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Symbiote (comics)

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A Symbiote bonding with another life form
Publisher = Marvel Comics
Debut = The Amazing Spider-Man #252
Members = Venom
Carnage
Toxin
Powers = Symbiosis with a host provides increased strength, speed, and durability, gains characteristics of host, increases original powers of hosts

In the Marvel Comics universe, The Symbiote (often uncapitalized as symbiote) is a specific species of extraterrestrial organism. These Symbiotes are sometimes referred to as "living costumes" because of the way the amorphous creatures envelope their hosts and can act as clothing or a costume.

The first appearance of a symbiote occurs in The Amazing Spider-Man #252 in which Spider-Man brings one home to Earth after the Secret Wars (Secret Wars #8, which was released months later, details his first encounter with it). The concept was created by a Marvel Comics reader, with the publisher purchasing the idea for $220.00. The original design was then modified by Mike Zeck, becoming the Venom symbiote. The concept would be explored and used throughout multiple storylines, spin-off comics, and derivative projects.

Contents

Fictional biography

The backstory to the concept of the symbiotes has never been clearly established. However some stories have shown that their species existed for millions of years prior to the arrival of the Venom symbiote on Earth. It is implied that Galactus, devourer of worlds, consumed a world which they had taken over and where they had thrived, based on Carnage's reaction to the Silver Surfer, former herald of Galactus. It is shown through the Carnage symbiote that this was a world whose dominant life forms had been overrun by the marauding symbiotes, though whether or not it is the world on which the symbiotes originated is never clarified.

In Venom: Seed of Darkness #1, it is stated that when Krobaa was brought to Earth it bonded with the professor that had found him to acquire (through the symbiosis) knowledge of humanity to bring the information to a high galactic order that valued "diversity of mind above all else", but Krobaa was infected with the madness of the human mind. Attacking all living things claiming to feed on their fear (much like Dreadface) and only after Eddie Brock's camera flash had weakened him, Krobaa regained control of himself and committed suicide to save other planets from the "plague of madness."

The cover of Secret Wars #8, which details Spider-Man's first encounter with the black costume. Pencil art by Mike Zeck.

The mini-series Planet of the Symbiotes presents a different story (widely accepted as the canon story). Symbiotes were originally an unfeeling, conquering race, taking over any species they came in contact with to feed off their emotions; this mainly involved adrenaline rushes from death-defying feats and, as a consequence, the hosts tend to be short-lived. This was also evidenced in the Fantastic Four series, when a black cube (imprisoned by Devos the Devastator as a trophy of the most dangerous species he has ever faced) escapes and is revealed to be a sentient extraterrestrial symbiote (called Dreadface in the issue's title) that fuels (and then feeds off) the animosity between the Human Torch and the Thing before apparently being incinerated.

The Venom symbiote is the first permanent symbiote resident of Earth, brought by Spider-Man after the events of Secret Wars. It was later established that the Venom symbiote was considered crazy by its fellow parasites since it sought a mutual bond with a host rather than domination, and was imprisoned on a planet that later became part of Beyonder's Battleworld. Once on Earth, the Venom suit was bonded to Spider-Man for some time before being forced off onto Eddie Brock. Stung by the rejection, the symbiote came to hate the superhero and sought revenge with Brock. During this time, it spawned six children, its first child would later have two of its own. Brock would soon reform and spent a considerable amount of time trying to become a hero with the suit.

Though originally happy with Brock, for reasons not entirely clear, the symbiote gradually became increasingly possessive and abusive of him, eventually being sold off by Eddie. It is later revealed that it only stuck with him because of cancer of his adrenal glands. Its treatment of him late in their time together is somewhat inconsistent with the earlier depiction of the symbiote by writers. Since then, the Venom suit has gradually grown more and more monstrous and psychotic. It is currently bonded to Flash Thompson, who struggles to control it, but the symbiote has recently been shown to be developing some slight affection for him. This would suggest the host's mental state can affect the symbiote just as much as the other way around, as the Carnage symbiote is as psychotic as its host and the Venom suit's explosiveness got worse after bonding to its two hosts after Brock, both of which were career criminals. Likewise, the various symbiotes bonded to heroes are not shown to be as twisted, though they occasionally struggle with aggression.

