Ever heard of a blerd? It’s a portmanteau of Black + nerd and, although “nerd” is mainly used as a pejorative, the term has been reclaimed to describe a person who has an interest in specialised activities such as comics, gaming, computers, and anime (more specifically, an anime nerd is often known by the Japanese word otaku).
I like to think of myself as a blerd and I’m not alone. In fact, there’s a council of Black nerds and they call themselves The Nerd Council.
Building and bringing the nerd community together
The Nerd Council was founded in 2017 as a way of bringing nerds together and with good reason. Black nerds have a major influence on a number of multi-billion dollar industries and so TNC wants to be “the number one space where likeminded individuals can find each other, and feel comfortable being themselves”.
They do this in three ways:
The Nerd Council has a podcast that covers nerd news, listener questions, polls, and a main topic every episode. The trio also have a YouTube channel and a popular Twitter account where they discuss nerd media, gaming, comics, and anime.
What’s the best way to bring a community together? Through curated events. TNC hosts a variety of events including film screenings, live shows, and quiz nights to reinforce the idea that there is a safe space for nerds to be nerds.
Talks and panels
It’s important to be heard as a Black person in a predominately white industry. But when it comes to industries like anime and manga, gaming, and comic books, we need representation on a grand scale. That’s why The Nerd Council gives its own insights into those spaces.
When it comes to supervillains, their evilness varies. Sometimes they come from the depths of Hell while others just want to have a laugh (like the Joker). They act as the literary opposites of their superhero counterparts in a semiotic relationship and no other villain personifies that trait than Venom, the alien inverse of Spider-Man.
Trigger warning: this article contains themes related to suicide and murder.
Who/what is Venom?
Venom is a sentient alien symbiote from the Marvel Universe and came out of a request from Marvel for readers to send ideas for its comics in 1982. A man named Randy Schueller answered the call and asked if Spider-Man could have “a new black costume made of unstable molecules”. A year later, and Schueller got his wish. From there the character developed from a black Spider-Man costume to a fully-fledged villain with an appetite for destruction and human heads (more on that later).
Venom was introduced as the Symbiote in The Amazing Spider-Man #252 (May 1984) but didn’t get its first official appearance as Venom until The Amazing Spider-Man #300 (May 1988). Before then, the Symbiote was a regenerative suit for Spider-Man. It was shapeless, genderless, and took the molecular form of a viscous liquid, but could also mimic plain clothes. But it had a sinister secret: it could only survive when bonded with a host.
Peter Parker had the symbiotic costume examined by Reed Richards and the secret was revealed. Peter rejected the bonding and the Fantastic Four contained it. But of course, the Symbiote escaped and bonded to Peter again. With its weakness to sound waves, Peter used church bells to expel it from his body. Eventually, it found its most infamous host, Eddie Brock, and became the villain we know as Venom.
The best-known Venom host has had multiple storylines but the most common backstory is that Brock was a Daily Globe reporter (where Peter Parker was the photographer) and blamed Spider-Man for his career failure. He had worked on a story about Sin-Eater and believed he’d revealed his identity only to discover he was wrong.
Brock took up bodybuilding and worked for sleazy tabloids before contemplating suicide. While seeking solace in the church where Spider-Man rejected the Symbiote, it bonded with Brock after sensing his hatred for the web-slinger. He chose the name “Venom” due to the nature of his work.
Eddie Brock is one of many Venoms in the Marvel Universe. Other hosts have included:
Mac Gargan as “Scorpion”
Flash Thompson as “Anti-Venom”
Lee Price as “Maniac”
Ben Reilly as “Scarlet Spider”
Anne Weying as “She-Venom” (Eddie Brock’s ex-wife)
Kulan Gath as “Kulan Venom”
The Symbiote’s backstory
Born in the 998th generation from a race of parasitic alien Symbiotes known as the Klyntar, the Venom Symbiote separated from its first host and was “deemed insane by its own race” after they found out it wanted to stay with its host rather than drain it of its life (heavily frowned upon in the alien Symbiote community). It was imprisoned on Battleworld to keep it from dirtying the gene pool.
Venom’s family includes the following Symbiotes:
Carnage (the “child”)
Toxin (Carnage’s “child”, and therefore Venom’s “grandchild” so to speak)
Scorn (another Carnage spawn)
Mania (born from Venom’s tongue which got cut off in a battle with The Thing)
Anti-Venom (a hybrid of Venom and Flash Thompson’s white blood cells, fused together by Mister Negative)
Hybrid (a combination of the previous 5)
Sleeper (born from one of Venom’s seeds)
Is Venom good or evil?
It’s a difficult question to answer outright as there’s a spectrum of good and evil but I can say Venom isn’t good. Venom’s existence relies on feeding off a host; it’s a monstrous leech capable of killing. But the Symbiote has shown moments where it has cared for its host. When Peter Parker rang the church bell to repel it, the Symbiote left his body and moved him to safety before finding someone else.
