Cletus Kasady/Carnage may have first appeared in the 90s as one of Spider-Man‘s most dangerous enemies, but the character has never been more popular, with the major Absolute Carnage event of 2019 as well as an upcoming live-action appearance in the recently titled live-action sequel Venom: Let There Be Carnage.
While we don’t know much about Woody Harrelson’s upcoming portrayal of the symbiotic serial killer, there are quite a few versions of Carnage for the film to use for inspiration. Today we are going to take a look at a few of the best and worst versions of Carnage we’ve seen over the years.
10 BEST: CARNAGE U.S.A.
The original version of Carnage is still one of the best, and he arguably reached his peak in Carnage U.S.A., which saw Cletus Kasady gorge on a herd of livestock to increase the mass of his symbiote, which allowed him to take over almost the entire town of Doverton and the Avengers.
This version of Carnage was also responsible for the Maximum Carnage massacre and existed before most of the cosmic and supernatural aspects were added as pure symbiotic mayhem, though he spent most of his time locked away in Ravencroft.
9 WORST: CARNAGE COSMIC
As if Carnage wasn’t already overpowered by his symbiote, a chance encounter during a fight with Spider-Man brought the Silver Surfer into the battle, and the symbiote reacted to the Surfer’s arrival by abandoning Cletus Kasady and attempting to bond with the Surfer to become the “Carnage Cosmic.”
The Surfer was able to resist the symbiote and return it to Kasady before turning into a much bigger cosmic threat, and the storyline only almost jumped the shark by combining a Herald of Galactus with Carnage.
8 BEST: DARK CARNAGE
The aforementioned Absolute Carnage event introduced a new version of Carnage to the Marvel Universe that had been bonded with the Grendel symbiote and manipulated by the symbiote god Knull to become Dark Carnage.
Not only was Dark Carnage larger and more powerful than previous versions, but the rotting yet living corpse of Cletus Kasady was also able to use maggot-like pieces of the Grendel symbiote to enslave others, including Miles Morales/Spider-Man.
7 WORST: POISON CARNAGE
The multiversal species known as the Poisons harvest symbiotes in order to consume and take over their hosts, essentially becoming corrupted Venomized versions of their former selves, meaning the Poison army was full of powerful multiversal heroes and villains.
When the Poisons attacked the mainstream 616 reality and encountered opposition, they rebonded Cletus Kasady to a symbiote and turned him into a Poison, though he soon betrayed them and was killed once again.
6 BEST: DARKHOLD CARNAGE
While the overall storyline from the Carnage ongoing failed to capitalize on the potential of a Cletus Kasady empowered by the chaos magic of the Darkhold, the possibilities of a supernatural Carnage could have opened up many new avenues before the Knull storyline explored similar territory.
Kasady’s encounter with the Darkhold and the Elder God Chthon still managed to spawn a few more symbiotes (Raze and Jubuilile) into the Venom family, while also erasing the symbiote’s usual weaknesses to sonics and fire.
5 WORST: SUPERIOR CARNAGE
Following the lobotomization of Cletus Kasady by Scarlet Spider in Minimum Carnage, he is taken by the Frightful Four, and the Carnage symbiote is forcibly removed and bonded with the unwilling criminal scientist Dr. Karl Malus.
The “Superior Carnage” was controlled by the Wizard and equipped with weapons, though after they encountered Superior Spider-Man, the experiment quickly went off the rails and the Carnage symbiote rampaged before Spider-Man imprisoned it.
4 BEST: SPIDER-CARNAGE
During Peter Parker’s clone Ben Reilly‘s tenure as Spider-Man, he encountered the Carnage symbiote when it was using John Jameson as a temporary host, though it quickly abandoned him and attempted to bond with Reilly to become Spider-Carnage.
While Reilly was able to retain control long enough to separate himself from the symbiote, we still love the design and Spider-Carnage’s nostalgic appearance on Spider-Man: The Animated Series.
3 WORST: AXIS
When Red Onslaught threatened the world during the AXIS event, a number of heroes and villains had their personalities inverted by a spell cast by Scarlet Witch and Doctor Doom. Carnage was one of the villains affected, and he briefly attempted strange acts of heroism.
While Cletus was still clearly insane, he did appear to sacrifice himself during a battle with the inverted X-Men to stop a Gene-Bomb that would have wiped out the non-mutant population, though he was soon thankfully returned to his normal homicidal self.
2 BEST: RED GOBLIN
Cletus Kasady isn’t the only villain to bond with the Carnage symbiote as we saw in the “Go Down Swinging” storyline. Norman Osborn/Green Goblin was able to get his hands on the Carnage symbiote, and bonded with it and his Goblin Formula to become the Red Goblin.
As the Red Goblin, he then proceeded to take down Spider-Man and his closest allies before Peter Parker rebonded with the Venom symbiote and was finally able to separate Norman from the Carnage symbiote.
1 WORST: ULTIMATE CARNAGE
The Ultimate Universe version of the Carnage symbiote has a much different origin, as it was created by Dr. Curt Conners and his lab assistant using Peter’s DNA and the Venom symbiote, which had been created by Peter and Eddie Brock’s father.
After escaping, Carnage followed its genetic connection to Peter back to his home, where he killed Gwen Stacy before Spider-Man was able to stop it. This version of Carnage shares a similar look to the mainstream version, but never felt complete without Cletus Kasady.
We've seen quite a few different versions of Carnage since the character first debuted back in 1992, and we've loved almost every one of them. Almost.