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Let’s start things off with the biggest villain in this entire movie: Tom Hardy’s accent. Just kidding. (But seriously, what voice is that?) The biggest villain in Venom is the Life Foundation, the shadowy corporation that has discovered alien symbiotes–extraterrestrial entities later known as the Klyntar in the comics–which bond to a human host, giving that person superhuman abilities and tongues that will inspire some seriously creepy erotica. As the film’s first trailer suggests, the Life Foundation sees symbiotes as the next step in human evolution and is recruiting vulnerable people to perform deadly experiments on them.
Created by David Michelinie and Todd McFarlane in 1988’s The Amazing Spider-Man #298, The Life Foundation was originally an elite group of survivalists who believed the Cold War would inevitably lead to a nuclear holocaust. So in order to prepare for the inevitable doomsday, they wanted to created a massive apocalypse-proof fallout shelter for their wealthy clientele and charge them a hefty sum to secure their spot in the new world. This issue is also notable because it marks the first appearance of Venom as we see a shadowy cameo of a deranged Eddie Brock angrily muttering to himself about how Spider-Man ruined his life, and some of the iconic black symbiote wrapping around his hand.
Five years after their debuts, the Life Foundation and Venom finally crossed paths in Venom: Lethal Protector, the 1993 mini-series from David Michelinie, Mark Bagley, Ron Lim, and Sam DeLarosa. The story brought a newly reformed Venom to San Francisco where he became embroiled in a plot to prevent Roland Treece, a member of the Life Foundation’s Board of Directors, from blowing up a colony of hobos living in an underground city beneath San Francisco because they supposedly had a lost stockpile of gold. You know — because comics. In the process, he caught the attention of Carlton Drake, the Life Foundation’s shady, ruthless leader, who will be played by Riz Ahmed in the movie, and his cronies.
Inspired by Carnage, the murderous symbiote who was born after Venom’s suit left behind some of its goop, which spawned a new symbiote and latched onto the psychopathic killer Cletus Kasady, The Life Foundation sought to create symbiotic security guards of their very own. Rather than have the symbiote spawn bond with lunatics like Kasady or fake news-addled maniacs like Eddie Brock, the Life Foundation wanted to attach the symbiotes to their top security personnel so that they could have an elite fighting force to protect them and their clients from anyone who would impact their bottom line of creating a utopian fallout shelter, which overwhelmingly tends to be friendly neighborhood Spider-Men and their derivatives.
Lured into an ambush, Venom was placed in a sonic prison because, like all true comic book fans, the Life Foundation knew that the symbiote was susceptible to sound-based attacks. They proceeded to extract five “seeds” from Venom in order to create five symbiote super soldiers: Scream, Agony, Phage, Lasher, and Riot. Like Venom, they have a variety of incredible powers like superhuman strength, wall-crawling, nightmarish elasticity, and lightning-fast reflexes. After realizing what was happening, Eddie Brock tried to escape by doing what any one of us would do–slamming a guard named Ricardo into the controls! Alas, it was for naught because Carlton Drake doesn’t screw around and had outfitted his soldiers with portable sonic weapons which quickly turned Venom back into naked Eddie Brock.
While the Five Symbiotes, or Guardian Symbiotes if you’re nasty, all looked cool as hell and were some seriously awesome action figures, they proved no match for Venom and Spider-Man, the latter of whom showed up to save Eddie Brock’s bacon and wound up fighting Scream at a shopping mall before tracking them to the Life Foundation’s Mojave Desert testing facility. During the final showdown, Spider-Man was hesitant to use a potentially lethal weapon on the newly spawned symbiotes to accelerate their aging, Venom had no qualms about it. He knocked Spidey unconscious and proceed to blast the Guardian Symbiotes until their gooey alien counterparts were turned to dust.
In the end, Spidey and Venom emerged mostly unscathed, but the Life Foundation blew up their testing facility and presumably the Five Symbiotes along with it. But as anyone who is not insanely gullible probably realized, no one ever really dies in comics. Except for Uncle Ben. He’s literally it. The Guardian Symbiotes would emerge again over the years, most notably in the Separation Anxiety and Carnage U.S.A. story arcs.
As for Carlton Drake, well, we’re going to see a slightly different version on the big screen than we did in the comics. While Riz Ahmed will bring the steely menace of his comic book counterpart, he won’t be playing a crusty old white dude who eventually tries to cure his cancer with Spider-Man’s DNA and accidentally gets turned into the Homo Arachnis, a literal spider man. This time Carlton Drake will become Riot, one of the Guardian Symbiotes, and go toe to toe with Venom alongside presumably the rest of his gross children. One interesting wrinkle to Riot this time around, though. According to director Ruben Fleischer at San Diego Comic-Con, Riot can move around from host to host, so perhaps Drake won’t be the only warm body Riot calls home. And as Fleischer told yours truly at Comic-Con, Riot won’t be the only villain in Venom either. While it’s likely that he’s referring to the rest of the Guardian Symbiotes, I can’t help but hold out hope that we’ll see a sneak peek of Carnage to tee up the future of the franchise.
And there you have it, folks: everything you need to know about Carlton Drake, the Life Foundation, and the villains of Venom. But tell me — which sinister symbiote from the comics do you want to see Venom fight on the big screen? Let me know in the comments below!
Images: Marvel Comics