By now, it’s a well-known that Venom’s awkward depiction in Spider-Man 3 is considered by fans to be one of the biggest disappointments in all of comic book media history – but what many may not know is that no one was more heart-broken by the symbiote’s mishandling than his co-creator, Todd McFarlane.
The veritable comic book icon opened up about his feelings towards director Sam Raimi’s interpretation of his iconic creation – whose presence was infamously shoehorned into the film’s script by Sony executives against Raimi’s wishes – during a 2018 appearance on Collider’s Collider Live! web show.
Asked by host Kristian Harloff if he enjoyed Venom’s cinematic debut, McFarlane admitted, “I’ll give you the simple answer: the simple answer is no. But it’s an overly simplistic ‘no’.”
Pointing to a copy of the then-recently released reprint of the Spider-Man vs. Venom omnibus sitting on the table in front of him, McFarlane then recalled, “I drew Venom, you know, you can see he’s a big physical presence and for me, artistically, I intentionally created a character that was going to be massive”.
“Why?” he rhetorically asked, before explaining, “Because I just wanted it to be that if it was gonna be a hand-to-hand fight between Spider-Man and Venom, Peter Parker loses every single time.”
“No, you can’t beat him in the ring, he will knock you out,” McFarlane described of his vision for the Lethal Protector. “You’re a featherweight, this is a heavy weight. You lose. So now you’re gonna have to find another way to beat the guy. So that’s what the physicality of them sort of brought.”
“And one of the things I remember when I showed Stan [Lee], he was like, ‘Yeah, that’s it,'” he further detailed, “but you know test the heroes tenacity and what they can do so I wanted him to be big and he was always big. In my mind he was big, and he was a monster, and he was the alien.”
His approach to Venom’s character established, McFarlane turned his attentions back to his first viewing of Spider-Man 3 and walked his hosts through the wave of emotions he felt upon seeing Venom’s first live-action appearance.
“So, I’m getting ready, and all of a sudden I got Topher [Grace] on screen,” said the artist. “I’m going, ‘Here it goes,’ and I go ‘Okay, now the black’s coming up his legs,’ and I’m going ‘Okay, he’s going to grow,’ and then it’s up the torso I go ‘No, no, he’s okay, so they’re gonna wait for a long time, but it has time to grow,’ and it gets up to his neck and I go ‘What’s happening?! He’s not growing’! And then it just goes [sucking noise] and I go ‘It’s just Topher with black on him!'”
“And I go ‘No, no, nononono,'” McFarlane noted of his reaction. “And if Sam Raimi was there, and I knew Sam a little bit, I [would have been] like “No, no, you’re missing about 250 pounds, 300 pounds! What’re you talking about, this thing is a giant, hulking gorilla!'”
But ultimately, he revealed that his reaction to Topher’s Venom amounted to nothing more than a disappointed “‘Aww, darn it.'”
However, though he was put off by Spider-Man 3’s ‘scrawny’ take on the symbiote, McFarlane would offer praise to the Venom solo film for rather successfully interpreting his artistic vision of the massive monstrosity.
“When I went to the premiere of Venom, then I only had…I had a few small boxes I wanted to check, but there was only one real box for me,” he told Collider. “I’m sure [Marvel Comics writer] David Michelinie was looking for something else, right? My co-creator. I’m the visual creator of Venom, [he’s the story creator].” So I was looking for the ‘bigness’.”
“Now, I had seen the trailer, and I went ‘Wow, he’s got big shoulders, he’s got a big neck, come on, come on, come on,’ and I just wanted him to be the biggest thing on the screen,” McFarlane stated. “The majority of the time, I go ‘Nonono, he can’t be normal. He can’t be 180 lbs.’ and they made him big. So for me, I go, “Shoot, I like the movie’ – I’m completely biased – ‘I like the movie cuz he’s big!’
“And arguably, they could have just had them at McDonalds eating french fries and I would have loved it as long as he was like, really big at the table,” he added.
Drawing his thoughts on the topic to a close, McFarlane summarized to his hosts, “With Topher Grace, it was a little disappointing they didn’t sort of do what [the Venom movie] did. Now, whether they didn’t have the design for it, or the resources, or the CG – I mean, all that stuff has grown, all right? I mean, we all think that like, everything was doable. So. I got my Venom in the Tom Hardy version, the Reuben Fleischer version. I got it. I go, ‘There. That’s what I designed 30 years ago, that guy right there.'”