Angel Medina claims he was reluctant to start work on Mighty Avengers because he was working on a Venom project, only to be told he would be drawing a story with "the Avengers vs. an alien invasion — by the Venoms." This story arc was later confirmed to be drawn by Mark Bagley, as Medina would be unavailable. Solicitations state that the New Avengers will also be part of this arc, themselves becoming infested by Symbiotes. New Avengers #34 revealed that Doctor Doom is responsible for dropping a "Venom Bomb" on New York that unleashes the Symbiotes. The story was completed in Mighty Avengers #8. Further backstory reveals that Doctor Doom collected a tiny sample of the symbiote's cells from the drone he had sent in earlier. Later, it is revealed that Kristoff Vernard actually orchestrated this so that Doom would be arrested for the event above.

Powers and abilities

Symbiotes empower the natural abilities of a host to the point where they far exceed that of normal members of the hosts' species. These abilities include the following:

  • Superhuman strength.
  • Superior speed and agility, enhances other physical attributes as well.
  • Enhanced durability and resistance to damage.
  • Genetic memory, recalling information from previous hosts.
  • Enhanced healing ability.
  • The ability to negate damage caused by terminal illnesses and permanent injuries, but not actually heal it. For example, Eddie Brock was able to survive indefinitely with terminal cancer, and Scott Washington was able to walk despite being paraplegic.
  • Can expand to any size as long as they have something to grow on such as a host or an object. Symbiotes can get inside of small areas such as electric wires and the insides of cars and completely disable them.
  • The symbiote also reacts to the thoughts and will of the host. When Spider-Man was originally selected, he had been thinking about Spider-Woman's costume in the Secret Wars. The symbiote acted on this and formed a similar costume, the one seen on him and Venom.

The following are functions that have been demonstrated from various hosts' wills (but are not limited to):

  • The ability to form fangs or simple bladed weapons out of their limbs.
  • The ability to form tendrils from their body
  • The ability to shape-shift, from mimicking clothing up to and including complete change of appearance, stature and bodily dimensions (since that symbiotes are living tesseracts).
  • The ability to stick to walls (adapted from Spider-Man).
  • The ability to produce webbing from its own mass (adapted from Spider-Man).
  • The Venom symbiote also has empathic abilities, and is able to project desires and needs into the thoughts of its host or potential hosts.

This ability can also aid Venom in detecting the truth from those he interrogates.

  • Can sense the presence of other beings within a certain distance.
  • Symbiote bonding protects the host from Ghost Rider's penance stare.
  • Venom and its descendants all possess the ability to bypass the Spider-Sense (because the original symbiote was attached to Peter first, it took his genetic information and spider-powers. This means that the symbiote attacking Peter would essentially be Peter attacking himself, which wouldn't set off his Spider-Sense; during the Clone Saga, this became complicated, as Venom did set off Ben Reilly's Spider-Sense, but Carnage did not).
  • The ability to create storage portals inside of them (this created easy access to Peter's camera).
  • Each symbiote has their own unique ability, such as Carnage being able to see from every direction of his body (this is similar to Spider-Man's spider sense).
  • In some realities, Venom's symbiote has been shown to be able to replicate.

Weaknesses

Symbiotes were naturally weakened by intense sounds and intense heat - especially large fires. Additionally, in some stories and games, (mostly mentioned in the 2000 Spider-Man game), they are also weakened by magnesium but that is probably because magnesium added to Spider-Man's webbing made it burn. However as each new symbiote has spawned a child, a natural evolution seems to not only increase their strengths, but also reduce their weaknesses. Even already existing symbiotes can mutate and develop these resistances. Still, there has not been an invulnerable symbiote in mainstream continuity, because the newest breeds can be harmed by incredible amounts of sonic waves and heat. Also in the mainstream Marvel Universe, symbiotes are vulnerable to the heat produced by high voltage electricity.

