After they were introduced as the reason behind Spider-Man‘s slick new threads, the alien symbiote Venom and the rest of his species have been a comic mainstay ever since. Venom is debatable the most recent entry of truly iconic and recognizable Spider-Man villains, comfortably rubbing shoulders with the likes of Doctor Octopus and the Green Goblin, both of whom the web-head had been fighting for over two decades before the man in black came into the picture.
The symbiotes’ evergreen popularity over the past few decades has led to countless appearances, spinoffs, merchandise, video games and even a theme park attraction. With such a rich and storied history, there are probably some juicy tidbits and factoids about the symbiotes that you’ve missed. Allow us to step in and present the 16 Things You Didn’t Know About The Symbiotes.
16. It took seven months for the black suit to be discovered as sentient
In May 1984, it was revealed that Spider-Man had a new suit for the go-go eighties. The cover of Amazing Spider-Man #252 confirmed that “the rumors were true” and featured the new black suited Spidey swinging on a web and carrying two terrified civilians in an homage to the cover of Amazing Fantasy #15. That same month, Spider-Man joined forces with Daredevil in Marvel Team-Up #141 with his new look. The change was received poorly by fans, who bombarded Marvel HQ with demands that the suit be changed back to the classic red and blue.
Partly because of the fan feedback, Marvel concocted an idea to rid Peter of the suit. The black suit’s origin was detailed in December’s Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #8, a whole seven months after the suit’s initial debut. It was revealed that it was an alien lifeform that had bonded with Peter after he had mistaken it for a fabric replicator to repair his damaged suit. Once he learned the true nature of the suit, Parker rejected it, leaving the newly resentful symbiote to find its way to the equally bitter Eddie Brock, creating everyone’s favorite slavering alien beast, Venom.
15. The black suit started as a fan idea
Back in the ’80s, Marvel Comics ran a competition to get any budding writers and artists to send their work in and have it evaluated. A 22-year old guy named Randy Schueller sent in the idea of a new black stealth suit for Spidey. He proposed that the suit be made out of the same unstable molecules as the Fantastic Four‘s suits, allowing him to stick to walls better and lurk in the shadows more easily. Schueller’s original idea was that Janet van Dyne aka The Wasp would be the designer, and that it would have a blood red spider symbol on the chest and be complete with the classic Steve Ditko underarm webbing.
Editor-in-chief James Shooter loved the idea and bought it from Schueller, even offering him the chance to write the entire story. Schueller’s scripts didn’t work out, however, and the idea was apparently shelved. But as we now know, the black suit made its blockbusting debut two years later, rocking the now-iconic white spider symbol. When the Secret Wars Venom plotline was revealed, Schueller is quoted as saying he was “disturbed” by it – “I was never a fan of the costume-turned-villain idea. Give me the classic Ditko villains any day!”
14. The origin of the symbiotes was not established until 30 years after their debut
It seems unlikely that the true origin of the ultra-popular symbiotes was never explored in any proper detail until recently, but that’s exactly how it went down. In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 #23, writer Brian Michael Bendis was tasked with giving the symbiotes a concrete backstory. The Guardians ended up visiting the symbiote homeworld and learning some interesting things about them in their journey.
For starters, the proper name for both their home planet and species is Klyntar. The biggest revelation, however, was the fact that the Klyntar are a peaceful and benign species, looking to bond with worthy creatures, both morally and physically, to create warriors to fight for noble peacekeeping causes . If they bond with unsuitable hosts, the symbiote becomes corrupted by evil and turns them bloodthirsty. This is the reason given as to why corrupted, feral Klyntar like Venom and Carnage exist. It also serves as an explanation as to why Spider-Man didn’t turn into a stretchy-mouthed, slobbering monster like most of the symbiotic hosts Marvel Comics has introduced.
13. The Venom symbiote was an outcast from its own species
Whilst it took decades to explore the Klyntar’s origins, Venom was a different story. Information about his backstory has been drip fed to readers over the years, but one of the biggest gamechangers was in Venom Super Special #1 in 1995, where it was revealed that Venom was imprisoned and cast out by his own species.
