Symbiote (comics)

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Symbiote
A Symbiote bonding with another life form
Publication information
Publisher Marvel Comics
First appearance Black Costume, The Amazing Spider-Man #252 , The Spectacular Spider-Man #90, and Marvel Team-Up #141 Symbiote, The Amazing Spider-Man #258 (May 1984)
Created by Jim Shooter, Mike Zeck
Characteristics
Notable members Venom
Carnage
Toxin
Anti-Venom
Inherent abilities Symbiosis with a host provides superhuman strength, speed, agility, and endurance; gains characteristics of host; increases original powers of hosts

The Symbiotes are a fictional race of amorphous extraterrestrial parasites which appear in the Marvel Comics shared universe. The Symbiotes envelop their hosts like costumes, creating a symbiotic bond through which the host's mind can be influenced.

The first appearance(s) of a symbiote occurs in The Amazing Spider-Man #252, The Spectacular Spider-Man #90, and Marvel Team-Up #141 (released concurrently in May 1984), in which Spider-Man brings one home to Earth after the Secret Wars (Secret Wars #8, which was released months later, details his first encounter with it). The concept was created by a Marvel Comics reader,[1] with the publisher purchasing the idea for $220.[2] The original design was then modified by Mike Zeck, becoming the Venom symbiote. The concept would be explored and used throughout multiple storylines, spin-off comics, and derivative projects.

Fictional biography[edit]

The backstory to the concept of the symbiotes has never been clearly established. It is implied that Galactus, devourer of worlds, consumed a world which they had conquered and where they had thrived, based on Carnage's reaction to the Silver Surfer, former herald of Galactus. It is shown through the Carnage symbiote that this was a world whose dominant life forms had been overrun by the marauding symbiotes, though whether or not it is the world on which the symbiotes originated is never clarified.

In Venom: Seed of Darkness #1, a symbiote named Krobaa was brought to Earth and bonded with the professor who found it to acquire (through the symbiosis) knowledge of humanity in order to bring the information to a high galactic order valuing "diversity of mind above all else". Instead, Krobaa was infected with the madness of the human mind, attacking all living things and claiming to feed on their fear. Only after Eddie Brock's camera flash had weakened him did Krobaa regain control of himself, committing suicide to save other planets from the "plague of madness."

The cover of Secret Wars #8, which details Spider-Man's first encounter with the black costume. Pencil art by Mike Zeck.

The mini-series Planet of the Symbiotes presents a different story. Symbiotes were originally an unfeeling, conquering race, taking over any species they came in contact with to feed off their emotions; this mainly involved adrenaline rushes from death-defying feats and, as a consequence, the hosts tend to be short-lived. This was also evidenced in the Fantastic Four series, when a black cube (imprisoned by Devos the Devastator as a trophy of the most dangerous species he has ever faced) escapes and is revealed to be a sentient extraterrestrial symbiote (called Dreadface in the issue's title) that fuels (and then feeds off) the animosity between the Human Torch and the Thing before apparently being incinerated.

The Venom symbiote is the first permanent symbiote resident of Earth, brought by Spider-Man after the events of Secret Wars. It was later established that the Venom symbiote was considered crazy by its fellow parasites since it sought a mutual bond with a host rather than domination, and was imprisoned on a planet that later became part of Beyonder's Battleworld. Once on Earth, the Venom suit was bonded to Spider-Man for some time before being forced off onto Eddie Brock. Stung by the rejection, the symbiote came to hate the superhero and sought revenge with Brock. During this time it spawned six children, with its first child later having two of its own. Brock would soon reform and spent a considerable amount of time trying to become a hero with the suit.

Though originally happy with Brock, because Brock blamed Spider-Man for his failures, the symbiote gradually became increasingly possessive and abusive of him, eventually being sold off by Eddie. It is later revealed that it only stuck with him because of cancer of his adrenal glands. Since then, the Venom suit has gradually grown more and more monstrous and psychotic. It is currently bonded to Flash Thompson, who struggles to control it, but the symbiote has recently been shown to be developing some slight affection for him.[3] This would suggest the host's mental state might affect the symbiote just as much as the other way around, as the Carnage symbiote is as psychotic as its host and the Venom suit's explosiveness got worse after bonding with its two hosts after Brock, both of which were career criminals. Likewise, the various symbiotes bonded to heroes are not shown to be as twisted, though they occasionally struggle with aggression.