There are other weaknesses as well. Iron Man managed to create an antidote formula that could destroy a 'symbiote' (it should be noted that these were actually just a virus-like biological organisms created by Doctor Doom originally based on the 'Venom' symbiote and were specially made as a Bio-weapon). With Venom and Carnage, authorities have been able to keep the symbiotes in check with a chemical inhibitor. The criminal Styx nearly killed the Venom symbiote with his lethal touch. Whether a symbiote can mutate and reduce the effect of these weaknesses is unknown, although Carnage claimed to have developed invulnerability to sonics. Also, when a symbiote bonded with Wolverine, it was pushed out by his advanced healing factor, although Wolverine's healing factor had no use when he was bonded to a clone of the Venom symbiote.

In some incarnations, the symbiote is depicted as requiring a certain chemical (most likely phenethylamine) to stay sane and healthy, which has been said to be found abundantly in two sources: chocolate and human brain tissue. Thus, the host is forced to steal/buy large amounts of chocolate or become an unwilling cannibal who devours the brains of those he kills. This peculiar trait has only been witnessed in the Venom symbiote. However, both Carnage and Toxin have threatened their enemies with aspirations to "eating their brains", as well as various other body parts. When Toxin teamed up with Spider-Man and Black Cat, he struggled to keep himself together, telling Spider-Man that he was only "joking" about eating the robbers' brains.

On at least one occasion, Spider-Man was able to exhaust the symbiote by taking advantage of the fact that it made its webbing out of itself; after the symbiote had already used a great deal of webbing to bind him to a bell, Spider-Man forced the symbiote to use further webbing so that it would exhaust itself like blood dripping from a wound (Although the sheer amount of webbing that the symbiote would need to use for this weakness to be exploited makes its use in a fight limited).

List of Symbiotes

Central symbiotes

The following symbiotes have appeared throughout several years of Spider-Man's history, appeared in multiple mediums such as film and video games and were main characters/villains in story arcs.

Name First appearance Description
Venom The Amazing Spider-Man #299 (April 1988) Initially introduced in Marvel Superheroes Secret War #8, merged with Spider-Man, and notably Eddie Brock and MacDonald "Mac" Gargan. Flash Thompson is currently the host for the symbiote.
Carnage The Amazing Spider-Man #361 (April 1992) A child-spawn of Venom bonded to serial-killer, Cletus Kasady. This spawn was eventually reabsorbed into Venom. After losing his symbiote, Kasady discovers a similar symbiote in the Negative Zone and again became Carnage.
Anti-Venom The Amazing Spider-Man #569 (October 2008) Created when remnants of the Venom symbiote in Eddie Brock's body were combined with his white blood cells by the mystical energies of Mister Negative. Anti-Venom possesses the ability to "heal" people by removing contaminants from their body such as disease, radiation and drugs and can interfere with the powers of certain superhumans. His touch is corrosive to symbiotes. The Anti-Venom costume itself is technically not a symbiote, as it is non-sentient. Eddie Brock is in complete control of his powers.

Minor symbiotes

Name First appearance Description
Dreadface Fantastic Four #360 (January 1992) A symbiote capable of mind-controlling subjects by touch. The alien was captured aboard the ship of Devos the Devastator but escaped during an altercation between Devos and the Fantastic Four. Dreadface is presumed destroyed.
Scream Venom: Lethal Protector #4 (May 1993) In an attempt to create "super-cops" to police their new Utopia, the Life Foundation probed the Venom symbiote and extracted the last five of its "seeds" - the materials used to create spawn. These were cultured and bonded to five of the Life Foundation's best security personnel to form the Guardians. Carl Mach, Trevor Cole, Ramon Hernandez (Lasher) and Leslie Gesneria were all murdered by Scream (Donna Diego) after she decided that symbiotes were evil; the murdered guards symbiotes combining to create Hybrid. Scream later reformed and is presumably still active, identified as an unregistered "Enemy Combatant" during Civil War.

In the original comics none of the symbiotes were given names. However in the Venom: Planet of the Symbiotes toy line the yellow symbiote was named Scream and the green symbiote was named Lasher. The toyline also featured a four armed purple symbiote named Riot that did not feature in the comics.

