Entertainment

All the Symbiotes in the Venom Universe, Explained

venom 2018
'Venom' | Sony Pictures
'Venom' | Sony Pictures

If you thumb through the history of the symbiotes in Marvel Comics, you'll find a multitude of alternate universes, timelines, and retroactively changed continuity. Basically every Marvel Hero has gotten a shot at wearing a symbiote -- or primordial aliens that lodge themselves into host bodies -- for a brief period of time (yes, even Captain America and Doctor Strange). But the newest cinematic Venom, Tom Hardy's Eddie Brock, will not have a connection to any of the other Marvel Cinematic Universe characters. It won't even feature Tom Holland, current Spider-Man, for an origin story that usually heavily involves Spider-Man. Instead, Venom must draw from the family of Marvel symbiotes for its franchise characters. Just who are those, you might ask? We've listed the symbiotes most plausible to appear in the Venom universe going forward and fill you in about where they fit on the symbiote family tree. 

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Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock becoming Venom in 'Venom' | Sony Pictures

Prime symbiotes:

Venom

As far as comic books, animated TV shows, and two movies are concerned, Venom is the first alien symbiote from the Klyntar race (that's what they're called) to come to Earth as dark Spider-Man. Recent revelations in the comic book world have expanded the Venom symbiote's history to make the black-goo-suit something of an outcast from its race. Abandoned by the Klyntar because the symbiote wished to form a more lasting bond with its host rather than dominate and consume it, the symbiote had an evil alien as its first host before meeting Spider-Man on the Battleworld planet. 

Because Venom bonded with Spider-Man and then Eddie Brock, a sad and outcast individual in his own right, the symbiote slowly started to bend towards a more positive relationship, becoming a vigilante and occasionally even a hero (when bonded to Flash Thompson, an Iraq soldier, he becomes Agent Venom and works for the government). Of the symbiotes that appear in Marvel comics, Venom is the most complex, torn between its nature as a space-goo that dominates a species and its relationships with several of its previous human hosts.

The Venom symbiote has a mind of its own, like when it decided not to tell Eddie Brock that it left its symbiote offspring behind when it broke Brock out of prison. Although Eddie Brock is a tortured anti-hero with a super-alien suit, Eddie's cell-mate was a cold, insane, serial killer. Bonded with a symbiote, he became...

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Carnage | Marvel Comics

Carnage

The character of Venom was an extremely popular Spider-Man villain, and he was loaded up with an extreme look just as the '90s comic book boom was about to take off. Venom's co-creator David Michelinie and artist Mark Bagly were working on Spider-Man, and Micheline was getting bored of tormented Eddie Brock and wanted to kill off the human so the Venom symbiote could find a new host, but Marvel wasn't going to let him kill off a villain that had become one of the favorites in Spider-Man's universe. All this led to Michelinie creating Carnage, Venom's "offspring" that the symbiote shed while breaking Eddie out of jail once and the guy we saw in Venom's post-credits scene, teasing the new villain for Venom 2.

The Carnage symbiote bonded to a legitimately insane person named Cletus Cassidy, and the two melded in a deeper way than Venom and any of his hosts did. Carnage has abilities Venom does not. For example, during his first full-issue appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #361, he makes his gooey tendrils into solid spikes and axes that he uses to murder people. Where Venom had previously been about goo-ing all over someone, Carnage moved into the space of a villain that will slice you up without second thought. Eventually, the symbiote bonded with Cassidy's blood itself, allowing the symbiote to stay hidden inside its host until the opportune moment for assault. 

Venom does NOT get along with his son, and even when the two team up because they share mutual goals, it is a fraught partnership. Carnage wants to kill his father, but that's not surprising since Carnage wants to kill everything.

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Riz Ahmed as Carlton Drake in 'Venom' | Sony Pictures

The Life Foundation symbiotes: Scream, Lasher, Phage, Riot, Agony

With Marvel Comics riding high and multiple Spider-Man titles going strong, they decided to give Venom a shot at his own limited series. When Venom: Lethal Protector debuted in 1993, it was Venom's first non-villain role, with Eddie Brock and Peter Parker coming to a truce in New York, leading Brock to high-tail it to San Francisco where he falls in with a bunch of cheery homeless squatters living underneath a park. 

That park becomes the target of The Life Foundation, led by Carlton Drake (played by Riz Ahmed in the 2018 film), with an ultimate goal of building high-priced doomsday bunkers for the rich and famous, then selling them to make profit and to control whatever society survives the apocalypse. In looking for a police force to work at this utopia, the foundation has decided volunteers in symbiote costumes would make the best security guards. Already having heard of Carnage, Drake and co. capture Venom and forcibly take five "seeds" from the alien. They rapidly age the symbiotes and pair them to people: Scream (yellow, female), Agony (pink, female), Lasher (green, male), Riot (grey, male) and Phage (orange, male). Venom defeats his lab offspring in their first encounter, and the The Life Foundation revives the five only to have them quit and go rogue. They end up in New York where they seek out Eddie Brock, asking him to help them learn how to control their symbiotes' powers. Brock refuses, and Scream has a psychotic break, seemingly killing the others. 

