Even casual comics fans know the basics about the Venom symbiote: It bonds with living hosts, it gave Spider-Man his awesome black suit, and it’s responsible for all of the worst parts of director Sam Raimi’s third outing with the webslinger.
But that thing has lots and lots of powers, and they aren’t all obvious. Sure, the sentient goo gives its wearer super-strength, enhanced movement via unlimited webbing or swingy tentacles (depending on who’s wearing it), and a weird habit of referring to themselves in the first-person plural. But that’s not all; the symbiote also has some other, more sneaky abilities, some of which don’t even require it to be attached to anyone.
Here are 15 Powers You Didn’t Know Venom Had.
15. Power cloning
The symbionts — whose proper name is the Klyntar — can manifest any abilities of their current or former hosts, which means they have access to a huge variety of powers.
Venom’s exposure to Spider-Man lets him climb on walls. And while most versions of Peter Parker made his own hardware for shooting webs, the symbiote provided “black-suit” Spider-Man with an unlimited supply of the stuff that came from the creature itself, which is actually kind of gross if you think about it too much. The alien liked the idea so much that it kept the ability when it joined with Eddie Brock.
But if we follow this logic, that means that by now, the being has accumulated an impressive arsenal of superpowers from everyone it’s come into contact with. Those characters include the Guardians of the Galaxy’s Drax the Destroyer, Rocket Raccoon, and Groot, as well as Ghost Rider, Red Hulk, Ms. Marvel, and Deadpool. That means it can fly, control plants, and probably has a dense coat of underfur to keep it warm in the winter months.
We aren’t entirely sure why the Venom symbiote is so attached to the black get-up, other than that it debuted in the mid-’80s, and black was just starting to be super cool again. The fact is that the suit can mimic any clothing at all, which is why it went for a Spider-Man-style look for its first outing and why Agent Venom has more of a military look.
But when Brock wasn’t Venom-ing, he could hardly walk around New York in a conspicuous, black outfit. Best to leave that to Black Cat, Blade, Black Panther, The Punisher, Black Widow, early Daredevil, and pretty much all of the X-Men.
Actually, the black suit might be better camouflage on its own than we thought, but the fact remains that Brock doesn’t necessarily want people to know that he’s the one killing muggers and delivering epic, spiteful monologues about how much Spider-Man sucks. And he’s physically bonded to the symbiote, so it’s not like it can go hang out in a jar or something during the day. Instead, it mimics normal clothes, but it can’t resist a black T-shirt, presumably for branding reasons.
Since the symbiote can match texture and color patterns, it isn’t even limited to clothing; it can also blend in with its environment like an octopus. A man-sized octopus that is made of its own ink, but an octopus nonetheless.
13. Immunity to Spider-Sense (and more)
Spider-Man’s built-in early warning system operates mostly independently of his other senses, warning him of impending danger and triggering his superhuman reflexes before he sees or hears it coming. And while that isn’t a trait that we associate with spiders as we know them, it is pretty handy.
But because Webhead hosted the alien symbiote before it joined with Eddie Brock, neither Venom nor his “descendants,” Carnage and Toxin, trigger the alert. And we don’t quite understand how that works, either, but we’re also talking about one guy who gained superpowers from a spider bite and a puddle of thinking, reasoning gloop from space, so we’ll go ahead and keep our disbelief suspended.
Venom has his own version of the ability, and it’s not due to the symbiote’s previous contact with Spidey. It’s just another benefit of having a suit that’s aware of its surroundings covering one’s entire body. The creature has full knowledge of its surroundings, and its connection to Brock lets it communicate threats and courses of action to its host almost instantaneously. But it doesn’t come with wavy lines that shoot out of Venom’s head to show us it’s working, so that’s just not as cool.
And if that’s not impressive enough for you, Venom is also impervious to Ghost Rider’s finishing move, the Penance Stare. This is an all-powerful attack that can have whatever effect the writer and plot demand of it. It’s basically the superpower equivalent of Doctor Who’s sonic screwdriver – and the symbiote can just laugh it off.
12. T-1000-style body morphing into weapons
We most associate this skill with the Venom symbiote’s even crazier offspring, Carnage, but recent host Eugene “Flash” Thompson also takes some fighting cues from the villain of Terminator 2.
Thompson received the symbiote when he became “Agent Venom,” a supersoldier for the U.S. government whose awesome, alien suit comes with both symbiote-formed legs to replace the ones he lost in combat and a cocktail of drugs intended to keep the hostile being from completely taking over his body. The Army also gives him some cool guns to use for spreading the freedom around, but the suit does its share of the fighting.
Since it’s bulletproof, it can take on most of what the soldier’s targets can throw at it, and that also means it can form shields to protect both Thompson and anyone he might be escorting instead of shooting in the face. And during close-quarters fights, the suit even forms shapes like axes and knives. It may be a bit Green Lantern of Agent Venom, but that’s like a whole different multiverse, so he probably has no idea. The point is that it looks pretty cool and would probably kill you.
