Carnage in Animation: A Retrospective

Stu

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It's been a while since I've done one of these on this Marvel animation forum, but with Carnage set to make his big screen debut in the upcoming Venom: Let There Be Carnage movie, I thought now would be a perfect time to look over some of his animated appearances. Enjoy!

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The 1990s has often been described as a difficult time for comic books. With the market booming in the early part of the decade before famously falling out of the bottom towards the middle/end of the decade before Marvel’s merger with Toy Biz, it’s a fascinating time to look back upon. As a Spider-Man fan who was in and out of comics at the time, I am often told of how terrible the creative teams were in the 1990s when plot thin crossovers, shiny variant covers and belts with endless pouches too small to fit anything were all the rage. Looking back, it would appear one of the main reasons The Amazing Spider-Man went downhill so fast was due to the absence of stalwart writer David Micheline.

While his run is not often whispered in the same breath as some of the all time greats, I believe it should be. True, he was upstaged by the terrific artistic trio who served on the book with him, mainly Todd McFarlane, Erik Larson and Mark Bagley, but he seemed to be the first writer who knew what to do with the married Peter and Mary Jane, brought back the Sinister Six for what is still their best story and of course, created Venom and Carnage, the two most popular villains of the 90s.

In the introduction to the Carnage trade paperback collecting his debut storyline, Micheline confessed he originally planned to kill Venom/Eddie Brock off and have the symbiote bond with other existing characters around #400. What he did not expect, was the massive surge in sales and popularity for Venom, meaning there was utterly no way Marvel would allow him to kill the Lethal Protector off. In lieu of the symbiote obtaining new ‘hosts’, he decided that an entire new character would be better suited and Cletus Kassidy was created. With fans enjoying the undeniably/nonsensical crazy sense of justice Eddie Brock had, Micheline went the entirely opposite direction with Cassidy and created a serial killer who had no intention of saving any innocents.



Debuting in The Amazing Spider-Man #344, fans were teased with his appearance as the symbiote broke Eddie Brock out of prison and left a small fragment of itself behind before finally debuting in #361 as Carnage. The three part story sees Spider-Man utterly outmatched by his new foe and returning the to Island on which he exiled Venom following their previous battle, in which Brock actually thought he’d defeated and killed Spider-Man… which I thought was trifle too convenient, as if Venom ever returned to anywhere with a TV/Newspaper, he would see that Peter Parker/Spider-Man was alive and well, but in the smaller scheme of things, a Predator inspired battle between Spider-Man and Venom was a great read, and Erik Larson drew an incredible Venom. It is easy to see why Venom was so popular in his original handful of appearances. (In fairness I haven’t read the storyline in so long, there may be a reason why indeed Brock decided to stay on the island, but if there was, I cannot remember what it.)

With the introduction of Carnage and Spidey being undoubtedly outmatched by his new foe, Spidey sought an alliance with an enemy he once thought to be his most dangerous certainly made for interesting drama, I read this collected story as young lad and thoroughly enjoyed it. While it seems stupid to think of it now, in those days, stories only got collected in trade paperbacks if they were a big deal and make no mistake, Carnage was a big deal for Marvel. It also meant that Carnage was one of the few villains at the time, I knew a great deal about before I saw their animated debuts. I had also played the hell out of the excellent Maximum Carnage video game for the Sega Mega Drive.

Sadly, his success became his downfall as most of his further appearances only seemed to dilute his character rather than add to it… shortly after this the Maximum Carnage comic book storyline was produced, which seemed to be nothing more than an excuse to have Venom and Carnage appear across all four Spider-Man books for a 3 month period in hopes of huge sales. It was later turned into an aforementioned video for the Mega Drive/Super Nintendo but as far as story goes, it was paper thin. Sadly Micheline left The Amazing Spider-Man and was replaced by J M Demattias, who sadly, wrote mostly drivel disguised as a deep philosophical take on Spider-Man in which he decided that Peter Parker was the problem and he was abandoning his humanity as Peter Parker to become The Spider… then we got to Traveller, the return of The Jackal and the Clone Saga mess and it was clear the marketing department was writing as much as the writer and it would be years before The Amazing Spider-Man would be worth reading again… Chapter One, Tom Defalco, Howard Mackie… it wasn’t until JMS came along that Marvel’s flagship title was actually good (and editorial certainly endhttp://marvel.popgeeks.com/spideytased his run on the sourest of notes). Personally, Micheline, or a writer of his ilk, was missed for what felt like a good decade.



