other ones I was referencing! I would have TOTALLY bought that, nowadays. Maybe I'll take a look around and see what he goes for.