In the early 1990's, Venom's skyrocketing popularity as an antihero derailed co-creator David Michelinie's plan to kill Eddie Brock off and have the symbiote jump from host to host. Feeling Marvel had lost one of its most terrifying villains as a result of Venom's transition into the Lethal Protector, Michelinie decided to create a new symbiotic super villain, one with no redeeming features whatsoever. Erik Larsen came up with Cletus Kasady, inspired by Batman's The Joker, and Mark Bagley designed a red and black symbiote intended to emphasize the new villain's nature as a chaos-obsessed psychopath. Carnage debuted in 1991, when the Venom symbiote's newborn offspring bonded to serial killer Kasady. Carnage's defining storyline was the Maximum Carnage crossover, where he recruited several supervillains and declared war on New York, forcing Spider-Man to form his own alliance of superheroes and anti-heroes to combat him.
Since then, Carnage has become one of Spider-Man's most (in)famous villains, appearing infrequently in the comics before seemingly being killed off after Mac Gargan became a more monstrous version of Venom. After Flash Thompson became a heroic Venom, Carnage was brought back in 2011, and has starred in a number of his own miniseries since then. His popularity and role as a humanizing agent for Venom has led to his appearance in several video games and animated series.
Carnage has had three self-titled volumes and a number of miniseries and crossovers:
- Maximum Carnage (1993). A crossover event where Carnage assembles a "family" of twisted super villains and tries to conquer Manhattan, with Spider-Man and his allies — including longtime enemy Venom — rallying to stop them.
- Carnage: Mind Bomb (1995), written by Warren Ellis with art by Kyle Hotz, was a one-shot where Pentagon psychologist Matthew Kurtz attempts to psychoanalyze the imprisoned Cletus Kasady, only for Carnage to give him a front-row seat to how he sees the world.
- Carnage: It's a Wonderful Life (1996), written by David Quinn with art by Kyle Hotz, was a one-shot where Carnage drags Dr. Ashley Kafka and John Jameson into his mental world in an attempt to break them, only to unintentionally reveal subconscious secrets he'd rather stay buried.
- Carnage Vol. 1 (2010–2011), written by Zeb Wells with art by Clayton Crain, was a five-issue miniseries. Spider-Man and Iron Man team up to investigate Hall Industries' new biomechanical prosthetics and powered armor, only to discover that Carnage is not only back on Earth but still alive after having been ripped in half by the Sentry in space.
- Carnage U.S.A. (2011-2012), written by Zeb Wells with art by Clayton Crain, was a five-issue miniseries wherein Carnage experiments with his upgraded powers by using his symbiote to take over the city of Doverton, Colorado, forcing the New Avengers, Agent Venom, Scorn, and the new Mercury Team to team up and try to stop him.
- Minimum Carnage (2012), a crossover between Venom and Scarlet Spider wherein Carnage is freed from prison by and taken to the Microverse by the diminutive warlord Marquis Radu, forcing Agent Venom and Kaine to team up to stop him.
- Superior Carnage (2013), a tie-in to Superior Spider-Man written by Kevin Shinick, has the Wizard attempt to recruit Carnage into the latest iteration of the Frightful Four only to fail due to Cletus having been lobotomized by Kaine, forcing him to transfer the Carnage symbiote to a new more-controllable host, Dr. Karl Malus — resulting in the Superior Carnage.
- Superior Carnage Annual (2014), written by Cullen Bunn, has Cletus Kasady recovered from his lobotomy but in prison and separated from the Carnage symbiote, which dies when Cletus is almost murdered by a fellow inmate. A surviving piece of the symbiote embarks on a cross-country mission to reunite with him before he succumbs to his injuries.
- Deadpool vs. Carnage (2014), written by Cullen Bunn with art by Salva Espin, has Cletus decide to go back to basics with a good old-fashioned killing spree, only to find himself being hunted by Deadpool, whose own brand of insanity may be more than a match even for Carnage's.
- AXIS: Carnage (2014), written by Rick Spears with art by Germán Peralta, is a three-issue miniseries wherein the morally-inverted Carnage struggle to be a superhero with the advice of morally-bankrupt reporter Alice Gleason, who is being hunted by the spectral Sin-Eater.