Getting back to Carnage however… in the 90s he was arguably the most popular supervillain going. Which meant it was no surprise that when a new Spider-Man animated series was greenlighted, Carnage had to appear. What was a surprise however, was that he did not appear until the middle of season three. To give context, he was featured in the very first wave of action figures so fans knew he was coming long before he actually showed up. I personally had the Carnage figure for years before he appeared in the show, but there was no Hobgoblin drama of getting him in the show early, the figure seemed to sell well based solely on his comic book popularity. With the introduction of Venom in The Alien Costume being one of the shows very best stories, anticipation was high for Carnage.

Sadly, by the time season three debuted, the shows quality had dropped. The editing had become something of an embarrassment, the animation had dropped to often cringe worthy levels and the pacing of each episode was often too frantic… which was especially annoying when the show had as many flashbacks as Spider-Man did… it was clear they were trying to save the animation budget by reusing as much old animation as possible, but the ‘tricks’ used to do this weren’t at all clever, especially as the Spider-Man model seemed to tweak every episode. While the show was normally well written, there was usually a lot going on in every episode, compared to the better paced, much better animated stories in the opening season. These two episodes alone feature Venom returning, the introduction of Cletus Kassidy, him becoming Carnage, a team up with War Machine and later Iron Man, more Madame Web lessons, a romance between Eddie and Dr Kafka as well as Dormammu and Baron Mordo, who despite being perfectly entertaining villains, really were not needed in this story… or in any Spider-Man story, unless Doctor Strange is featured. That’s a lot to do in 44 minutes!

It must also be said that Carnage is clearly neutered from his comic book character here. Those of you expecting a serial killer clearly were not going to get one from Spider-Man: The Animated Series, as violence of pretty much any kind was strictly prohibited. Broadcast Standards and Practices would’ve promptly crapped their pants if the show had tried to fully adapt Carnage from the comic books here. The reigns never let up on Spider-Man: The Animated Series, the show faced problems in every single episode because of the backlash from the violence shown in Batman: The Animated Series and Mighty Morpin’ Power Rangers. Having interviewed many of the writers and in a cool gift, actually been provided some of the BS+P notes from this very story, it’s surprising that the show ever made it to air. They were that strict with the censorship in this show.

The story sees Spider-Man capture Kassidy, who had attempted to blow up the orphanage he grew up in. He is sent to Ravencroft and is institutionalised next to Eddie Brock, who was arrested following The Alien Costume Part 3, and presumably also institutionalised by telling everyone he was bonded to an alien, while having obvious anger issues towards Spider-Man and being found trespassing unconscious in a Space Shuttle Exhibition, without his shirt no less. With the symbiote still stranded in space, Dormammu instructs Baron Mordo to retrieve it as it returns to Earth and hypnotises its new hosts into reuniting the symbiote with Brock, so he can retrieve Tony Stark’s new Interdimensional Transporter, which Dormammu plans to use to free himself from the dark dimension he is trapped in. Oddly, instead of instructing Mordo to help Venom defeat Spider-Man and War Machine with his own not unformidable mystical powers, Dormammu explains the symbiote was about to reproduce, giving us the Carnage symbiote, which he then offers to Cassidy in exchange for his servitude.



I have to admit, it was incredibly cool to see Kassidy bond with the symbiote, and the model for this scene has the same kinetic skin from the comic books, offering some very nice visuals for a change. I think this Carnage model is actually one of the shows best, which I can only assume is because they knew Carnage needed to look his best here… I was pleased with what we got, especially in part two, when the animation and colour quality increased massively from part one, which looked fairly flat and pale in comparison.

Carnage is voiced by Scott Cleverdon here, who I think does a fantastic job. He manages to sound full on looney tunes without overdoing it and appears to be having a great time while he’s at it. I can’t say I’ve ever heard of Cleverdon’s work on anything else other than this show sadly, but he was more than a credible Carnage here. Overall, I do think the show is well cast throughout with some actors sadly overlooked. Neil Ross, Roscoe Lee Brown and even Chris Barnes never quire get their due as to how utterly fantastic they were The Green Goblin, The Kingpin and Spider-Man himself.

Rather than kill people, Carnage sucks the ‘life force’ out of them as an equal amount of energy is needed to replace Dormammu’s in the dark dimension, and the visual of Carnage extracting the life out of his villains was actually pretty cool, but the weak side of the story is that after waiting to see Carnage for so long, he is essentially a puppet for Dormammu. He is actually killed off at the end of the episode (being trapped in another dimension instead of dying was a trick this show used Broadcast, Standards and Practises throwing a hissy fit). As someone who had only seen season one Iron Man at the time I first viewed this episode, it was also a bit odd seeing how quickly Iron Man suggested throwing Carnage into an unknown dark dimension. Another great bit sees him smash the Interdimensional Transporter to bits;

Spider-Man: Hey! That belongs to Stark Industries!

