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Marvel's Carnage just invaded Bill Watterson's Calvin & Hobbes (and other comic strips) in latest Marvel crossover event

The funny papers get a dark twist with Venom and Carnage’s comic strip takeover

Carnage and Clete
Image credit: Marvel Comics

What happens when you mix homicidal alien symbiotes with wholesome comic strip characters? You get one of the craziest mashups Marvel Comics has ever produced. Extreme Venomverse #3 features symbiote versions of your favorite newspaper comic strip characters. What happens when Venom and Carnage invade the world of Calvin and Hobbes, B.C., Hagar the Horrible, and Family Circus? Pure chaos.

Spoilers ahead for June 14's Extreme Venomverse #3.

What is the Venomverse?

Extreme Venomverse #4 cropped cover
Image credit: Marvel Comics

Spider-Man isn’t the only hero with a multiverse of doppelgangers. This summer, Marvel is publishing a variety of symbiote related books. They’re calling this event 'Summer of the Symbiotes,' and Marvel is proving that the title isn’t hyperbole. The villainous Carnage is currently causing mayhem in a storyline called Carnage Reigns, which is running in multiple titles. Plus, there’s all the new symbiote characters Marvel is introducing, like Misery and Madness.

One of the new titles is Extreme Venomverse. The mini-series explores the multiverse, and all the different versions of Venom that inhabit it. If you’re familiar with Sony Animation’s Spider-Verse movies, or other multiverse stories, then you should have a pretty good idea of how this works. For example, Extreme Venomverse #1 introduced a samurai version of Venom, and Extreme Venomverse #2 featured a version of Venom that bonded with Felicia Hardy instead of Eddie Brock.

Each story in this anthology title is written and drawn by a different creative team, which gives each variant of Venom their own unique flavor. Of course, in a multiverse of infinite possibilities, that means anybody could become Venom and Carnage. This includes beloved newspaper strip characters.

The Venomverse takes over your favorite newspaper strip characters

Venom parody of Family Circus
Image credit: Marvel Comics

Extreme Venomverse #3 continues the Summer of Symbiotes madness by introducing a caveman version of Venom, a frontier version of Venom, and a new take on Venom’s Space Knight persona. However, the highlight of the book was a two-page feature that showcased Venomized versions of classic comic strip characters. This feature was written and illustrated by Ty Templeton, an Eisner Award winning creator who is best known for his work on DC’s various Batman: The Animated Series tie-in comics.

Templeton captured the spirit of each comic strip and found humorous ways to incorporate Venom and Carnage into each premise. Let’s break it down.

Tales of the Black Costume

This is a parody of B.C., a comic strip set during prehistoric times. The strip was created by Johnny Hart in 1958 and is currently being produced by his grandson Mason Mastroianni. The strip usually features puns and occasional slapstick, as the cavemen use their dry wit to navigate life in the prehistoric age.

Templeton’s parody has Spider-Man approach a caveman version of Reed Richards. Spidey wants Richards to use sonics to remove the alien symbiote from him. Reed replies that sonics haven’t been invented yet, so he hits Spidey over the head with a club as an alternative. Templeton effortlessly captured the pacing and punchline language of the original strip.

Carnage and Clete

This is a parody of Calvin and Hobbes, a beloved comic strip about a boy named Calvin and his stuffed tiger Hobbes. Calvin sees Hobbes as an anthropomorphic tiger, while other characters view him as an inanimate stuffed toy. The implication is that Hobbes is Calvin’s imaginary friend, but the strip purposely leaves it up to the readers. Calvin and Hobbes was created by Bill Watterson, and ran in newspaper strips from 1985 to 1995. Although production ceased decades ago, the strip is still rerun in many markets, and has remained a beloved comic strip staple.

Carnage and Clete is a warped version of the Calvin and Hobbes premise. Clete is a young version of Cletus Kasady, the serial killer behind the Carnage symbiote. Carnage takes the role of Hobbes. All the adults think Carnage is a plush toy, while Clete tries to warn them about his pal’s homicidal tendencies. Clete is blamed for Carnage’s body count, and the strip ends with the boy behind bars. Trust me when I say, this is one of the funniest things Marvel has produced all year.

The Family Symbiote

This is a parody of The Family Circus, a comic strip about the light-hearted side of parenting small children. The comic strip was created by Bil Keane, and has been running since 1960. Bil’s son Jeff Keane took over the strip after his father’s death.

The Family Symbiote features Venom, and various children symbiotes preparing to devour some innocent civilians. The kids complain about their meal the way most children do. “I want fries with this.” The best part is the way Templeton was able to draw the children in Keane’s signature style. It’s a twisted homage.

Klyntar the Killjoys

This is a parody of Hagar the Horrible, a comic strip about a Viking named Hagar. The strip was created by Dik Browne in 1973, and his son Chris Browne took over after his death. Chris Browne died in February 2023, ending production of new strips. A typical Hagar strip focuses on typical family hijinks, which usually consists of Hagar arguing with his wife Helga.

Klyntar the Killjoys features a kingdom bracing themselves for a Viking invasion. One peasent describes the Vikings as “Pleasant enough fellows who mostly complain about their wives.” If you’ve ever read a Hagar comic, this observation probably rings true. Of course, the Vikings turn out to be symbiotes, which results in some violence.

In just two pages, Ty Templeton pulls off something extraordinary. All four parodies are illustrated in the style of the strip they’re paying homage to. Each script is written in the style of the cartoonist they’re parodying, capturing their pacing and stylized humor. This is not an easy thing to do across four stories using two pages, but Templeton pulled it off. I never thought I would see Cletus Kasady in the world of Calvin and Hobbes, but Marvel has proved that in the Venomverse anything is possible.

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