Carnage is one of the darkest and most terrifying characters in all of Spider-Man’s history. He’s always been incredibly popular, appearing in video games, theme parks (Universal Studios used him as the villain for Halloween Horror Nights), cartoons and even the seemingly cursed Spider-Man Broadway show. Despite all of that, he’s never appeared in a live action film. Now, with the Venom movie in full swing, all of that is about to change. Cletus Kasady is coming, and we should all be very, very scared.
But who is Carnage, aside from an obvious ’90s creation with a neat name? Well, therein lies the tale of one of the most twisted individuals to ever grans super powers, in the Marvel Universe or beyond…
This Man, This Monster
Before Carnage came Cletus Kasady, an unrepentant serial killer who debuted in in Amazing Spider-Man #344. Created by David Michelinie, Erik Larsen (artist behind Cletus), and Mark Bagley (artist behind Carnage), he wouldn’t actually become Carnage until Amazing Spider-Man #360. But when he went red, he also went big. Over the course of his career, Carnage has taken over Manhattan, terrorized Spider-Man and Venom and then, almost ten years after his birth, was ripped to shreds in space by the sometimes heroic, sometimes villainous Sentry.
This being comics, he came back eventually. The symbiote took on a female host for a while, and then an entire town, forcing superheroes to come to the middle of nowhere to stop him. At one point, Carnage turned very small (think a psychotic Ant-Man), and then turned him into a hero. Then, he went bad again, and starred in his own series, one with a a supernatural horror theme that saw some of Marvel’s B-list horror characters hunting him down.
That’s what Carnage has done, but who is Carnage, really?
Great Powers, No Responsibility
Cletus Kasady is basically the ur-example of a serial killer in fiction. Imagine the killer from True Detective, if he was also Rust from True Detective. He’s a weird, cool Southern monster.
Cletus’ origin is a pretty typical tale — he was hurt as a child, tried to kill his whole family, almost succeeded with his mom and grandma, torched a dog, got beaten almost to death, got sent to an orphanage. It’s here that his tale takes a weird and chaotic turn. While living in the orphanage, he comes to believe that the single beauty in life, the one point to it, is chaos. The whole world is nothing else, and all attempts to cover it up are a disgusting lie! He came to believe that spreading the message that chaos reigns — in blood, in scars, in tears, in terror — is the ultimate way of life.
He wasn’t half-hearted, either. The one friend Cletus ever had, he tried to murder just to prove that everything, including friendship, was utterly meaningless.
His entire MO is murder, pointless suffering, and terror. And that’s before he became Carnage.
When he finally caught for his serial killer crimes, Cletus was arrested and thrown into prison with Eddie Brock. During a prison break, a drop of Brock’s Venom symbiote infected Cletus by directly entering his bloodstream. And just like that, Carnage was born.
It took Spider-Man and Venom working together to defeat this new monster, as Carnage proved to be stronger, more ruthless, and more powerful than either. To make matter worse, unlike Venom, Cletus could never permanently be separated from his monster, as the two had bonded through blood.
There are time, though, when Carnage and Cletus are separated (yes, it makes no sense: comics!), and Carnage goes on to find a new host. In some cases it’s a random woman, in others it’s Ben Reilly, the clone of Peter Parker. Once, it even infected the Silver Surfer! In the Ultimate Universe, Carnage essentially ate Gwen Stacy and then became her. But no matter what, he always finds his way back to his original host, the chaos-loving Kletus Casady. True love, who gets it — right?
Carnage is stronger, faster and, honestly, a better fighter than either Venom or Spider-Man. Like Venom, sonics are his weakness, although he’s not as susceptible to them as his ‘”father” is, but he’s doubly weak when it comes to fire. Like both Venom and Spider-Man, Carnage can wall crawl, web swing, has a spider-sense, is able to avoid detection by Peter’s spider-sense, and can basically do whatever a spider can.
He can also do oh, so much more. Carnage can grow weapons from his body, creating things like knives or spears, shoot them out of his body, and then recall them. The symbiote has also protected Cletus in extreme environments, enabling him to breathe in space for instance. And then there’s the visual weapon — Carnage happens to look like a murderous monster of blood. He’s been captured, killed, lobotomized, and turned good — but no matter what happens, the symbiote saves him. Carnage always comes back, with a smile, and a knife.
Venom: The Movie
Carnage can be — but often isn’t — discussed without Venom. After all, Venom was his progenitor and is generally depicted as feeling entirely responsible for the bloodshed Carnage unleashes. On the other hand, Carnage completely hates his “father” and wants to destroy him for his sense of honor, morals and justice.
So while we’ve covered Carnage, let’s talk a bit about Venom.
The symbiote who would eventually bond with Eddie Brock to become Venom originated on the original Battleworld during the first Secret Wars series, a place which found Peter Parker and others fighting in a realm beyond time and space. Thinking he had found a new costume made of alien material, Peter brought the symbiote back to Earth with him only to find it had a deadly mind of its own.
After Parker rid himself of the symbiote, it latched onto Eddie Brock, who blamed Peter for ruining his life by outing him as a reporter writing false news stories. Brock and the symbiote became Venom, a dark creature that followed his own twisted moral code, but often was nothing but darkness and teeth.
It turns out — as revealed in the recent Venom: Space Knight — Venom may not actually be some dark being. The symbiote is a Klyntar, a race of alien symbiotes who, for the most part, are pretty normal. It turns out that in bonding with the extremely messed up Peter Parker — and then the even worse Eddie Brock — the symbiote essentially became poisoned, its very being corrupted into a dark monster. The world of the symbiotes was visited by Venom and the symbiote was purged of its evil inclinations… for awhile.
While Carnage — and his connection to the other Kylntars — has not yet been explored in the comics, that’s not to say it won’t factor into the film. After all, if you’re looking for a direction for a Venom film that doesn’t feature Spider-Man and has a sci-fi horror bent, the planet of the symbiotes wouldn’t be a bad place to start.
Of course, if Spider-Man does end up appearing in Venom (which has been confirmed, denied, and everything else), then we’re more likely to see Carnage’s role as has been traditionally presented in the comics. And really, that might be the best route to take; after all, a dark, laughing serial killer spreading chaos and fighting against Venom’s murderous brand of honor and justice is about as intriguing a Spider-Man film as you’re liable to make without Spidey actually appearing in it.
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