Typically when talking about Spider-Man, the character tends to stay focused on grounded stories that, while they obviously cannot happen in the real world, still have some sort of plausibility to them. What I mean is that Spider-Man for most of his early years stayed away from any sci-fi elements in his stories. He was an earth bound hero and dealt with every-man problems.
This was all blown out the window in 1984’s Secret Wars when Spidey and a host of other heroes were sent to another planet in order to fight villains in an ultimate battle of good vs evil. When there, Spidey acquired what he thought was just another costume, but it actually was an alien life form known as a symbiote. The being tried to forcefully bond with Peter a short while after but was rejected and instead found its way onto the body of Eddie Brock, which created Venom.
This insanely popular villain would lead to a marketing bonanza as more and more symbiote characters were carted out to cater to the fans who just couldn’t get enough of these blood-thirsty aliens. This led to a lot of stories and confusion over exactly who and what the symbiotes are. Hopefully by the end of this list you will have come away with a better understanding about who the symbiotes are and heck, you might have some laughs about some of the stupider parts of this alien race.
Here are 15 facts that you may not have known about Marvel’s symbiotes.
15. The Symbiotes Were Originally A Force of Good
Despite being in print for more than three decades, very little was known about the history of the symbiotes up until 2015 when acclaimed writer Brian Michael Bendis explained their backstory in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3 #23.
In their natural form, the Klyntar (the actual name of their race) were benevolent creatures that bound themselves to a host so that together they could establish an inter-galactic peace-keeping force. So how the hell did the Marvel universe end up with Venom then?
Well in order for that symbiosis to work properly, the host must be a perfect mix of moral and physical ideals. So if for example Captain America was bonded to a symbiote, it would be amazing, but if it bonded to a mentally unbalanced Eddie Brock, we would have problems.
After a while, these corrupted symbiotes split off from their race and started taking over their hosts by force. This is where we get the symbiotes that we’ve known about for a long time.
14. Carnage And Venom Once Duked It Out Over The Internet
Marvel went through a kind of drunken craze in the 1990s with the symbiotes. It seemed like as soon as they had a germ of an idea in their head of what to do with them, they would do it. As a result, we got one of the weirdest ideas I’ve ever seen in comics in the form of the “Carnage Unleashed” mini-series in 1995.
In this storyline, a video game publisher is making a video game based off Carnage’s killing spree in Maxmium Carnage. Venom, our protagonist of the story, will not stand for this and decides to stop this game from being made. I’ll save you any more details of this horrendous mini series because it almost broke my brain and I don’t want to do that to you.
Just to conclude though, in issue four of the story the dueling symbiotes send tendrils through a giant modem and duke it out over the internet. I seriously would try to explain the context of the story more, but if the story refuses to explain how organic alien life forms can fight through ethernet cables then I don’t think I should either.
13. They’re Chocoholics
Amazingly, I’m only partially joking with that entry title. But here’s a little more context for that.
While the symbiotes are bonded to a host, they’re able to sustain themselves thanks to two chemicals in the brain. The first one is adrenaline, the same chemical that shoots through your body when you’re doing something exciting like skydiving or catching a Mewtwo in Pokemon GO. This would explain the symbiotes’ desire for fighting.
The other chemical though is phenethylamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for the release of dopamine in the brain. While this explains why the Venom developed a taste for brains as the years went by, that same neurotransmitter is also found readily in chocolate. Ask anyone eating chocolate how good it feels and you’ll know why it’s a mood booster.
12. Carnage Was Not The First Choice Of Name For The Character
The character of Carnage is very symbolic of comic books in the 1990s. He looks cool, doesn’t have much originality to his personality and is uber violent so the kids know that he is edgy. This could be seen even further when you discover what the other ideas for his name were by his creators.
The first choice for the character was Chaos, but since their competitor DC Comics already had a character named Chaos, it was scrapped as an idea. The second choice would have been Ravage, but this time Marvel screwed themselves because a planned character for their 2099 line of books was called Ravage 2099 and they wanted to avoid any relation between the two. Finally, the third and final choice of Carnage was selected.
Really though, any of these names would have been fine. As long as the Joker/Venom hybrid morphs his costume into axes and the like I think he could been called anything and nobody would care.
11. Grammar Shows A Big Difference Between Venom and Carnage
There’s several differences between Eddie Brock and Cletus Kasady. One of them (sort of) fights on the side of good and the other is a heartless mass murderer with no empathy in his body. Another difference would be how they relate to their symbiotes.
While Eddie Brock was bonded to the Venom symbiote, they both shared a common goal; to kill Spider-Man. However, Brock was still the more dominant personality and kept some of the symbiote’s other urges in check. He would protect the innocent and only hurt those he deemed as predators. Essentially, his bond to the symbiote was strong but not strong enough to the point where they were one being. That’s why Venom referred to itself as “we.”