Their first host was cruel creature that used the symbiote to spread genocide amongst his planet’s inhabitants and rule completely, and the pre-Venom symbiote fed off his rage and became corrupted by it. Despite all this, it still had a desire to bond with its hosts rather than feed off them. Wanting to preserve the purity of their gene pool, his hatchling siblings imprisoned him. Whilst he found a worthy host in the form of Peter Parker, it was Parker’s rejection that truly corrupted him and turned him into a bitter enemy for Spider-Man to deal with.
12. They fear fire, sonic waves and The Silver Surfer
The Klyntar are a dangerous, bloodthirsty species, but they aren’t above having a few phobias. Spider-Man discovered their aversion to loud noises and sonic waves when he finally managed to get rid of the suit by climbing a belltower and exposing the suit to the deafening sound of the ringing bell. They’ve also got a natural fear of fire, as it can cause their amorphous form to become superheated and collapse, making them unable to hold onto their chosen host. One of their more existential fears is being abandoned in a vacuum with no host to feed from, robbing them of their deep need to bond.
Despite having been defeated by Spider-Man and countless other heroes, the one they fear the most is the Sentinel of the Spaceways himself, the Silver Surfer. However, it isn’t specifically Norrin Radd whom they fear, but rather what he represents. The symbiotes are a hive mind, and at one point in their history, they’d taken over an entire planet that was visited by the Silver Surfer as a herald for the planet-devouring Galactus. The Big G ate the planet, and all the symbiotes thereafter found themselves checking under their beds for Galactus before going to sleep at night (probably).
11. The Carnage symbiote is bonded to Cletus Kasady’s blood, making them nearly impossible to separate
The supervillain Carnage was introduced in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man #360, but his first full fledged appearance wasn’t until the next issue. The Venom symbiote broke longtime host Eddie Brock out of prison and left a part of itself behind to bond with his deeply disturbed serial killer cellmate, Cletus Kasady. Marvel’s original plan was to have their darker version of the symbiote replace Venom, but the popularity of the two symbiotes forced them to reconsider.
Unlike Venom, the Carnage symbiote went deeper than establishing an equilibrium with its host. After entering Kasady’s body through a small cut, it bonded to his blood (which caused its red coloration). Their bond is so strong that Carnage refers to itself as “I”, rather than the symbiote’s usual “we”. Carnage proved to be such a dangerous adversary that Peter had to call a truce with Venom so the two could work together to take him down. The Carnage symbiote was eventually reabsorbed by Venom, leaving Kasady powerless. That didn’t stop crazy Cletus though, who doused himself in red paint and continued killing in his Carnage persona for a while before being jailed and acquiring the symbiote once more after a trip to the Negative Zone.
10. The symbiotes feed on many things, including adrenaline, emotions… and chocolate
What exactly the symbiotes get from bonding to their hosts has varied over the years, but one of the more permanent fixtures is adrenaline. They feed off fear, making their hosts violent and prone to fighting. One of the first clues Peter got that something wasn’t on the level about his mysterious black suit of unknown origin was the fact that he’d wake up exhausted. He soon discovered that the symbiote was taking his body on joy rides across the city at night, which led him to seek out the help of Reed Richards.
One of the weirder symbio-snacks is chocolate. Whilst they stop shy of snapping on some lounge pants and binge watching Netflix, they do seek out chocolate for the same basic reason people do – for its mood improving properties, or more specifically, the phenethylamine contained within. Phenethylamine is a naturally produced hormone in the brain that can elevate mood and give the brain energy and focus. The Venom symbiote has had a history wanting to eat brains, but Eddie Brock was able to satiate it by stuffing his face with chocolatey goodness. His successor and former Scorpion Mac Gargan was less conflicted about this, and has been shown eating human remains, presumably including the gray matter. Ick.
9. Whilst bonded. they can stave off terminal illness and regrow lost limbs
What happens when a symbiote bonds changes from host to host? Most of the time, the host gets boosted abilities, as well as inheriting the genetic memory of the entire species. In Spectacular Spider-Man story The Hunger, it’s revealed that Eddie Brock has cancer and that the symbiote originally bonded with him not just because of their mutual hatred of Peter Parker, but because it detected the cancer and was drawn to the adrenaline caused by the breakdown of his cells. Whilst it doesn’t cure the disease, it manages to sustain him and keep the cancer from progressing any further.
