Carnage sucks. The end.
No wait, come back, I’m not done, but at the same time I could probably sum up my opinion on the Spider-Man villain in those two short sentences. I don’t really get the excitement when it’s announced that an upcoming Venom movie from Sony may be titled Venom Carnage, what is the big deal about Carnage?!
Carnage is a boring villain seemingly created out of necessity. Marvel debuted Venom in the late 80’s as a darker, literally monstrous take on the Spider-Man character and his popularity exploded. To capitalize on the popularity, Marvel was keen on shifting Venom’s personality to more of an anti-hero than villain, placing him in countless mini-series and events where he would team-up with Spider-Man more than terrorize him, so Marvel decided it needed a new symbiote character. This time, he had to be evil-er.
In comes Carnage, serial killer Cletus Cassidy bonded with the spawn of the Venom symbiote. He’s like Venom only he’s the color of blood! And he’s got blades! As well as zero the personality or motivation other than “look at me I’m a psychopath.” Now, when Venom started out he had the flimsiest excuse to go after Spider-Man: he made me lose my job, but at least it was something. The idea of Venom has also been shaken up over the years with new hosts, and is even better than ever now that it’s found a partner in one Eugene “Flash” Thompson. Venom is hanging around with the likes of The Avengers and more recently the Guardians of the Galaxy; Carnage? Still just that same uninteresting psychopath, who for some reason get’s a mini-series or story on an annual basis.
I think the rise of Carnage can be attributed to two things, the first being the 90’s decade where comics had to be violent, dark and gritty thanks in no part to the rise of Image comics and characters like Todd McFarlane’s Spawn. The second would be Maximum Carnage, and I’m not even referring to the comic series, but the video game. I would wager if I engaged a number of Carnage fans in conversation, Acclaim’s Green Jelly soundtrack fueled beat-em-up would definitely come up. Even that game didn’t sustain the characters spotlight that long, as Separation Anxiety launched a year later to nowhere near the same success, marking Maximum Carnage as the equivalent of that band you like breaking out and then failing with their second single, then over the years struggling to remain relevant.
Interestingly enough, the most depth I’ve seen put into the Carnage character was in another video game as recent as this year: Activision’s movie tie-in game, The Amazing Spider-Man 2. In the story of that game, Cletus Cassidy is a fan of Spider-Man and what he’s doing who wants to show him that he’s not going far enough with his crime fighting and that murder is the only solution. It’s not the most original idea mind you; it’s actually a little like the Punisher, but I still appreciate the effort put in to make Carnage something more than just “I kill guys, BLAARRRGHH.” What helps you believe that Cassidy actually wishes to help Spider-Man in the game is that his character pre-symbiote comes across as pretty intelligent and you actually believe him some what. Had it just been the crazy ravings of a madman it wouldn’t even register, but at points you’re convinced that maybe Spider-Man is considering what he’s saying as a possible solution.
Do I think there’s anything redeeming about Carnage? From an artistic point he makes an interesting looking character that I think could like pretty scary if he actually does the transition to the big screen, but looks still only take the a character so far. Behind the sharp teeth, blades and tendrils there’s still barely a one-dimensional character underneath. Compare that to the Joker for example, who let’s face it, is a homicidal madman with zero regard for human life, but you also see a method to the madness. In The Dark Knight, The Joker proclaims that he does things without thinking about what he would do should he actually accomplish his goals (“I’m like a dog chasing a car…) but at the same time he still has elaborate, well thought out plans and goals. The Joker craves anarchy and chaos as a punch line to a joke only he gets; Carnage wants to kill people for….reasons.
Carnage is a villain we remember liking more than what we actually like. I love Maximum Carnage (the game, not the comic, that’s awful) and I’ll admit to loving Carnage…when I was a pre-teen and didn’t really know any better. Back then when I was reading comics and tuning in every Saturday morning to watch the Spider-Man animated series on Fox, I wanted them to rush through villains like Doc Ock to get to the symbiote villains as they were ssssoooo much better. But there’s a reason why villains like Otto Octavius and Norman Osborn have endured over the years: they’re interesting characters that continue to develop their adversary, in this case, Spider-Man. I cringe when I see Carnage standing toe-to-toe next to the likes of Loki, Doctor Doom, The Red Skull and Onslaught in the major upcoming Marvel event, AXIS.
Carnage, what have you done lately to stand among such honored villains? The answer: NOTHING. You should have stayed ripped in two in space.