- Carnage Vol. 2 (2015–2017), written by Gerry Conway, with art by Mark Perkins, debuted as part of All-New, All-Different Marvel event, plunging the symbiotic serial killer into territory more familiar to the likes of Doctor Strange. Carnage finds himself the subject of a prophecy to unleash the elder god Chthon, forcing the FBI's new Anti-Symbiote Task Force and Victoria Montesi to team up and hunt him down before he can do so.
- Absolute Carnage (2019), written by Donny Cates with art by Ryan Stegman, has Cletus Kasady — reanimated as an undead demigod by a symbiote-worshiping cult — wage war on New York City while Venom, Spider-Man, and their allies scramble to stop him from unleashing the dark god Knull from his interstellar prison.
- Carnage: Black, White & Blood (2021) is an anthology of one-shots by various writers and artists, some being untold tales set in Earth-616 and others being set in alternate universe.
- Extreme Carnage (2021) is an event where the Carnage symbiote — controlled by Cletus Kasady's codex — exploits the post-King In Black anti-symbiote prejudice to throw the world into even greater chaos, brainwashing the Life Foundation symbiotes into joining his mission to usurp Eddie Brock's crown as the new King in Black; while Agent Anti-Venom, Anti Benton, Toxin, and their allies rush to stop him.
- Carnage Vol. 3 (2022-2023), written by Ram V and Alex Paknadel, with art by Francesco Manna, is an ongoing series following in the wake of Extreme Carnage and Carnage Forever, with the Carnage symbiote parting ways with Cletus Kasady's codex and striking out on its own to pursue godhood, while Cletus Kasady adjusts to the new level of power his new Extrembiote gives him.
- Carnage Reigns (2023) is a crossover between Carnage, Miles Morales: Spider-Man, and Red Goblin; where the reborn Cletus Kasady takes the Extrembiote out for a gory test-drive.
- Web of Carnage (2023), written by Ram V with art by Francesco Manna, serves as a finale for Carnage (Vol. 3) leading into the events of Extreme Venomverse and Death of the Venomverse.
- Carnage Vol. 4 (2023), written by Torunn Grønbekk with art by Pere Pérez, chronicles the Carnage symbiote seeking to reunite with Cletus Kasady in the wake of Death of the Venomverse.
Carnage's appearances in various media:
Notable Mainstream Comic Appearances:
- Carnage: Mind Bomb
- Carnage: It's a Wonderful Life
- Carnage (Vol. 1) #1-5 (Tanis Nieves as Carnage; return of Cletus Kasady as Carnage)
- Carnage, U.S.A. #1-5
- Minimum Carnage: Alpha and Omega
- Superior Carnage #1-5 (Karl Malus as Superior Carnage, the Wizard as Carnage)
- Superior Carnage Annual (Carla Unger as Carnage)
- Deadpool vs. Carnage #1-4
- Carnage (Vol. 2) #1-16
- Absolute Carnage (Cletus Kasady as Dark Carnage)
- Carnage: Black, White, and Blood #1-4
- Extreme Carnage (Arthur Krane as Carnage)
- Carnage Forever (Elsie as Carnage)
- Carnage (Vol. 3) #1-14; Web of Carnage one-shot (Jon Shayde as Carnage; Cletus Kasady as Extreme Carnage)
- Carnage (Vol. 4)
- The Amazing Spider-Man #344-345 (first appearance of Cletus Kasady and the Carnage symbiote)
- The Amazing Spider-Man #359-363 (first appearance of Cletus Kasady as Carnage)
- Maximum Carnagenote
- The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #28
- The Clone Saga
- The Amazing Spider-Man #403
- Amazing Spider-Man# 410-411 (John Jameson as Carnage; first appearance of Ben Reilly as Spider-Carnage)
- Planet of the Symbiotesnote
- Web of Carnagenote
- The Amazing Spider-Man #430-431 (Norrin Radd as Carnage Cosmic)
- Peter Parker: Spider-Man Vol. 2, #10 and #13
- Webspinners: Tales of Spider-Man #13-14
- X-Men/Spider-Man #3
- Marvel Knights: Spider-Man Vol. 2, #3
- Web of Venom
- Carnage Born #1 (first appearance of Cletus Kasady as Dark Carnage)
- Cult of Carnage #1
- Funeral Pyre #1
- 101 Ways to End the Clone Saga
- Exiles (as Spider)
- Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe: Again
- Marvel 1602 (as Canice Cassidy)
- Secret Wars (2015)
- Spider-Boy (as Bizarnage)
- Spider-Man and Batman
- Spider-Man and Batman: Disordered Minds
- Ultimate Spider-Man (as Gwen Stacy)
- What If?
