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Venom - The Madness

Spider-Man: Planet of the Symbiotes
by yo go re

In the '90s, Venom was huge. He was so popular that Marvel turned him into a hero and gave him his own comic. But in order to not saturate the market [hah! --ed] they didn't just give him an ongoing right from the start, they instead did a series of miniseries. Miniseries that had no gaps between their publication, so in practice all it did was make organizing books difficult. The third miniseries, Venom: The Madness featured Venom fighting the Juggernaut.

click to embiggen

During a battle, the fearsome Juggernaut pushed Venom into a vat of chemical waste and when he emerged, the effects of the chemicals began to drive him insane! On the edge of losing his mind, Venom discovered that the exposure to the chemical brought him brand new symbiote powers! Recovering from the negative side-effects of the chemicals, Venom now intends to use his new powers to his self-proclaimed mission to protect the innocent!

Man, this is a big beast of a figure! He was released in 1996's "Planet of the Symbiotes" line, which took its name from a 1995 crossover and was basically just an excuse to show off lots of different Venom-related figures. Venom: The Madness was drawn by Kelley Jones, who's known for his work on Batman, Sandman and pretty much any other book that needs a creepy vibe.

And "creepy" this figure is! Like the bio said, being exposed to a living brew of toxic chemicals drove the symbiote a little bit crazy, so this is much wilder than the average Venom. He's already sculpted to be huge (he's 6½" tall, despite his wide-legged squat - and this was when the figures were supposed to be in a 5" scale, not the modern 6), and then he's sprouted extra arms: two extras on each "real" arm, near the shoulder and elbow. They're molded from soft PVC and glued in place, so there's no articulation there but you can bend them a little. They weren't in exactly the same spots in the comic, but the idea is the same.

And then there's the head. Heads. In addition to the extra arms, Venom grew a cluster of extra heads. The one in the center is the standard (ridiculously exaggerated) Eddie Brock Venom head: jagged white eyes that reach up onto his forehead, a mouth that nearly splits his head in half like the Reach toothbrush man and a giant, curling red tongue that pokes out between uneven yellow teeth. Perfectly (ab)normal, perfectly (un)natural.

The superfluous heads are of varying sizes and levels of completeness: there are five separate heads, and five more that are still emerging from his chest. The teeth and tongues are the same, but the eyes are red instead of white. Each of the heads is unique - no shared elements, other than the ones they all share by virtue of being based on Venom's original. Two of the "complete" heads have swivel neck joints, and the other three have a play feature: press the button on his back and they rise up from his shoulders. Probably to bite someone.

Other than those heads, Venom moves at the Big Five: his neck, shoulders and hips are all plain swivels. Yeah, it's not much, but it wasn't too surprising back then. The figure was sculpted by Steve Kiwus, and the detail holds up well even today. His muscles have deep striations, though his feet remain oddly smooth. Everything about him is large and muscular, except for his slender, womanly waist. Everything about him screams "big and threatening," and would even without the "Madness" add-ons. Honestly, other than the articulation, this looks like a figure you might buy on shelves today. He does have weird pvc tendrils coming out of each palm, which aren't anything from the comic, but you could probably cut those off if they really bother you.

The paint is nice. The body is gloss black, and the big white spider symbol on his torso is crisp. All the heads are painted well, and he even gets pink paint apps on his gums. There's a green spattering that's heaviest on his legs and arms, but can be found everywhere - it's probably meant to be a visual representation of the infection that was making him mad. It looks unusual, but not entirely out of place. Most of the figures in the "Planet of the Symbiotes" line had a variant, and Venom's was bright green with black paint; in other words, a total mess that no one would ever want. There was also a Canadian-exclusive two-pack in a line called "Spider-Man 2000" that gave us Venom cast in translucent yellow. Yes, just like Swarm. Weird. All the Planet of the Symbiots figures came with a pod of goo, but mine disappeared years ago.

Venom: The Madness was a terrible comicbook - in fact, this figure design is the only redeeming thing associated with it. "Madness" Venom isn't a great toy, but he has a great look and the sculpt is good enough that even 15 years later he'll be able to integrate into your Spider-collection if you want something big and strange.

-- 02/13/12

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