Venom has also shown anti-hero tendencies, predominately in film adaptations, likely in order for viewers to warm to the character. His notable roles as an anti-hero in the comics came in 1993 and 1994 when he made peace with Spider-Man who saved his ex-wife, Anne Weying, saving homeless people from the Symbiote spawns, and to help Spider-Man defeat Carnage in Separation Anxiety.
Let’s cut to the chase – Venom wasn’t great. It was Sony’s second stab at the character (this one played by Tom Hardy) and they blew it, even if they did finally execute that anti-hero arc. But we’re getting a sequel (delayed until 2021) and Carnage will feature, played by Woody Harrelson who is even more evil.
But Venom’s first live-action film appearance came in Spider-Man 3, played by Topher Grace. The film was widely panned and spelt the end of any further films in the series as it was later rebooted (twice).
Venom has been a character in the following video games:
From leeching alien to oddly loveable monster pet, Venom is a disparate future for Spider-Man in the movies, as long as Venom stays with Sony. But everywhere else, Venom is more than just Spidey’s adversary and there’s plenty of life left in the jet black symbiote.
My son turns 4 next month. While most of that time has been a joy, watching him grow up and experience new things for the first time, that first year was a struggle for me as a parent. He was my first child and I wasn’t prepared for all the sleepless nights and 3am feeds (along with accidental naps while the milk cooled down). And as he’s grown up, I’ve had to learn how to balance discipline with fun time.
Parenthood Activate! uses that journey as fuel for its webcomic and it’s thanks to the visceral humour of Stephanie Williams. Each comic takes a particular element of parenthood and embellishes on the narrative for comedic effect. One of my favourites so far is The Great Tummy Ache where a bottle of ginger ale manages to calm her son’s monstrous stomach. It plays on the myth* that ginger ale eases belly ache. The tale will resonate with anyone who reads it, particularly me as an adult who swears by ginger ale for everything.
Stephanie says she chose to share these experiences in comic form because it was close to her heart.
I currently write for FANGRRLS and other pop culture sites and I’m constantly writing about comic stories old and new, how they’ve impacted my life, how they relate to everyday life, and most importantly, my goal is to introduce others to a form of storytelling I love so much.
I’ve been following Stephanie on Twitter for a while and there aren’t many people I know who can be so funny and geeky and “on the money” as her. Writing from experience can be both a blessing and a curse, especially as a black parent. It’s cathartic and free of hyperbole but it can also expose our vulnerabilities. But it’s a risk worth taking. And with art (by Sarah A. Macklin) and storytelling this good, it’s paying off for Stephanie.
CONTENT WARNING: This article may contain spoilers or descriptions that may be distressing for some readers.
I have a casual interest in comic books. It has waned over the years but I still like the stories and love the art. The relationship between Spider-Man, Venom, and Carnage is my favourite of all comic book stories. While Venom remains my favourite villain of all time, I know little about Carnage in comparison. I knew Cletus Kasady was a serial killer but nothing about who he killed or why. Then I found this video.
Variant Comics is run by a team of two comic book lovers, Arris Quinones and Tim Connolly. For this “Most Evil Carnage Moments” video, Arris delves into the mind and behaviour of Carnage and I think I need to see a psychiatrist. He is pure evil! Cletus’ back story stems from the classic “neglected as a child” trope. This spawned a murderous spree including pushing his grandmother down the stairs, killing animals, and even… throwing a baby out of a window. Thankfully, Venom saved the baby as he partnered with Spider-Man to stop him.
Could Carnage feature in the Venom movie sequel? If it does, it’d be interesting to see how far they push that story – from a purely subjective point of view of course.
The web series will be called X-Men: Danger Room Protocols and see teams of X-Men characters up against Marvel villains in Professor X’s notorious Danger Room.
Each episode will be based around a single Danger Room battle and the first one will be called “Survival,” starring Jean Grey and Wolverine (we get the feeling Cyclops won’t like that one). X-Men: Danger Room Protocols will debut on 19th January with subsequent episodes freely available on his YouTube channel.
UPDATE: It turns out X-Men: Danger Room Protocols was cancelled after one episode. Why? Because Marvel said so. According to Joel himself (via CBR):
“When I set out to make this project, I never really thought this was going to be an issue. I didn’t think that Marvel was going to react this way, and this outcome, for me, is a little bit shocking.”
With over 200 million copies of their merchandise sold and over $35bn earned, the Pokémon franchise is only behind the Mario as the highest-grossing video game-based franchise.
But one of the best aspects of the series is the market of fan-made projects. One such project comes from LA-based illustrator Liz Rodriguez, entitled “PokéDad”. The webcomic tells the story of a dad in search of his son who has already completed his journey.
Players of Pokémon Red/Blue for the Gameboy will recognise the characters and tropes but the titular dad knows nothing of the Pokémon world and his logical viewpoint leaves him confused and frustrated throughout, much to the reader’s enjoyment. It’s a fantastic take on a well-known storyline and one you should check out. The comic updates every Friday.