In November, Marvel Comics is taking readers to a corner of the universe they've never been to before: the planet Spider-Man's evil symbiotes come from, as "Guardians of the Galaxy #21" kicks off a three-issue arc called "Planet Of The Symbiotes."
Written by Brian Michael Bendis, with art by Marvel "Young Gun" Valerio Schiti, the arc sends the guy currently wearing Spider-Man's evil black and white alter ego Venom back to his suit's home planet, teamed up with the currently-in-theaters "Guardians of the Galaxy." And while Venom also has his own movie in the works at Sony, this is the sort of storyline that could only happen in the comics. Probably.
"At least for now, the legality of copyright and trademark would make certain storylines impossible in the movies," Bendis told MTV News about the storyline over the phone. "I like doing it for the comics!"
When we join with the team of Guardians, they've been shattered by their recent abduction and torture by enemies, as well as horrifying revelations from their past. And recent addition Agent Venom – also known as Spider-Man's biggest fan, Flash Thompson – has also been separated from the group, with multiple teases that there's something very, very wrong with his symbiote.
Point being, they're not in the best shape to head to a planet full of carnivorous aliens.
How and why the team ends up at the home planet of the symbiotes is something Bendis is keeping quiet at the moment. But he wasn't shy about sharing his surprise that the famously overexposed character's origin story had never actually been explored.
"I looked it up and I was like no, there’s been a planet we’ve seen taken over by symbiotes, but have we not seen the planet of the symbiotes?" Bendis said. "I called [Marvel Senior Vice President Of Publishing] Tom Brevoort, I go, could it be that even in the craziness of the '90s when it was Venom, Venom, Venom every five seconds, that this story has not been told? And he goes, yeah we’ve never been there. And I’m like, now I have to do it! It’s crazy."
"It will be a planet full of symbiotes," Editor Mark Marts added on what to expect from the story, "But beyond that, it's a lot of mystery. But we will be adding to the symbiote mythology in ways the average reader won't expect at all."
For those not familiar with that mythology, way back in the good old days of 1984, Marvel released what was ostensibly the first "big budget" crossover comic, "Secret Wars." Created partially to promote a new toy line, the story featured the normally red and blue Spider-Man using an alien machine to get a brand new black and white costume. To sell toys, naturally.
Later on it turned out this morphing costume was actually a creature called a symbiote, which emphasized Peter Parker's darker impulses. Getting rid of the costume, the symbiote bonded with a man named Eddie Brock, who transformed into the monstrous villain known as Venom.
Even though other symbiotes have been glimpsed in Marvel's space set stories, and an army of symbiotes even invaded Earth during an Avengers story written by Bendis, we've never found out where they came from. And in fact, what the symbiote was doing in that machine back in 1984 is a plot point that will be touched on now, a mere three decades later.
"Exactly! We don’t know!" an excited Bendis said when we asked about the origin of the costume dispensing machine. "We don’t know. It’s so exciting, isn’t it? There are major questions about the symbiote that have never been touched upon. And it’s not even retconning it’s flat out conning, it was just not there. So it’s all additive and I just love that stuff."
Still, the story isn't all obscure bits of trivia: it also touches on a major aspect of the writer's life.
"I have a mixed race family and people react to us differently in different parts of the world," Bendis noted. "We went to Japan and there’s a different relation to people with brown skin than there is here in America. Thankfully, my daughters were younger and it didn’t really stick what was going on, but I certainly saw it. Including an old woman walking up to my 3-year-old and yelling ‘negro’ at her."
Bendis said that he pulled on those experiences to see how characters in the galaxy react to good guy Venom once they see he has the symbiote.
"That kind of stuck with me as a feeling that Flash would have when people point at him and go ‘ew,' " Bendis continued. "[It] would be startling, and at the same time something he would need to figure out what it meant."
Marts added that Flash Thompson is the comic's "point of view character. For most of his life he had a normal background. A lot of this is all still new to him, so this is going to be a journey for him, and he'll certainly be a character readers will be able to identify with."
One other big introduction in the comic? A consistent artist for "Guardians of the Galaxy," which has had its fair share of rotating artists – mostly due to family emergencies on the part of the other artists and last second reassignments. Now, Valerio Schiti will join the book full time with pencils Bendis says have, "character work and line work that I really just, I have a certain affinity for."
"We have huge faith in his abilities," Marts added. "He's the right artist at the right time."
"Planet Of The Symbiotes" kicks off a three issue arc starting in "Guardians of the Galaxy #21. You can check out the first cover by Nick Bradshaw, and official info, below!
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #21
BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS (W) • VALERIO SCHITI (A)
Cover by NICK BRADSHAW
• As the Guardians of the Galaxy encounter an entire world full of alien symbiotes, they ask themselves…was allowing Flash Thompson to join their ranks a wise decision?
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99