Iron Man: If Tony Stark has a problem, he can take it up with me!




Ah, the good old days of Iron Man’s somewhat stupid secret identity. Bonus points for casting Robert Hayes as Iron Man again, he’s still my favourite Iron Man voice.

Venom turns babyface (to utilize a professional wrestling term) and sacrifices himself to save Kafka. Madame Web warns Spider-Man he himself may have to make such a sacrifice one day. At this point, it was clear the Madame Web storyline was building to something big… I didn’t see it at the time, but Madame Web’s arc over the course of the show was to get Peter passed his own self doubt, which later brought us to the finale.

Having tested Spider-Man with the Secret Wars, Madame Web and her master, The Beyonder, had vexed their powers and were unable to stop an evil version of Spider-Man, bonded with the Carnage symbiote, to stop him blowing up all reality. Travelling back in time, our Spider-Man is tasked with leading a team of Spider-Man from different realms to stop Spider-Carnage in what is now known as the original Spider-Verse. Dan Slott denies this being an inspiration for the comic book storyline which later became an incredible animated movie, but the similarities are easy to locate.

While Cletus Kassidy doesn’t appear, essentially an alternate reality version of Spider-Man is bonds with what may well be ‘our’ realities Carnage symbiote, driving him insane. While it did sting a little to see the Mary Jane cliffhanger unresolved, the episode offers an utterly fantastic character piece for Peter who is essentially overcoming his own demons and shortcomings, by saving Gwen Stacey, the one who he ultimately failed to save in the comics, and by bringing that dimensions Uncle Ben to remind Peter that he’s stronger the symbiote, the evil inside him and reminding him that with great power there must also come great responsibility. There’s no final fight here as Spider-Carnage admits his evil doings and essentially commits suicide. Semper understood his assignment here. It’s worth adding that Christopher Daniel Barnes made for an excellent villain here, if any casting directors are reading this, give his agent a call. He was a truly excellent Spider-Man.



The show ends with Spider-Man telling Stan Lee, his creator, that he is happy with the man he has become and he has literally overcome his own perceived shortcomings before Madame Web returns and explains that he’s saved all reality and his reward awaits him;

“Face front true believer! We are going to find the real Mary Jane Watson! It has been a long, hard road and I think you are finally entitled to some happiness!”

The show was never renewed for further episodes because executive producer Avi Arad fell out with Fox Kids executive, the legendary Margaret Loesch. It was a decision I believe Fox would later regret, because even reruns of Spider-Man: The Animated Series were still doing very strong numbers for many years. Marvel attempted to replace the show with Spider-Man: Unlimited, which was an unmitigated disaster.

Carnage was due to return in a hypothetical season six as he was transported back to Victorian Era England in which it would’ve been revealed that he was Jack The Red, better known as Jack The Ripper. Not sure how that one would’ve gotten past BS+P, but there was certainly a plan for more Carnage, had the show continued.



A small tidbit which many of you may not know… mindless versions of Venom and Carnage were originally supposed to return in season four in an episode which featured Ghost Rider. When Fox learned UPN were potentially planning a Ghost Rider show (via a backdoor pilot in The Incredible Hulk) they ixnayed the entire episode.

As a youngster, I was very much impressed with Carnage in the show. I wasn’t expecting a murderous psychopath, and I think it would be foolish of anyone to assume that’s what we’d get, but I did think there was more fun to be had with this version of Carnage (season four in particular, was crying out for a big villain)

It was certainly better than what came next…

Next: Planet of the Symbiotes
 

Frontier

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Probably the best animated adaption of Carnage by virtue of being the most true-to-character and his status in the 90's, whereas moving forward Carnage would either be so in-tandem with Venom or not even be associated with Cletus that it was only half-representing the character.
 

Antiyonder

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Who knows? Considering my tendency to consume so bad it's good or guilty pleasure stuff I might have enjoyed Maximum Carnage regardless, but the SNES game helped said enjoyment.

It was also my introduction to Firestar prior to a lucky discovery and purchase of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends The X-Men Adventures on VHS in 97.


A small tidbit which many of you may not know… mindless versions of Venom and Carnage were originally supposed to return in season four in an episode which featured Ghost Rider. When Fox learned UPN were potentially planning a Ghost Rider show (via a backdoor pilot in The Incredible Hulk) they ixnayed the entire episode.

As a youngster, I was very much impressed with Carnage in the show. I wasn’t expecting a murderous psychopath, and I think it would be foolish of anyone to assume that’s what we’d get, but I did think there was more fun to be had with this version of Carnage (season four in particular, was crying out for a big villain)

It was certainly better than what came next…

Next: Planet of the Symbiotes

Between the Venom and Carnage looking robots and the team up with Mysterio in The Haunting of Mary Jane Watson, I wonder if that was an attempt not to throw away the entire plan for said team up, especially bringing in the robot of Marry Jane's father since they had Ed Gilbert available to voice him.
 

