Marvel's Klyntar are a species of extragalactic symbiotes who bond with living hosts and give them superpowers. You probably know them better by the names of their individual members, like Venom and Carnage. They've been showing up in comics for over 30 years, and in that time, they've shared pages with most of our favorite heroes, primarily Spider-Man. Spidey's had so many Klyntar stories, you wouldn't even believe it.
A symbiote suit gives its wearer a variety of shapeshifting powers, including the abilities to create weapons and mimic any clothing they want. They also get terrifying murder-teeth, but that's more like a bonus.
The Klyntar are a benign race at home, but living on Earth can turn anyone crazy. So they've spent most of their time here joining gooey forces with a variety of villains to make trouble for the good guys. And we don't just mean Eddie Brock and Cletus Kasady, who are set to square off in Sony's upcoming Venom film. Some less -- and even more -- famous baddies have also worn the slime, and just who they are may surprise you.
Here are 15 of the misfits, mass murderers, and mad scientists who have sported symbiote suits over the past 3 decades. Be sure to let us know of your favorites, including any we missed, in the comments.
17 Otto Octavius
Doctor Octopus is no stranger to symbiotes. He joins with Carnage in both the 2000 Spider-Man video game and in the Unlimited television series. But his run-in with Venom in Superior Spider-Man was especially memorable.
In that series, Octavius switches bodies with Peter Parker to escape his own terminal illness and then takes up his superhero mantle in an effort to prove that he’s better at fighting crime than his old foe. But his methods are still pretty villain-y. After fighting Agent Venom (Flash Thompson), he tricks the alien’s new host into volunteering for helping him test new artificial limbs. Octavius uses a sonic blast to separate the symbiote and contain it.
What he doesn’t know, however, is that Venom is stronger than he realizes, and it breaks out almost immediately and latches onto its captor. The new “Superior Venom” takes up the work of a-hole crimefighting until the latent memories of Peter Parker force the two to separate.
16 Anne Weying
Comic books never met a male superhero persona that they didn’t want to make a “She-" or “-Woman” version of, and Venom is no exception.
Ann Weying was Eddie Brock’s ex-wife, and during the “Sinner Takes All” storyline, Sin-Eater shoots her. Eddie orders the Venom symbiote to bond with her to safe her life. And it doesn’t seem to mind, because it fully merges with her to create She-Venom.
The new being’s first act is to murder some thugs who are threatening Eddie, and it ends up racking up a few more kills before Venom returns to its previous host. Tragically, Ann remembers every terrible thing she did while she was wearing the suit. The experience leaves her traumatized and trapped in her apartment, afraid that the alien will return for her if she leaves.
She kills herself in fear after seeing Spider-Man swing by in his (non-alien) black suit, leaving Eddie Brock with yet another reason to hate Peter Parker.
15 Angelo Fortunato
After developing terminal cancer, Eddie Brock auctioned off the Venom symbiote to make some last-minute charitable donations, because he is one of the most downtrodden supervillains in comic book history.
The winner was Don Fortunato, a mob boss, who gifted the alien to his loser son Angelo so that he could make something of himself. He does this by immediately crashing Peter Parker’s high school reunion and murdering several people. Somehow, that’s not the worst use of 100 million dollars we’ve ever heard of. But it’s still pretty bad.
Spider-Man and the new Venom fight while the hero calls out the new host for being an idiot and a bully. The kid eventually gets so scared that he tries to escape, jumping between two rooftops, and the symbiote joins in on the “hate on Angelo” party by abandoning him in mid-air. He falls to his death, and Venom finds a more appealing host in the former Scorpion, Mac Gargan.
14 Edwin Brocc
Marvel’s 1602 universe takes place on a parallel Earth containing 17th-century counterparts of the primary world’s superheroes and villains. And of course, it has a version of Venom.
Edwin Brocc is a nobleman who is engaged to Anne Weying — who doesn’t get a cool, 1602 name. But she doesn’t really love Edwin. He’s in league with the Enchantress and using a “love potion” to trick his betrothed into marrying him.
Angela, who is tracking down all of these “Faustians,” calls Brocc out, so he turns into a horrifying monster. He’s apparently exactly as good at fighting as he is at convincing women to love him without pharmaceutical assistance, however, so he lasts approximately a page before the witch hunter decapitates him. Unfortunately, it turns out that Eddie Brock is typically a sad loser regardless of universe.
The second volume of Carnage’s solo book takes a Lovecraftian turn as Cletus Kasady uses the infernal Darkhold to summon the demon Cthohn. In the course of that, he performs a ritual in which he bonds a part of his suit with FBI agent Claire Dixon. The result is Raze, a conflicted but definite monster.
The only people standing between Carnage and the return of the Great Old One are the members of the Bureau’s Symbiote Task Force, which includes Eddie Brock. He has access to the Toxin symbiote, which is another of Carnage’s “children.” Poor, sad Eddie has hosted more aliens than the Mos Eisley Cantina.
