Marvel’s symbiotes have grown incredibly popular in the last decade thanks to Sony’s live-action Venom films and Venom‘s villainous role in Insomniac’s upcoming Spider-Man 2 game. In comics, the Summer of Symbiotes comes to a close while the Venomverse expands, exploring alternate versions of Venom across the multiverse. Elsewhere in the multiverse, various symbiote variants appeared in What If? comics.

Marvel often uses What If? comics to explore ridiculous, humorous, and exciting narrative possibilities that usually wouldn’t fit their Earth-616 canon. In these comics, many Marvel heroes and villains, from the Thing to the Punisher, have bonded with symbiotes creating twisted, “Venomous” new characters.

RELATED: Every Spider-Man Comic Currently Running (& Their Most Recent Issue)

10 Pork Grind

What The–?! #20 by Barry Dutter, John Costanza, George Wildman & Dan Kratochvil

While not technically a What If? comic series by name, What The–?! comics were Marvel’s self-owned parody comics that explored plenty of silly, and often hilarious, alternate versions of Marvel’s main comic universe. Cartoonish characters like Spider-Ham frequently appeared alongside comedic versions of classic Marvel characters.

In What The–?! #20, Spider-Ham battled a similarly anthropomorphic version of Venom named Pork Grid. Like Spider-Ham, Pork Grind sported a pig-like design with a veil of Venom’s style and symbiotic suit.

9 Deadpool

Venom/Deadpool: What If? by Rick Remender, Shawn Moll, Mark Irwin & Chris Sotomayor

What if the Merc with a Mouth had serious teeth; a bite to back up his bark? Venom/Deadpool: What If? finally gave fans the horrifying fusion of Deadpool and the Venom symbiote. The result resembles a demonic version of The Mask, but even more terrifying.

The Venom symbiote enhanced all of Deadpool’s skills, powers, and characteristics, making his thirst for blood and chaos even stronger. While a Venom/Deadpool combo is scary, Marvel utilizes the character for a series of comedic stories that also involve Iron Man, Spider-Man, and even the Beyonder.

8 Punisher

What If…? #44 by Kurt Busiek, Luke McDonnell, Tom Vincent & Janice Chiang

The Punisher/Venom combination from What If…? #44 gave new meaning to the mantle of “Lethal Protector.” After Peter Parker abandoned the symbiote, it latched onto Punisher instead of Eddie Brock.

With the symbiote’s boost in strength and speed, the Punisher delivered his deadly version of justice to more New York City criminals than ever before. The symbiote attempted to control Frank Castle’s mind completely, but the Punisher’s mental fortitude was too strong. Despite Spider-Man and Daredevil’s warnings, the pair remained bonded while the Punisher continued his mission.

RELATED: 10 Biggest Changes Dan Slott Made To Spider-Man

7 Spider-Man

What If…? #4 by Danny Fingeroth, Mark Bagley, Keith Williams & Tom Vincent

Following the first Secret Wars event, Peter Parker returned to Earth sporting a stylish new costume. After discovering the costume was a living creature, Reed Richards helped Spidey remove the symbiote. In What If…? #4, Mister Fantastic was unsuccessful, and trapped both the symbiote and Spider-Man in a containment tube. The symbiote latched onto Peter stronger than ever, draining his life force and causing Spidey to age rapidly.

Like many What If? comics, this issue presented a very tragic alternate outcome to Peter’s “Alien Costume” saga. Peter, with little time left due to the symbiote robbing him of his youth, says tearful goodbyes to his loved ones, including Black Cat who later embarks on a vengeful quest to destroy the symbiote.

6 The Incredible Hulk

What If…? #4 by Danny Fingeroth, Mark Bagley, Keith Williams & Tom Vincent

After the symbiote drained Spider-Man of his youth and energy, it attached itself to the Incredible Hulk, using the Hulk’s lack of intelligence and physical might to its advantage. Venom, the simple combination of the symbiote and Eddie Brock, was a stronger being than Spider-Man. The symbiote, combined with the Hulk’s destructive power, was a sight to behold.

