Venom: Who is Carnage?

OK, Venom fans, break out your Green Jelly tapes, because it's time to learn all about Carnage, Spider-Man's evil double's evil double.

All right, so, a few months ago, when Deadpool 2 came out, we did an article called Deadpool 2: Who is Juggernaut? People were pretty annoyed because Juggernaut’s role in that movie as a major antagonist wasn’t advertised and they cried spoiler. And that’s a fair call. Apologies.

That said, if you think it’s a spoiler that Carnage is in any way alluded to in Venom, I don’t know what to tell you. It’s Carnage. Of COURSE he’s going to be at least referenced in a Venom movie. The movie just used Carlton Drake and Riot. Venom doesn’t exactly have a Batman-level rogues gallery to play with and only one of his bad guys is important enough to get a red SNES cartridge.

So yeah, Carnage. He’s teased at the end of Venom. Read more on that in this look at the Venom post-credit sequences.

The only real surprise is that it’s taken this long for Carnage to be in a movie. With so many comic book movies out there, we’re running out of iconic villains who haven’t been featured. We’re down to Darkseid, Kang, and…I don’t know, Arcade?

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Much like in the movies, Carnage’s first appearance in the comics was a quick teaser. While Spider-Man was busy dealing with Cardiac in Amazing Spider-Man #360 (by Davie Michelinie and Chris Marrinan), we got to see a one-page scene of a man named Gunny Stein returning home, only to be smothered by an attacker who admitted to killing him merely because he was looking through the phone book and found a suitably stupid name.

While he would appear in full in the following issue (Mark Bagley on art), the wheels towards Carnage’s creation came far earlier. When trying to kill Spider-Man, Venom ran afoul of Styx and Stone, a villain duo only really remembered for this very story. Styx, who has a death touch, touched the Venom symbiote and seemingly killed it. Eddie Brock was thrown in a regular prison and I would make a Bronson joke if I had actually gotten around to seeing that movie.

Venom returned to mess with Spider-Man again, only this time on an abandoned island. Spider-Man pretended to die in an explosion and Venom was all, “Sweet! Our to-do list is done! Let’s just squat on this island, where there are no TVs or newspapers to let us know that Spider-Man’s alive!”

That worked out great for everyone, but then the Carnage storyline kicked in and after a single fight against the new villain, Spider-Man decided that he needed Venom to fight with him. I enjoy a good hero/villain vs. bigger villain story as much as the next guy, but the intent to make it a Venom team-up was laughably blatant. How blatant?

Knowing that Venom was going to go into a violent frenzy, Spider-Man confronted him with Human Torch as backup. After all, fire is one of Venom’s weaknesses. Makes sense. Only, like, WHY DO YOU NOT JUST CUT OUT THE MIDDLE MAN AND JUST BRING HUMAN TORCH WITH YOU TO FIGHT CARNAGE? Hell, the dude has three friends who would be extremely helpful in catching the loud and obnoxious serial killer. He can’t be THAT hard to find.

further reading: Venom Comics Reading Order

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There’s a quick line in the end about how bringing them in would make things more dangerous, but I have trouble accepting that truth when their replacement is an irrational mass murderer who will kill Spider-Man the first chance he gets.

But anyway, Spider-Man and Venom teamed up against Carnage a few times, got beat up despite the odds, then beat him by exploiting his sonics weakness. Then Spider-Man and Venom went back to fighting. A solid enough story, but not really all that memorable.

No, Carnage’s more memorable story would come a year later with Maximum Carnage. Actually, even that story wasn’t all that memorable. I read it several times and I can barely give you the gist of what happened. Just that Carnage got himself his own personal Harley Quinn in Shriek, then created a short-lived supervillain team alongside Doppelganger, Demogoblin, and Carrion. Spider-Man and Venom teamed up again, only this time with a bunch of Marvel randos on their side like Morbius, Iron Fist, and Night Watch.

Stuff happened, Captain America being there was treated like a huge deal, and…man, whatever. All I know is that there was a seriously sweet panel where Venom was tearing off Carnage’s eyes.

The real reason anyone remembered the storyline was because of LJN’s video game Maximum Carnage for SNES and Genesis. Considered “good for an LJN game,” it allowed you to play as Spider-Man or Venom as you beat up extremely 90s street thugs and Carnage’s crew over and over again. Even being the final boss, you end up fighting Carnage a handful of times throughout.

further reading: Complete Guide to Marvel Easter Eggs in the Venom Movie

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The game had a red cartridge and featured a soundtrack by Green Jelly (including their song “Carnage Rules”), so it had that going for it.

There was a sequel (technically a prequel) called Separation Anxiety, which was based on Venom: Lethal Protector. Since the arc didn’t have any major end boss threats, they just threw in Carnage as the final challenge because what the hell. They had the assets. Even the ending was just a picture of Carnage with zero epilogue. Again, Carnage had absolutely nothing to do with the story.

And so, Carnage continued to make comic appearances throughout the 90s. Inspired by the Maximum Carnage game, there was a silly Venom comic called Carnage Unleashed where Venom and Carnage fought inside the internet and it was somehow broadcast on the big screen in Times Square. Planet of the Symbiotes had Carnage become a giant after devouring and absorbing an untold amount of invading symbiotes. There was even a Spider-Man/Batman crossover where Carnage teamed up with Joker and then got punked out and made fun of for being a one-dimensional Joker knockoff.

Oh, and Batman beat him down with just his fists.

