Seriously, Marvel…Still Doing Carnage Books?

Nobody wants 90's on them.  Ick.

Nobody wants 90’s on them. Ick.

So…at my favorite comic shop, at least once a day, a tiny little boy walks in, often with a parent, and quietly and politely asks, “Do you have any comics with Carnage in them?” This bewilders me on several levels.

First…how is there a current knowledge of Carnage in the minds of kids that young? Younger than the middle school kids that I teach? Venom, I get. There’s been a whole feature Spider-Man film with him in it, and Venom is somewhat A-list despite being an “evil duplicate” knock off character.

Bringing me to my second point…Carnage is a knock off of Venom. a knock off of a knock off, True Believers. Seriously, check this historical note:

“Writer David Michelinie created Carnage to be a darker version of Venom, intending to have Venom’s human alter ego, Eddie Brock, be killed off in The Amazing Spider-Man #400 and have the symbiote continue to bond with a series of hosts. However, as Brock and Venom’s popularity increased, Marvel would not allow him to be killed. Michelinie decided to create a new character: a total psychopath who, unlike Venom, had no sense of morality. The character was originally meant to be named “Chaos” and then “Ravage” before being settled on “Carnage.” Carnage’s human component, Cletus Kasady, was designed by artist Erik Larsen, who modeled the character after the DC Comics supervillain the Joker. Mark Bagley designed the Carnage symbiote.”

So…by that reasoning, a triple knockoff. Let’s look at the evidence here, when we get the whole family together.

It's literally a copy of a copy.

It’s literally a copy of a copy.

Third…and here’s the kicker…he was designed as “a total psychopath, a character with no sense of morality.” Seriously, it troubles me seeing young boys come in, and politely inquire as to how they can learn more about a mass murdering character with no moral compass whatsoever. It’s not like the question is, “Do you have any comics where Spider-Man fights Carnage?” Spider-Man is not really on the list here.

Fourth…yeah there’s a bunch here…after a 2004 appearance in New Avengers the character was presumed dead and was absent from comics for nearly six years. That “appearance” was the Sentry being tired of him during the “Breakout” plot, flying him into orbit, and tearing him in half…in space. Pretty final. So…there was a six year absence from print…meaning that the character had pretty much completely dropped off of radar.

Let’s look at the character summary here, and we can get a better insight into why I’m both disturbed, and amazed that the character has stayed on the radar of little boys in some bizarre conflux of the Jungian Collective Unconscious….

“Cletus Kasady is a psychopath and a homicidal sadist. Kasady is a deeply disturbed individual with a dark past: as a child, he killed his grandmother by pushing her down a flight of stairs, tried to murder his mother by tossing a television into her bathtub, and tortured and killed his mother’s dog. After the latter, his mother then tried to kill Cletus, and was apparently beaten to the brink of death by Kasady’s father, who received no defense from Kasady during his trial. As an orphan, Kasady was sent to the St. Estes Home for Boys, where his antisocial behavior made him the target of abuse from both the other orphans and the staff. Kasady gained revenge by murdering the disciplinarian administrator, pushing a girl (who laughed at him for asking her to date him) in front of a moving bus, and burning down the orphanage. It was during his brutal years at St. Estes that Kasady acquired his philosophy that life was essentially meaningless and futile, that “laws are only words”, and came to see the spreading of chaos through random, unpatterned bloodshed as “the ultimate freedom.”

Okay right? I’m not certain I want any of my adolescent students reading that storyline, which is very, very about adult issues and appearances on the Jerry Springer show. I’m not a fan of censorship, by any means, but I think there is some modicum of, “should I be handing THAT storyline to a very young person, who may not have their values in place just yet?”

It goes on a bit though…

“Kasady became a serial killer. He was then captured and sent to Ryker’s Island prison for 11 murders—though he bragged of a dozen more—where he shared a cell with Eddie Brock, who had lost the alien symbiote that transformed him into the supervillain Venom. Brock’s symbiote soon returned and bonded with him again, and unwittingly left behind the symbiote’s offspring. The new symbiote then entered Kasady’s bloodstream through a cut and bonded with his blood, transforming him into Carnage. He escaped prison, and began a series of murders, and at the scene of each crime, wrote “Carnage” on the walls with his own blood. He was found by Spider-Man, though the hero proved to be no match for Carnage’s powers. In desperation, Spider-Man made a truce with Venom to fight Carnage. Carnage was defeated with sonic weaponry, but the symbiote lived on because it is merged with Kasady’s bloodstream.”

I want to point out…it actually seems to tone down a but when he becomes a supervillain. A bad guy who needs to CUT HIMSELF to release the powerful, evil entity within. I deal with a whole slew of adolescents that cut themselves at school, I really don’t want even the vague premise that it might give you superpowers. Bad enough I used to put spiders in the microwave, hoping to get powers from them.

Yep.  THIS guy...amazingly popular with little boys.  Is it because he's covered in alien blood mucus?  I don't know.

Yep. THIS guy…amazingly popular with little boys. Is it because he’s covered in alien blood mucus? I don’t know.

However, the character is once again back, after the “Superior Carnage” series and a follow up “Deadpool vs. Carnage” four issue series. Both were violent to the point of abstraction, and led me to why I was down on Carnage as a character when he first appeared.

Besides being a knockoff of a knockoff…he has no motive. “He’s just messed up and psychotic” is the only reasoning behind anything that he does, making it all rather empty. The Joker used to do odd, disturbing things like rendering fish toxic with his Joker venom, and then trying to patent the fish themselves as his intellectual property. Venom himself is all about the alien symbiote bonding with Eddie Brock in a desire for revenge on Spider-Man. Doctor Doom has a long standing beef with his college room mate and mommy issues.

Carnage though…he’s just irredeemably violent for its own sake. Kinda loses me at hello, but apparently is a huge draw for the little boys of America. Sigh.

The art was such a hassle. Drawing all that mess all over Carnage, the tendrils and black portions of the suit and so on…just a repetitive chore. Far less interesting than Ben Grimm’s rocky hide too…because that has the challenge of making it look like stone. Also, it’s fun to make him look sad. The proportions on Carnage’s head are also odd…you need the Spidey bug eyes, and the big crazy tooth mouth. A challenge, for sure.

With this post, I’m now ten issues out from Tales of Adequacy No. 800. That’s a huge deal, and i have no idea what I’m going to draw. Heck…I don’t have any idea what I’m going to draw for next Tuesday, which is sooner. I am ready for tomorrow though, with a post that I call…

…The Fantastic Fourth!


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