Carnage on the other hand was a different story. Since Cletus Kasady was more than happy to fully submerge himself and bond with the symbiote, their bond was much stronger than Brock and Venom’s. Therefore, he refereed to himself as “I” rather than “we.” Who knew that pronouns would play such a big role in Spider-Man’s world…
10. The Venom Symbiote Has A Lot of Kids
In Marvel’s 1990s craze to capitalize on the newfound popularity of Venom, the company did a lot of things that many feel harmed Venom’s character. They made him an anti-hero, they gave him his own mini-series which over-exposed the character and they made him an absent father. Huh? Let me explain.
As many people know, the Carnage symbiote is the offspring of Venom who bonded with Cletus Kasady when Eddie Brock and Kasady were in prison. However, some of you may not know that Brock was forced to give birth to five new symbiotes while he was in the clutches of the Life Foundation. These five symbiotes were known as Phage, Riot, Agony, Lasher and Scream who together were meant to bond with the foundation’s soldiers but they couldn’t be controlled.
9. Universal Studios Had A Maximum Carnage Ride
Question: how do you scare people at a Marvel theme park? Answer: you make a haunted maze where dead superheroes are lying all around you. Yup, this was a real thing that actually happened at Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure for one year only in 2002.
Taking its inspiration in name from the comic book storyline, it depicts a world where the villains have won the day. The leader of this cursed island is Carnage, who now has a group of henchmen who choose to scare people instead of killing them out right. Yeah the real Carnage would scoff at this idea but it still sounds freaking cool.
What makes this attraction so scary would have to be the scenery around it though. While the above video doesn’t show it, people who have done the maze say that you can spot corpses of Spider-Man, Captain America and Wolverine. While the attraction was probably shut down because of these horrifying images, this concept is brilliant for a horror theme at Universal Studios.
8. The List Of Hosts For Venom And Carnage Is Lengthy
While Cletus Kasady and Eddie Brock are far and away the most popular human hosts for the Venom and Carnage symbiotes respectively, they are far from the only people to act as hosts for the alien life forms.
The Venom symbiote alone has had over ten hosts. Some of the more notable ones include his original host Peter Parker, Doctor Octavius (whose brain was in Peter Parker’s body – long story) and Eddie Brock’s former wife Anne Weying. The Venom symbiote is now bonded to Flash Thompson, one of Peter Parker’s best friends and former high school bully.
Carnage hasn’t has as many hosts as his daddy but it’s still an impressive list nonetheless. Of course we have the serial killer Cletus Kasady, but we also have Peter Parker’s clone Ben Reilly who had to fight off the symbiote’s violent urges in the Web of Carnage storyline. Most terrifying of all though had to be when the Carnage symbiote left Cletus Kasady to possess one of the most powerful beings in the universe; The Silver Surfer. But we’ll get back to the Silver Surfer’s relationship to symbiotes later.
7. Spider-Man Faked His Death To Avoid Venom
Heroes don’t quit! Heroes stand and hold their ground and never say die in the face of overwhelming evil! Well, maybe if you’re a golden age superhero, because things work a little bit differently in the modern age…
In one of their earliest battles in Amazing Spider-Man #347, it appears that Venom has finally completed his goal; he has killed Spider-Man. After tossing a car at Spider-Man which then blows up, Venom finds a skeleton in a Spider-Man costume in the crater. Satisfied with himself, he settles down on the island they were fighting on to enjoy his life without the wall-crawler.
What Brock doesn’t know is that Spidey actually ditched his costume, planted it on a skeleton he found in a shallow grave and swam away on a boat that was passing by. A clever ploy by our hero to escape a foe who has stronger versions of all his powers.
6. Toxin Is The Most Powerful Symbiote
As immensely powerful and popular as the various symbiotes like Venom and Carnage have been shown to be, neither of them are actually the strongest symbiote in the Marvel Universe. That honour would go to the offspring of Carnage, known as Toxin.
Introduced in 2004’s Venom vs Carnage mini-series, the Toxin symbiote might have had the nature of an infant, but it made up for that with its immense power set. Since it comes from the same lineage as the Venom and Carnage symbiotes, Toxin has all the same powers as his “grandfather” and “daddy.” This includes being undetectable to Spider-Man’s spider-sense, super-strength, speed and the power to morph his costume into weapons like axes. Not only are all those powers increased to a higher degree than any other symbiote, but he is much more resistant to fire and sonics than any other symbiote.