The Overlord

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A problem with Carnage in the comics is he is a shock value character. He is just an evil psychopath, but he is not smart like the Joker or willing to work for more intelligent villains like Bullseye is. In the comics, Carnage just slices up random civilians until Spidey stops him, you read one Carnage story, you read them all. They have tried to do other things with him, having him take over a town or be the herald of an evil god, but ultimately he just goes back to randomly stabbing people.

Take away the shock value and the character has little else. Spider-Man TAS did as good a job with him as they could, given the censorship on that show. It's why other versions in animation either make him more of a team player or go with Ultimate Carnage, where he is just a feral animal.
 

Stu

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Spider-Man Unlimited was the result of seemingly everything going wrong behind the scenes of a show. Following the foolish decision to cancel Spider-Man: The Animated Series, which was still pulling great ratings even in reruns, selling a mass amount of merchandise and was critically acclaimed in its day, Fox and Marvel negotiated an agreement to keep Spider-Man and X-Men on the air, in return for a new low budget Spider-Man show to be produced.

With Spider-Man: The Animated Series producer/story editor John Semper falling out with Avi Arad following numerous clashes of heads which essentially boiled down to one of them wanting to write a belter of a show and the other wanting a toy advert, he was not invited back as showrunner for this version of Spider-Man. Animation veteran Will Meugniot, who served as a producer on the first season of X-Men and Michael Reeves, a seasoned pro of many quality cartoons of the era including Batman: The Animated Series and Gargoyles were hired. The problem was, that Marvel was also negotiating with Sony for their live action Spider-Man series, and the ‘classic’ Spider-Man animation rights were part of the deal, which Sony intended to option (this would later become Spider-Man: The New Animated Series on MTV)


The original idea of doing a low budget, motion comic looking version of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s run was not now legally possible, and the crews back up idea of a counter Earth in which Uncle Ben did not die, and therefore Peter did not learn his lesson that with great power comes great responsibility and he essentially becomes that world’s version of Venom, which Marvel ixnayed. A Spider-Man 2099 proposal was quickly shot down as Marvel was still facing backlash for replacing Peter Parker as Spider-Man with Ben Reilly, until finally, Marvel provided them with a list of characters they wanted the show to feature… Venom and Carnage being the main ones, but the rest of the characters seemed to stem from The High Evolutionary’ s experiments. The High Evolutionary is not really a character that remotely fits within Spidey’s world, however, he creates animal/human hybirds, which, along with armours, is one of the things Toy Biz chief executive Avi Arad loves the most because the are proven action figure sellers, it was clear he planned the show, and the rest of the Marvel cartoon of the era, as a toy advert.

There’s no getting around it… the show never got passed it’s out there premises. It’s too far removed from Spider-Man to even feel remotely Spider-Manish, as even his classic costume was off limits. I don’t especially care for his new threads, nor his new voice. Rino Romano was cast as Spider-Man for this show, and to be blunt, he’s not very good. His quips fall flat and he oversells the dramatic stuff for me… he sounds very forced. It’s worth mentioning he didn’t have any good material to work with either. He would reprise his role in the excellent Spider-Man video game in 2000 and while it did take me a long time to get over the fact they didn’t bring Chris Barnes back, who would’ve been perfect for that game, he’s much better there than he is here.

The writing is not up to snuff and it doesn’t impress visually, sadly, the show is without much in terms of redeeming qualities. Spider-Man even has a cape... it's disrespectful.

Carnage is one of the main villains of the show, as Venom and Carnage actually hijacked John Jameson’s ship to travel to Counter Earth as they wanted to be involved in the Synoptic… the problem was, no one ever before to explain what in the blue hell the Synoptic actually was… the two central villains motivations made no sense, whatsoever. It was also oddly out of place to see Venom and Carnage team up, as they are traditionally the worst of enemies.


Carnage is also known for having one of the coolest designs for a villain ever. Mark Bagley designed a masterpiece for in his The Amazing Spider-Man run, arguably one of the greatest designs ever from the 90s best artist, which is utterly butchered here. Carnage is essentially a red skeleton with eyes and spikes, how, for some reason, can now turn entirely into liquid (think Inque from Batman Beyond, just not remotely cool looking). Sadly, the model is a bloody eye sore, but the contract forbade them from having Carnage look like Carnage… the show seemed utterly doomed before it even started airing.