Angel Medina claims he was reluctant to start work on Mighty Avengers because he was working on a Venom project, only to be told he would be drawing a story with "the Avengers vs. an alien invasion—by the Venoms."[4] This story arc was later confirmed to be drawn by Mark Bagley, as Medina would be unavailable.[5] Solicitations state that the New Avengers will also be part of this arc, themselves becoming infested by symbiotes. New Avengers #34 revealed that Doctor Doom is responsible for dropping a "Venom Bomb" on New York that unleashes the symbiotes. The story was completed in Mighty Avengers #8. Further backstory reveals that Doctor Doom collected a tiny sample of the symbiote's cells from the drone he had sent in earlier.[6] Later, it is revealed that Kristoff Vernard actually orchestrated this so that Doom would be arrested for the event above.[7]

Powers and abilities[edit]

Symbiotes empower the natural abilities of a host to the point where they far exceed that of normal members of the hosts' species. These abilities include the following:

  • Superhuman strength, speed, endurance, agility, healing factor, and intelligence, enhances other natural attributes as well.
  • Genetic memory, recalling information from previous hosts.
  • The ability to negate damage caused by terminal illnesses and permanent injuries while not actually healing it. For example, Eddie Brock was able to survive indefinitely with terminal cancer, and Scott Washington was able to walk despite being paraplegic. While symbiotes can heal their hosts, they generally seek to force their hosts to depend on them and thus ensure the symbiotes' survival.
  • Can expand to any size as long as they have something to grow on such as a host or an object. Symbiotes can get inside of small areas such as electric wires and the insides of cars and completely disable them.
  • The symbiote also reacts to the thoughts and will of the host. When Spider-Man was originally selected, he had been thinking about Spider-Woman's costume in the Secret Wars. The symbiote acted on this and formed a similar costume, the one seen on him and Venom.

The following are functions that have been demonstrated from various hosts' wills (but are not limited to):

  • The ability to block part of the host's mind.
  • The ability to form fangs or simple bladed weapons out of their limbs.
  • The ability to form tendrils from their body.
  • The ability to project the surface of the symbiote to attack at a distance.
  • The ability to shapeshift, from mimicking clothing up to and including complete change of appearance, regardless to the host's actual stature and bodily dimensions as the symbiotes are living tesseracts.
  • The ability to stick to walls (adapted from Spider-Man).
  • The ability to produce toxins and venoms, such as in the venomous bite Venom delivered to Sandman.
  • The ability to produce webbing from its own mass (adapted from Spider-Man).
  • The Venom symbiote also has empathic abilities, and is able to project desires and needs into the thoughts of its host or potential hosts; this ability can also aid Venom in detecting the truth from those he interrogates.
  • Can sense the presence of other beings within a certain distance.
  • Symbiote bonding protects the host from Ghost Rider's penance stare.
  • Venom and its descendants all possess the ability to bypass the Spider-Sense, because the original symbiote was attached to Peter Parker (Spider-Man) first, it took his genetic information and spider-powers. This means that the symbiote attacking Peter would essentially be Peter attacking himself, which wouldn't set off his Spider-Sense (during the Clone Saga, this became complicated, as Venom and Carnage did set off Ben Reilly's Spider-Sense).
  • The ability to create storage portals inside of them (this created easy access to Peter's camera).
  • Each symbiote has their own unique ability, such as Carnage being able to see from every direction of his body (this is similar to Spider-Man's Spider-Sense).
  • In some realities, Venom's symbiote has been shown to be able to replicate.
  • In some realities, the symbiote feeds on the baser emotions of its host, creating an increasingly hostile personality. The longer the host is exposed to the symbiote, the more overpowering this state of mind becomes.

Weaknesses[edit]

Symbiotes were naturally weakened by intense sounds and intense sonic waves - especially large fires of guns. For example, Spider-Man got the Venom symbiote off him using the intense sound of a church bell. Additionally, in some stories and games, (mostly mentioned in the 2000 Spider-Man video game), they are also weakened by fire. However, as each new symbiote has spawned a child, a natural evolution seems to not only increase their strengths, but also reduce their weaknesses. Even already existing symbiotes can mutate and develop these resistances. Still, there has not been an invulnerable symbiote in mainstream continuity, because the newest breeds can be harmed by incredible amounts of sonic waves and heat. Also, in the Ultimate Marvel Universe, symbiotes are vulnerable to the heat produced by high voltage electricity.

