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:
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 (20102011), written by Zeb Wells, with art by Clayton Crain, was a five-issue mini-series. It's about the return of Carnage after he had been ripped in half by the Sentry in space. It was followed up by Carnage U.S.A. (2011-2012), also by Zeb Wells and Clayton Crain, where Carnage experiments with his upgraded powers by using his symbiote to take over the city of Doverton, Colorado, forcing the New Avengers to stop him.
Carnage Vol 2 (20152017), 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: Black, White & Blood (2021) is collection of one-shots by various writers and artists, some being untold tales set in Earth-616 and others being alternate universe stories.
Carnage Vol 3 (2022-present), written by Ram V with art by Francesco Manna, is an upcoming series set to follow in the wake of Extreme Carnage and Carnage Forever, with the Carnage symbiote parting ways with Cletus Kasady's codex and claiming a new host to strike out on its own.
- 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.
- HeelFace 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.
- Mainlining the Monster: 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- Eddie Brock evidently took a leaf from Flash Thompson's costuming department, sculpting the Toxin symbiote into black-and-red body armor.
- Raze's symbiote mirrors the appearance of Claire Dixon's body armour.
- Black Speech: The text of the Darkhold and Chthon's dialogue are written in the eldritch language of the Cthulhu Mythos, enabling them to be parsed through a R'lyehian dictionary to provide a rough translation.Chthon: Shagg shogg chtenff, y'uln sgn'wahl-og! Y'uln sgn'wahl-og! note
Chthon: [to Jubulile] Mnahn'hlirgh kn'a? note
- Bizarrchitecture: The Temple of Chthon on the island was built using Lovecraftian non-euclidian geometry, and its lower levels contain a network of M. C. Escher-esque staircases.
- Brought Down to Normal: In preparation for him becoming Venom again, Eddie Brock gives the Toxin symbiote to Jubulile van Scotter.
- Bullying a Dragon: The Darkhold cultists and Broodlings of Chthon try to sacrifice Carnage to summon their eldritch god. Carnage returns the favour and succeeds where they failed.
- Cosmic Horror Story: Carnage Vol. 2 plunges Carnage, Toxin, Man-Wolf, and into Marvel's expy of the Cthulhu Mythos.
- Death Equals Redemption: Claire Dixon sacrifices herself to save her team from Carnage, invoking this trope when she refuses Eddie's suggestion to use the Darkhold to heal her.
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Jubulile does so pretty much literally, using her Darkhold-augmented symbiote to prevent Cthon from crossing over.
- Eldritch Abomination: Chthon — in contrast to his prior appearances as a black-cloaked grey-skinned humanoid entity — appears as a navy blue expy of Cthulhu.
- Eldritch Location: Carnage summoning Chthon turns the lower levels of Chthon's temple into an interstice between Earthspace and Chthon's prison-realm of K'lay, where the laws of physics have no sway.
- In a deviation from his past depictions, Chthon is depicted as an expy of Cthulhu and is referred to as a Great Old One in addition to an Elder God — which are treated synonymously.
- The Broodlings of Chthon are a species of Humanoid Abomination created by Chthon, being similar to the Deep Ones from the Cthulhu Mythos in both appearance and modus operandi.
- Incompatible Orientation: Eddie Brock develops a crush on Manuela Calderon, but it turns out that she's a lesbian and hooks up with Victoria Montesi.
- Lovecraft Lite: Despite Carnage succeeding in summoning Chthon, the good guys are able to punch him out with minimal losses.
- Magic Enhancement:
- After the Darkhold Cult tries to sacrifice Cletus Kasady to resurrect Chthon, the Carnage symbiote is altered and augmented by the eldritch magic of the Darkhold, replacing its weakness to sonics with a weakness to eldritch magic and giving it a modified version of its Asteroids Monster ability.
- After Jubulile assimilates the Toxin and Raze symbiotes in order to empower her own symbiote, Victoria Montesi uses the Darkhold to infuse her with psychic energy and blast Chthon with a beam of light magic.
