The new Venom movie has some Marvel Comics fans a little confused. The film features the longtime Spider-Man villain in the lead role, and yet in Venom's trailers and media, Spidey himself is nowhere to be seen. So how does Venom connect to Spider-Man? Is the movie related to Tom Holland's Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) version of the character? Is it connected to an alternate version of Spider-Man? Or does it have nothing to do with Spider-Man at all? The answer is actually pretty complicated.
Venom is a standalone movie, and it's not related to Spider-Man. This has to do with the complex deal between Sony Pictures, who own the movie rights to Spider-Man and some 900 related characters from Marvel Comics, and Disney's Marvel, who produce the MCU of which Spider-Man is a part. Before 2015, Sony produced their own Spider-Man movies which were unrelated to the MCU. But after The Amazing Spider-Man 2 underperformed at the box office, Sony and Marvel Studios reached an agreement wherein Marvel and Sony would co-produce new Spider-Man films that take place in the MCU, and Spidey himself would appear in other MCU films, like Avengers: Infinity War. But Sony still had the rights to hundreds of other Marvel characters, and that's where Venom comes in.
With Venom, Sony is starting its own "Spider-Verse" cinematic universe that's full of Spider-Man characters... without Spider-Man. While it's unclear if Sony is prohibited from using the MCU's version of Spidey in their non-Spider-Man movies like Venom, that does appear to be the case for now. So in short, the Venom movie has no relation to Spider-Man. But in the pages of Marvel Comics, it's a different story.
Venom's comics debut is a pretty unconventional one, as the character first began as a new suit for Spider-Man. In Marvel's "Secret Wars" storyline in 1984, Spider-Man comes into possession of a mysterious new black suit that gives him extra powers. The suit is soon revealed to be an alien symbiote that grows attached to Peter Parker, but Parker eventually rids himself of it due to its evil nature. The symbiote then bonds with a reporter named Eddie Brock who holds a grudge against Spider-Man, and once bonded, the two become the character known as Venom. Venom then made his first full appearance in 1988's The Amazing Spider-Man #299.
Throughout the character's 30 year history, Venom has been intrinsically linked to Spider-Man. His suit is a variation of Spider-Man's black suit; he possesses all of Spider-Man's powers thanks to the time the symbiote was bonded to Peter Parker, and perhaps most importantly, he hates Spidey's guts. The symbiote resents Parker for severing their bond, while Brock hates Spider-Man because he blames the superhero for the loss of his job. While working as a journalist, Brock wrote a story condemning an innocent man of being a serial killer. Spider-Man captured the real killer and cleared the innocent man's name, causing Brock to become disgraced. Brock never got over it. Over the years, Venom's image has softened as he became more of an antihero than a villain, but Spider-Man's fingerprints are still all over his comic book origin and history.
That history is what makes the Venom movie such an odd duck. Because Spider-Man couldn't be in the film, the movie had to create a new origin and history for Eddie Brock and Venom — one that's free of Peter Parker and Spider-Man. It's unclear just how well that's going to work, and maybe the two will cross paths in a future movie, but for now it looks like the movie versions of Venom and Spider-Man don't share the same connections they do in the comics.