- Carnage: Black, White, and Blood #1-4
- Spider-Verse Unlimited #38 (as Punk Rock Carnage)
- Marvel 2099
- Spider-Man 2099: Dark Genesis (Michael Erick as Carnage 2099)
- Sony's Spider-Man Universe: Played by Woody Harrelson
- Carnage in New York
- Goblin's Revenge
- Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark: Carnage was an Oscorp employee mutated by the Green Goblin, and made a member of his Sinister Six.
Theme Park Attractions
- Maximum Carnage / Island Under Siege: A haunted house and scarezone featuring Carnage as the main character that was at Universal's Halloween Horror Nights in 2002.
- Maximum Carnage
- Separation Anxiety: Despite having nothing to do with the comic arc, he appears as the game's True Final Boss.
- Spider-Man (2000): Carnage is fought as the game's final boss; the symbiote then bonds to Doctor Octopus to become the unfightable Monster-Ock
- Ultimate Spider-Man (2005): Peter Parker is turned into the Ultimate version of Carnage during Venom's final boss fight.
- Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2: Carnage was available as DLC from November 5, 2009 to December 31, 2009, and from July 1, 2010 to December 31, 2010. Ultimate Carnage was unlockable as an alternate costume. The DLC for him and the other characters was later brought back in 2016 for the game's PS4 and Xbox One-exclusive rerelease.
- Spider-Man: Web of Shadows: Spider-Carnage is an unlockable alternate costume for Symbiote Spider-Man
- Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions: The Ultimate version of Carnage appears as a boss.
- The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Cletus Kasady is a reoccurring antagonist, and becomes Carnage during the final boss fight; Spider-Carnage is an unlockable costume
- LEGO Marvel Super Heroes
- Marvel: Avengers Alliance: Carnage appears as a boss.
- Marvel Heroes: Carnage (during his hero phase) is an assist character.
- Spider-Man Unlimited: Carnage and Spider-Carnage were added as part of a Symbiote event, with the Venomverse Carnage being added in the Venomverse event.
- Marvel: Contest of Champions: Carnage is a playable character in his regular form and as the Red Goblin.
- Marvel Future Fight: Carnage is a playable character in two forms, regular and Absolute Carnage.
- Marvel Puzzle Quest: Carnage is a playable character in two forms, regular and Prophet of Knull.
- Venom/Carnage Unlimited Infinity Comic
- Edge of Venomverse Unlimited Infinity Comic
- Spider-Man: The Animated Series
- Spider-Man Unlimited
- The Spectacular Spider-Man note
- Ultimate Spider-Man
- Guardians of the Galaxy
Tropes pertaining to the Carnage comics:
- An Arm and a Leg: Tanis Nieves loses an arm during an altercation between Doppelgänger and the Iron Rangers, with Hall Industries giving her a biomechanical prosthesis (and an NDA) as an apology.
- Bio-Armor: Halls Industry uses samples of the Carnage symbiote to make biomechanical suits of Powered Armor for their Iron Rangers. Iron Man is not impressed, accusing Hall of ripping off his own suits. Carnage is more than happy to seize control of the suits, kill the people inside them, and then amalgamate them into a gestalt construct called Mass Carnage.
- Body Surf: The Carnage symbiote takes over Tanis Nieves and puppeteers her body, attempting to break her into succumbing to and embracing its bloodlust. When that fails, it tracks down Cletus Kasady and returns to him — Cletus gleefully asking if it's been cheating on him.
- Due to having incubated in and assimilated Tanis Nieves' prosthetic arm, the Scorn symbiote is a cyborg with powerful technopathic abilities.
