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Smile for Venom: Marvel's Spider-Man 2 team previews their spin on a classic villain

Tony Todd, the horror genre's Candyman himself, lends his voice to what the developers call "the anti-Spider-Man."

Casting Venom for Marvel's Spider-Man 2 proved to be freakier than the character himself for Bryan Intihar, senior creative director at Insomniac Games. It was "one of the things I was avoiding for as long as possible, because I was so scared of who we were going to get to do the voice," he tells EW. Despite having spearheaded one of the most popular blockbuster video games of the past decade — the previous Spidey game of 2018 that sold 33 million copies as of June 2022 — Intihar acknowledges, "We knew it would be so anticipated and people would have a lot of opinions on it."

Enter Tony Todd, the actor of stage and screen, known for The Crow, The Rock, The Man From Earth, and, of course, for portraying the horror icon known as Candyman. While looking to cast the Venom role in the highly anticipated sequel, which brings Peter Parker (voiced by Yuri Lowenthal) and Miles Morales (Nadji Jeter) together again with Mary Jane Watson (Laura Bailey), Intihar heard a few lines of Todd's deep, growling voice in the trailer for 2021's Candyman. It just so happened that Todd had also submitted an audition tape for Marvel's Spider-Man 2.

"Everything we talked about [with] Venom — that sense of strength, that sense of fear, that sense of overwhelming, so different from Peter — Tony embraces that completely in the performance," Intihar says.

EW can exclusively reveal a new look at Venom in Marvel's Spider-Man 2, which will be available on Oct. 20 by way of the PlayStation 5 console. Before Intihar heads to San Diego Comic-Con to promote the title on the Hall H grand stage with senior narrative director Jon Paquette and senior art director Jacinda Chew, all three spoke with EW about creating a unique take on the classic villain of Marvel comics.

"It's really interesting when you start thinking about what makes him different than Spider-Man," Chew says. "The symbiote is often known as an allegory for the darkness that the host is fighting against. So what makes him an anti-Spider-Man?"

It began with the post-credits scene at the end of the first game. After players worked their way through the story of Peter Parker's battles against a Doc Ock-led Sinister Six, while guiding the young Miles as he becomes a web-slinger of his own, they found a short sequence involving Peter's bestie, Harry Osborn. Harry was absent for the events of Marvel's Spider-Man, but as Peter and MJ learn through expert sleuthing, he's been secretly undergoing an experimental medical procedure in the hopes of curing him of Oshtoran Syndrome, an illness that claimed his mother's life years earlier. The post-credits scene reveals Harry has been in a stasis chamber in a secret lab in father Norman Osborn's home, and a symbiote — the alien species — is part of this mystery procedure.

Intihar and Paquette are clear fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which popularized the use of post-credits scenes. A separate mid-credits sequence featured Miles revealing his newfound Spidey powers in front of Peter, a moment that segued directly into Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales, the 2020 spin-off game centered on the fledgling hero. The Harry and symbiote scene would then serve a similar function to set the stage for Marvel's Spider-Man 2.

"We wanted to try something very different, and I don't think you can get much more different from Doc Ock than you do Venom," Intihar explains. "It's about power, it's about strength, it's about being slighted, it's about Peter being involved much more in the creation of Venom. I think that's what attracted us."

"One of the things that is great about Spider-Man as a character is he's always got to make sacrifices," Paquette adds. "The symbiote provides a lot of grist for that mill, so to speak."

Previous materials released for the game tease a sequel that involves Peter now infected by the symbiote as he frantically works with Miles to track down Dr. Curt Connors, which is a pay-off from yet another post-credits scene from the previous games. (It truly is the MCU of gaming.) Dr. Connors has the ability to help Harry's condition, but he's dealing with his own transformation into the monstrous Lizard. Other familiar Marvel characters, like Kraven the Hunter, will be popping up, as well.

According to Paquette, the story is about "what happens when that darkness takes over." It's not just Peter who's impacted by the symbiote. "It's the loved ones and the family around the host who has to see what's happening to the person that they love," he adds. "There's a lot of juicy drama that we can get from that."

As for the look of Venom, Chew confirms there are specific story details that had a direct impact on the character's design. The spider insignia is one of them. "One of the challenges we had throughout production was, how much does [Venom] talk?" she says. "I remember we did some concepts early on [of] does Venom have lips? Does he laugh? Does he smile? Does he frown? It's a fine line between making this creature scary and intimidating, but then also, I guess, relatable."

"For us, Venom is the host plus the symbiote," Intihar adds. "You don't get Venom without both of them being bonded together. What Tony represents is that bond. I think, if anything, casting Tony made us feel more confident in the visual design of the character."

More information on Marvel's Spider-Man 2 will be revealed during Thursday's Comic-Con panel, which kicks off at 2:30 p.m. PT in Hall H with Intihar, Paquette, Chew, Lowenthal, Jeter, Bailey, Todd, game director Ryan Smith, and Marvel Games VP and creative director Bill Rosemann.


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