- Not Quite Dead:
- Claire Dixon was presumed dead after the freighter she was on exploded. After being impaled by Carnage, she makes a comeback in Venom (Mike Costa).
- Despite apparently being vaporized by Jubulile, Chthon is revealed to have survived in Secret Empire.
- Although he appeared to be vaporized alongside his sibling Raze, Toxin managed to come back in King In Black.
- Psychic Link:
- As a result of being exposed to the Darkhold, Cletus is left with a psychic link to Chthon that enables him to read the eldritch script and compels him to journey to the Chthonic Temple to unleash the dark god.
- As a result of Jubulile van Scotter being infected with a Darkhold-augmented offshoot of the Carnage symbiote, she and Cletus Kasady can sense each others' presence and are forced to relive each others' memories.
- Power Incontinence: Before he gets the hang of his new mystical powers, Cletus' attempts to infect people with offshoots of his symbiote either kill the subjects outright or turn them into grotesque human-symbiote hybrids. Aside from the Darkhold cultists, Claire Dixon and Jubulile van Scotter are the only successful test subjects.
- More Than Mind Control: After Carnage is exposed to the power of the Darkhold, he slowly realizes that Chthon is manipulating him to escape his prison... and goes along with it because he wants to be responsible for the apocalypse and expects Chthon to reward him with godhood.
- Shout-Out: The chant used to summon Chthon is word-for-word identical to the chant used to summon Cthulhu in the Cthulhu Mythos, substituting "Chthon" for Cthulhu and "K'lay" for R'lyeh.
- Series Continuity Error:
- Prior comics had established the Midnight Sons as having been established by Doctor Strange to combat Lilith and the Lilin — being comprised of Ghost Rider (Danny Ketch), a depowered Johnny Blaze, Morbius, Louise Hastings, Victoria Montesi, Sam Buchanan, Blade, Frank Drake, and Hannibal King. Carnage Vol. 2 establishes the organization as being much larger and at least four decades older than previously established, with Victoria being a high-ranking member.
- Cletus had taken to referring to the Carnage symbiote with female pronouns after it gave birth to Toxin, but in this series he inexplicably reverts back to referring to it with male pronouns.
- The Elder Gods are described as being one-and-the-same with the Great Old Ones of the Cthulhu Mythos, with Chthon in particular being nigh-identical to Cthulhu. However, Cthulhu and the Great Old Ones already exist in the Marvel Universe, being affiliated with Shuma-Gorath and the Many-Angled Ones; and the Elder Gods were previously established as being something completely different.
- A misprint has Eddie state that Jubulile removed the Toxin symbiote from Claire Dixon, though Claire's symbiote was called Raze.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Claire Dixon makes it abundantly clear that she hates Eddie Brock and would like nothing more than to lock him up and throw away the key, recognizing that he's addicted to the power of the Toxin symbiote and refusing to unleash it unless as an absolute last resort; seeing him as a murderous sociopath little better than Carnage, and even trying to kill him alongside Carnage by collapsing the mine.
- Tome of Eldritch Lore: The Darkhold, a grimoire written by Aelfric the Mad Monk based on Cthonian scrolls and tablets, plays a significant role in the series' plot.
- Tragic Monster: After becoming Raze, Claire Dixon doesn't want to do Cletus's bidding, but being enslaved to his will causes her to undergo a Despair Event Horizon.
- Uncertain Doom: After Jubulile fries Chthon, her symbiote — which was merged with the Toxin and Raze symbiotes — evaporates into pink mist, leaving it unclear if any of them survived. Though Toxin appears a few years later in King In Black, Raze's survival is left in the air.
- Vague Age: Yuvraj Singh mentions Victoria Montesi was the same apparent age — her mid to late 30's — when he was a child as she is in the the present day, to Eddie Brock's incredulity.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Chthon callously discards Carnage the moment he's no longer needed, enraging Cletus, who thought he'd be rewarded for his services.