Venom and Carnage appeared plenty, but offered very little. The Synoptic event happened in episode 13, which meant the season ended on a cliffhanger as it looked as if the Counter Earth was about to be destroyed. A second season was commissioned and a number of scripts were written but never produced as Marvel began fighting bankruptcy issues… I do not consider this a loss.

When the show premiered, it received terrible reviews and was utterly thumped by Pokemon in the ratings, to the point where the show was pulled from the scheduled after three episodes… it was an unmitigated failure from top to bottom and was quickly forgotten about as soon as the remaining episodes aired in 2000. Most involved with the show don’t seem to be happy with the result of it, but I don’t believe they are to blame… this was destined, destined for failure. When it was announced as being part of the Disney + catalogue, it wasn’t met with the same resounding cheers as Spider-Man and X-Men were. The show wasn’t even met with a line of action figures… even Arad must’ve known he had a complete dud on his hands, as he happily commissioned waves for The Avengers: United They Stand and Silver Surfer, two other Fox/Marvel failures. Spider-Man Unlimited is actually probably best remembered as a pale knock off of Batman Beyond, despite being in production before that show.

Chalk this one up as a failure folks… I honestly couldn't recommend this to even the most hardcore of Spider-Man fans. It's a soulless cash grab that did not work in any context.
 

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I liked how Spider-Man TAS introduced Kasady and showed how nuts he was even before getting the symbiote. It's pretty much the only Spidey show where Carnage's real identity came into play. (though Spectacular would have likely done this as well, if it continued). It's not like the comics, but I think TAS managed to portray Carnage pretty well considering the censorship the show usually had. He came across as menacing enough by the show's standards. It's probably the best animated Carnage we had so far, but to be fair there's really not much competition. The idea to eventually bond Carnage to Jack the Ripper had the show continued, was pretty interesting.

For Unlimited, I thought Venom & Carnage's addition kind of made sense considering the alien setting of the show. But their partnership was a bit weird, overall. There's really not much to comment on their roles here. I kind of liked the Counter Earth versions of some classic Spidey villains more than the symbiotes and the High Evolutionary put together. Season 2 might have been interesting though I am not really too disappointed it was never produced.
 

Stu

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Between the Venom and Carnage looking robots and the team up with Mysterio in The Haunting of Mary Jane Watson, I wonder if that was an attempt not to throw away the entire plan for said team up, especially bringing in the robot of Marry Jane's father since they had Ed Gilbert available to voice him.

If I remember correctly, they were actually just mindless versions of the characters, driven insane by being in the other dimension for so long.
 

Stu

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Entirely absent from Spider-Man: The New Animated Series and Sam Raimi’s live action movie trilogy, Carnage was intended to appear in the third season of The Spectacular Spider-Man following a brief cameo of Cletus Kassidy as a Ravencroft patient in season two. Supervising producer/story editor Greg Weisman has never elaborated as to what the plans for Carnage were, as he believes that telling the audience what happens online will ruin said plans if the show is ever commissioned for a further season/spin off/comic book. While a third season of Spectacular Spider-Man seems tragically unlikely, I respect his stance. For many, many years, I thought a third season of Young Justice wasn’t going to happen, but Weisman is now hard at work on season four.



With Marvel regaining the animation rights from Sony for Spider-Man and his associated characters as part of the option to extend the live action movie rights (a decision I imagine they now completely regret), essentially ending the slightest chance of a third season of Spectacular, Marvel began work on their own brand new Spider-Man show, which we would eventually come to know as Ultimate Spider-Man.

Man of Action were announced as the show runners, which should’ve set my spider sense off, as the utterly fantastic Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes suffered a noticeable dip in quality once they came on board. Marketing for the show seemed to be based upon who was working on the show, rather than anything about the show itself, beyond a brief trailer being shown at Comic Con, which looked to have beautiful animation, but writing wise, was clearly targeted at the kiddies.

I won’t bore you with the details of season one, but it was dreadful. Visually beautiful to look at with excellent models and animation, but the writing was mainly lousy, with most of the plots being stoopid with 2 o’s (thank you, Knives Out), the characters being one note and that note being really annoying and the humour was just lame. The first season was usually team up affairs, because the whole thing was deliberately designed to sell the various licensing products between Spider-Man and the Avengers… the show clearly never tried to hide it was a toy advert. It aimed for low fruit, because Loeb didn't seem to know how to create anything pleasing to anyone under 8 anymore.

Getting to Carnage… season two promised the introduction of more villains, as the show was oddly mandated to use only the Raimi movie villains in season one. It was never explained why this was, but the rest of the villains were Avengers villains mainly, and there’s a reason why each respective hero has his own rogues, mainly being that Avengers villains never really meshed with Spidey. The unimaginative episode titles made it sound like they were supplying product rather than entertaining stories, and Carnage debuted in his self entitled episode, but it wasn’t the Cletus Kassidy version we all know and love/hate depending on which side of the fence you sit.