There are other weaknesses as well besides sonics and heat. Iron Man managed to create an antidote formula that could destroy a symbiote (it should be noted that these were actually just virus-like biological organisms created by Doctor Doom, originally based on the Venom symbiote and were specially made as a bio-weapon). With Venom and Carnage, authorities have been able to keep the symbiotes in check with a chemical inhibitor. The criminal Styx nearly killed the Venom symbiote with his lethal touch. Whether a symbiote can mutate and reduce the effect of these weaknesses is unknown, although Carnage claimed to have developed invulnerability to sonics. Also, when a symbiote bonded with Wolverine, it was pushed out by his advanced healing factor, although Wolverine's healing factor had no use when he was bonded to a clone of the Venom symbiote.

In some incarnations, the symbiote is depicted as requiring a certain chemical (most likely phenethylamine) to stay sane and healthy, which has been said to be found abundantly in two sources: chocolate and human brain tissue. Thus, the host is forced to steal/buy large amounts of chocolate or become an unwilling cannibal who devours the brains of those he kills. This peculiar trait has only been witnessed in the Venom symbiote. However, both Carnage and Toxin have threatened their enemies with aspirations to "eating their brains", as well as various other body parts. When Toxin teamed up with Spider-Man and Black Cat, he struggled to keep himself together, telling Spider-Man that he was only "joking" about eating the robbers' brains.

On at least one occasion, Spider-Man was able to exhaust the Venom symbiote by taking advantage of the fact that it made its webbing out of itself; after the symbiote had already used a great deal of webbing to bind him to a bell, Spider-Man forced Venom to use further webbing so that it would exhaust itself, like blood dripping from a wound (although the sheer amount of webbing that the symbiotes would need to use for this weakness to be exploited makes its use in a fight limited).

The Xenophages, a race of extraterrestrial shapeshifters which prey on symbiotes, possess the ability to spew an unknown incendiary chemical that can paralyze symbiotes, and enhance their taste.[8]

List of symbiotes[edit]

Central symbiotes[edit]

The following symbiotes have appeared throughout several years of Spider-Man's history, appeared in multiple mediums such as film and video games and were main characters/villains in story arcs.

Name First appearance Description
Venom The Amazing Spider-Man #300(April 1988) Chronologically introduced in Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #8, merged with Spider-Man, and notably Eddie Brock. Mac Gargan then went on to be the symbiote's host for a while, but since then it has been acquired by the government and is now being used by Flash Thompson under the alias Agent Venom.
Carnage The Amazing Spider-Man #361 (April 1992) A child-spawn of Venom bonded to serial-killer, Cletus Kasady. This spawn was eventually reabsorbed into Venom. After losing his symbiote, Kasady discovers a similar symbiote in the Negative Zone and once again became Carnage.
Toxin Venom Vs. Carnage #2 (September 2004) A spawn of Carnage that bonded with police officer Patrick Mulligan, becoming a hero. Later forcibly bonded to Eddie Brock by the Crime Master.[9]
Anti-Venom The Amazing Spider-Man #569 (October 2008) Created when remnants of the Venom symbiote in Eddie Brock's body were combined with his white blood cells by the mystical energies of Mister Negative. Anti-Venom possesses curative abilities and its touch is corrosive to the Venom symbiote. Unlike other symbiotes, the Anti-Venom suit is non-sentient and it is argued it is not a true symbiotic at all. The suit is seemingly destroyed in the 2011 "Spider-Island" story arc.[10]

Other, side symbiotes[edit]

The following symbiotes have made only a few other appearances in comic books and are usually excluded from adaptations in other media.

Name First appearance Description
Dreadface Fantastic Four #360 (January 1992) A symbiote capable of mind-controlling subjects by touch. The alien was captured aboard the ship of Devos the Devastator but escaped during an altercation between Devos and the Fantastic Four. Dreadface is presumed destroyed.
Scream Venom: Lethal Protector #4 (May 1993) In an attempt to create "super-cops" to police their new Utopia, the Life Foundation probed the Venom symbiote and extracted the last five of its "seeds" - the materials used to create its spawn. These were cultured and bonded to five of the Life Foundation's best security personnel to form the Guardians: Donna Diego (Scream), Carl Mach (Phage), Leslie Gesneria (Agony), Trevor Cole (Riot), and Ramon Hernandez (Lasher).

In the comics none of the five symbiotes were originally given names. However in the Venom: Planet of the Symbiotes toy line the yellow symbiote was named Scream and the green symbiote was named Lasher. The name Scream was eventually used in Marvel Super Hero Island Adventures #1 and the Spider-Man Back in Black Handbook. The toyline also featured a four armed symbiote named Riot that was loosely based on the unnamed symbiote in the comic What if Scarlet Spider killed Spider-Man?.[11] The other symbiote names became popular among fans but did not appear in an official Marvel work until the 2011 Carnage U.S.A. mini-series.