What If…? #4 was memorable for the symbiote’s many unexpected hosts, but the Hulk may be the greatest. The symbiote completely uses Hulk’s body, showing remorse for what it did to Spider-Man while claiming it achieved “true symbiosis” with Hulk. Fortunately for everyone, the Hulk/Venom pairing didn’t last long.

5 Thor

What If…? #4 by Danny Fingeroth, Mark Bagley, Keith Williams & Tom Vincent

The Venom symbiote made the rounds in What If…? #4, first latching onto Peter and draining his life force, then using the Hulk as a mindless brute, and finally landing on the Mighty Thor, corrupting the God of Thunder’s godlike abilities and bodies for its own purposes.

In this form, the symbiote was nearly unstoppable, defeating any Avenger or Fantastic Four member in its path. Ultimately, Black Bolt used his supersonic voice to separate Thor from the symbiote, while Black Cat used Reed Richards’ sonic gun to destroy the creature and avenge Spider-Man.

4 Poison (Spider-Man)

What If? Spider-Man The Other by Peter David, Khoi Pham, Sandu Florea & Marte Gracia

The Other offered a slight variation on the original story by J. Michael Straczynski, but rather than accepting an evolution of his Spider-Totem powers, Peter Parker rejects them, causing a branching series of events that give the symbiote an opportunity to completely infect and corrupt its host.

During a process of rebirth where Peter cocoons himself in webs, the Venom symbiote abandons Scorpion, returns to Spider-Man and interrupts the process, completely taking over Peter’s mind. Spider-Man was no more; only Poison remained, a monstrous version of the black-suited Spider-Man.

3 Peter Parker Clones (Spider-Men)

What If? X-Men Age of Apocalypse by Rick Remender, Dave Wilkins & Anthony Washington

The X-Men’s Age of Apocalypse crossover was potentially the greatest comic event that spawned from the 90s. While Spider-Man battled the Jackal and clones during the Clone Saga, the X-Men faced their greatest threat on an alternate world where Apocalypse ruled and Xavier was dead. A What If? one-shot married the two concepts, depicting a version of the Age of Apocalypse story, complete with Spidey clones, who all wore duplicates of the Venom symbiote.

In a reality where both Xavier and Magneto died, the X-Men had no leader and Apocalypse claimed the world, using Spider-Man clones as soldiers. The symbiote-bonded Spider-Men battled the Thing, Wolverine and more, causing Thing to voice his disdain for clones that many readers in the 90s shared.

RELATED: 10 Rarest Avengers Comics (& What They’re Worth)

2 The Thing

What If…? Dark: Venom by Stephanie Phillips, Jethro Morales, Israel Silva & Joe Sabino

Like DC’s Tales From the Dark Multiverse one-shots, Marvel’s What If…? Dark comics explore dark alternate outcomes of popular comic events, such as Loki possessing Mjolnir, Spider-Man dying on the bridge instead of Gwen Stacy, and the Venom symbiote possessing Ben Grimm, a.k.a. the Fantastic Four’s Thing.

In this alternate reality, Ben releases the symbiote that Reed studied at the Baxter Building after detaching it from Spider-Man. The Venom symbiote takes over the Thing’s body, enhancing fears of his monstrous appearance, furthering embedding its corruptive claws in Ben’s mind.

1 Cortland Kasady

What If…? Dark: Carnage by Larry Hama & John McCrea

What If…? Dark: Carnage releases September 20th, 2023, so readers know very little about the contents inside, but Marvel didn’t leave fans completely in the dark. Cletus Kasady, the murderous, infamous host of the Carnage symbiote, has a deceased ancestor named Cortland Kasady. The synopsis for the comic teases the Carnage symbiote reanimating Cortland and bonding to the dead.

Symbiotes can do many incredible and horrible things, but bringing the dead back to life through bonding takes the cake. If the Carnage symbiote can successfully revive the dead, using their host as a puppet, then Marvel Comics could soon face their own version of Green Lantern’s iconic Blackest Night event.

 Venom and other symbiotes have bonded with far more Marvel characters outside the main canon thanks to terrific entries in the What If? comic series.  Read More