Raze helps Carnage fight the Goop Cops while inside, Dixon struggles to control it. In the end, however, Task Force member Jubilile van Scotter absorbs Toxin, Raze, and a global dose of psychic energy to defeat both Carnage and Cthohn.
The Life Foundation is what would happen if you gave earnest fans of the Fallout video game series an unlimited budget. They were so sure that a nuclear holocaust was imminent that they built a massive bunker to house only the richest people on Earth and establish a utopian, post-apocalyptic society.
But they weren’t so confident in their paradise that they didn’t think they’d need some security, so they kidnapped Eddie Brock and removed five “seeds” from Venom. They grew these into their own, tame versions of the alien suits. And they just immediately got into a fight with Spider-Man, as is the wont of all symbiotes.
One of the new five was Ramón Hernández, whose suit name is Lasher. He didn’t get much time to enjoy his powers, however. Venom sets off an explosion that seemingly ages the suit to dust and kills all the hosts. But they survive, only for Scream to kill them all properly later.
Riot, whose human name is Trevor Cole, was another of the Life Foundation’s lab-grown symbiote troops. Like his “siblings,” Riot doesn’t receive a (human) name during his first appearance during the Venom: Lethal Protector miniseries. Instead, most of his pre-bonding backstory comes from the text on his action figure.
Even that was pretty iffy; it describes Riot as “a sewer-dwelling mutant” and not a bunker-cop for the irredeemably rich. We aren’t super concerned with that, however, since comics are overly complicated even when they can keep their stories straight.
Riot, like the rest of his team, appears to die at the end of Lethal Protector, only to come back and then die for real during the later, “Separation Anxiety” arc. But that isn’t it for the symbiotes. They return as Mercury Team in Carnage, USA, in which Riot gives his wearer the ability to move completely silently. And the writers fail to make a single “Quiet Riot” joke.
The third of the Life Foundation symbiotes, Carl Mach, like the others, owes most of his backstory to action figure flavor text and fans’ head-canon.
It’s the same drill: They exist, Venom blows them up, and then they come back and die later. We think Marvel really missed an opportunity by making a squad of different-looking symbiote monsters and then doing nothing with them, but they make up for that a little later.
In Carnage, USA, the Phage symbiote returns as a member of Mercury Team, the elite, anti-Carnage unit that responds to Cletus Kassady and his special, alien friend kidnapping and infecting the entire town of Doverton, Colorado. Phage’s suit lets him make impossible sniper shots, which seems like a weird ability for a symbiote to give you. But we suppose they can’t all be web-slingers.
Agony is exactly like Phage, Riot, and Lasher, only its host is a woman, Leslie Gesneria. She was yet another of the Life Foundation’s five guardians who died and then wasn’t dead and then was dead again. She’s purple.
After their original hosts’ permanent deaths, these four symbiotes ended up in the Vault, a high-security prison for supervillains. The jailers experimented on them, even though they were not as evil as their “sibling,” Carnage, and a guard named Scott Washington eventually freed them.
All four join with Washington simultaneously, creating a new hero named Hybrid. After Washington's death, the government separates the aliens and repurposes them as Mercury Team. Agony gave its host the ability to easily carry the heaviest of gear, which, like Riot, suggests the exact opposite of its name.
After her apparent death at the end of Lethal Protector, Donna Diego, who hosted Scream, suffers a bit of a crisis in the “Separation Anxiety” arc. Her exposure to the alien creature left her with a touch of schizophrenia, and she concluded that the symbiotes, and all who hosted them, were evil and worthy of death. She tracks down and kills her siblings with a sonic knife and frames Eddie Brock for the murders. Brock catches on and defeats her as Venom.
Later, after his “partner” leaves him for good, Eddie decides that the best revenge for his ruined life is to take out all of the symbiotes he can. He murders Hybrid and eventually finds Scream, whom he disables with a loud noise and then stabs with a red-hot knife.
We could appreciate the poetic justice there if it weren’t so disturbing.
Now that we’re done with both the Life Foundation’s crayon box of identical symbiotes, here’s something completely different.
Marcus appears in the motion comic series The Gauntlet. He’s just one of a team of baddies — along with Xzax (a Brood gun for hire), the Living Mummy, and Frankenstein’s Monster — that Dracula assembles to kill Deadpool. He’s also a lycanthropic centaur with a symbiote and no known weaknesses other than the things that would kill a Klyntar or a werewolf. He’s also diabetic. And that’s not really a “weakness,” so much, but he does ask for a break during all the fighting to manage his blood sugar.
Deadpool doesn’t mind, and as soon as Marcus’ levels are under control, he goes ahead and murders him anyway. He chops off his hooves and then runs him over with a steamroller, which probably doesn’t affect the symbiote much, but it’s not a good time for the guy inside it.
6 Karl Malus
It’s not so much a suit as it is a horrifying transformation of his entire body at the genetic level, but Karl Malus’ return after the events of Superior Carnage bear mentioning.