Mach, Cole, Hernandez, and Gesneria were all murdered by Diego after she decided that symbiotes were evil; the murdered guards' symbiotes fused to create Hybrid.[12] Years later, Scream and Hybrid are hunted and killed by Eddie Brock.[13] The Hybrid symbiote was taken in by the US Government, forcibly separated, and bonded to four soldiers to battle Carnage: Rico Axelson (Phage), James Murphy (Agony), Howard Ogden (Riot), and Marcus Simms (Lasher). [9] The four soldiers come to be known as the Mercury Team. While on another rampage, Carnage kills the Mercury Team without their symbiotes.[14] The four symbiotes temporarily bond with Deadpool to fight Carnage. After Carnage's defeat, Deadpool unbonds with the symbiotes and are now currently bonded to Mercury Team's dog. [15]

Lasher
Phage
Agony
Riot
Hybrid Venom: Along Came A Spider #1 (January 1996) The character was introduced as the fusion of the four 'Life Foundation symbiotes', bonded to prison guard Scott Washington. Though Eddie Brock later hunted down and murdered Washington,[13] the symbiotes survived and were somehow captured by the US government.[12]
Krobaa Venom: Seed of Darkness #1 (July 1997) A Symbiote that came to earth, apparently alerted to its presence by the experiments of Dr. Nigel Donlevy. He bonded with Donlevy, but the darkness in Donlevy's soul drove Krobaa insane. He went on a violent rampage until Daily Globe reporter Eddie Brock intervened. Surmising that a creature of living darkness would be vulnerable to light, Brock began taking pictures of Krobaa; the flash shocked Krobaa out of his madness. Unwilling to unleash the madness of humanity on his race, Krobaa killed himself, crumbling into black dust.
Payback True Believers (September 2008) Bonded to a more evolved cousin of normal race of symbiotes. Is currently a vigilante and head of the True Believers.
ZZZXX X-Men: Kingbreaker #2 (March 2009) He is a unique brain-eating member of the Symbiote species that was discovered several years ago by Shi'ar Emperor D'Ken. Unlike other symbiotes, ZZZXX didn't bother to ask permission or care to know his host.
Scorn Carnage #5 (August 2011) Originally a piece of Carnage recovered after his apparent destruction by Sentry. The piece was used to develop an advanced prosthetic arm used by Dr. Tanis Nieves. After she rejected its attempt to bond with her, it became attached to Shriek but grew fearful of her. Dr. Nieves accepted its desire to return to her and bonded with the symbiote to become Scorn.
Mania Venom #31 (April 2013) Eugene Thompson's neighbor in Philadelphia who bonds with a fragment of the Venom symbiote (which is possessed in turn by a demonic entity).

Other versions[edit]

Venom, as depicted in Ultimate Spider-Man #38 (May 2003). Art by Mark Bagley.

In the Ultimate Spider-Man universe, the Venom suit is a man-made creation born of an experiment by Richard Parker and Edward Brock, Sr. to develop a protoplasmic cure for cancer; it used Richard's DNA as the starting base for it, thus himself and Peter are "related" to it. The suit enhances the wearer's strength and natural abilities, but also attempts to permanently bond with the host and can affect his/her mind. The Ultimate symbiote is seemingly weak only to electricity. When worn by a host other than Richard's son Peter, the Ultimate Spider-Man, the host is compelled to devour the life energy of other human beings or else have their own be consumed by the suit instead.

The Carnage symbiote also appears in the Ultimate universe as a parasite genetically engineered by Curt Conners from Peter's DNA. Traces of the Venom suit remaining in Peter's blood give Carnage similar properties to the Venom suit. It also devours people, but does not require a host. It is killed after being consumed by fire following its attempt to absorb Peter to become whole. It later reappears in the form of Gwen Stacy, and during an encounter with Venom, the latter absorbs the Carnage suit into itself, making Venom "complete" though more monstrous than ever before.