This particular episode is relevant to the Venom film because we know Drake would eventually get to wear the Riot symbiote and fight Venom as the main antagonist in Venom. The other symbiotes seen in the various Venom trailers have distinct colorings that seem to match the line-up of the comic book's symbiote children, but we don't know if Scream, Phage, Lasher, and Agony will eventually make full appearances down the line in other movies, or even get one of their own.

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Michelle Williams as Anne Weying in 'Venom' | Sony Pictures

"She-Venom"

In Venom, Michelle Williams plays Anne Weying, a comic book character with a very sad backstory, but who did -- for a very brief time -- become "She-Venom" or "The Bride of Venom." (Cue the most revolting makeout in recent movie memory.) The official nomenclature is shaky because Anne isn't inside the symbiote very long. She is Eddie Brock's ex-wife and gets entangled in a Spider-Man/Venom/Sin-Eater showdown, per the comics, where she is gravely injured. While swinging her to safety, Venom busts her sutures and she starts bleeding internally, so against the symbiote's wishes, Eddie sends the alien suit to her so it can heal her.

Anne is mentally dominated by the symbiote almost immediately and kills two street punks that wandered into the wrong warehouse. (To be fair, they were sexist pigs who were out to attack Anne.) Eddie has to talk her down and reclaim the symbiote, but the sum total experience of Eddie's "other" and the double-life of her ex-husband eventually drives her to leap off a tall building, ending her own life.

toxin
Marvel Comics

Toxin

Toxin is the offspring of the Carnage symbiote, which would make it Venom's grandson, if symbiotes abided by human  genealogy. Carnage learns about symbiote reproduction from Venom, but then Carnage flees, wanting to kill his offspring before it bonds and matures. Carnage knows that he is stronger (and more willing to kill) than Venom, and Venom wants the Carnage offspring to rear on his own, hopefully bending it to good.

In 2004's Venom/Carnage limited crossover series, Toxin was "born" and Carnage was too weak to kill it, so he bonded it with a random cop who happened to be nearby: the NYPD's Patrick Mulligan. Neither Carnage or Venom wins out over the young Toxin (who ends up being stronger than both of them). Instead, Mulligan gets a pep talk from Spider-Man and decides to try and keep the symbiote under control, occasionally fighting crime. It doesn't entirely work out for him though, and Mulligan eventually dies and Toxin ends up on Eddie Brock, who was separated from Venom at the time.

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Marvel Comics

Secondary symbiotes:

Hybrid

In the Venom: Along Came A Spider story arc, it's revealed that four of the Life Foundation symbiotes (the ones that aren't Scream) escaped their volunteer hosts and bonded with a prison guard. Eddie Brock had to hunt this "Hybrid" down, and eventually defeated it, forcing the four symbiotes to break up again. Lasher, Phage, Riot, and Agony get new hosts, a "Mercury Team" that is made to fight Carnage. Carnage kills the Mercury Team hosts when they're not wearing their symbiotes and the four become Hybrid again to bond with Deadpool and fight Carnage. The mid-'90s was a crazy time in comics.

scorn
Marvel Comics

Scorn

In Carnage #5 (2011), Carnage gets in a fight with Sentry, one of the more powerful Marvel heroes, who seemingly destroys him. Like all comic deaths, it doesn't stick, and thanks to more comic book logic, a piece of Carnage is used to form a prosthetic arm for a character named Dr. Tanis Nieves. The arm bonded with her and -- voila -- it's Scorn. Since Scorn is part-symbiote, part-bionic, it can fuse itself with some mechanics, which… cool? 

mania
Marvel Comics

Mania

When Venom was fighting The Thing from The Fantastic Four, part of his tongue got ripped out. So an evil corporation makes a clone of the Venom symbiote that is somehow more volatile than its original. By this time in the comics continuity, Flash Thompson was wearing the Venom symbiote as Agent Venom and helped subdue the Mania symbiote when it bonded with his neighbor Andi Benton. Through a confusing plot, we learn that the symbiote clone has been possessed by a demon, which Venom exorcises from Mania. Everything ends up being fine, but a Venom clone is still out running around.

raze
Marvel Comics

Raze

Carnage spawned another symbiote during a pagan ritual, and that symbiote, called Raze, bonded with former FBI special agent Claire Dixon. This symbiote is around for Carnage Volume 2, #10-#16, then Raze gets absorbed into a super-symbiote to fight Carnage and never appears as an individual entity again. It's  technically a granddaughter of Venom.

sleeper
Marvel Comics

Sleeper

Sleeper's story is real messed up. It was recently revealed in the Guardians of the Galaxy comics and the Venom: First Host limited series that the Venom symbiote first bonded to a Kree name Tel-Kar who dominated the symbiote and used him to fight Skrulls. Tel-Kar comes to Earth around the same time Venom spawns again. Venom is smart enough to keep the young symbiote from bonding too early (like Toxin did) and Sleeper matures. Eventually, taking vengeance for the Klyntar that Tel-Kar took advantage of, Sleeper bonds with the alien and lobotomizes him. Sleeper is still out there in space, puppeteering a vegetable Kree body. Creepy stuff. 

Dave Gonzales is a contributor to Thrillist. 

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