The symbiotes were completely overdone in season one and never really had any character to them, it just felt like any excuse to give a character powers… making Harry Venom felt like bad fan fiction at this point. To label a point, I recently considered updating the Venom retrospective, but when I concluded just how much more of Ultimate Spider-Man I'd have to rewatch again, I decided against it... it's really not good.

I admit to looking forward to seeing Carnage appear, if for nothing else, he would surely have a nice character model, because I had given up on expecting a well written episode at this time in the show. Cletus Kassidy is nowhere to be found and instead The (not Green) Goblin returns, this time to bond the symbiote with Peter, believing him to be a worth son in lieu of Harry. The model was nice enough, but the Carnage aspect of the episode seemed to be over before it really went anywhere… Peter separated from the Carnage symbiote and then we were back to another Goblin/Spider-Man/Harry fight, which it felt had already been done too many times at this point, a lot of this show felt very repetitive… it didn’t help when so many of the episodes Peter learnt the same lessons over and over again. For a science prodigy, Man of Action treated Peter like a complete idiot for the sake of a few unfunny ‘comedy’ spots. Credit to whoever decided to expand upon the show’s rouges gallery in season two, the show already needed fresh blood on the villains side of things as Doc Ock, Venom and The Goblin were already showing signs of overuse, one season in.



We will now skip to season four, as Carnage didn’t appear in season three… not that this version had anything slightly to do with the season two version, but anyway.

By the time the forth season came along, the show had made many positive changes. Man Of Action had left and some of the previous ‘rules’ established, to the decrement of the show, had been lifted. Multiple episode stories were now allowed, the supporting cast of Cage/Iron First/White Tiger/Nova were gradually phased out and replaced with the more interesting Web Warriors (I imagine because Spider-Man variant toys sold better than the Ultimate friends) and thankfully, show became less stupid with its plots. It still had a lot of issues it could never get passed (Drake Bell being one of the main ones… the man was deeply irritating in the role and never got better) but the show was a lot more watchable, and it attempted to translate some of the bigger, more modern Spider-Man storylines of the time. I would assume this is because comics editor Steve Wacker took a strong presence in the show behind the scenes, and to be blunt, was better at his job than his predeccesor was.

The Symbiote Saga was one of these. A 3 part storyline which saw a new variant of the symbiote created by Michael Morbius, all three parts seem to be fairly drastically different from each other. Part one sees the symbiote attach itself to Doc Ock, which will remind old school Spider-Man fans of the 2000 Neversoft game and it’s final heart stopping level which players have to get the hell away from Monster Ock. The episode picks up after Ock is separated form the symbiote and we get a more traditional, excellent looking Mark Bagley esquire Carnage. Spidey and Venom (Flash now, Brock never appeared in the show) are now pitted against a fairly creepy Carnage who speaks very little but screams a lot. I want to say it’s Fred Tarascoire voicing him this time around as he did in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions but there is no credit.

I thought part one was the best of the storyline, beyond the reveal that Spidey knew how to combat Carnage with two separate noise frequencies, as there was no way he would know this… it was simply an excellent guess.



Part two takes us in a different direction with the Carnage bomb going off in the city, turning normal citizens, and in a fairly cool twist, The Hulk, into symbiotes. This episode is all but a love letter to the Maximum Carnage storyline of the 90s, which Captain America, Iron First, Shriek, Cloak and Dagger all play a part in. Harry awakens from his coma, as he is Anti-Venom now (still no Brock) and they manage to free the city if the symbiote’s grip. Sadly, the revelation when Harry finds out Peter is Spider-Man is fairly flat as he seems to gladfully accept it, despite Harry hating Spider-Man for the entire duration of the show.

Part three again takes us on a different twist, as it turns out the Carnage symbiote was not defeated at all, and becomes a giant Staypuff Marshmellow Man sized villain before taking over Midtown High and takes a new host in Mary Jane, becoming the Carnage queen. The storyline seemed to be starting strong before it headed off here, and the previously established Hydra villains try and take over, including a new Man Bat style Michael Morbius. Peter, Harry and Flash reveal themselves to be Spider-Man, American Son and Venom to Mary Jane in an attempt to prove that they love her and she is more than just a symbiote host… at this point it was almost comical how everyone of Peter’s pals ended up with powers, it felt like supporting characters were of no use unless they had powers/a costume that a toy could me made from. It turned what started as an intriguing storyline into yet another episode about Peter’s pals getting powers… Mary Jane would later become Spider-Woman, which again felt like a step too far.