Lasher
orange symbiote
pink symbiote
gray symbiote
Hybrid Venom: Along Came A Spider #1 (January 1996) The character was introduced as the fusion of the 'Life Foundation symbiotes', bonded to prison guard Scott Washington. Current status unknown, identified as a "potential recruit" for the Initiative program.
Krobaa Venom: Seed of Darkness #1 (July 1997) A Symbiote that came to earth, apparently alerted to its presence by the experiments of Dr. Nigel Donlevy. He bonded with Donlevy, but the darkness in Donlevy's soul drove Krobaa insane. He went on a violent rampage until Daily Globe reporter Eddie Brock intervened. Surmising that a creature of living darkness would be vulnerable to light, Brock began taking pictures of Krobaa; the flash shocked Krobaa out of his madness. Unwilling to unleash the madness of humanity on his race, Krobaa killed himself, crumbling into black dust.
Toxin Venom Vs. Carnage #2 (September 2004) A spawn of Carnage that bonded with police officer Patrick Mulligan, becoming a hero.
Payback True Believers (September 2008) Bonded to a more evolved cousin of normal race of symbiotes. Is currently a vigilante and head of the True Believers.
ZZZXX X-Men: Kingbreaker #2 (March 2009) He is a unique brain-eating member of the Symbiote species that was discovered several years ago by Shi'ar Emperor D'Ken. Unlike other symbiotes, ZZZXX didn't bother to ask permission or care to know his host.
Scorn Carnage #5 (August 2011) Originally a piece of Carnage recovered after his apparent destruction by Sentry. The piece was used to develop an advanced prosthetic arm used by Dr. Tanis Nieves. After she rejected its attempt to bond with her, it became attached to Shriek but grew fearful of her. Dr. Nieves accepted its desire to return to her and bonded with the symbiote to become Scorn.

Other versions

Ultimate symbiotes

Venom, as depicted in Ultimate Spider-Man #38 (May, 2003). Art by Mark Bagley.

In the Ultimate Spider-Man universe, the symbiote has vastly changed. The fathers of Peter Parker and Eddie Brock Jr. had created the suit as a protoplasmic cure for cancer. The first stage would be to cover the host's body and eliminate a disease in the patient's body. Stage Two would involve the suit enhancing the wearer's strength and natural abilities. The suit was unfinished as Bolivar Trask stole the project from the scientists, but Eddie Brock Sr. saved a small sample for his son to find. Peter Parker first tried the suit on and ended up with the well-known black suit, which vastly increases his strength and agility, allowed him to heal from gunshot wounds, and use part of the protoplasm to make "webs". Though Peter could easily create 'webs' from both his hands and fingers, Eddie has only been shown to shoot webs in the comics, while in the games, Venom was shown to be restricted to creating protoplasmic tentacles. It seems as if the only weakness of the suit is extreme voltage of electricity, as it absorbed the Shocker's vibrations with no trouble; in fact, Peter found them relaxing. When the suit began to influence him mentally, making him hallucinate, Peter used electricity to get the suit off him before it merged with him permanently. It almost killed him, which goes to show the strength and attachment between the two. When "worn" by a being other than Peter Parker, such as Eddie Brock, the host is compelled to seek out and devour other human beings or else be consumed by the suit itself.

Carnage later appears as a parasite genetically engineered by Curt Conners from Peter's DNA. Because parts of the Venom suit still existed in Peter's blood, the lifeform has many of the same gelatinous properties of its predecessor, though it usually maintained a solid form due to having Peter's memories. Like the Venom suit it goes around devouring people (though it does not require a host), including Gwen Stacy. It attempts to absorb Peter to become whole, but is thrown into a fire stack during their fight and killed. It later reappears in the form of Gwen Stacy, and during an encounter with Venom, the latter absorbs the Carnage suit into itself, leaving behind a normal and healthy Gwen clone, and making Venom "complete" though more monstrous than ever before. At this point it appears that the Venom suit no longer needs to feed.

