Comics Reviews

Spider-Man: Who Was Karl Malus, Marvel’s Superior Carnage?


A new, superior version of Carnage was created when the Wizard removed the symbiote from Cletus Kasady and attached it to Karl Malus.

In one form or another, Carnage has been terrifying heroes of the Marvel Universe since the symbiote first slipped into Cletus Kasady’s hands in Amazing Spider-Man #344 by David Michelinie and Erik Larsen. While Kasady is the usual host for the menacing symbiote, a handful of other characters like Ben Reilly and Norman Osborn have both undergone transformations when merged with the alien creature. While Ben’s version of Carnage resembled Spider-Man and Norman’s resembled the Green Goblin, the symbiote took on an all-new name and appearance when it bonded with scientist Karl Malus in 2013’s Superior Carnage miniseries by Kevin Schinik and Stephen Segovia.


Dr. Karl Malus had a storied past even before bonding with the symbiote. He was first introduced in 1980’s Spider-Woman #30 by Michael Fleisher and Steve Leialoha. Dr. Malus set up the Institute for Supranormality Research with the help of the criminal underbelly of Los Angeles. Malus was approached by the Fly to help restore his waning superpowers, which led to him trying to transfer Jessica Drew’s powers to the Fly. While this plot ultimately failed, Malus was able to inject Spider-Woman’s criminologist partner with the Fly’s blood, granting him superpowers. Malus would go on to create a few other super beings including Goliath and Armadillo. Malus would do many stints in prison until he was brought in to help the Wizard with a diabolical plan that saw him bonded with the Carnage symbiote.


RELATED: Carnage: Why the Venom Villain Is Marvel’s Most LETHAL Symbiote

Superior Carnage kicks off with Cletus Kasady and the Carnage symbiote being broken free from prison. It’s revealed that the Wizard has broken him out, with hopes of controlling the beast’s mind in an effort to take over the city. What the Wizard did not know was that Kasady was recently lobotomized, meaning that there is no frontal lobe connection for the Wizard to try and control with his abilities. The Wizard’s mistake almost costs him his life, but he is saved by Klaw who uses his sonic abilities to neutralize the symbiote. Now with Cletus and the symbiote controlled, the Wizard moved into the next stage of his plan.


The Wizard is famous for creating new incarnations of the villainous Frightful Four. He planned to use Carnage as a member, as well as Klaw and Dr. Karl Malus. Once the Wizard realized he could not control Carnage, he forced the symbiote onto Malus, turning the scientist into the Superior Carnage. While the Wizard has much more control over this version of Carnage, it is revealed that the Wizard’s mind is slowly deteriorating. Carnage realizes this and informs Klaw that the minute the Wizard slips up, the symbiote will take full control. Carnage is instructed to collect whatever weapons he desires.


Upon arriving at New York City Hall to attack then-Mayor J. Jonah Jameson, Superior Carnage shows his ferocity by slaying Jameson’s bodyguards. Carnage reverts back to his classic look a few times during the battle whenever the Wizard begins having panic attacks. Klaw is able to get the Wizard back into a strong enough mental state to control Carnage before the trio is intercepted by the Superior Spider-Man and his minions. Spider-Man and the Wizard battle it out, while Klaw and Carnage fight the web-slinger’s allies. The Wizard discovers that  Otto Octavius is beneath the Spidey mask, causing the former Doctor Octopus to drop his opponent. The Wizard crashes into a car, which subsequently severs his control over Carnage.


RELATED: Carnage: How the Darkhold Turned the Spider-Man Villain Into a Mystic Threat

Superior Carnage in New York

Carnage sets his sights on Spider-Man after killing all of his minions. During the chaos of the ensuing battle, Carnage slashes through Klaw causing a sonic explosion that separates the symbiote from Malus. The symbiote then attaches itself to the Wizard before consuming Malus.

Surprisingly, Malus survived the Carnage attack,and would eventually emerge as a human/symbiote hybrid in Captain America: Sam Wilson #3 by Nick Spencer and Daniel Acuña. This series saw Malus continue his human experiments, turning Sam Wilson into a wolf/human hybrid named Cap-wolf. Malus would also hold a small role in Season 2 of Netflix’s Jessica Jones series, where it is revealed he was responsible for Jessica obtaining her powers.

Karl Malus was a dangerous scientist on his own and became even more dangerous once he bonded with the Carnage symbiote. While his time with the symbiote was short-lived, there is no question that he was a strong adversary to any hero or villain that stood in his way, and was more or less superior to the original.

KEEP READING: Maximum Carnage: Marvel Adds a New Moment to the Iconic Spider-Man Epic

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