'Gah! Symbiote/ Symbiont??!'
A couple of days ago Dan wrote a review of the new Carnage mini series and continuously referred to both Carnage and Venom as Symbionts. Having read Spider-man and Venom series on and off for a bout 15 years I was pretty sure (downright certain) the word, as read in Marvel comics, is symbiote. Having sent Dan a mail to tell him its Symbiote not Symbionte I received a troubling reply. It turns out that the spelling I read constantly in Amazing Spider-man 344-345 and throughout the Maximum Carnage saga in the nineties was wrong all along.
For those not in the know; and because Dan’s taken this off the Comics section – possibly because its more about spelling than comics – Carnage was Cletus Cassidy, a psychotic serial killer with deep seated family issues that was bonded symbiotically to an alien organism that fed from him and supplied him with power and super strength and the ability to morph massive claws he could eviscerate passers by with for a loan of his central nervous system. He looked at the time of his creation to be a villain for Spider-man that finally rivalled Batman’s villains in DC.
Psychotic, unretrievable, unpredictable and massively homicidal – and more wicked than his larger grizzlier counterpart (alien dad) Venom who was the same thing only troubled by the anti-hero bug that Marvel always slaps on any villain that becomes popular.
But here was Carnage, Spider-man’s Joker (bollocks to the Green Goblin – he looks like an Ibizan gay clubber at Hallowe’en and was constantly sorting himself out and apologising), a destructive freak of nature that had to test the heroes no-kill policy simply by dint of being a raging loonface who’d slaughter grannies!! If Carnage turned up you should’ve assumed someone close to the main character was going to die just for being there.
The 'symbiote' in question
He raged on long after I’d wandered away from Spider-man and comic books in general and when I returned I discovered he was a non-entity, viewed as a shade of Venom rather than the lunatic mutant hick cousin that he was always supposed to be. It seemed he’d never found a niche in the Marvel Universe and been sidelined or thrown in as a gimmick. All from the potential he had in Amazing Spider-man all those years ago. The Sentry flew him to space and tore him in half in three panels of The New Avengers 1. What a crock!
He is yet to appear in the new series – by the end of issue 1- however they’d better have given him some of his bite back – especially with the MAX ratings Marvel can give themselves now. I want to see Carnage do some carnage or I won’t be happy.
But worse than that – It appears that Symbiote – the word that was applied to both the Venom and Carnage organisms – was never a word and Marvel, with no sense of consequence, simply had a guess at a word that means a symbiont.
In the real world of crazy science that sounds made up a Symbiont (or symbiote) is an organism that forms a mutual biological relationship with another so that both organisms benefit. Each of the two provides certain advantages that the other lacks and they don’t impair the existence of each other – except that similar girl organisms might wonder what that thing is on your back.
Marvel co-opted the idea for a suit worn by Spider-man that returned to Earth with him from the Secret Wars crossover in the 80s. It gave him extra spider boing but made him quite more aggressive – which was helpful for a vigilante – and rude to his Aunt May – unacceptable in polite society.
He discovered its weakness was soundwaves and stood under bells in a cathedral as they rang to get rid of it. It worked but found a new home in Eddie Brock – who conveniently had a hate on for Parker too. Crazy alien, brain eating shennanigans ensued – a couple more ‘symbiotes’ appeared and Marvel kept calling them that and still do.
Anyway, I’d long since accepted that a printed word is a correct spelling and hadn’t retrospectively altered my thoughts in spite of having read the Metro every morning on the way into London, which every Londoner knows appears to have been copied down from the internet by a cheeky twelve year old truant with Tippex and a felt tip pen during a particularly arduous detention.
For me, it was vaguely permissable for a mainstream newspaper to have the odd typo as it’s momentary white knuckle communications by its very nature – even if the Metro is invariably yesterday’s news. But the idea that Marvel put out the wrong word for literally years in a mainstream global publication that spawned movie franchises and single handedly saved Marvel Comics from administration (Spider-man that is – not Carnage himself though I’d imagine a 5’11 psychotic lava lamp with claws’d put off the solicitors) is just mental to me.
It has writers – ergo – people who use words (I checked). Dan is one and he apparently used the right word straight out the gate. Who is monitoring these people? Is America spelt America? Is Authority spelt Authority? Is Super spelt Super? What’s going on?!
I’ve checked Oxford online dictionary and it couldn’t give a return for Symbiote but politely enquired if I meant Symbiont. This, according to the dictionary, is ‘an organism living in symbiosis with another’ which was definitely what I was looking for. This, I would suggest, might not help someone who was looking up the word ‘symbiont’ as they might then have to look up ‘symbiosis’ as well in order to unravel the mystery. ‘Does Symbiosis mean sharing a shower?’ they might say.
'All I said was Sybionts...'
Tut, Oxford online dictionary. Tut.
So I’ve tried the US English dictionary to see if it was one of those words they changed the spelling of to pay off the French for winning the American War of Independence for them and it turns out its the same. This poses several questions to my mind.
1. How did Dan come across this word in first place? Are there a lot of symbiotic species in Kent?
2. Why is it Symbiont? Its Symbiotic and its symbiosis so what pleb staked his reputation on calling it a Symbiont? It doesn’t even sound as good. I’d rather be attacked by a Symbiont than a symbiote as a Symbiont sounds slower, like a bear sharing a central nervous system with a flipping Narwhal.
3. Why did no one spellcheck this in Marvel? I know the 90s was a big decade for them but still. DC must’ve left notes up somewhere just to bate them you’d think.
4. Should I have relied quite so heavily on comics to supply me with correct spellings of things?
The answer to this is probably not. I’ve checked a map. America is indeed, spelt America. Phew.