Speaking of DC crossovers, when they did the Amalgam Comics gimmick, Carnage was merged with Bizarro to become Bizarnage. The albino symbiote wanted to kill and replace Spider-Boy. Hey, at least he got representation. Nobody merged with Venom during that entire event.

further reading: The 15 Craziest Venom Moments in Marvel History

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Carnage even got a couple animated appearances during this time. He showed up on Spider-Man: The Animated Series as a henchman of Dormammu where he wasn’t allowed to do anything remotely serial killer-y. He was fine, all things considered, but then things got real stupid once the show spun off into Spider-Man Unlimited.

Instead of that, I’ll talk about his appearance in the Spider-Man video game for the PlayStation, Nintendo 64, and Dreamcast. In the plot, Carnage and Doctor Octopus teamed up in hopes of taking over the world with a symbiote army. This led to the pants-shittingly terrifying final level where Spider-Man is chased out of a huge tower by Monster Ock – the Carnage symbiote on Ock’s body. He wasn’t really even a boss because even if you were wearing the Captain Universe costume that made you invincible, you couldn’t damage Monster Ock and if he caught up to you, you’d instantly die. You just had to swing away until you were saved by a cutscene.

further reading: The Many Characters Who Wore the Venom Symbiote

The 90s ended and so began the era of being embarrassed by things that happened in the 90s. While we did get a Venom vs. Carnage miniseries that mainly acted as a launch pad for the Carnage symbiote’s spawn Toxin (it didn’t take), Carnage was soon taken off the board. In the pages of New Avengers, Brian Michael Bendis had the Sentry show off how OP he was by grabbing Carnage, slamming him through several prison ceilings, flying him into space, and tearing him in half.

Mac Gargan Venom was a thing around that time anyway, so we already had a 100% evil symbiote guy creeping around.

After 5-6 years, Carnage finally came back in a miniseries simply called Carnage by Zeb Wells and Clayton Crane. It was originally going to be called Astonishing Spider-Man and Iron Man, but marketing realized that putting Carnage front and center would probably sell better. It revealed that Carnage survived the Sentry’s stunt and Cletus was kept alive by a corrupt prosthetics developer who gave him metal legs in exchange for using his symbiote to enhance his prosthetics technology.

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It all went horribly wrong and created another Carnage offspring in Scorn. She also did not take.

There was a sequel called Carnage USA by the same creative team and I absolutely recommend it. Seemingly building up to some symbiote-related event comic that never came to be (Rick Remender’s Venom was also guilty of this), the comic had to do with Carnage expanding to the point that he was able to take over an entire town in Colorado, along with Captain America, Wolverine, Thing, and Hawkeye.

further reading: Venom Deleted Scenes Revealed

This led to a lot of cool shit, including a Venom gorilla being chased by a Carnage-controlled stampede of escaped zoo animals, Venom’s Life Foundation children being used as military weapons, and a legless fight between Flash Thompson and Cletus Kasady. Oh, and the hilarious revelation that Hawkeye fucking HATES Ben Grimm and thinks all of his shtick is old and tired.

Starting with the ho-hum yet cleverly named Minimum Carnage, Carnage started showing up in more stories with different creative teams forgetting that he was supposed to be missing his bottom half. He ended up in a really fun miniseries called Deadpool vs. Carnage where Deadpool was able to defeat Carnage in a way Spider-Man and Venom could not by shattering his confidence and breaking his spirit.

This led to Carnage’s extremely fun turn in Axis, otherwise known as that event Marvel did where the good guys became bad guys and vice versa. Through magic mixed with psychic suggestion, Carnage was briefly driven to become a hero, but he didn’t exactly have a full grasp on what that meant. Him trying to punch a woman in the face just hard enough to knock her out but not crack her head, followed by boasting about a job well done was entertaining as hell.

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further reading: The 20 Year Quest to Make a Venom Movie

Carnage then had a short-lived ongoing written by Gerry Conway with a story about a cult worshipping Carnage because he’d unleash some kind of Lovecraftian god or whatnot. All the while, a task force was put together to stop him. This was partially an exercise in removing the Toxin and Scorn symbiotes while setting up Eddie Brock’s return to being Venom.

Over the years, the Carnage symbiote has possessed many hosts other than Cletus. There was Ben Reilly, Silver Surfer, an alternate universe Spider-Man, the Wizard, and so on. Its most high-profile instance was Norman Osborn, making him the final end boss of Dan Slott’s very lengthy run on Amazing Spider-Man. As the Red Goblin, Osborn was powerful enough that Spider-Man reluctantly took up Eddie Brock’s offer to borrow the Venom symbiote.

As for Cletus, he’s back floating in space in pieces thanks to the events of Venomized. Long story.

Even though Carnage only made a quick film appearance just recently, he’s reached one height that not even the likes of Thanos have ever hit: Carnage was on Broadway. Back in 2011, the butt of jokes everywhere was Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, known for its immense budget, laundry list of performer injuries, and iffy take on the source material. So iffy that there are two versions of the show that existed. There’s Julie Taymor’s fever dream original and the more coherent second attempt.

further reading: Venom Director Wanted to Honor the Comics

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I was lucky enough to see the former in all of its ridiculous glory.

Carnage appeared as a member of the Green Goblin’s Sinister Six alongside Kraven the Hunter, the Lizard, Electro, Swarm, and original character Swiss Miss. Yes, that’s seven characters. Just let it go. Carnage ended up being the best looking of the villains, since most others came off as looking like goofy sports mascots. He didn’t really do anything, but he was immortalized in this cringeworthy David Letterman performance.

…did Osborn suggest Kraven is into bestiality?

Gavin Jasper writes for Den of Geek and still can’t believe Carnage never showed up in a single Capcom Marvel game. Read more of Gavin’s stuff here and follow him on Twitter @Gavin4L

Read and download the Den of Geek NYCC 2018 Special Edition Magazine right here!