When Sam Raimi made it known he was going to use longtime Spider-Man foe The Sandman in the third installment of the webspinner's film franchise, producer Avi Arad insisted that Venom be included as well.

Though Raimi had a fondness for the older characters and did classic baddies like the Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus justice in the first two films, Arad knew that fans were clamoring to see Venom, who to many is the Spidey bad guy and definitely the best one to appear in the last two decades.

The Venom Saga began in 1984, when "Secret Wars" No. 8 saw Spidey take a new, strange, black, alien costume which he first wore on Earth in "Amazing Spider-Man" No. 252. Though fans were excited by the new look, Peter Parker was becoming more tired and it was near the end of the arc that he found out that his costume was alive — a symbiote that was draining his energy and had to be forcibly separated from him.

The symbiote was contained at the Fantastic Four's Baxter Building but eventually broke free — its bonding with Peter had gained it the speed, strength and agility of a spider —and made one last effort to bond again with Peter in "Web of Spider-Man" No. 1 before he eventually found a way to free himself for good.

After cameos in "Amazing Spider-Man" Nos. 298 and 299, Venom made his first full appearance in No. 300 and was revealed to be a combination of the symbiote which Peter rejected and hulking Eddie Brock (a reporter, not a photographer, in the comics). Both hate Peter Parker, it turns out —the symbiote for being rejected and Brock because Spider-Man embarrassed him by disproving one of his stories.

As writer David Micheline pointed out numerous times, what made Venom so frightening was not that he knew Spider-Man was Peter Parker; nor that since Brock was stronger than Peter, then Venom was stronger than Spider-Man, nor that he negated Spidey's spider sense, which allowed him to foresee danger.

No, what made Venom frightening was that he was a villain whose entire reason for being was hatred of Spider-Man and whose only goal was to end his life.

Most of the stories mentioned — and a couple of other doozies — are collected in the "Spider-Man: Birth of Venom" Trade Paperback. With Micheline, and Todd McFarlane, in particular, capturing the character at his most nasty, the trade is a great deal. Especially since No. 300 alone is valued at $220.

If that is still too rich for your blood, Venom has made plenty of other appearances since then. Ask your comic shop owner if he has any and I'm sure he'll be glad to help you. *

Send e-mail to comicsguy@phillynews.com.