Carnage has a terrifying origin story and is a compelling character all his own. So why isn’t he more popular?
The world of Spider-Man in the Marvel universe is crammed full of interesting and intimidating villains. From Doctor Octopus to Scorpion to Venom, Spider-Man has a plethora of well-known villains who cause trouble in his neighborhood.
But one villain doesn’t get the respect he deserves. And that’s Carnage.
Carnage is a symbiote creation just like Venom. But while Venom gets all the love and is one of Spider-Man’s most famous villains, Carnage has largely been in the background for most of his existence in the world of Marvel.
All of that despite Carnage having one of the most twisted origin stories and personalities not only in the Spider-Man universe, but in all of Marvel.
Carnage first appeared in 1992 in The Amazing Spider-Man. He then appeared in a handful of comics and TV shows in the 1990s and early 2000s, but after his appearance in Venom vs. Carnage in 2004, he wouldn’t appear in any major stories again until 2010.
Since 2010, Carnage has enjoyed the most popularity he’s received since his inception into the Marvel universe, thanks in large part to successful comic book arcs like the Deadpool vs. Carnage series in 2014. But for the sick and twisted individual he is, Carnage still doesn’t get the attention he deserves.
Like Venom, Carnage itself is just a symbiote that merged with a human. Carnage bonded with Cletus Kasady after Eddie Brock, Venom’s host, left behind part of the Venom symbiote in a jail cell where the two occupied together.
Unlike Brock, Kasady was a deeply disturbed individual. Brock had his father issues and obsessive hatred of Spider-Man, but he didn’t become a murderer and mentally unstable until Venom bonded with him. Kasady, on the other hand, was already extremely unstable before Carnage fused with him.
Cletus Kasady wasn’t your run-of-the-mill criminal. No, Kasady was a serial killer. Not only had he killed random people throughout his life, he had pushed his grandmother down a flight of stairs as a child and falsely testified against his father in court, claiming his father killed his mother without reason (even though he had done so after Cletus’s mother had attempted to kill him), resulting in him being executed via electric chair. He made another attempt to kill his mother by throwing a television at her and tortured and murdered her dog.
In addition, Kasady also murdered one of his teachers, killed a girl for making fun of him after he asked her out on a date, and burned down the orphanage he stayed in after both his parents were killed.
Kasady has no sense of morality (he willingly killed part of his own family and others) and is a sadist. Does this type of behavior sound familiar? Because it should.
Artist Erik Larsen was the person responsible for bringing Kasady to life, and he modeled Kasady’s appearance after DC’s The Joker. The similarities go beyond just their appearance, as noted above. Kasady/Carnage has many of the same psychopathic tendencies as The Joker, and both act as agents of chaos with no real motive but to cause destruction while looking out only for themselves.
So why then has The Joker gained so much more popularity while Carnage has largely been pushed to the side for his symbiotic brethren Venom?
Most likely, the reason Carnage hasn’t found the type of success Joker or Venom has is because of the lack of stories he’s been included in. You can argue this has been due to a lack of interest from fans. But then you can argue about the lack of interest when there are a lack of stories. It’s a vicious cycle, one that can’t be answered here.
Until Carnage is featured more prominently in TV shows and movies (like Venom and Joker) he’ll remain as a secondary villain in a robust lineup of bad guys in the Spider-Man universe. Carnage deserves so much more. His character offers a lot (both psychologically and thematically). It’s a shame he hasn’t gotten the respect he deserves.
Thankfully, Carnage has been appearing in more comics since 2010, and hopefully, that will result in him appearing in a movie or show in the near future. Until then, Carnage remains Spider-Man’s most underappreciated villain.