Some instances are even more extreme. When the symbiote was bonded with former Parker bully and double amputee war veteran Flash Thompson, it enabled him to regenerate his legs and gave him a suite of Spider powers. This turns him into the popular character Agent Venom, who combines his Spidey/Venom powers with a lethal knowledge and liberal use of guns.
8. The symbiotes have bonded with a long list of Marvel heroes and villains
The symbiotes really get around. In their thirty year history, they’ve bonded with some of Marvel’s most recognizable heroes and villains. Captain America, Ms. Marvel, Deadpool, Mister Fantastic, Groot, Rocket Raccoon, Drax the Destroyer, Doctor Octopus and The Silver Surfer (becoming the Carnage Cosmic) have all had their time with the alien goo.
In Circle of Four, the time Venom bonded with Red Hulk, was especially noteworthy, as it also combined with the Spirit0 of Vengeance (the source of Ghost Rider’s powers) leading to a Ghost Rider/Venom/Hulk hybrid that drove a gigantic flaming motorcycle. Try not to think about the symbiotes’ fear of fire making them incompatible too much — the writers certainly didn’t dwell on it for too long. Plus, it was totally worth it for the sheer ludicrous spectacle. If we’re including some of the excellent “What If?” stories, that symbiote roster balloons to include the Punisher, Thor, Hulk, Wolverine and even the world-eating Galactus.
7. The symbiotes have had a ton of offspring
Venom and Carnage may be the best known of the symbiotes, but the species has had more kids than a Hollywood power couple. They even have oddball celebrity names that would get them bullied in their fancy schools, like Dreadface, Scorn, Payback, Mania and Marcus (seriously).
Most of these were created by an organization called The Life Foundation, a group of Doomsday preppers convinced that the Cold War would end in a nuclear holocaust. They built a lavish fallout shelter for their rich clients and set about creating plans for humanity’s future and their own Utopian society. The leader of the Foundation, Carlton Drake, came to the conclusion that humanity would need protection, and went about creating guardians. He obtained the Venom symbiote and forcibly spawned five new symbiotes from it, bonding them with his top security officers. They would later be named Scream, Lasher, Phage, Riot and Agony, although they go unnamed for their debut. Some have proved to be more enduring than others, but the symbiote family tree continues to grow to this day.
6. Toxin is the most powerful symbiote spawn
First appearing in Venom vs. Carnage in 2004, NYC cop Patrick Mulligan ends up in the middle of an argument/fight between Carnage and Venom. Little did he know that Carnage was raging about his upcoming asexual pregnancy and his intention to kill it as soon as it spawned. Venom sensed this and raised concerns that as this was the thousandth symbiote in their line, things could be adversely affected due to genetic breakdown. But once he “births” the new symbiote, Carnage is too weak to kill it and implants it in nearby patsy Mulligan instead. Comics are weird.
Mulligan soon notices that his speed and reflexes have improved tremendously. Now strong enough to kill both the cop and the symbiote, Carnage tracks down Mulligan, but Venom shows up to protect them in the hopes that he was securing a future partner in crime. Venom even names the symbiote Toxin to be a bit more like him. But Toxin has other plans, and he chooses to (mostly) remain on the side of good thanks to his altruistic host. Venom and Carnage try to stop him, but he turns out to be stronger than both of them combined, and he easily defeats them. Toxin is usually strangely benign, petulant and childlike, at one point refusing to help Patrick out until he apologized for an earlier squabble. Many issues later, Mulligan was unceremoniously killed off-panel by Blackheart, which led to the Toxin symbiote eventually finding and bonding with Eddie Brock.
5. The symbiotes once invaded New York
Up until the early nineties, symbiote activity had been relatively small scale, consisting of personal beefs and the occasional killing spree. That changed with the famous Maximum Carnage storyline, when the titular antagonist busted out a team of supervillains and went on a murderous rampage. The stakes were then upped further with the Planet of the Symbiotes event in 1995, an arc which included all of the Spider-Man titles at the time.
