Spider-Man has always had one of comic’s best rogues’ galleries. Filled with the iconic and the absurd, the villains range from the unforgettable to the laughable. It is always a treat to be collecting a book at the time when a new villain emerges, and the Carnage was one of the first new villains introduced when I had started collecting seriously.
Tale of the Tape
Amazing Spider-Man #361-363
Written by David Michelinie
Pencils by Mark Bagley
Inks by Randy Emberlin
Coloured by Bob Sharen
Lettered by Ken Lopez
44th ed. Overstreet Guide puts a 9.2 at $30/$12/$12
For readers today Venom is Flash Thompson and he gets to run around in space with a talking racoon and a giant tree, but before Venom was a soldier sent on secret space missions with loquacious flora and fauna he was Eddie Brock, a homicidal maniac with a hatred of Spider-Man. During the (original) Secret Wars Spider-Man gained a new costume which he soon found out was a sentient, symbiotic being that was trying to permanently bond with him. Peter rejected the alien costume and, filled with anger and resentment, the costume bonded with reporter Eddie Brock due to their mutual hatred of Spider-Man. For a good 75 issues Venom tried his best to kill Spider-Man until he got caught up in the anti-hero movement of the 90s and become a Lethal Protector himself.
Venom was extremely popular and we all know that when one of something is good then two of something is even better! And so Carnage was born. Venom’s symbiote reproduced and the spawn bonded with convicted serial killer Cletus Kasady who lacked Brock’s twisted morality (the only person Brock wanted to kill was Spider-Man). Carnage starts to rack up a sizeable body count and Spider-Man is forced to enlist the help of Venom is stopping this new deadly killer. In addition to all of Venom’s powers, Carnage has the ability to create weapons from this symbiotic and can mask himself from Brock’s symbiote.
Like so many items from our youth it is sort of hard to explain how popular certain things were. Serial killers were big back then, in both the news and fiction: Hannibal Lector, Natural Born Killers, Ted Bundy. There was something deeply unsettling about a villain who killed for no reason other than they enjoyed causing death. Carnage definitely upped the normally PG world of Spider-Man to a hard PG-13.
The three issue arc is tightly paced and really has solid action throughout. I do think that it also plays on some great aspects of the Spider-Man character. Self sacrifice, willing to work with a villain for a greater good,and risking your own safety for innocents. Mark Bagley had only been regular penciller on ASM for about a year at this point and fans weren’t quite solid on him yet. Todd McFarlane and Eric Larsen had just left and were in all the Wizard Magazines making big waves with Image and Bagley really need a major story to lock himself in as a fan favourite. This was the story that made people take note and see that he was in it for the long haul.
This was also the first book that I bought at cover price and saw it jump in value. Oh the speculators! I mean, it went up to $10 pretty quick! If it kept gaining in value I could retire off of this! I think at one time I owned 5 copies. I did end up selling them for a profit but it wasn’t the millions I had hoped for.
All in all, Carnage’s first foray into the Marvel Universe was great fun, and a memorable Spider-Man tale. If you want an even crazier Carnage story check out Maximum Carnage, a 12 part cross-over that was so ridiculous it got a SuperNintendo game with a sound track by Green Jelly.