With the news that Sony Pictures is developing a line of Spider-Man spinoff films starting with an R-rated “Venom” and an as-yet untitled Black Cat and Silver Sable team-up, there’s been a lot of speculation about what other Spider-films we might see in the near future. Of course, if Sony and Marvel Studios want to set the stage for future spinoffs while paying homage to Spider-Man’s cinematic past, it’s time for two companies to come together for what could be the ultimate Spider-Man movie: “Spider-Verse.”
For those unfamiliar with the story, “Spider-Verse” was a 2014-2015 crossover that brought together “every Spider-Man ever,” as they battled the dimension-hopping energy vampire Morlun (introduced in the classic J. Michael Straczynski/John Romita, Jr. run) and his even more powerful family, the Inheritors. It was truly epic, as Spider-Men and -Women old and new fought to stop the Inheritors from devouring every last one of them and ending the line of spider-heroes forever.
While the story might have felt a little overstuffed (understandable, given the sheer number of characters involved), it was probably the most fun a Spider-Man-focused event has been in years, especially as it played up some of the more ridiculous aspects of character’s history. (Spider-Ham, anyone?)
“Spider-Verse” wasn’t merely fun and games, though; it also led to a creative renaissance for the Spider-Man office, with five ongoing series launching out of or alongside the event: “Spider-Man 2099,” “Spider-Woman,” “Spider-Gwen,” “Silk” and the short-lived “Web Warriors.” The months leading up to and following “Spider-Verse” were some of the best times to be a fan of spider-themed superheroes.
Given the success of the “Spider-Verse” crossover, it’s a natural candidate for adaptation for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In addition to being an epic story that would look amazing on the big screen, “Spider-Verse” also has a few specific advantages that Marvel Studios and Sony might find particularly appealing.
A Break from the Same Old, Same Old
“Spider-Verse” is a very different type of Spider-Man story from what we’ve seen on the screen so far. Spider-Man’s rogues gallery might be full of a lot of interesting characters, but they tend to have a lot of similarities, and Spidey’s cinematic villains have relied heavily on people who, like him, gained their powers through some sort of scientific experiment gone wrong. (Venom in “Spider-Man 3” is the one notable exception.)
Morlun and the Inheritors are dramatically different. They’re extradimensional forces of nature that have their powers simply by virtue of existing. Moreover, they cannot be stopped, no matter how hard they’re punched. The stakes here are incredibly high — if the Spider-Men do not win, there will be nothing to stop the Inheritors from conquering the entire universe. The movie could be just as much survival horror as capes-and-tights action adventure.
By focusing on Straczynski and Romita’s totem retcon origin, “Spider-Verse” would also offer a dramatically different take on the entire franchise. The idea of Spider-Man might be built off of fantastical science, but it still makes a certain sense, and Spider-Man stories tend to be grounded in the everyday, even when Peter has to come face-to-face with such oddities as a man made of sand. The totem origin turns everything we know on its head, making Peter no longer just the victim of happenstance, but rather the latest in a long line of spiders, selected by forces beyond understanding, for an unknowable purpose. It’s a shift in perspective that could allow very different stories to be told, including some far closer to “Doctor Strange” than to “Iron Man.”
A Multiverse of Characters
If Sony is looking to spin-off even more Spider-Man characters, “Spider-Verse” offers a quick and logical way to introduce an entire multiverse of Spider-People. “Every Spider-Man ever” includes quite a few characters who would be perfect fodder for their own films, but who might be hard sells if audiences aren’t already familiar with them. “Spider-Verse” would let Sony and Marvel Studios tease us with glimpses of some of them in action, whetting our appetites for the full features to come. As an added bonus, building the concept of the multiverse into the MCU would also be a brilliant way of explaining why Sony is making Spider-movies outside of its main, MCU-linked continuity.
Among the top candidates for spinoffs are Miguel O’Hara, the Spider-Man of the year 2099, who battles heartless corporations and designer drugs in a cyberpunk-inspired future; Gwen Stacy, Spider-Woman (a/k/a Spider-Gwen), who struggles with her own guilt over the death of Peter Parker; and Mayday Parker, Spider-Girl, the teenage daughter of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson. And those are just some of the more obvious examples.
(I’ve left out Jessica Drew as she’s much more part of the Avengers universe, and could easily show up over on that side of the MCU without any interference from Peter Parker and the Spider-clan.)
Bridge the Sony “Spider-Man” Films to the MCU
Finally, “Spider-Verse” could bridge the divide between Sony and Marvel Studios by literally bringing together the best aspects of everything that has come before. One of the biggest opportunities in the “every Spider-Man ever” premise is bringing back the Spider-Men who have come before: Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, along with Kirsten Dunst, Emma Stone and perhaps one or two surprises.
Barring contract issues or disinvest from the actors, Maguire and Dunst could easily reprise their roles from the Sam Raimi “Spider-Man” movies, but about sixteen or so years later when they have a daughter, Mayday, who has developed spider-powers of her own. Maguire, now in his 40s, is a perfect age for dad Spider-Man, and I cannot imagine a more heartbreaking introduction to a “Spider-Verse” movie than Maguire being devoured by Morlun as Mayday escapes. It would truly set the stakes in a way the random death of, say, Peter Parquagh, the Spider-Man of 1602, did not.
And, if Sony and Marvel are looking for a Spider-Gwen, they could do far, far worse than Emma Stone. Sure, Stone is older than Gwen is in the comics, but her portrayal of Gwen Stacy was one of the best parts of the Andrew Garfield-led “Amazing Spider-Man” films. It would be a joy to see her take up the role again.
(Definitely less likely, but it would be incredible to see Martin Sheen as Spider-Ben, the Uncle Ben who gained spider-powers in a universe where Peter died.)
By bringing in some of the best aspects of earlier Spider-Man movies, Sony and Marvel would legitimize what came before. They would once more be critical parts of the franchise, rather than something written off when storytelling became too cumbersome. Reuniting the franchise (and the fanbase) could be “Spider-Verse’s” biggest selling point — outside of simply providing fans the biggest Spider-spectacle they’ve ever seen.