Although Venom didn’t make his debut appearance until more than two decades after Spider-Man’s creation, the character has since become one of the most iconic parts of Spidey’s canon nonetheless, forging a legacy as one of Marvel’s most beloved and well-recognized villains in the process. First showing up as Spider-Man’s shiny new “black suit” in 1984’s The Amazing Spider-Man #252, the suit was later revealed to be an alien symbiote with a mind of its own, becoming a bitter enemy of Spider-Man after bonding with Eddie Brock. In the years since, the world of symbiotes has expanded significantly, with Venom finding dozens of new hosts, and even spawning several different offspring of his own — many of which are far deadlier than Venom himself.
As a result, the Marvel Universe is pretty much overrun with symbiotes at this point, with the concept being so consistently popular that Sony decided to explore this side of the Spider-Man mythos with this year’s Venom movie. Set to feature not only Venom, but other well-known symbiotes such as Riot, Phage, Scream and Toxin, the movie is clearly going to feature some symbiote vs symbiote action, and it’ll be interesting to see how these characters compare to their comic book counterparts. This begs the question of who exactly is the most dangerous wielder of the symbiote in the comic books — and CBR is here to answer that question. From high-profile wielders of the alien parasite to characters you didn’t even know wore the symbiote, these are 20 of the symbiote’s hosts, ranked.
GROOT, ROCKET AND DRAX
During Agent Venom’s time as a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy, his symbiote suit gradually grew more and more unstable, with Flash lashing out at his fellow team members and losing control of Venom more frequently. The Guardians eventually decided enough was enough, and attempted to discard Venom into the cold vacuum of space.
In response to this threat, Venom attached itself to Groot, Rocket and then Drax, defeating the entire team before returning to his homeworld, where he was able to recalibrate and become stable once again. Sure, the Guardians’ time hosting the symbiote was extremely brief, but the awesome imagery of a Venom-infected Guardians team as well as their overall impact on the symbiote’s canon ensure their spot on this list.
If there’s one thing more nerve-wracking in the Marvel Universe than a rampaging symbiote, it’s a rampaging symbiote being hosted by a being of near-godlike power, and that’s precisely what happened during the events of “Siege”, in which Carol Danvers — going by Ms. Marvel at the time — became infected by the symbiote during a scrap with Mac Gargan.
Fortunately, Carol was able to combat the symbiote’s attempted hijacking of her body by tempting the parasite with her incredibly potent powers. These powers proved to be far too much for Venom to handle, with the creature being forced out of Carol’s body before slinking away to join Gargan once again.
Surprisingly, there’s actually more of a connection between Wolverine and Venom than people may realize — especially with recent revelations about the duo’s past — but Wolverine was first seen bonded with the symbiote during his hunt for a clone of Venom in Canada.
It didn’t stay attached to Wolverine for too long, soon latching onto Patricia Robertson instead, but this wasn’t even the first time Wolverine had become one with a symbiote. Working with Nick Fury during the Vietnam War to track down several symbiote-infected soldiers wreaking havoc in Vietnam, Wolverine is briefly bonded with one of the creatures during the mission, meaning that Logan’s history with the alien parasite pre-dates that of both Eddie Brock and Peter Parker by decades.
Throughout Otto Octavious’ time in Peter Parker’s body during the events of Superior Spider-Man, the villain-turned-anti-hero surprisingly proved to be truly superior to Peter on more than one occasion, even handling the Venom suit much more capably than him.
Intentionally becoming infected by the symbiote after a confrontation with Flash Thompson, Otto began to flaunt his newfound power by taking on petty criminals, becoming even more brutal and merciless than he already was. Drawing the ire of the Avengers, Otto managed to fight off the entire team in an incredible display of power, before eventually being subdued and taken in for questioning.
Although Bruce Banner’s anger management issues seem to make him the perfect candidate for a good Venom story, the Hulk has surprisingly only become bonded with the symbiote in an out-of-continuity issue in What If… the Alien Costume Had Possessed Spider-Man?
In the issue, a ferocious Venom hops from Spider-Man to the much more powerful Hulk, who swiftly lays a beatdown on the Avengers before fleeing. Becoming a huge headache for the heroes of Earth, the symbiote once again gets cold feet, leaving the Hulk for Thor — though the Venom-infected God of Thunder is quickly defeated by a single shout from Black Bolt.
As if Frank Castle’s never-ending quest for vengeance wasn’t bloody enough, 1992’s What If… Venom Had Possessed the Punisher issue put forward the idea of Castle being taken over by the alien parasite.
