It so happened that 1993 was a big year for me. Comic book wise, anyway. See that was the year Bane broke Batman’s back. It was the year that Superman died. And in the Marvel universe, Carnage escapes Ravencroft and wrecks carnage on a maximum level. It was also the year that my mother grew tired of the Toyota Corolla. Her eyes were set on a Chevy Cavalier. Mostly because it wasn’t a Toyota Corolla. Now, you may be asking yourselves what my mother’s choice in vehicles has to do with comic books. I’ll explain.
In 1993, I was ten years old. Just a few years before, I entered the world of comic book readers because there was simply nothing else for me to do. Unlike most boys my age, I showed no interest in sports. Going outside was something I did often, but not for the usual reasons. I didn’t climb trees, fences, or whatever. I lost myself into my own imagination. An imagination, mind you, deeply influenced by the books and stories I read. And like most boys entering the world of comic books, my first title was about a certain web-slinging superhero. And like any early reader of Spider-Man in the 1990s, his antithesis—also of the web-slinging type—stole my heart away.
So when my mother decided that she was getting a new car, she volunteered yours truly to accompany her. I had certain conditions in order for me to go willingly. Close to the car dealership stood a comic book store. We spoke it over and it was settled. She would purchase me two titles in order to keep me entertained while she struck a deal with a car salesman who wore way too much cologne. So 1993 will go down in history as the year I received my very first Venom title—Venom: The Madness.
Now I don’t know how it is these days. If Marvel even still publishes Venom titles, it’s not known to me. Back in the ’90s, though, Venom didn’t have an ongoing series. Instead, Venom was given a limited release series usually in the form of a three-issue story arcs.
Twenty-one years have passed since that fateful day. That issue of Venom: The Madness and every title before and after have become a flicker in memory. When I discovered girls liked me, my comic book days ended as abruptly as they started. After several failed relationships, I found myself returning to the pastime of my youth. It’s like reuniting with an old friend after a twenty-year estrangement. There’s so much to catch up on, so many things different and new. Then one day, the library I work for received a shipment of comic book trades. The kid inside lit up with glee. Among these titles, a certain cover caught my attention. Venom: The Enemy Within. And like that, I returned to 1993.
The paperback trade collects three Venom titles—Funeral Pyre, The Madness, and Enemy Within—and a one-shot issue in which the Incredible Hulk makes an appearance. So many memories spun from the pages, filling me with nostalgia.
While comic artists have improved the way illustrations bring stories to life, nothing compares to the grit found in the pages of a 1990s title. Maybe it’s just the familiarity of it. The way Punisher’s perpetual stubble brings out his ruthlessness in a pre-political correct era in the pages of Funeral Pyre. Or the way Juggernaut gets off on his brute, physical force when dealing with Venom. Or the way you don’t see Demogoblin on may covers these days. Let’s not forget the wonderful slapstick comedy from the Incredible Hulk vs. Venom. How many kids would get the Hans and Franz reference these days? Even the writing differs to the way things are done now. How many writers/editors break the fourth wall by referring the reader to a previous issue? Maybe it’s just nostalgia for me. Maybe it’s something more. I don’t know. The point is, reading these pages again brought the child in me. Now if you don’t mind, I’ll go bury myself in some more titles from my youth.