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In Marvel's What If #4, ‘What if the alien costume had possessed Spider-Man?’ (published in 1989), the end result was that the Venom symbiote drained Spidey's life force and left him for dead because it lived off of adrenaline or something. (I’ve never actually read the issue, only many synopses.)

Since 1989 is a far cry from what we know about symbiotes today, is it safe to say that aspect of the Marvel symbiotes has been retconned or even dropped altogether? Eddie Brock, Flash Thompson, Mac Gargan, and Cletus Cassidy have been bonded to their symbiotes for far longer than that comic had Venom bonded to Spidey, and none of them seem worse for wear.

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They have changed a lot since then, and I've been reading the Venom comics for awhile now as well.

There have been multiple incarnations of the symbiote. But it seems the draining ability is something venom may have but doesn't use, as it the symbiote is part of a race called the Klyntar that normally dominate their hosts and drain their lifeforce but Venom is different and when it bonds with a host it commits to its host and protects them without draining their life. In fact the first being it bonded to, was rather evil and used his new found abilities to enact genocide on his planet which twisted the symbiote and gave it aggressive tendencies and it was then imprisoned by its own people for bonding rather than dominating until it was later found first by deadpool and then spiderman on battleworld.

More over it seems as been revealed in more recent comics that, all the bad parts about the symbiote were caused from the rage and aggression from the first host. Eventually the symbiote gets purged of it's evil by its own race and re-bonds with flash Thompson stronger than ever before, as it now has access to the Klyntar Hivemind joining the rest of his race, along with this the symbiote can now take on a humanoid form itself for about 12 hours a day.

In terms of the what if comic they usually exist outside of normal continuity and don't usually have any bearing outside of that one off. Although an explanation of why it may kill spiderman and not other hosts could be because they can't bond to him like the other hosts, and the venom symbiote chooses to drain spiderman instead.

EDIT: Got my info from these sites

http://www.geeksrising.com/blog/2015/10/29/superhero-sunday-venom- http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Venom_(Klyntar)_(Earth-616)

  • Ok, that definitely makes a lot of sense since I believe part of that 'what-if' comic branch was that Mr Fantastic didn't study the costume until way later to find out it was an alien life form, and Parker himself never really feels the presence of another like the other hosts have. So while the others have bonded more with the venom symbiote, it makes sense that the symbiote merely chose to drain his life force while having its conscience presence remain oblivious to Parker. – Unfallener Oct 6 '16 at 19:31
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TLDR: The symbiotes have that ability but do not normally consume the life force of a host.


The alien race you're referring to - the Klyntar - normally feed off a host in two ways. Psychically, the symbiote feeds off of emotions. The stronger emotions, such as rage and lust, are potent narcotics to the Klyntar.

Physically, the symbiote feeds off of the hormones produced by the host body. The majority of the Klyntar are benevolent, however the "corrupted" ones like Venom have learned to influence their host in order to provoke the stronger emotional spikes (and therefore the more potent hormones and psychic energies that they crave).

Because of this feeding method, it is possible for a Klyntar to "drain" its host of all psychic energy & hormonal chemicals. This is rarely done, since suitable hosts are a valuable commodity, but it has been happened on a few occasions. It may be that only the older, more powerful ones like Venom are able to do this, but that's speculation on my part.

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"Yes" and "No" are both equally correct

That is more of a "case by case" cultural basis and whether or not the klyntar is corrupted.

For instance, lets look at the differing "major" groups - The "Klyntar Empire" (seen in Planet of the Symbiotes) and the "Agents of the Cosmos" (First seen in Guardians of the Galaxy).

The Empire, is comprised of corrupted klyntar who do use up hosts and see them as nothing but chattel to eat and get fun from - they conquer entire planets and are highly dangerous as a result.

The marvel wiki puts it this way, what sort of fate befalls these poor victims:

The corrupted symbiotes tended to force their hosts to perform spectacular and terrifying feats in order to feed off of their adrenaline and other hormones, such as phenethylamine. Eventually, the hosts would be sucked dry of vital fluids, collapse from exhaustion due to the constant stress and exertion, or simply die in a failed stunt;whereupon the symbiote would seek out a new host to repeat the process.

But the "Agents of the Cosmos" have a very mutualistic bond with their hosts - they seek the perfect match (aggressive hosts lead to corruption - and resultingly these guys are very fussy on who they pick to try avoid that) and do not drain them dry, working together as, well, Agents of the Cosmos, to try protect the galaxy.

In fact, they tend to have less of a severe hunger/need to feed in general - in contrast to corrupted symbiotes often turning ravenous, which in turn is not good for a host because if there's nothing else to eat...

Then you get the rogues - the independent entities.

Or as independent as a symbiote can be at least.

They can go either way.

You get those like Zzzxx: they behave very much like the Empire, despite apparently not sharing an association. This symbiote in it's appearances was feeding off and draining the hosts dry not caring about any of them - to the extent that one looked very unwell after only what could have been a period of hours.

You get those like Carnage Symbiote - Red here, has drained and devoured non-Cletus hosts, but Cletus himself? They would never and do never. In fact, they have actively resuscitated the man from the dead.

Then there's the Hybrid Symbiote - which adores it's host Scott Washington and doesn't drain or stray from him to drain any others. There's variety and choice involved essentially.

And it's also canonically been noted that the symbiote can go the other way entirely, in the 2018 comic series: Where a symbiote character strongly implies that a symbiote can not only heal physically wounds/damage, but also prevent them from aging as well if they really do like them.

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Yeah it is an arguable topic but in the comic where the Guardians of the Galaxy visit the Klyntar's home planet, when the Guardians bond with their own symbiotes the Klyntar gave the Gaurdians their whole entire history on how they came to be and who the are in which the Klyntar are soldiers of the universe and they only bond with the people that are good-hearted and noble so that’s why Venom can drain healthier, because Spider-Man cast Venom off and Venom thought that he was abandoning him and so that is why Venom is the bad guy because he has so much hate for the hero so the Klyntar are born nice and can be only corrupted by a corrupted soul and that's why Carnage and Venom are the bad guys

  • I'm unsure how this relates to the question asked. The question is asking if the draining of life force is still canonical or if it's been retconned? – Edlothiad Jul 16 '18 at 12:26

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