With Frank completely losing control and becoming even more merciless than usual, he’s eventually confronted by Spider-Man, who is bested by Punisher after a gruelling hour-long fight. It takes the combined might of Spidey, Daredevil and Moon Knight to fend off Venom, with the group eventually providing Frank the opportunity to regain mental control of the symbiote. As Punisher disappears into the night, the group considers pursuing him, but ultimately decide Castle could be of use in the face of an upcoming gang war.
MAVIS TRENT (PAYBACK)
One of the rare cases in which a symbiote manages to turn its host into a superhero rather than a supervillain, S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Mavis Trent assumed the name Payback after coming into contact with an alien symbiote similar to Venom.
Rather than acting on violent urges and rage however, Payback’s powers are sustained and strengthened while Mavis is in a state of bliss, making her a much more pleasant character than most symbiote wielders. Boasting the superhuman strength, speed, stamina and regenerative abilities typical of symbiote hosts, Payback can also fly and even produce electricity at will — skills she frequently employs as a member of the True Believers team.
While he’s most famous for donning the infamous Scorpion suit as a career criminal, Mac Gargan was also bonded to Venom for a considerable amount of time, with the pair initially hitting it off over their mutual hatred of Spider-Man. Becoming one of the most vicious, relentless hosts the symbiote has ever seen, Gargan was also recruited into Norman Osborn’s Dark Avengers team, serving as their analogue of Spidey and impressing Osborn with his power.
In fact, Mac Gargan’s Venom was so powerful that he was capable of killing and devouring Asgardians without breaking a sweat, even proving himself a huge threat to gods — almost swallowing teammate Ares whole in one instance.
As we’ve learnt more about the history of Venom over the years, it’s become more and more apparent that the symbiote made contact with plenty of Marvel characters before ever becoming attached to Spider-Man. Unfortunately for the symbiote, one of those characters is Deadpool.
As well as being bonded to Wade in an alternate universe where he’s known as Venompool, Deadpool became the host to Hybrid in Deadpool Vs. Carnage too. The Venom symbiote also attached itself to the Merc with a Mouth following the original “Secret Wars” however, with the implication being that it was Wade’s warped mind that psychologically damaged the symbiote in the first place — meaning Deadpool has a lot to answer for.
ANDI BENTON (MANIA)
Another addition to the ever-expanding family of symbiotes making its debut in 2003’s Venom #1, Mania was created as a clone of Venom, embarking on a rampage across northern Canada that saw the creature hunted by Wolverine. Some time later however, Mania would become bonded with student Andi Benton after being unintentionally infected by Flash Thompson, who was attempting to save her from Jack O’Lantern at the time.
Initially seeking revenge on her attackers, Mania eventually becomes a protégé of Flash, accompanying him on missions and learning to control her newfound powers — which are essentially the same as her mentor’s.
TANIS NIEVES (SCORN)
Implanted in the robotic arm of psychiatrist Tanis Nieves immediately upon its birth, Scorn is the offspring of the Carnage symbiote, which bonded itself to Carnage’s lover Shriek after its initial rejection by Nieves. After becoming disgusted by Shriek’s depravity however, the newborn symbiote soon returns to Nieves, becoming the hero known as Scorn in the process.
While the character possesses most of the powers traditionally associated with symbiotes, Scorn is unique in its technological capabilities, with its birth in a robotic arm granting the character a certain degree of technopathy. Scorn was even able to help bring down a rampaging Carnage in the Carnage USA storyline, confirming her as one of the most underrated symbiote characters out there.
The original host of the Venom symbiote — during the time of its publication, at least — Peter Parker’s struggle with the newfound Venom suit has since become one of the character’s most iconic stories, having a huge impact on the world of Spider-Man that can still be heavily felt to this day.
Granting Peter additional strength, speed, stamina and other abilities, black suit Spidey was a force to be reckoned with, but the suit’s dark influence and addictive nature eventually drove Peter away. Peter was such a perfect host for the symbiote however, that Venom became incredibly bitter following Peter’s rejection, sparking a toxic hatred of Spider-Man that would form the basis of Venom as a villain.
LIFE FOUNDATION SECURITY TEAM
Ramon Hernandez, Carl Mach, Leslie Gesneria and Trevor Cole were members of the Life Foundation’s security force who were bonded with the offspring of Venom in an attempt to create an army of superpowered cops, becoming Lasher, Phage, Agony and Riot in the process.
While not as strong as Venom individually, the four were able to cause massive destruction as a unit, forcing Eddie Brock to take them down during the “Lethal Protector” story arc. With each member of the team having a unique color palette and preferred method of madness, there was one particular member of the group who stood out as much deadlier than the rest — but more on her later.