5. An Entire Symbiote Invasion Was Repelled By Sadness
While this list is about things you may not have known about symbiotes, something most comics fans surely know is that the two weaknesses of symbiotes are sonics and fire. But what you didn’t know is that there is a secret third weakness of symbiotes that has only been used once as far as I know; sadness.
In a multi-part story in 1995 titled “Planet of The Symbiotes,” an entire horde of symbiotes have invaded New York and have taken numerous hosts citizens and superhumans alike. Even worse, Carnage has absorbed other symbiotes and has grown to giant size. The stakes are high so Venom (this is during his anti-hero phase) hatches a plan to defeat the threat.
Using the symbiotes’ hive mind, Venom lets out a psychic scream which… umm, makes the symbiotes all feel very sad. So sad in fact that the symbiotes all collectively commit suicide, freeing their hosts as a result. While this a unique and unexpected way to end this story, it also seems very anti-climatic and strange. This though isn’t even the worst way a symbiote was defeated.
4. Venom Has Been Defeated By A Lighter
One of the most frustrating parts about comic books would have to be just how damn inconsistent they can be. While sometimes a character can be shown to look near unstoppable, there are other stories which demonstrate how big of a pansy they can be. This would be the case with this battle between Spider-Man and Venom.
In the fight, it seems that Venom finally has Spider-Man right where he wants him. His hands and tendrils are wrapped around his spandex-clad throat and he’s going to – WAIT A MINUTE! Who is that interfering in our main event? IT’S OLD MAN WITH A LIGHTER! This civilian tosses Spidey a lighter that causes the symbiote to flee the battle in terror and allows our hero to fight another day.
Let me re-iterate; a small flicker of flame from a lighter defeated the big bad Venom. The same Venom who once took fire from the Human Torch is now being defeated by something you can find at a dollar store. I don’t know who is more dissapointed, Eddie Brock or his fans.
3. The Venom Symbiote Once Helped Create A Ridiculously Overpowered Red Hulk
If the Red Hulk wasn’t enough of a ridiculously powerful character, just imagine if he was combined with the source of Ghost Rider’s powers and of course a symbiote. Well you don’t have to imagine it because it actually happened.
In a storyline called “Circle of Four” (now there’s a lazy title for you), the Venom symbiote is attached to long-time friend of Peter Parker and is trapped in hell with him and X-23, Red Hulk and Ghost Rider. After being stomped by the villain known as Blackheart, the group of heroes come up with a plan to defeat him. They’re going to give their strongest member Red Hulk both the Spirit of Vengeance and the Venom symbiote.
While this doesn’t make a lick of sense (how does the Venom symbiote stick to two beings whose main selling points are their ability to generate fire?), it does give an insanely powerful hero who manages to take down the villain and save the day. Unfortunately this amalgamation didn’t last long, but it was glorious while it lasted.
2. The Silver Surfer And The Symbiotes Have A Troubled History
As densely populated as New York City is in the Marvel Universe, outer space seems to have just as many heroes clogging up the stars and the most definitive one would have to be Jack Kirby’s legendary Silver Surfer. Fittingly enough, Silver Surfer has a history with the Symbiote race.
As a herald of Galactus is one to do, Silver Surfer was riding across the galaxies one day when he spotted a planet that seemed ripe for consumption by his master the planet munching Galactus. Don’t feel too bad for aliens though as this planet was filled with feral symbiotes who broke off from the natural, benevolent hive.
Naturally, because their planet was completely destroyed, those symbiotes have quite a fear of the Silver Surfer. In Amazing Spider-Man #430, Carnage is fighting Spider-Man when Silver Surfer is in town and as soon as the creature sees him the symbiote leaves Cletus Kasady in a hurry. This is because of the genetic memory which symbiotes share like I mentioned before. The fear is so strong that Carnage says “we know you” rather than the usual “I” associated with Carnage.
1. The Original Venom Was Supposed To Be A Woman
Even the most casual of Venom fans know that the very first Venom was Eddie Brock. The gigantic, blond-haired journalist with an irrational hatred for Spider-Man is always going to be the most iconic version of Venom. But what if I told you that it was almost a woman…
In a book called “Comic Creators On Spider-Man”, it was unveiled by Venom’s creator David Michelinie that the original concept for Venom was much different than what we know. Michelinie’s idea for Venom was that a pregnant woman whose husband would have died because a cab driver hit him while distracted by Spider-Man fighting a villain. She would then go into labor on the sidewalk and lose her baby. Insert a loss of sanity and a sentient alien life form to the mix and you would have Venom.
But this idea was shelved for the stupidest of reasons. Michelinie’s editor Jim Salicrup didn’t think that woman could be a conceivable physical threat to Spider-Man. Yes, in a world as crazy as the Marvel Universe, a female Venom would just be too unbelievable.