- Having been ripped in half from the waist down by the Sentry, Cletus Kasady is outfitted with a biomechanical pelvis and legs by Hall Industries when it's discovered he's still alive.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Dr. Tanis Nieves became a psychiatrist due to her memories of having a dog her parents had taken away and had put down, recalling that it had been sweet and gentle and misunderstood, but it eventually turns out that she repressed the memories of the dog actually being vicious and attacking people. She projects her feelings towards the dog onto her patient Frances Barrison; and when Frances relapses into being Shriek, Tanis decides that — like her dog — she needs to be put down.
- Emotion Eater: Hall Industries discovers that the Carnage symbiote is capable of converting negative emotions into biomass, leading to them forcing Frances Barrison — aka Shriek — to use her psychic hate-wave powers to "feed" it.
- Good Colors, Evil Colors: When the Scorn symbiote is first spawned, it is an orange-y colouration until it returns to Tanis Nieves, turning purple and metallic silver.
- Half the Man He Used to Be:
- Having been torn in half by the Sentry years prior, Cletus Kasady is still missing the lower half of his body. Unfortunately for everyone, he's able to survive thanks to Hall Industries hooking him up with symbiote-derived prosthetic legs.
- Doppelgänger is torn in half as a result of its altercation with the Iron Rangers, but survives and eventually regenerates due to being a Humanoid Abomination.
- Heel–Face Door-Slam: Dr. Nieves makes significant progress with helping Frances Barrison... that is promptly undone by Hall Industries forcing Frances to use her psychic hate-waves to empower the Carnage symbiote, her callous treatment at the hands of Hall Industries' guards, and watching them cruelly torment the Doppelgänger — which sees Frances as its mother. This causes Frances the snap and fully relapse into her Shriek persona, leading Tanis to dismiss her as a lost cause who should be put down like a rabid dog.
- He's Back!: Cletus Kasady makes a triumphant return as Carnage, after having been seemingly killed off by the Sentry back in 2004's New Avengers #2. He even has some new tricks up his symbiotic sleeves, being able to create and control offshoots of the Carnage symbiote.
- Interspecies Romance: Cletus' relationship with the Carnage symbiote is framed as being romantic, with him referring to it with female pronouns and affectionate epithets.
- Loves the Sound of Screaming: Carnage has Michael Hall slowly eaten alive by Doppelgänger so that he can enjoy the sounds of his screaming, calling it thinking music to plot out his next move to.
- Mind Rape:
- The Carnage symbiote attempts to coerce Tanis into succumbing to its bloodlust and fully bonding to it by forcing Cletus' memories and hatred onto her, but she barely manages to resist so it seeks out Cletus and rebonds to him.
- When Iron Man attempts to hack into the Iron Ranger suits after Carnage assimilates them, Mass Carnage reverse-hacks his Extremis suit with sheer Ax-Crazy bloodlust, which is connected directly to Tony's brain. This incapacitates Tony long enough for Mass Carnage to engulf and assimilate him into the amalgam.
- Monster Organ Trafficking: After extracting the Carnage symbiote from Cletus Kasady's mutilated body, Hall Industries began using samples of its biomass to produce biomechanical prosthetics and suits of powered armor. Of course, this backfires horribly.
- Purple Is Powerful:
- Carnage amalgamates the Iron Rangers into a massive Voltron-esque construct called Mass Carnage, which is purple in coloration and strong enough to take down Iron Man in his Extremis armor.
- After returning to Tanis Nieves, the Scorn symbiote turns purple with silvery markings — emphasizing its nature as a technopathic cyborg.
- Two-Faced: When Shriek briefly bonds to the Scorn symbiote, it covers half her face with orange-red symbiote matter.
- Weaponized Offspring: Thanks to the experiments performed on it by Hall Industries, the Carnage symbiote gains the ability to create and control offshoots of itself — using this to seize control of Tanis' prosthetic arm to free itself, and later to seize control of the Iron Ranger suits to kill their occupants and merge them into Mass Carnage.
- Aborted Arc: Scorn captures a surviving piece of the Carnage symbiote for the government to weaponize as part of its symbiote super-soldier program, but nothing comes of it.
- Anti-Hero: Wolverine — true to his nature as the New Avengers' Villain Killer — advocates killing Cletus Kasady once he's stripped of the Carnage symbiote, arguing with Hawkeye over whether just stopping him is good enough.
