Carnage: Who is the Symbiotic Serial Killer?

Paint the Town Red

Carnage:Maybe… I’m just the inevitable aberration. The soul that’s born so black, so twisted, so filled with unreasoning hatred… that there’s no explanation. You can’t make me sane, Doctor. You can’t hope to redeem me. All you can do is kill me. Because, if you don’t… I’ll break out of here. You have my word on that. And the blood… the glorious blood… will flow like WINE!”

Spider-Man and Batman: Disordered Minds

Three sisters run for their lives. They were at a party when something appeared and slaughtered their friends. They reach home and lock the door behind them. One locks the windows, but finds their mother impaled and their father’s head atop a pile of viscera. A cackle splits the air. The monster is in their home.

The girl runs back to her sisters, but she is too late. The monster raises a blood-red fist that transforms into an axe and cleaves through her sisters. Its other hand becomes a tendril and slams her into a wall. Cloying goop surges down her throat and into her stomach. Just before her stomach ruptures, the goop expands into multiple spikes and ends her suffering. Carnage laughs and wonders if he can’t do better with his next victim.

Carnage is one of Marvel’s scariest villains. If Venom is Spider-Man mixed with John Carpenter’s The Thing, then Carnage is Venom mixed with The Joker at his worst. So who is he? Why does he have Spider-Man’s powers? Can anyone stop him? Let’s find out.

First Blood: Carnage’s Backstory

Reporter:If you’re just tuning in, police have wanted criminal Cletus Kasady surrounded in his home.
Jameson:How can one man hold the entire NYPD at bay like that?
Robbie:Jonah, Kasady’s not a man, he’s a monster. He’s done things even the Post wouldn’t print.

Spider-Man: the Animated Series “Venom Returns” (Season 3, Episode 10)

Carnage debuted in The Amazing Spider-Man #359 in 1992. He was created by David Michelinie and Mark Bagley, who wanted a psychotic counterpart to the extremely popular Venom. They considered calling the character Chaos or Ravage before settling on Carnage.

Cletus Kasady was a psychopath from the day he was born. He died moments after birth, but was resurrected by an evil god who wanted an agent on Earth. Cletus began his body count by pushing his grandmother down a flight of stairs and torturing the family dog to death. Mrs. Kasady tried to kill him, but was stopped and killed by Cletus’ father who didn’t know about the dog or grandmother being dead.

Mr. Kasady was arrested when his son claimed he had committed all the murders. Cletus was sent to an orphanage, where he was bullied. He eventually killed the headmistress and set the orphanage on fire. He spent the next several years killing random victims before being caught and arrested. It all sounds like a version of The Omen, doesn’t it?

Cletus shared a jail cell with Eddie Brock. While Cletus threatened to kill him, Eddie’s alien Symbiote arrived and transformed him into Venom. The reunited villain escaped from jail, unaware that the Symbiote had asexually reproduced while in the cell. The baby Symbiote entered Cletus’ bloodstream through a cut and merged with him, granting the killer all of Venom’s powers. Cletus Kasady was gone. In his place stood Carnage.

Maximum Carnage: Carnage’s History

Venom:You’re an obscenity, Carnage! You were given a gift of power from the very stars and you use it to kill innocents! YOU DESERVE TO GET YOUR BRAINS SCOOPED OUT WITH A RUNCIBLE SPOON!

Venom: Carnage Unleashed

Carnage went on a killing spree, gleefully using his new powers to turn people into corpses. Spider-Man tried to stop him, but wasn’t strong enough, and turned to Venom for help. Venom didn’t want to help his archenemy, but agreed when he learned that Kasady was killing innocents.

The duo tracked down Carnage, but still struggled against the crazed killer. They won when they exploited the Symbiote’s weakness to sonic vibrations, weakening Carnage enough to defeat him. Unfortunately, Cletus and the Carnage Symbiote had bonded too much for them to remove it and depower him.

Carnage escaped from jail for more rampages, always forcing Spider-Man to question whether he should finally kill Carnage. He also hunted Venom many times, hoping to play a game of attempted patricide with dear ol’ dad. Carnage was seemingly stopped for good when he fought The Sentry, who ripped him in half and threw the Carnage Symbiote into the sun.

Knull and Void: Carnage’s Modern Stories

Dark Carnage:Kill enough, and I awake my god. And then the world falls under a waterfall of blood and enters a new universe of dark. And hoo-boy, I will be there. Sucking the last sweet shivering breaths out of its rotting, maggot-filled, bloated corpse. Dancing all silly and spine-broken to the universe’s death rattle.

Absolute Carnage

The Sentry’s attack crippled Cletus, and it seemed that his criminal career was over. Unfortunately, enough of the Carnage Symbiote remained in his blood for it to regenerate. Before long, he was back on his feet and chopping up meat.

Carnage was eventually captured by a cult that worshiped Knull, a primordial god of darkness, creator of the Symbiotes, and the god who had resurrected Cletus. They bonded him to the Grendel Symbiote, transforming Cletus into the far more powerful Dark Carnage.

Dark Carnage learned that he could become stronger by bonding victims to a Symbiote and absorbing an organ called a Codex from the resultant being. Absorbing enough Codices would allow him to free Knull and bring about the end of the world.

Spider-Man, Venom, and the Avengers fought Dark Carnage’s Symbiote army and eventually defeated him. Unfortunately, Knull was freed and they had to focus on stopping him, allowing Carnage to escape yet again.

Sanguine Slasher: Carnage’s Powers and Personality

Carnage:Dreaming of taking over cities… conquering tiny universes. Thought I was dreaming big! But those kinds of ambitions… they’re lies. Now the cataracts are peeled from my eyes! I can see clearly! Back to basics! Simple…beautiful… random… CARNAGE!” –

Superior Carnage Annual

Carnage has all of Venom’s powers, which means he has all of Spider-Man’s powers. He’s super strong, fast, agile, and durable. The Symbiote adds shapeshifting, a jury-rigged Spider Sense, and a healing factor. The Symbiote can regrow from a single drop of blood and resurrect Carnage. So we have a nigh-immortal, death-worshipping serial killer with all of Spidey’s powers. Enjoy the nightmare fuel, kiddos!

Carnage isn’t a trained fighter, but sheer rage and insanity mixed with his powerset make him one of Marvel’s deadliest fighters. He frequently shapeshifts to turn his limbs into blades, spears, or his favorite: axes. Carnage has also learned several tricks to become immune to a Symbiote’s traditional weakness to fire and sonic vibrations. 

During his time as Dark Carnage, he grew stronger by absorbing Codices. If he stole a Codex from a superpowered opponent, he also gained a copy of their powers. Absorbing The Hulk’s Codex transformed him into the even stronger Devil Carnage and allowed him to free Knull.

Kasady is a monster with no redeeming qualities. He always wants to kill and can only resist the urge if waiting creates more potential death. The Carnage Symbiote is almost as crazy as him, but has one redeeming quality: it cares about Cletus. The duo have merged more than any Symbiote Host in history, even referring to themselves with singular pronouns instead of plural.

The Actors Who Play Carnage

Scott Cleverdon and Christopher Daniel Barnes – Spider-Man: the Animated Series
Michael Donavon – Spider-Man Unlimited
Dee Bradley Baker and Fred Tatascoire – Ultimate Spider-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy
Woody Harrelson – Venom, Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Didya Get All That?

Marvel’s scarlet slasher

Carnage image courtesy of Sony Pictures.

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