Todd McFarlane, the Image Comics co-founder and force behind Spawn, is still thought of as the creator of Venom, though he was never given de jure credit by Marvel.
McFarlane has largely stayed out of the debate surrounding Venom’s creation, but Savage Dragon creator and fellow Image founder Erik Larsen has often made comments taking aim at writer David Michelinie, who considers himself to be Venom’s true creator and is credited as such.
A lot of that is water under the bridge now, but Michelinie recently saw fit to apologize to McFarlane, issuing a new statement regarding the disagreement over who really created the Spider-Man villain-turned-antihero.
Wizard Magazine “was the first publication to print the term ‘co-creator’ when linking me to the Venom character,” Michelinie told Bleeding Cool.
“They also reprinted Erik Larsen’s response, which he began by calling me a clown, angrily accusing me of trying to take sole credit for Venom, when Todd Mcfarlane was the one who really made Venom popular with his visual interpretation,” he added. “And on rereading those two letters I realized that the cause of this seemingly endless conflict was exactly what I had thought it to be in the first place: terminology.”
That terminology was specifically the use of the word “originator” as opposed to “creator”, which Michelinie says Marvel is culpable for.
“In the 1980s Marvel Comics devised their own definition of ‘creator’, stating that the first person to write a new character and the first person to draw a new character were the ‘creators’,” explained Michelinie. “This wasn’t anyone’s verdict of right or wrong, but a corporate decision made in order to facilitate the royalty payment program they were instituting.”
Based on his understanding, a creator is whoever comes up with an idea or what motivates a character’s personality or history, and these are the qualities of Venom he refers to as his actual “CHARACTER”, absent of his powers and design.
“So, yes, I did say, ‘…there was only one person who actually created Venom, and that was me,’” he admits. “Which, by the definition I had held for some 20 years of writing comics, was true.”
“However, through the wisdom of hindsight, I can see where this might have confused readers who didn’t know what I was actually referring to,” Michelinie said. “Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to Todd McFarlane if he (understandably) misinterpreted my intentions.”
Michelinie is sticking his neck out, but he knows acknowledgment and acceptance of his apology are not guaranteed.
Calling himself the “originator” and the “Slinky down the staircase that got things started, he concedes, “the evolution of the Venom character, both visually and narratively, from the 1980s to where it is now, has obviously been a process fueled by the contributions of many, many people.”
He concludes, “I hope this might clear up a few things. Probably not, but hey, at least I gave it a shot.”
Neither Larsen nor McFarlane have yet responded to Michelinie’s statement, though the latter did post a little oblique jab to Instagram while celebrating the box office success of Venom: Let There Be Carnage.
“As the visual creator of VENOM…” the artist wrote. “[It] is nice to see your ‘artistic [children]’ doing so well.”
Venom’s latest cinematic outing, Venom: Let There Be Carnage is now in theaters and was just released in the UK last weekend.
What do you make of Michelinie’s apology? Let us know your thoughts on social media or in the comments down below