Comics
Published July 5, 2024

Spider-Man's Black Suit, Explained

When did Spider-Man wear his famous black suit? Discover the debut of the black costume, its alien origin as a symbiote, and how it went on to become Venom.

Spider-Man's classic costume is one of the most iconic looks in the Marvel Universe. However, Peter Parker has traded in his red-and-blue suit for a black costume on several occasions. Even after he discovered his first black costume was actually the alien symbiote that would become Venom, he added the look to his repertoire with an identical cloth version of the costume. Even though Spider-Man eventually returned to his classic costume colors, he has occasionally suited up in his black costume when in need of a sleeker look—or during a particularly dark era in his life. 

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the black suit's debut, let's look back at Spider-Man's time in this costume. From his early adventures with the alien costume to the looks inspired by that outfit, we're breaking down Spider-Man's time on the dark side of super hero fashion, just as Peter Parker reunites with his symbiote suit on the road to VENOM WAR in VENOM (2021) #35 by Al Ewing, CAFU, Frank D'Armata, and VC's Clayton Cowles.

HOW SPIDER-MAN GOT HIS BLACK SUIT

After the Beyonder brought the heroes and villains of Earth to Battleworld to fight each other, Spider-Man donned his black symbiote costume for the first time in SECRET WARS (1984) #8 by Jim Shooter and Michael Zeck. When Spider-Man's costume was damaged in battle, Thor and the Hulk pointed him toward a machine they used to repair their costumes with a simple thought. However, Spider-Man turned on the wrong machine and released the symbiote, which languished in a containment field after being used by a Kree soldier and Deadpool

To Parker's surprise, the symbiote covered him and dissolved the tatters of his old costume. Although he tried to recreate his classic look, Spider-Man assumed that his costume's new design was due to the subconscious influence of Spider-Woman's similar costume. For the rest of the event, he remained completely unaware of the suit's connection to symbiote creator Knull

Despite the existential threats the heroes faced, Spider-Man excitedly experimented with his new costume's organic webbing and its ability to respond to his thoughts. Although he still did not realize his new costume was alive, Spider-Man saw that the other heroes' costumes did not respond to their thoughts. Mister Fantastic also told Spider-Man he wanted to study the costume when they returned to Earth.

THE SYMBIOTE SPIDER-MAN

When the heroes returned to Earth, Spider-Man officially debuted his back costume in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (1963) #252 by Tom DefalcoRoger Stern, and Ron Frenz. While working closely with the Black Cat, Spider-Man faced villains like the Rose, the Kingpin, Puma, Jack O'Lantern, and Silvermane. When Parker tried to sleep, the symbiote costume took control of his body and fought crime as a silent, more aggressive vigilante at night. Naturally, this left Parker feeling exceptionally tired during the day.  

Across several untold tales from this era, Spider-Man and the Black Cat took on Mysterio, who began to understand the symbiote's nature and briefly bonded with it, starting in SYMBIOTE SPIDER-MAN (2019) #1 by Peter David and Greg Land. When the Hobgoblin (Ned Leeds) used magic to rewrite reality, Spider-Man teamed up with Doctor Strange to defeat him and Baron Mordo in SYMBIOTE SPIDER-MAN: ALIEN REALITY (2019) #1 by David and Land. 

With the unlikely team of Kang, Rocket Raccoon, and Monica Rambeau, Spider-Man faced Mister E, one of the prototype symbiotes that Knull created, in SYMBIOTE SPIDER-MAN: KING IN BLACK (2020) #1 by David and Land. As his closest allies began to suspect his black costume was alive, Spider-Man also teamed up with the Eternals and the Hulk to take on Karnilla, the Norn Queen, in SYMBIOTE SPIDER-MAN: CROSSROADS (2021) #1 by David and Land.

HOW SPIDER-MAN LOST THE ALIEN COSTUME

By Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz's AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (1963) #258, the alien costume's nocturnal adventures became too much for Spider-Man. After a vivid nightmare where he found himself torn between the symbiote suit and his classic costume, Spider-Man turned to the Fantastic Four for help. When Mister Fantastic examined the costume, he realized it was alive. Despite the suit's attempts to stay with Spider-Man, Reed Richards used a sonic weapon and the Human Torch's flames to force the symbiote off the web-slinger.  