In other media

Television

Carnage in Spider-Man: The Animated Series.
  • In Spider-Man: The Animated Series, the symbiote is brought to earth by John Jameson. In this continuity, bonding with the symbiote makes Spider-Man more powerful and aggressive than usual (an effect that is later displayed in the third film, Ultimate Comics, and the Spectacular Spider-Man series). Just like in the comics, after Spider-Man rejects the symbiote it bonds with Eddie Brock and becomes Venom. Venom is introduced in the series in the season one episodes series "The Alien Costume". Venom is brought back along with his offspring, Carnage in the two part episodes "Venom Returns" and "Carnage". In these episodes it shows Eddie Brock's more heroic side. Due to being a Saturday morning cartoon, instead of killing people Carnage absorbs the life force out of people. In the show finale episode of "Spider Wars", Spider-Man faces an parallel version of himself bonded with the Carnage symbiote called Spider-Carnage and tries to stop him from destroying all dimensions.
  • In Spider-Man Unlimited, billed as a sequel to the 1994 series, Venom and Carnage have mutated into more monstrous forms, completely taking control of their hosts and being able to completely liquify at any time. They journey to Counter Earth, making contact with "The Synoptic", a group of symbiotes who had bonded with the dinosaurs of Counter Earth prior to their extinction, and were forced underground until the present day. The Synoptic symbiotes are depicted as small yellow creatures that attach themselves to their victims upper body, not covering them completely, as Venom and Carnage's do. Part of the show's plot involves the two trying to unleash The Synoptic on the planet's populace, which they do in the show's final scenes, though it ends on an unresolved cliffhanger.
Venom in The Spectacular Spider-Man.
  • The symbiote appeared in the final arc of season one of The Spectacular Spider-Man, resembling the movie version in its initial appearance, but changing to resemble the comic-book version. The symbiote enhanced Spider-Man's original abilities and produced organic webbing, but also influenced his decision-making processes, making him more aggressive to the point where he took up a job offer from Tombstone, and taking control of his body and fighting the Sinister Six while he was asleep, almost killing Doctor Octopus. In the episode "Intervention'", Peter realized that the symbiote was affecting his personality, signified by Peter wearing a black T-shirt formed from the symbiote and referring to himself as "we" instead of "I", and attempted to divulge it from his body using a church bell. The symbiote was detached from Peter when he drew strength from his memories of Uncle Ben, and Peter placed the symbiote back in its holding cell and tried to kill it by freezing it, although it survived. The symbiote bonded to Eddie Brock, who shared the same resentment for Spider-Man, because Eddie blames Peter for losing his job, and they became Venom. As Venom, they would appear in the season finale, "Nature vs. Nurture", where Peter separated the symbiote from Eddie by using its lingering attachment for him and burying it in cement. In season 2, Eddie reclaimed the symbiote and appears as Venom in the episode "First Steps", where he tried to frame Spider-Man in the episode "Growing Pains," and then tries to reveal Spider-Man's identity as Peter Parker to the whole world in "Identity Crisis."

In the South Park Episode, "Imagination Land" a Symbiote creature which appears like a red venom can be seen in the crowd

Film

  • The Symbiote appears as the main antagonist in Spider-Man 3. As in the comics, the symbiote attaches itself to Spider-Man first, but instead of giving him his classic black costume (like in the comics), it gives his red & blue costume a new, black color, with his usual webbing pattern on it and a slightly different spider symbol. After Spider-Man discovers the symbiote's true nature and realizes that it seeks to bond with him completely and take over his life, he separates himself from the symbiote by tearing off his black costume in an active church bell-tower. The symbiote then moves to Eddie Brock, Jr., and the merger becomes Venom. The symbiote is revealed to have crashed down to Earth via a meteorite and clung onto the back of Peter's moped at the very start of the film, before their bonding. Venom appears similar to the comic book version, but with a disorganized web-pattern on his costume. He is also not as muscular as his comic counterpart. Instead, Venom is slightly more powerful than the moderate build of Spider-Man. He fires webbing from the top of his hands, as in the comics, but his webbing is black in color and resembles barbed wire. The Symbiote is also seen crawling across the ground, rather than flowing like liquid as its comic counterpart does. In the Spider-Man 3 novelization by Peter David, the symbiote forms into a large and hostless Venom-like creature that grows from Eddie's remains and grows around the construction site pulling itself upwards. Here it attempts to rebond itself to Spider-Man. In the film, Dr. Curtis Connors analyzes a small sample of the symbiote at Peter's request. While he has no idea precisely what it is, he notes that it is similar to a symbiote and upon further testing, and later reveals to Peter that the substance amplifies the darker qualities of its host, specifically aggression.