I give credit where credit is due, Ultimate Spider-Man got a lot better as it went on. From, frankly, a terribly written but beautiful show in season one to something could be entertaining, but rarely excellent by the time it ended. It always seemed to struggle as a basic premises, one can conclude either the network or the executive producers really hammered down on the writers creativity here. I had hoped when the show finished and was almost immediately replaced with Marvel’s Spider-Man, the consistent problems found in the show could be eradicated and replaced to make a truly awesome Spider-Man show but alas, similar problems persisted, but as Carnage did not appear in Marvel’s Spider-Man, these will be addressed in a future retrospective for another character.

The legacy of Ultimate Spider-Man will probably not be a strong one. I believe it will be remembered in a similar vain as The Batman, a show made strictly for it's merchandising and demographic seeking overlords, rather than being remembered fondly by it's audience.

Carnage, however, wasn't done in the Loeb era of Marvel Animation just yet however...

Next: Welcome to the Guardian's of the frickin' Galaxy
 

RoyalRubble

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I thought "The Symbiote Saga" was one of the best arcs from Ultimate Spider-Man. It was cool how they brought back Carnage, I didn't care much for his previous appearance on the show, but this kind of made up for it. The arc has a pretty good balance between all the characters, both heroes and villains alike. (and from what I recall this was also around when the time Mary Jane started appearing again, which is usually a plus).
 

Antiyonder

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If I remember correctly, they were actually just mindless versions of the characters, driven insane by being in the other dimension for so long.

Makes sense. I just meant do you think that's why they went with robot duplicates of Spidey villains just so they could recycle the idea in a simpler fashion?
 

M.O.D.O.K.

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If anyone is curious to see how The Spectacular Spider-Man would have handled Carnage, he's in the Radio Play crossover between the show and Gargoyles. It's not really canon, but it has a good chunk of the voice cast for both shows, Greg Weisman wrote it, and some of the scenarios feel like they were meant to be for season 3. So, if you got some time to kill, go for it.

I thought having Peter become Carnage like in the Ultimate game/comics was a clever way of sidestepping Kasidy. However, the whole Mary Jane/Carnage Queen/Spider-Woman bit made me roll my eyes.
 

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I thought "The Symbiote Saga" was one of the best arcs from Ultimate Spider-Man. It was cool how they brought back Carnage, I didn't care much for his previous appearance on the show, but this kind of made up for it. The arc has a pretty good balance between all the characters, both heroes and villains alike. (and from what I recall this was also around when the time Mary Jane started appearing again, which is usually a plus).
As did I. I found it lost it's way towards the end, but Part one was one of my favourite episodes from the show. I thought they did a really good job of making him creepy and powerful here, especially after the first 'Carnage' appearance in season two.
Makes sense. I just meant do you think that's why they went with robot duplicates of Spidey villains just so they could recycle the idea in a simpler fashion?
More than likely. I can't recall exactly HOW Mysterio was to bring back mindless Venom and Carnage, but making robots makes more sense either way.
 

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Not to get too much off-topic here, but Part 1 of "The Symbiote Saga" was the only episode of the show written by Josh FIne, so no wonder it was so good. :p (I think this was also his only credit for Marvel Animation since the end of Avengers: EMH and until now).
 

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When researching Carnage’s animated appearances for this piece, I admit to being surprised that Carnage appeared in the Guardians of The Galaxy cartoon. I admit to being jaded towards the Loeb era of cartoons by the time Guardians premiered, and the handful of episodes from season one I watched did not sway me to believe the show was worth continuing further. I only knew of the Guardians from the live action movies, so there was no massive incentive to keep watching in case a specific character I liked appeared.

Solely for the purpose of this piece, I watched the two Carnage related episodes from season three. Clearly sometime had passed since the handful of episodes I saw, as Groot was now Baby Groot (the shows from this era are often accused of being pale imitations of the live action MCU movies, this rings true here). I admit to I did fairly enjoy these stories… I can’t say I’m tempted to go back and watch the rest of the episodes I missed, but I suppose when one has low expectations, they are easily surpassed.


I long ago gave up trying to establish any continuity between these shows, as I first met this version of The Guardians in Ultimate Spider-Man (Drake Bell), whereas the same characters team up with Marvel’s Spider-Man (from the TV show, not the outstanding PS4 game). They also meet Avengers Assemble’s Ant-Man and Tony Stark, who are is not the Iron Man we’ve met in Marvel’s Spider-Man… it’s all very confusing, but it’s quite clear continuity between the shows is not a big deal.