However, the symbiote suit escaped and returned to Peter Parker's home. When the symbiote disguised itself as one of his other costumes in his closet, Spider-Man inadvertently bonded with it again in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN (1985) #1 by Louise Simonson and Greg LaRocque

While battling the high-flying Vulturions, Spider-Man ended up in the bell tower of Our Lady of Saints Church. When the tower's bells rang, the cacophony forced the symbiote off of Spider-Man. Although the alien brought Spider-Man to safety, the symbiote developed a bitterness towards Spider-Man that it would share with its subsequent hosts.

SPIDER-MAN'S SECOND BLACK COSTUME

Despite his trouble with the alien costume, Spider-Man wore a cloth costume with an identical design on several occasions. After the Black Cat made him a non-symbiote black costume, Spider-Man began wearing it in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (1963) #263 by Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz. Parker kept this as his main Spider-Man outfit through major storylines like "Kraven's Last Hunt" and the death of his friend, Jean DeWolff

During that time, the symbiote bonded with Eddie Brock to create Venom, who still effectively had the black costume's design. After Venom attacked Mary Jane, Spider-Man retired his black costume in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (1963) #300 by David Michelinie and Todd McFarlane.     

Against Mary Jane's wishes, Spider-Man returned to his cloth black costume on a few occasions, starting with an underground mission to battle Morbius. Years later, Spider-Man took up the black suit again in the wake of CIVIL WAR (2006), when one of the Kingpin's snipers fatally wounded Aunt May

During the "Back in Black" storyline starting in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (1999) #539 by J. Michael Straczynski and Ron Garney, Parker returned to his black costume to reflect his darker mood and more aggressive tactics. When Kraven the Hunter tried to taunt Spider-Man with the black costume, Parker wore it again to face Kraven and his family in the "The Grim Hunt" storyline.

HOW SPIDER-MAN GOT THE SYMBIOTE SUIT BACK

As the Venom symbiote passed between Eddie Brock, Scorpion (Mac Gargan), and Flash Thompson, Spider-Man bonded with several symbiotes in quick succession. While working with the X-Men in space, Spider-Man was briefly possessed by a symbiote that Beast and Hellion defeated. The original Venom symbiote also returned to Spider-Man in a sequence in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2015) #800 by Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos.

After Norman Osborn bonded with the Carnage symbiote to become the Red Goblin, Brock released the Venom symbiote so it could bond with Spider-Man again. With the symbiote's added super-strength and a new costume design featuring a larger logo, Spider-Man faced the Red Goblin. Although he briefly gave into his rage and turned into a more monstrous form, Spider-Man separated from the symbiote before the end of the battle.  

Around the same time, Spider-Man bonded to another symbiote when the war between the symbiotes and the Poisons reached Earth in VENOMIZED (2018) #1 by Cullen Bunn and Iban Coello. Possibly due to the lingering presence of the Venom symbiote in his body, this symbiote took the form of Spider-Man's black costume. Even after Spider-Man let this alien costume go, he could still not escape its legacy when Kraven the Hunter placed him in a black costume again in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2018) #17 by Nick Spencer and Ramos.

VENOM WAR

Since leaving Spider-Man, the Venom symbiote bonded with Eddie Brock again and played a critical role in defeating Knull, the galaxy-destroying creator of the symbiotes. After Brock replaced Knull as the King in Black, the Venom symbiote bonded with Dylan Brock, Eddie's son. While Eddie met several possible future versions of himself and became unstuck in time, Dylan briefly died and met the Eventuality, his father's final form at the end of time. 

Through their travels, both Brocks were horrified by dueling visions of the future that could happen if the other bonded to the Venom symbiote. Now, they will face each other to make sure their respective nightmares do not come to pass in VENOM WAR (2024)

As Eddie and Dylan started planning with their respective allies, the Venom symbiote wandered through New York alone in VENOM (2021) #35 by Al Ewing and CAFU. Ashamed at its failure to save Dylan and the pain it caused throughout its life, the symbiote drifted aimlessly. As a last resort, the symbiote returned to Peter Parker's closet to bond with Spider-Man, the one host who can resist the alien's corruptive power and stop the Brocks' nightmares of the future.

Spider-Man is back in black for VENOM #35, on sale now!

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