11. Acid Excretion
When the Venom symbiote joins up with the ludicrously named Kron Stone in the 2099 universe — which features future versions of modern heroes and villains — it had learned a few new tricks. And one of them sounds awfully familiar to sci-fi fans.
It seems Venom took some inspiration from those other black, slimy cosmic monsters, the Xenomorphs from the Alien series, and it evolved up some corrosive acid blood and saliva. While bonded with Stone, Venom uses these new abilities to take on the Spider-Man of that era, Miguel O’Hara. The two of them are long-lost half-brothers, but Stone never discovers this, and it wouldn’t have helped things anyway because he’d been bullying O’Hara for most of their lives, anyway.
10. Oxygen Synthesis
A host is no use to the symbiote if it dies, so the creature will do everything it can to keep it alive. This includes complex things like keeping Eddie Brock’s cancer under control and comparitively basic things like helping him survive underwater.
Soon after the beginning of his conflict with Spider-Man, Venom and the superhero have an epic battle across the city. This takes them all the way to the waterfront, where Spidey attempts to lose his adversary in the river. But Brock and his alien buddy just dive right in, and the symbiote does something weird where it maybe becomes the river or something? Spider-Man doesn’t quite understand it, either, other than that it’s “emulating” the water. His more immediate concern, however, is that Venom, unlike himself, is not about to drown, so he has to get out of there pretty quickly.
We can think of a couple ways this might work. Either the suit filters oxygen out of the water like a fish and then feeds it directly into Brock’s bloodstream somehow, or it builds some kind of filtration system across his airways that keeps the liquid from filling his lungs. Both options are pretty gross, really, but we wouldn’t turn them down if the moment arose.
9. Temporary Cancer Treatment
When Eddie Brock first met the Venom symbiote, he was at the end of an already transitional period in his life. He lost his journalism job thanks to an exposé he wrote outing a serial killer that Spider-Man eventually proved false, and he lost his wife and family to his subsequent fixation and obsession with destroying the wallcrawler. But even before all that, he learned that he was in the late stages of terminal adrenal cancer and only had months to live.
When he joins with the suit, however, it somehow manages to keep the cancer in check. We’re not sure how it does that, but we’re sure that insane, alien goop that needs a living host to survive will find a way to make it happen. Especially if it means that it and the host will have that much more time to talk about how much Spider-Man ruined their lives.
8. Shooting off parts of itself to crawl inside of people and smother them
Venom’s also pretty fond of stretching parts of himself over his victims like plastic bags to smother them, but we think that this method of killing them is more disturbing by far.
When Marvel re-imagined the once villainous Eddie Brock as an anti-hero in 1993, the first thing we see him do is stop a daylight mugging in progress. And by “stop,” we mean that he grabs the assailant by the throat, throws him against a wall, and then offers a few choice words before he puts some murder on him.
“You make us sick!” Venom cries as thin tendrils of black goo emerge from his hand.
And then, before anyone present (or the readers) fully understands what’s about to happen to him, those threads plunge into the bad guy’s mouth and nose.
7. Hearing the voice of the cosmos
After Agent Venom’s tour ends, he steals the symbiote and runs off into space with the Guardians of the Galaxy. The whole point of this trip is that the alien’s race, the Klyntar, are calling to it. Things get a little complicated on the way, but eventually, Venom makes it home, and its people “cleanse” it of the insanity it suffered after all that contact with crazy humans.
With the symbiote purified, Thompson and his “partner” take off on new adventures in the hilarious Venom: Space Knight series. And as a galaxy-faring do-gooder, Venom hears voices. But they aren’t the ones he’s used to (i.e. the voice of the suit telling him to murder everyone); in fact, he’s in touch with the “voice of the cosmos,” which is kind of like the Force from Star Wars, but it doesn’t bind everything together so much as tell Venom where he’s needed.
6. Ability to take on a humanoid form on its own
Another ability the Venom symbiote gains after its rejuvenation is the slightly strange power of walking around independently of Flash. It can do so for about 12 hours before it has to revert to liquid form — kind of like Constable Odo on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine — but in the meantime, it and its host can have conversations and talk about their relationship. And it’s not weird at all.
Flash discovers this ability after returning from an away mission that required him to leave his suit behind and don some power armor. When he got back, the Klyntar was flying the ship, which was surely among the last things Thompson expected to see when he returned.
But after that, he ends up fighting alongside a gigantic, panda-like alien in an extraterrestrial arena designed to train a warlord’s army to take over the universe, so it wasn’t even the strangest thing he’d seen that day. The life of a space knight takes a lot of twists and turns, it seems.
5. Gleeful cannibalism
This isn’t necessarily a superpower, but it is surely a remarkable ability.