That storyline has the Wizard, Klaw, Malus, and the Carnage symbiote forming a new Frightful Four team with Malus hosting the alien. Things go bad because you can’t trust evil, alien slime, and it ends up leaving Malus to take over Wizard. And then it eats the mad scientist for his trouble.
This should have been the end, but Malus returns in Captain America: Sam Wilson, where he reveals that he survived being “crapped out of an alien.” He has since become a grotesque symbiote-human hybrid, either through the whole digestion experience or his own bio-engineering experiments. We’re not super concerned about the particulars, because the important thing is that it’s scary as hell.
Dr. Tanis Nieves briefly comes down with a mild case of Carnage when the trace bits of alien in her symbiote-enhanced prosthetic arm take over her body. The possession doesn’t last long, however, since the goop is just trying to get back to Cletus Kasady after that time Sentry ripped him in half in space.
But Carnage left something behind when it left Nieves’ arm: its offspring, Scorn. When the baby symbiote starts growing in the 2010 Carnage miniseries, the doctor cuts the limb off to stop it from taking over her body. Scream-powered baddie -- and Nieves’ former patient -- Shriek, who gained nothing from her therapy sessions, takes the arm for herself.
The next issue says that her new limb makes her “more powerful than ever,” but we don’t really see it. But the extra arm and weird, half-alien face does make an impression. Scorn doesn’t stick around for long, however, because Shriek scares it so much that it gets back to Nieves as soon as it can.
ZZZXX comes from a symbiote race similar to the Klyntar, but without that whole formality of establishing any kind of personal bond with the beings they occupy. They also eat brains, so that’s a bit of a change, too. It shows up in the X-Men: Kingbreaker series as part of a group of villains dedicated to protecting Vulcan after he overthrows the spaceborne Shi’ar Empire.
This thing is a monster that apparently only bothers bonding with living creatures because it likes wearing pants sometimes. It’s more from the Carnage school of symbiosis, by which we mean it’s insane and impossible to reason with.
The evil levels of the Venom symbiote depend in part on whom it’s bonded with; a strong-willed hero like Flash Thompson can — and does — convince it to play nicely during his cosmic adventures as Agent Venom. But it doesn’t matter whom ZZZXX gloops onto; it’s always ZZZXX, which is to say that it’s crazy and evil.
3 A Tyrannosaurus Rex
We hesitate to describe a Tyrannosaurus Rex as a supervillain, since one saves the day in two Jurassic Park movies. But this story is too crazy not to include.
Old Man Logan features an alternate future in which Marvel’s supervillains finally get their act together and just attack the heroes all at once. They carve the world out among themselves, providing a stark and desolate backdrop for an older Wolverine and Hawkeye to take a cross-country road trip on one final mission.
In South Dakota, they first catch notice of the unpaired Venom symbiote, which has apparently just been hanging out in the Black Hills waiting for someone to fight. It has no shortage of potential hosts, since the Great Plains are now home to herds of abandoned dinosaur pets that people imported from the Savage Land. Venom chooses a Tyrannosaurus — correctly — and attacks the heroes.
Luckily for them, however, they happen to wander near the last mutant stronghold, and Emma Frost sends Black Bolt out to take care of the alien problem with his overpowered voice.
2 Galactus (kind of)
In Web of Spider-Man issue 90, Mysterio uses his powers of illusion to toss the web-slinger into an imaginary world in which he uses his amazing superpowers to star in movies. But things get even weirder when villains like the Goblin League and Venom crash the set.
Spider-Man clocks the latter, and he lands on top of a huge, robotic version of Galactus that the producers were using because even in a dream world, the real guy is all booked up. The symbiote oozes out and takes control of the animatronic, creating the ultimate endboss. But it’s still just a robot, so Spider-Man trips it up pretty easily and defeats Mysterio to end all the nonsense.
So this is a fake Galactus covered with an illusory symbiote, all inside of an Inception-style dreamscape. It stretches canon to its limits, but it is still glorious.
1 Iron Man
The X-Men/Avengers crossover event Axis “inverts” a number of heroes and villains, putting them on the opposite sides of the law as we’re used to. At the end, most of them go back, but Tony Stark manages to avoid reversion and remains awful.
This version spins off into the Superior Iron Man series, in which Tony creates the Extremis 3.0 app to allow users to become as attractive as they want. And it’s free for 24 hours; after that, it requires a nefarious in-app purchase of $99.99 a day to remain active. This simultaneously creates an overclass of people who can access the app and kicks off a massive crime wave, as desperate poor people turn to crime so they can afford the program.
Tony also builds a silver, “Endosym” suit based on symbiote biology. It’s the flashiest of his armors by far (which is saying something), and it flows on and off of him in a really disturbing way. It’s as gross as it is shiny, and it’s ridiculously shiny.
Which symbiote-sporters are your favorites? Be sure to let us know in the comments.