- Attack Animal: Lasher's primary host was a comatose German shepherd, connected to her handler — Chief Petty Officer Marcus Simms — by a tether of green ooze. Carnage also uses the still-bisected Doppelgänger as one, with it behaving like a mostly feral dog.
- Badass Normal: When Agent Venom and Carnage end up separated from their symbiotes by Scorn, Flash Thompson and Cletus Kasady engage in what the latter gleefully refers to as a "cripple fight". Despite Cletus getting a few good blows in and even biting a chunk out of Flash, Flash is able to knock the serial killer unconscious and prevent the Carnage symbiote from rebonding to him.
- Body Surf: When Scorn gets involved in the fight and builds a sonic weapon that separates Agent Venom and Carnage from their symbiotes, the Carnage symbiote and its offshoots take over a zoo's worth of animals while the Venom symbiote is stuck with a gorilla. Spider-Man reluctantly helps save it, and it returns to Flash while most of the Carnage symbiote is immolated by an air strike.
- Captured Super-Entity: After Eddie Brock killed Scott Washington in Venom, the military appropriated the Hybrid symbiote and split it into its four constituent parts while also officially naming them Lasher, Phage, Riot, and Agony. It then bonded them to disabled soldiers in emulation of Agent Venom, though because the symbiotes were left effectively braindead from the trauma of Scott's murder they weren't able to fully cover their hosts. Scorn also captures a surviving piece of the Carnage symbiote to be weaponized by the military.
- Child Eater: It's strongly implied that Carnage ate — or at least brutally murdered — Sherrif Eric Morrell's teenaged daughter Stephanie.
- Darkest Hour: The New Avengers sorely underestimate Carnage despite Spider-Man's warnings, resulting in them being taken over by offshoots of the symbiote — leaving only Spider-Man and a handful of civilians unaffected, outmatched, and outgunned until Agent Venom and the Mercury Team arrive.
- The Friend Nobody Likes: When Spider-Man suggests inviting the Thing to join the New Avengers' anti-Carnage squad, Hawkeye immediately tries to veto it — saying he can't stand Ben Grimm's "ever-lovin' blue-eyed" catchphrase and his constant invocation of his Aunt Petunia.
- Hive Mind: Carnage turns the entirety of Doverton into one under his control by infecting the citizens with offshoots of his symbiote under Cletus' control.
- Military Superhero:
- After Agent Venom went AWOL, the military began hunting for other symbiotes to weaponize and create super soldiers, recruiting Scorn (Tanis Nieves) and seeking to recruit Anti-Venom (Eddie Brock), Toxin (Patrick Mulligan), and Hybrid (Scott Washington). With Eddie being depowered in the wake of Spider-Island, and Scott and Patrick being dead with the Toxin symbiote unaccounted for, the military took the Hybrid symbiote and split it into the Lasher, Phage, Riot, and Agony symbiotes before bonding them to amputee soldiers.
- Realizing even the New Avengers are outgunned against the new and improved Carnage, Captain America fights Cletus' control through sheer force of will and sends a distress signal to alert AWOL Sym-Soldier — and Secret Avengers member — Agent Venom (Flash Thompson) to their predicament.
- Men Don't Cry: Invoked when Captain America countermands a soldier commanded to bomb Doverton into oblivion to stop Carnage, reducing him to tears with a few words and leaving the others wondering what Steve said to elicit that reaction.
- Sickening Slaughterhouse: Cletus poses as a slaughterhouse worker to infiltrate Doverton and gorge the Carnage symbiote on the cattle being processed in it, turning the place into a charnel house flooded by the symbiote's biomass.
- Take Our Word for It: Whatever it was that Captain America told the soldier ready to bomb Doverton that caused him to be reduced to tears and agree to a localized burn instead of annihilating the entire town.Captain America: What's your name, son?
Commander: Who is this?
'Captain America: What… is… your… name?
Pilot: Who took a chunk out of the commander? It sounded like he was crying…
- The Virus: Carnage sends offshoots of his symbiote through Doverton's sewer system, resulting in most of the city's residents being taken over and turned into his slaves. The New Avengers — save for Spider-Man — are also taken over when they underestimate Carnage.