Peter Parker causes Eddie Brock to doubt his relationship with the symbiote, which causes Brock to instruct the symbiote to leave him to think it over. The symbiote, pained and angered by another rejection, lets out a cry that attracts more symbiotes to Earth. They slowly take over and use their new hosts to build a portal that will enable even more angry goo monsters to take in the sights, sounds and brains of New York City. The resulting invasion of symbiotes bonded with thousands, including poor old Captain America. Carnage, who had previously been in a coma, woke up and started to absorb the other symbiotes, becoming a Godzilla-sized monster. Eventually, Brock and the Venom symbiote bonded again and saved the city by exploiting the symbiotes’ weakness to emotions and letting out a powerful wail that caused the invading force to commit suicide.
4. They have natural predators called The Xenophage
Perhaps due to sharing some similarities to the Alien series’ Xenomorphs and their ability to adapt to survive, it’s tempting to think of the symbiotes as apex predators and ignore their more parasitic qualities. However, they in fact have a natural predator in the form of the Xenophage, a bug-like alien species that considers Klyntars a special delicacy.
The Xenophage was introduced in the 1996 mini-series Venom: The Hunted. After the events of Planet of the Symbiotes, a singular Xenophage is tempted to Earth due to the increased symbiote activity. It’s favorite food is a symbiote host’s brain, and the longer the host and symbiote has been bonded, the better, making Eddie Brock an extremely tasty morsel. It’s an incredibly effective predator, with the ability to shapeshift into anything — including, hilariously, a cabinet complete with china plates. The Xenophage also has chemical fire breath and paralyzing fangs. It was eventually defeated by Eddie Brock, who tricked it into eating a white phosphorous grenade by holding it in a tendril disguised as his head. The obvious solution.
3. Carnage once possessed an entire city in Colorado
Of all the symbiotes, Carnage is probably the last one you’d want in a position of power due to his complete lack of morals and the genuine delight he takes in killing. However, in the mini-series Carnage U.S.A., Cletus Kasady took over the entire city of Doverton, Colorado, with plans to expand his influence to the whole United States.
Carnage used his symbiote powers to possess the Dovertonians and made himself its ruler, being waited on hand on foot by the enslaved masses. Spider-Man calls in help from Captain America, Wolverine, The Thing and Hawkeye, but even their combined forces couldn’t take him down. It was eventually thanks to Venom, Scorn and the Avengers that Carnage’s plans for domination were foiled. Interestingly, Carnage U.S.A. was the series that canonized the names for the other symbiotes created by the Life Foundation, as they had just been given names by fans up to that point.
2. Tony Stark has symbiote Iron Man armor
Tony Stark has had a lot of awesome Iron Man armors over the years. From the clunky Mark I and the huge Hulkbuster to the ever-popular Bleeding Edge armor, Stark’s had a suit for almost every occasion.
One of the more interesting suits is the Model 50, better known as the Endo-Sym armor. Like the Bleeding Edge armor, the suit is stored inside Stark’s body, but the Endo-Sym doesn’t rely on nanotechnology. In Superior Iron Man #1, Tony explains that he’s taken the “building blocks” of symbiote biology and integrated it into the suit. The result is a powerful, durable suit made of living liquid metal that Tony can simply will onto his body. Whilst the armor doesn’t have a consciousness, it does respond to Stark’s mental commands. It can absorb more of the liquid metal to become bigger and more powerful, and it can use tendrils for both probing and punching. We think you’ll agree that the MCU needs to hurry up and introduce this bad boy so that we can finally see it in action on the big screen.
1. According to Secret Secret Wars, Deadpool was Venom’s first host, not Spider-Man
Released in 2015, Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars (billed as the “secretest war ever”) promised to tell readers the truth behind 1984’s Secret Wars event and finally show fans what really happened.
Apparently, Deadpool was part of the original Secret Wars and wandered into the room with the mistaken fabric replicator moments before Spidey did. He tried it out and was enveloped by the symbiote. Deadpool immediately works out that it’s a living creature feeding off his thoughts and separates from it, deeming it too unfair for any sentient creature to have to deal with his messed-up thoughts. He then wonders what harm their short time together has done the symbiote, but leaves just before Spider-Man gets there.
So there we have it, Deadpool is responsible for Venom’s insanity. Of course, Secret Secret Wars being a Deadpool comic, it’s unlikely to be part of the official canon, but it’s a genuinely funny idea that one of Spider-Man’s most iconic villains was made into a raving lunatic thanks to a brief interaction with Wade Wilson.
What other facts should Marvel fans know about symbiotes? Let us know in the comments.