The first trailer for Venom 2: Let There Be Carnage has arrived, and guess what? It features Carnage! But who exactly is the very red, very scary symbiote bad guy?
It all started with Spider-Man’s black alien costume in the comics, which betrayed him and wound up in the hands of his bitter rival Eddie Brock — who became Venom. But it also spawned an even meaner and deadlier nemesis in the form of Carnage. This bloodthirsty sadist has racked up quite a body count over the years, and even the Avengers have been hard-pressed to bring him to justice.
And now the Woody Harrelson character (also known as Cletus Kasady) is finally arriving on the big screen. With that in mind, here’s everything you need to know about this symbiote psychopath…
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Carnage Explained: The Basics
Carnage is basically the closest thing Spider-Man’s rogues gallery has to a Joker. Most of Spidey’s enemies have some tragic or redeeming qualities. Not Carnage. He’s a force of nature who lives to kill, destroy and sow chaos. And he’s not particular about the order in which he does so.
Carnage’s Powers and Abilities
Carnage is basically a meaner, stronger version of Venom. His costume is an offshoot of the Venom symbiote, and like Venom, Carnage has access to amped-up versions of Spider-Man’s powers, such as boosted strength, agility and speed. Like Venom, Carnage can block out Spider-Man’s Spider-Sense, even while he has access to enhanced senses of his own.
However, because Carnage’s symbiote gestated on Earth rather than the planet Klyntar, it’s stronger and more unstable. Carnage is powerful enough to fight both Spider-Man and Venom to a standstill. He can reshape his symbiote tendrils into various deadly weapons and even launch them as projectiles. The symbiote also grants Kasady a Wolverine-like healing factor, allowing him to survive what seemed like certain death on multiple occasions.
Carnage: Origin and Background
Given the breakout popularity of Venom after 1988’s Amazing Spider-Man #300, it was only a matter of time before Marvel further exploited the concept. Carnage was the first (and by far the most popular) of several new symbiote villains introduced in the early ’90s, with Cletus Kasady making his first appearance as Carnage in 1992’s Amazing Spider-Man #360 (created by writer David Michelinie and artists Erik Larsen and Mark Bagley) and quickly became a recurring presence in the franchise.
Carnage remained an active player in the Spider-Man comics throughout the ’90s, with several stories featuring the symbiote bonding with characters other than Cletus Kasady. That resulted in some less than beloved hybrid characters like Spider-Carnage and Cosmic Carnage. Eventually, most fans agreed that the villain had become overexposed. Even Marvel seemed to agree, and an early issue of 2004’s New Avengers featured Carnage being ripped in half by the Sentry and left to die in Earth’s orbit.
But few characters stay dead forever in superhero comics, and Carnage eventually made his comeback in a 2010 miniseries called, appropriately enough, Carnage. That book revealed that both the symbiote and Kasady survived bring torn in half. Carnage and follow-up stories like Carnage USA and Superior Carnage restored the villain to his old status quo and once again made him a force to be reckoned with in the Marvel Universe. Still, that didn’t stop Carnage from briefly turning over a new leaf in 2014’s Avengers & X-Men: AXIS. There, a villain named Red Onslaught (part Red Skull and part Professor X) inverted the minds of many heroes and villains and rendered Carnage temporarily heroic.
Carnage: Beyond the Comics
Carnage has had plenty of room to shine on the small screen. Carnage first appeared in animated form in 1994’s Spider-Man: The Animated Series (voiced by Scott Cleverdon) and served a a major antagonist in several episodes. He also played a big role in the spinoff series Spider-Man Unlimited (voiced this time by Michael Donovan).
Carnage missed out on appearing in 2008’s Spectacular Spider-Man, though he was slated to show up if the series had lasted longer than two seasons. He did play a recurring role in Marvel’s next Spider-Man cartoon, Ultimate Spider-Man (voiced by both Dee Bradley Baker and Fred Tatasciore). That series continued the comic-book trend of having the Carnage symbiote bond with other Marvel characters, resulting in mash-ups like Carnage-Ock and Carnage-Hulk.
Carnage has also enjoyed a healthy video game career dating back to the 1992 Game Boy title The Amazing Spider-Man 2. He was a major boss character in 1994’s Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage and its sequel, Spider-Man and Venom: Separation Anxiety, both of which are inspired by the comic book storylines of the same name. Carnage has also appeared in everything from LEGO Marvel Super Heroes to Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions to Marvel Puzzle Quest. The video game adaptation of 2014’s Amazing Spider-Man 2 movie even offered a glimpse of what Carnage might have looked like in Sony’s rebooted Spider-Man universe (of the time).
For years the villain was rumored to be the main antagonist in Sony’s Venom solo movie. At one point that movie was even reportedly titled Venom Carnage. However, Riz Ahmed’s character Carlton Drake wound up being the main baddie — as a different symbiote villain called Riot — in the film. Woody Harrelson had a small role as Cletus Kasady in the movie, setting up his transformation into Carnage for the sequel, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, where he will co-star with Tom Hardy.
May 10, 2021: This story has been updated with the latest information about Venom: Let There Be Carnage.
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