In other media[edit]

Video games[edit]

  • In the arcade title Spider-Man: The Video Game after the defeat of Dr. Doom, the final boss fight consists of a battle against an infinite number of Doom-created symbiote clones. All the clones can be killed, but there is one "prime clone" with much more life. Defeating this clone is the only way to win.
  • In the N64/PlayStation title Spider-Man, the symbiotes became the more common enemy after rescuing Mary Jane and heading back to the Daily Bugle. The fastest way to kill these symbiotes was to find a fire-imbued web cartridge.
  • In the Spider-Man 3 video game, Shriek appears. Shriek's powers come from a symbiote in this game which is also black in color. However the symbiote only covers half of her body. This is only found on the Wii/PS2 versions of the game.
  • In Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, Venom returns to New York to send and unleash an invasion of cloned symbiotes to rule the city. During a fight with Venom, the symbiote suddenly reproduces and the spawn bonds with Spider-Man creating a replica of the Black Suit, but with considerably more Carnage-like abilities such as projecting bladed tentacles. Over the course of the game, Venom creates symbiote "seed-pods" in various locations around the city which absorb passing civilians and infect them with various types of symbiote ranging from Snatcher Symbiotes (the small black Symbiotes that drag unsuspecting victims to the "seed-pods"), Zombie Symbiotes (the weak white Symbiotes), Berserker Symbiotes (the red shiny Symbiotes), Grappler Symbiotes (black and red versions of the Berserkers), and Slasher Symbiotes (the white and pink Symbiotes). The Symbiotes even manage to infect Electro, Vulture, Black Cat and Wolverine. Symbiote-Electro and Symbiote-Vulture go on to spawn other symbiotes with powers similar to their hosts resulting in Electrolings and Vulturelings. All are eventually defeated by Spider-Man and the symbiotes are separated from them.
  • In Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, Ultimate Spider-Man in his symbiote suit is a playable character, Madame Web having restored the black suit as it provides this world's Peter Parker with additional abilities that he will require to succeed in his mission while she uses her psychic abilities to prevent the suit attempting to take over his mind though it does affect his temper. Also, the Ultimate Marvel version of Carnage appears as the final boss in the Ultimate levels here granted the ability to reanimate it's victims into symbiotic zombie-like creatures thanks to the powers of a fragment of the Tablet of Order and Chaos.
  • In Spider-Man: Edge of Time, it is revealed that a brainwashed Anti-Venom is responsible for killing present day Spider-Man, altering the future of the Marvel 2099 timeline and prompting Spider-Man 2099 to tamper with the timeline further in order to save his predecessor's life and repair the timestream. In one of their battles, Anti-Venom, Doc Ock (who in the new timeline was never a villain, but still uses his trademark arms) and game exclusive villain Dr. Walker Sloan (the man from 2099 who tried to alter the timeline) are knocked into a portal and become Atrocity, a bloated version of Anti-Venom with tentacles.
  • Two versions of the black suit appear as an optional costume in The Amazing Spider-Man, based on its appearance in the Spider-Man 3 film, and a modified version of Spider-Man's costume from The Amazing Spider-Man film. Backstory for the game also reveals that the game version of the Symbiote is based on a "black goo" recovered from space and that it is bonded with the game's version of the Scorpion. This is an allusion to the comics, where Mac Gargan briefly assumed the role of Venom.[16]

Film[edit]

Attractions[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed Extra: Randy Schueller’s Brush With Comic History | Comics Should Be Good!". ComicBookResources.com. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  2. ^ Shooter, Jim. Offer letter from Marvel Comics, ComicBookResources.com
  3. ^ Venom vol. 2 #4
  4. ^ "Phoenix Cactus Comic-Con: Angel Medina on ''Mighty Avengers''". Comicscontinuum.com. 2007-01-28. Retrieved 2010-10-18. 
  5. ^ "Mark Bagley to become Mark Mighty". Forum.newsarama.com. Retrieved 2010-10-18. 
  6. ^ Spider-Man/Fantastic Four #2
  7. ^ Spider-Man/Fantastic Four #4
  8. ^ Venom: The Hunted #1-3
  9. ^ a b Rick Remender (w), Lan Medina (p), Nelson Decastro (i). "Home Again" Venom 15 (June 2012), Marvel Comics
  10. ^ "Dan Slott's Formspring account". Formspring.com. 
  11. ^ Stuart Vandal. ComixFan Forum - "Things people keep getting wrong", p. 5, http://www.comixfan.net/ X-World Comics Presents . . . Comixfan, the #1 Online Comics Resource! October 13, 2011. Accessed November 24, 2011.
  12. ^ a b Carnage U.S.A. #2
  13. ^ a b Venom vol. 2 #15
  14. ^ Deadpool vs. Carnage #3
  15. ^ Deadpool vs. Carnage #4
  16. ^ "IGN Reveals The Amazing Spider-Man Game Connected To Symbiote & Doc Ock". ComicBookMovie.com. 2012-06-04.