By the time the Venom symbiote bonded with criminal Mac Gargan (who was, himself, a supervillain called Scorpion), it had been through a lot. Apparently, all that time murdering criminals with Eddie Brock, along with a brief period during which a U.S. Senator kidnapped and tortured it, took a toll on the alien’s mental well-being. Its bloodlust got so bad that Brock eventually rejected the symbiote and sold it at a supervillain auction like an old death ray. And it fetched $100 million, in case you were wondering how much a living puddle will set you back.
The new Venom was less a partnership between alien and human and more like one of those things where a mass of alien goo drags the person it lives on around so that it can eat people. You know, that old trope.
4. Super teeth
One of the first things Eddie Brock did when he became Venom was to sculpt the suit’s trademark giant mouth, tongue, and teeth. This was partly to make sure nobody thought he was the hated Spider-Man, but it also provides some tactical advantages. Those chompers can do some damage.
You may not be surprised to know that the villain packs a venomous bite — that’s right there in his name, and it explains the green saliva he’s constantly getting all over the place. But one incident in particular reveals the surprising power of his chewers.
For a time, Venom allied himself with the Sinister Six, a team-up of supervillains that was the exact opposite of the Spider-Man Fan Club. But every group has a wild card, and they should have realized it would be the one who refers to himself as “we” and whose speech bubbles are black and jagged. Eventually, the symbiote starts attacking his former teammates, including Sandman. And that’s when the teeth come in.
Or, rather, that’s when the teeth go in because during their fight, Venom casually goes low and bites a huge chunk out of his opponent who, let us remind you, is made of living sand. That’s right: Venom is so crazy that he’ll eat sand if he thinks it will end a fight quicker. Or maybe he was just hungry; we don’t know.
The chunk of Sandman he noms out is big enough that it affects the poor guy’s ability to maintain a solid shape. Either that, or you can poison sand. Regardless, Sandman’s pretty much done after that.
3. Becoming a car
Things only get weirder for these last few entries, but this one is the least bizarre of them, so that should give you some idea of what’s you’re about to read.
During Agent Venom’s search for a crime boss, he loses track of some thugs escaping in a car. Deciding he needs his own wheels to catch up, he sees an old, rusted-out junker just sitting in an alley (where do you keep yours?) and gets what we’re sure he thinks is the most awesome idea he’s ever had. But we’re sorry, Flash: it’s a little lame. Especially since we already know that the symbiote has unlimited webbing and can do just about anything else.
Applying the same logic that gave him his legs back, Agent Venom envelops the vehicle, and so the “Venom-Mobile” exists for a single, baffling panel, just long enough for Thompson to crash through a wall and turn back into his humanoid form.
2. Creating a huge mouth on his stomach
Venom manifests this ability out of necessity during the episode of the Spectacular Spider-Man animated series called “Nature vs. Nurture.” The hero grows tired of hearing Brock’s ceaseless smack-talking — which we understand, since comics readers get to hear every though that goes through Spider-Man’s head, and that can get old sometimes — and fwips up some webbing to close his enemy’s literally big mouth.
But Venom isn’t done yet, so he sprouts another trash-talker (complete with creepy teeth) in the middle of his belly to keep the hate train rolling. And we find that pretty disturbing once we think about it. Since the suit is form-fitting for anyone who wears it, what happens to Eddie’s real, physical gut when that thing opens up?
And what exactly are the tactical purposes for such a maneuver, other than telling your sworn enemy how awesome your vengeance will be? We can think of one, actually, but it’s very specific and only worked in John Carpenter’s The Thing. And we’re pretty sure Spider-Man wouldn’t fall for that trick.
1. Accessing the internet
We know what you’re thinking: Most people can access the internet. That’s how you’re all reading this in the first place. But in one 1995 storyline, both Venom and his evil kid, Carnage, take things one ridiculous step further.
In the mid ’90s, not even comic-book nerds were sure how the internet and computers worked. And that’s the only excuse we can think of for the contents of the fourth issue of Venom: Carnage Unleashed, the volume and issue we’re including so you know that we aren’t just making this up. It’s about an online video game based on Carnage — not to be confused with the excellent, real-life beat-em-up Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage, which came out in 1994 — that is, in fact, a plot for the even-more-evil symbiote to murder a lot of people.
And how does he plan to do that? By using his esoteric goo powers to transmit himself through the internet and murder the people playing his game. Obviously.
Venom finds out about this and follows suit, and the two of them end up having a giant fight on the huge screen in New York’s Times Square. The slightly-more-good gloop alien ultimately wins by taking out the special heat sink and fan in the computer they’re battling in, even though we think they’re supposed to be electricity at this point or something. Anyway, this makes it too hot for Carnage to stick around, so he leaves the system.
And that’s pretty much it for that ability, so that was fun for the single issue in which it exists. And by “fun,” we mean “incredibly convoluted and nonsensical,” but comics do that a lot.