SCOTT WASHINGTON (HYBRID)
First appearing in 1996’s Venom: Along Came A Spider #1, Hybrid was formed when the symbiotes Lasher, Phage, Riot and Agony merged into a singular entity following the demise of their respective human hosts.
Freed from captivity by sympathetic security guard Scott Washington, the symbiote makes its way back to Scott after he’s paralyzed by a gang of criminals known as the Easy Xs. Becoming an anti-hero of sorts, Hybrid embarks on a crusade of vengeance against the gang, and in a twist on the symbiote formula, Scott is actually held back from excessive violence by the symbiote rather than being encouraged. Sadly, Scott is soon ended in Eddie Brock’s quest to rid the world of symbiotes, leaving Hybrid alone once again.
One of the weirdest, most unique versions of the symbiote on this list, Red Hulk’s brief fling with Venom came in the “Circle of Four” story arc, in which Blackheart — the sadistic spawn of Mephisto himself — attempted to turn Earth into a nightmarish hellscape.
After teaming up with X-23, Agent Venom and Ghost Rider to put a stop to Blackheart’s plans, the group soon realize the villain is more than a match for them individually. This prompts the team to create the ultimate superweapon, infecting Red Hulk with the Venom symbiote before possessing him with the Spirit of Vengeance, creating one of the most awesome, albeit ridiculous, character mashups Marvel has seen in some time.
The high school bully — and later close friend — of Peter Parker, Flash Thompson’s history with the Venom symbiote is one of the most interesting aspects of both Flash and Venom displayed in recent years. After losing his legs in the Iraq War, Flash was offered the opportunity to regain his ability to walk, as well as inherit the powers of Venom, by donning a suit consisting of the symbiote.
Fighting in the name of the US military, Agent Venom is an extremely effective soldier, although his unique relationship with Venom would eventually take both a physical and mental toll on Flash. Nonetheless, Flash Thompson is easily one of the most adept users of the symbiote suit, even fighting alongside the Guardians of the Galaxy for a while.
DONNA DIEGO (SCREAM)
First appearing in 1993’s Venom: Lethal Protector #4, Scream is one of the symbiote creatures created from Venom by the Life Foundation. Bonded to Donna Diego, a member of the organization’s security team, Scream is easily distinguishable from her siblings thanks to her bright red and yellow coloring, wild hair — which can also be used as a powerful weapon — and overall superiority compared to her kin.
A formidable foe of both Spider-Man and Venom, Scream eventually decides to rid the world of symbiotes, picking off her siblings one by one and attempting to frame Eddie Brock for the crimes. Later, Eddie would have his revenge on Donna however, ambushing the villain in his lair and taking her life.
PATRICK MULLIGAN (TOXIN)
Argued by many to be the most powerful symbiote in existence, Toxin may look just as grotesque as his parasitic counterparts, but is surprisingly a force for good rather than evil. The offspring of Carnage, Toxin was attached to NYPD officer Patrick Mulligan immediately upon its birth, granting him all the powers of Venom and Carnage — even able to mask himself to avoid detection.
What makes Patrick such a good host for the symbiote however is his unmatched ability to suppress its violent urges. While he occasionally indulges Toxin’s darker side, Patrick has remained a hero and ally of Spider-Man throughout his tenure as Toxin, with his dedication to justice and heroism overriding the symbiote’s proclivity for brutality.
CLETUS KASADY (CARNAGE)
One of the most deranged criminals in all of Marvel Comics, there is truly no line Cletus Kasady won’t cross. Even without being bonded to Carnage, Kasady is an incredibly chilling character, but throwing a symbiote into the mix cements him as one of Marvel’s most infamous villains.
Bonding to Kasady during his time as Eddie Brock’s cellmate, Carnage and Kasady make an even more depraved, brutal pairing than Brock and Venom. Essentially a stronger version of Venom, Carnage loves nothing more than to wreak havoc wherever possible and has no morals about running through whoever gets in his way.
EDDIE BROCK (VENOM)
Quite easily the most iconic character associated with the symbiote, Eddie Brock and Venom’s mutual resentment for Spider-Man laid the foundation for one of the most memorable villains in all of comic books. Serving as one of the wallcrawler’s greatest foes, Venom is actually a far more interesting character than he initially lets on.
Operating heavily in shades of grey, Eddie and Venom’s villainy transformed from a one-dimensional “hell hath no fury” stereotype into something more complex, occasionally taking on the role of anti-hero — and in rare cases even a straight-up hero. Frequently clashing with other, supposedly more powerful symbiotes, Eddie’s experience and cunning have always allowed him to come out on top, making him the quintessential symbiote host.
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