Spider-Man fans will soon have a taste of both worlds, as Sony Pictures last month announced plans for an animated "Spider-Man" film scheduled for release July 20, 2018, along with the previously announced live-action Spidey film set for July 28, 2017, produced in collaboration with Marvel Studios, that will find Spider-Man inhabiting the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Both franchises have plenty of comic book material to consider for future cinematic exploration, but the just-announced "Spider-Man" animated feature has the distinction of not being restrained by a live-action special effects budget, so this film can presumably go really, really big. Or, it could deliver a very different type of Spidey story; one that could potentially attract the audience-bridging Pixar crowd. Whatever direction Sony goes in, it has plenty of options to choose from.
So what kind of stories are we talking about? Sony could theoretically mine any cosmic saga, superhero team mash-up or big story ideas that have been featured in the comics during wall-crawler's long publishing history. While the live-action Spidey will appear in the shared continuity of the MCU, Sony could explore any era of Spidey greatness in its animated tales. Join us as we try to find some super Spider-Man stories that might be the right fit for the upcoming animated film.
With an animated feature, Sony can most definitely go big. Spider-Man tales just don't get much bigger than "Spider-Island," which featured multiple tie-ins and a main story by Dan Slott, Humberto Ramos and Stefano Caselli. The tale of every Manhattan resident gaining Spider powers thanks to the machinations of Spider-Queen and the Jackal, "Spider-Island" had a major impact back in 2011. With "Spider-Island," Sony could have a story that features many of Spidey's supporting cast in an epic tale with dramatic and comedic potential. Who wouldn't want to see an animated, superpowered J. Jonah Jameson (voiced by J.K. Simmons, of course)? "Spider-Island" might be too cost prohibitive for live-action, but the animated format could bring one of the biggest Spider-tales of the past decade to full-color life. There's enough action, comedy, drama, and huge set piece here to fill a unique animated adventure.
Sony seems determined to deliver a version of Spider-Man's premier team of foes to the big screen, and an animated feature could allow the studio to make this six-on-one battle as huge as possible. Sony need only look to 1964's classic "Amazing Spider-Man Annual" #1 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko to find a Sinister Six tale worthy of consideration, as a young Spidey battles against all odds to overcome six of his toughest opponents. The original villain team comprised Doctor Octopus, Vulture, Electro, Kraven the Hunter, Mysterio and Sandman, and while the lineup has changed over the years, they've never been anything but extremely deadly. Plus, think of the marketing potential for Sony in a kid-friendly animated film featuring not one, but six super baddies. The fate of Sony's live-action "Sinister Six" film appears to be up in the air at the moment, but shifting gears to animation could be a viable option, especially given the logistics in presenting one live-action movie with six major villains (though Warner Bros.' upcoming "Suicide Squad" is loading up with even more). In animation, the Six could come to life in one of the greatest super-smackdowns ever to hit the big screen.
Venom, introduced in his most recognizable form by David Michelinie and Todd McFarlane in 1988, is another character Sony has had live-action plans for, in an attempt to bring the popular villain/antihero back to the big screen following 2007's "Spider-Man 3." Like the "Sinister Six," the current status of Sony's "Venom" film is unclear. Animation could allow Sony to explore the length and breadth of the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe to bring fans the star-spanning alien origins of the fateful symbiote, and it could also allow Sony to stretch the boundaries of the visual side of Venom's powers. Fans of the character have been clamoring for a proper -- unshared with other villains -- Eddie Brock saga on screen for years now. Venom has the marquee presence, an aesthetic suited for animation and the fan support to make Spidey's animated film debut an event to remember.
Why introduce one animated version of Spider-Man when you can introduce two? Since Sony and Marvel are combining forces to bring fans a new era of live-action Spider-Man, fans have been wondering when and if Miles Morales will be introduced on the big screen. Despite only being around for a few years, Miles has a very strong fanbase, and introducing the current Ultimate Spider-Man into Sony's animated film could be the right way to usher him into the larger mainstream world. 2012's "Spider-Men" limited series by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli was a classic examination of both Spideys in a big story with personal stakes. The series had humor, drama and pitch-perfect characterization, and this team-up of two great heroes could make for the perfect animation experience and allow Sony to test the water with Miles while still keeping Peter Parker in the mix.
Without the ballooning costs of FX-heavy epics, Sony's animated Spider-Man effort can go as big as it needs to -- so why not include nearly every Avenger, especially given that Sony and Marvel's partnership could extend to animation? The 2010 "Siege" event by Brian Michael Bendis and artist Olivier Coipel saw Peter Parker's archenemy Norman Osborn and his team of Dark Avengers lay siege to the floating city of Asgard. Osborn and a team of villains pretending to be the Avengers fought Spider-Man, the gods of Asgard and the real Avengers. Based on the massive success of "Avengers: Age of Ultron," that sounds both marketable and awesome. Of course, Sony would have to make adjustments to the plot -- heavily connected to the status quo of the Marvel Universe at the time -- but with some deft story wrangling, the main plot of "Siege" could center on Spider-Man caught up in an interdimensional battle against his greatest enemy. "Siege" may not be the obvious choice, but presented right it's an epic Spidey story in a format that could allow for Marvel heroes other beyond Spider-Man to be realized in a big screen animated adventure.