Video games

  • In the arcade title Spider-Man: The Video Game, after the defeat of Dr. Doom, the final boss fight consists of a battle against an infinite number of Doom-created symbiote clones. All the clones can be killed, but there is one "prime clone" with much more life. Defeating this clone is the only way to win.
  • The video game Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage is based on the comic book crossover "Maximum Carnage" that introduced Carnage.
  • The symbiote family are major characters in the video game Venom/Spider-Man: Separation Anxiety.
  • Venom, Scream and Carnage all appear as bosses in Spider-Man: The Animated Series. Scream never appeared on the show, despite being in the game.
  • In the first PlayStation Spider-Man game, Doc Ock and Carnage team up to try and unleash a symbiote army onto the whole city. The spawned symbiotes are host-less clones of the Carnage symbiote and pink in color, and serve as the strongest non-boss enemies. Venom also appears in a supporting role, and his symbiote is an unlockable costume for Spider-Man. The final segment of the game features Spider-Man escaping from "Monster Ock"; the result of the Carnage symbiote melding with Doctor Octopus. The symbiote is apparently killed when engulfed in an explosion.
  • In Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, the black suit appears as an unlockable alternate costume for Spider-Man along with Scarlet Spider and Tony Stark's "Iron-Spider" costume from the Civil War storyline. The Eddie Brock version of Venom also appears as a DLC playable character in the Xbox 360 version.
  • In the Spider-Man 3 video game, along with Venom, Shriek and Morbius appear. Shriek's powers come from a symbiote in this game which is also black in color. However the symbiote only covers half of her body. She apparently had an attraction to Spider-Man in his black suit, most likely due to her being affected with another symbiote. This is only found on the Wii/PS2 versions of the game.
  • In the Ultimate Spider-Man video game both Venom and Carnage are major characters.
  • In the video game Spider-Man: Friend or Foe, Venom is a playable character and boss. Carnage is also playable on the PSP version. The Game revolves around collecting shards from the meteor that brought the Venom Symbiote to earth. The shards are used by Mysterio in tandem with his solid light holographic technology and Nano Tech to create P.H.A.N.T.O.M.'s (short for Perpetual Holographic Avatar Nano-Tech Offensive Monsters) in a plot to take over the world. After the game is completed Nick Fury states that he plans to use Mysterio's ideal to create an army of super soldiers codenamed project: CARNAGE.
  • In Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, Venom returns to New York to send and unleash an invasion of cloned symbiotes to rule the city. During a fight with Venom, the symbiote suddenly reproduces and the spawn bonds with Spider-Man creating a replica of the Black Suit, but with considerably more Carnage-like abilities such as projecting bladed tentacles. Over the course of the game, Venom creates symbiote 'seed-pods' in various locations around the city which absorb passing civilians and infect them with various types of symbiote ranging from Snatcher Symbiotes (the small black Symbiotes that drag unsuspecting victims to the 'seed-pods'), Zombie Symbiotes (the weak white Symbiotes), Berserker Symbiotes (the red shiny Symbiotes), Grappler Symbiotes (black and red versions of the Berserkers), and Slasher Symbiotes (the white and pink Symbiotes). The Symbiotes even manage to infect Electro, Vulture, Black Cat and Wolverine. Symbiote-Electro and Symbiote-Vulture go on to spawn other symbiotes with powers similar to their hosts resulting in Electrolings and Vulturelings. All are eventually defeated by Spider-Man and the symbiotes are separated from them.
  • In Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2, The Mac Gargan version of Venom is part of the story and is playable after a certain point. Carnage is available via a DLC.
  • In Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, Ultimate Spider-Man in his symbiote suit is a playable character, Madame Web having restored the black suit as it provides this world's Peter Parker with additional abilities that he will require to succeed in his mission while she uses her psychic abilities to prevent the suit attempting to take over his mind though it does effect his temper. Also, Ultimate Carnage appears as the final boss in the Ultimate levels here granted the ability to reanimate it's victims into symbiotic zombie-like creatures thanks to the powers of a fragment of the Tablet of Order and Chaos.
  • In Spider-Man: Edge of Time, it is revealed that a brainwashed Anti-Venom is responsible for killing present day Spider-Man, altering the future of the Marvel 2099 timeline and prompting Spider-Man 2099 to tamper with the timeline further in order to save his predecessor's life and repair the timestream.

Attractions

  • Scream appears as one of the villains in Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man ride.

References

External links