Of the things that did impress me, I thought the Guardians themselves, with the exception of a surly Rocket, were all cast fabulously, it’s always nice to hear longtime favourites Will Friedle, Vanessa Marshall and Kevin Michael Richardson do their thing, and David Sobolov was fantastic as Drax. Robbie Daymond unfortunately hams his Spidey performances up too much for my liking, and his version of Peter is usually incredibly dull and has zero chemistry with any of his cast… everything I’ve seen of Marvel’s Spider-Man sadly leaves me utterly indifferent or I find it thoroughly tedious. It must be said this crossover looks a lot better than the Spider-Man show, which is so cheap looking it’s clear that the network has simply stopped spending any money and they no longer care about the quality of the animation. Get it out there as quickly, and cheaply as possible and hope the kids buy the toys seems to be the main incentive behind the show once again.

Carnage appears in two episodes… kind of. The first episode he is a pile of goo, who has no human host. Gamora mentions that the symbiote is not looking for a human (or alien I suppose) host which suggests the team have encountered symbiotes before, I haven’t seen that episode so apologies if I’ve overlooked something. The team are clearly not fond of the symbiote, who has made it’s way to Earth. In Part two, we learn that the symbiote has come back to host to free it’s former master Thanos who is trapped at the Earth’s core… presumably he was placed there by The Avengers or The Guardians themselves in a previous episode? The idea of Thanos in a symbiote is a bit overkill for me… he’s already the toughest there is. More interestingly, is that Thanos manages to release the original symbiote I saw in Marvel’s Spider-Man and turn Spider-Man into a Venom style creature. I briefly remember Spidey bonding with the alien in season one, complete with the terrible new black costume from Dan Slott’s run on Amazing Spider-Man, but thankfully, Spidey returns with a very nice new black suit here, based on the original symbiote design.


I admit I did enjoy watching these two episodes perhaps more than I’ve made it sound, there was a few genuine laughs to be found and there is definitely chemistry with this version of the team, so I ask you gentle readers… is this show worth digging back through?

But as for Carnage fans? There’s nothing here to make you go out of your way to see it… he is literally a pile of red and black goo.

Which brings us to Venom: Let There Be Carnage.



The sequel to the terrible original film, this was set up by the stinger showing Eddie visiting Cletus Kassidy in prison, which is mainly remembered for the comically bad wig Woody Harrelson is wearing. Harrelson is normally a tremendous actor, but I am not sure he fits Kassidy... it's something I'll eventually have to see in full for myself when the film is released over here, but it seems a little... off? Hopefully he'll surprise me.

The first film was a typical return to the early 2000s quality of superhero films Arad produced, but somehow worse. Tom Hardy is the only decent thing in it, as he seems realise he is starring in an utter POS and tries to have a laugh with a fairly ludicrous performance against the stone cold seriousness of everyone else around him (the villain is all but copy and paste of terrible Dr Doom from the original Fantastic Four movie, which in turn, was a poor man's Norman Osborn from the original Spider-Man movie... it requires a decent performance to avoid it becoming a typical business tycon cliche, and sadly, Riz Ahmed is no Williem Dafoe.

The film is also visually disappointing, as the Venom model is ugly and beyond the head, isn’t recogniseable as Venom, it’s just a big black gooey monster… this really needed the white emblem to stand out, it looks very vanilla without it and some lousy CG in the final battle. It also had an utterly terrible, two dimensional villain in Riot, something which I am hopeful will be rectified with this sequel, but after watching the trailer, I am not holding my breath. Given how much of the appeal to both Venom and Carnage comes from their fantastic visuals, it was dissapointing to see such a lame attempt at recreating them for the big screen. But, you never, know, I may enjoy it. If it's another train wreck, it further cements the idea that Sony needed to license Spider-Man to Marvel for his inclusion in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, otherwise we could well be getting Spider-Man movies that match in quality to The Amazing Spider-Man 2, rather than the excellent Homecoming and Far From Home.

It does finally appear as though Marvel are moving forward with new animation projects after a decade of toy adverts… hopefully Carnage will return to the small screen, and hopefully, his big screen debut won’t be as lousy as Venom’s history on the same…
 

RoyalRubble

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There was an arc about the Symbiotes on the Guardians show, they appeared in a few previous episodes and I think there was also some backstory about how Thanos was the one who experimented on them and turned into weapons.

I agree a Symbiote Thanos seems like a pretty bad idea. They similarly had a Symbiote powered Dracula on Avengers Assemble once. It might sound or look cool but it doesn't really add anything.

As for the Guardians show as a whole, I thought it was pretty good. The whole Spartax arc during the second season was probably the best stuff to come out of it.
 

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I found it funny how Spider-Man could go toe-to-toe with Thanos when they were both wearing Venom and Carnage. I know the Guardian's don't have super strength, but I wonder if Thanos was holding back to use Peter as the symbiote bomb he wanted.
 

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