Every Venom Symbiote From Marvel Comics, Ranked By How '90s XTreme They Are
The late '80s and early '90s were a special time in the world of superhero comics. Collector culture was really starting to take hold and the pressure increased for publishers to make their books bigger, flashier and more appealing to teens and adults looking for multiple variant covers and first appearances, as opposed to a crowd who were more interested in disposable entertainment. This, of course, meant that those publishers had to start getting pretty creative, especially with the general trajectory of pop culture heading in a direction that was decidedly more "extreme."
This was the dawn of superheroes who carried huge guns, wore utility belts covered in pouches and always looked just this side of succumbing to a roid rage fugue state. Hair got longer in the back and shorter in the front, covers got holographic and metallic, and the characters got increasingly more over the top.
The inadvertent brainchild of a fan who thought it might be cool for Spider-Man to wear black instead of red and blue and a team of creators who took the idea and ran with it, Venom and his plucky parasitic family are as emblematic of '90s superhero culture as any blaster-slinging mega-yolked cyborg with tiny feet.
It was a spirit that persisted, even through the decades since Venom's initial introduction--and clearly plays a role in the new Venom movie, which is now in theaters. Even modern Symbiotes carry with them the DNA of the radical, the spiked leather jacket wearing, the foil cover holographic variant covered. Feeling like the unholy union between a Saved By The Bell bully and a laser tag arcade is really just part of their charm. So, using a complex system of algorithms and deeply tested scientific methods cataloging everything from the first ever "Do The Dew" commercial to POG slammers with flaming skulls, we've ranked Marvel's Symbiote characters based on their quantifiable '90s xtremes.
Wildly, the name "Lasher" isn't enough to earn this particular Symbiote a higher position on the list. One of the original forced Venom "children" created by the Life Foundation (a name you'll definitely become more familiar with come the Venom movie), Lasher didn't really do much in his original comic book appearance. In fact, he wasn't even properly named--the codename came from his action figure. He really just looks like a smaller Venom with a few more tentacles added for flavor which isn't much to write home about.
Eventually, it became bonded with and used as a sort of Symbiote hunting dog-slash-monster which was pretty cool--but not exactly over the top enough to boost it up any higher.
Mania wasn't introduced until the early '00s, which does bring its ranking down a bit here--though not by much. It was created as a clone specifically from Venom's tongue which is inherently pretty radical and designed (like many of the earlier Symbiotes) as a weapon to exterminate all life on earth, so it has that going for it. In its most easily recognizable form, Mania bonded with a high school student named Andi Benton where it takes on the appearance of a lithe, feminine figure covered in spikes with almost Anime-styled hair. Also, it's worth noting that one of Maniac's main defeats came at the hands of "Anti-Maniac" antibodies which, despite being a modern invention, earns it some real points.
Another one of the Venom "children" created by the Life Foundation, Agony's special Symbiote ability was hurling organic acid, sort of like a Xenomorph because really, why not? Like Lasher and her Symbiote siblings (syblings?), Agony wasn't even officially named until much later down the line--instead, her name came from excited '90s fans doing their excited '90s things and assigning codenames they thought sounded the coolest.
Agony was also one of the early female-coded Symbiotes alongside her "sister" Scream who you'll meet a bit later in the list, meaning she, of course, had some absolutely absurd hair. Why would a parasitic goo monster need hair? Probably because it looked cool, we guess.
Like Agony and Lasher, Phage was another early Life Foundation symbiote, made distinct from his relatives by his bright yellow color and "special power" which, really, was just making his arms turn into giant gooey blades. Why giant hand-swords instead of literally any other cool alien ability? Great question.
Despite not really getting much in the way of unique development early on, Phage was usually a pretty prominent member of the Life Foundation bunch. He also almost got the name "Rampage," but "Phage" stuck in honor of the Xenophage, a giant monster that eats Symbiotes. It's the Symbiote equivalent of naming a human something like "Butcher" or "Chainsaw."
Riot managed to net itself some real notoriety by grabbing a named cameo in Venom as a particularly bad bad guy. Like his fellow Life Foundation originals, there isn't much distinguishing him from his family aside from the fact that he just looks really cool. He's the biggest of the original group and, honestly is almost indistinguishable from Venom itself aside from a slightly different eye shape and a slightly different coloration.
Riot gets a bit of a boost for being notable enough to actually be the antagonist of the film, and burly enough to look at least a little intimidating in a very '90s roid-rage aesthetic way.
The last of the Life Foundation five, Scream earns a special place on the list just by virtue of its completely buck wild design. Like Agony, Scream was decidedly female-coded but unlike Agony who just managed to have the curves and long hair going for it, Scream went the extra mile and wound up looking like an early 90s pop ballad singer given a punk rock overhaul.
Scream's special power actually came from her hair, which was prehensile (mostly because it was made of the same goo as the rest of her body, which is pretty gross to think about) and weaponized. Think a slimy Medusa of the Inhumans. Additionally, she was the de facto leader of the group, making her even cooler.
Of course, the original has to rank somewhere on this list. Beyond being the actual blueprint from which the Symbiote race was designed and constructed, virtually everything about Venom from the ground up relates in some way back to the pervasive mode of operation in the '90s for comics.
Conceptually, Venom spiraled out of a fan-submitted suggestion for a new, totally badass black Spider-Man costume which was bought by Marvel and incorporated into the Secret Wars event. It became a built-in excuse for all sorts of hilarious and edgy antics for Peter before it took the whole alien parasite twist, and then it eventually became a huge musclebound, tongue-lashing monster. The spirit of the '90s is alive in Venom and always will be--that's why we can't help but love him.
Another more modern addition to the roster, Toxin earns a pretty high ranking by really embodying the level of over the top absurdity the '90s were all about, even though he technically missed the boat by four of five years. The "son" of Carnage, a Symbiote bonded with a serial killer, Toxin's origin story leaned pretty hard into the whole idea of the Symbiotes literally being born from one another. It even went as far as to explain Carnage's general hatred for its own offspring as the result of its male host, Cletus Kasady.
In terms of the xtreme, having your murderous, monstrous teen angst wrapped up in a Junior-like male pregnancy scandal is certainly something.
Only one Symbiote has what it takes to come out on top of the '90s xtreme battle royale and that is Carnage, the creature that took the whole Symbiote concept and said, "This is great but we can go bigger."
Venom's accidental "son," Carnage bonded to an imprisoned psychopathic serial killer named Cletus Kasady while Eddie Brock was locked up in a neighboring cell. If Venom became a dangerous monster when bonded to the angry but otherwise pretty normal Brock, then what, Carnage seemed to ask, would happen if a Symbiote bonded with someone who was truly unhinged?
The answer was a giant fleshy, blood-dripping behemoth covered in tendrils that delighted in murder and chaos and all things xtreme--you know, because comics aren't for kids anymore.