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No, Marvel ISN'T Adapting Raimi's Canceled Spider-Man 4

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It's easy for fans to weave wild theories after receiving tiny hints, but there's mounting evidence that we haven't seen the last of director Sam Raimi's Spider-Man series. What began Sunday as a simple, if cryptic, Marvel Comics teaser has spiraled into a full-blown mystery. For those coming into the story late -- or who have allowed speculation to carry them away -- it is important to lay down the facts.

What did that statement by Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief C.B. Cebulski indicate? And how did a deleted tweet by artist Alex Ross link it to Raimi's abandoned fourth Spider-Man film? And how do we know that all that speculation turned out to be for nothing?

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What Does '4' Refer To?

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On Sunday, Marvel Entertainment's official Twitter account posted a teaser image, without comment or context. At that point, all fans knew was that Marvel was teasing a project involving Spider-Man ... and the number four. CBR initially concluded it must be for some something involving Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four.

Considering the long relationship between the two properties, this isn't too much of a stretch: Peter Parker and Johnny Storm have been friends in the comics since 1963's The Amazing Spider-Man #1. Spider-Man even served briefly as a member of the team, alongside the Hulk, Wolverine and Ghost Rider -- in the early 1990s, of course.

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But then Cebulski retweeted the teaser, adding, "No one is going to see this one coming...," leading many to concluded that whatever is planned would be a big event.

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Naturally, speculation kicked into high gear. What would be so special about this project? Fans always jump to conclusions but, at this point, nothing indicated the project had anything to do with Raimi's canceled Spider-Man 4. That is, until Alex Ross tweeted.

Enter ... Alex Ross

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Ross has a history with Raimi's trilogy, as his artwork appeared in the opening credits of 2004's Spider-Man 2. But why did he tweet, and then delete, this, as spotted by Reddit?

The image features Spider-Man swinging with Mary Jane in his arms, reminiscent of a scene from the original Spider-Man. MJ is depicted wearing the same outfit actress Kirsten Dunst did in that scene. Why, then, did Ross write "#SpiderMan4"? More than that, why did he then delete his tweet, but retweet Cebulski's?

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What Was Spider-Man 4?

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Before Marc Webb rebooted the franchise in 2012 with The Amazing Spider-Man, Raimi planned a fourth film that would have continued the threads of his trilogy, following the controversial Spider-Man 3. While the script has never been revealed, there are numerous known details that paint a portrait of what could have been.

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Raimi and Tobey Maguire had signed on for a fourth (and potentially fifth) Spider-Man film as of October 2008, with Amy Pascal, then head of Sony Pictures, endorsing shooting two films back to back. As time passed, however, plans solidified for at least one more sequel.

Dunst's involvement remained an open question, because while she flirted with the idea of reprising her role as Mary Jane Watson, she also express hesitance. But most excited of all seemed to be Bruce Campbell, who had made cameos in every Raimi Spider-Man film, and was promised a far meatier role (presumably as Mysterio).

Many fans speculated that, due to Dylan Baker's reoccurring role as Dr. Curt Connors, the Lizard would be the villain in Spider-Man 4. However, it soon became apparent that the villains would instead be the Vulture and Felicia Hardy, played by John Malkovich and Anne Hathaway, who went on to portray Selina Kyle in 2012's The Dark Knight Rises.

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According to rumors, Hardy would not have been Black Cat, but instead the original character of "The Vulturess," a female counterpart to Adrian Toomes. Leaked production art later confirmed that, yes, Mysterio and Vulture were in the film. While it was never confirmed that Hardy would play the Vulturess, the art did indicate Hardy and Peter would have some romantic tension.

So What Happened?

But, in the end, none of it was to be. On Jan. 11, 2010, Spider-Man 4 died. Raimi's story would be rebooted in Marc Webb's The Amazing Spider-Man, with Andrew Garfield succeeding Maguire in the title role.

"I was very unhappy with Spider-Man 3, and I wanted to make Spider-Man 4 to end on a very high note, the best Spider-Man of them all," Raimi revealed in a 2013 interview. "But I couldn't get the script together in time, due to my own failings, and I said to Sony, 'I don't want to make a movie that is less than great, so I think we shouldn't make this picture. Go ahead with your reboot, which you've been planning anyway.'"

What Can This Project Be?

A revival of Spider-Man 4 would certainly be something no one saw coming, as Cebulski indicated in his tweet. But maybe that's wrong, because some people obviously wove that elaborate, if unlikely, theory.

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But then, this afternoon, Marvel tweeted this teaser, which was immediately followed by the barely perceptible sound of fan theories coming unraveled.

The four, it turns out, had nothing to do with Spider-Man 4 or the Fantastic Four. The four was the beginning of a countdown; today is three. That means Tuesday will be, you guessed it, two, and Wednesday will be ... some sort of announcement, presumably involving Spider-Man.

If there remained any ambiguity, or any hopes for that adaptation of the abandoned Spider-Man 4, Cebulski crushed them with this tweet:

"Wait, so it's not a Spider-Man/FF crossover?!? You mean, it's not a comic adaptation of Spider-Man 4?!? I told you, you will not see this one coming!"

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So if it isn't a Fantastic Four crossover or an adaptation of a scrapped Raimi film, then what is happening with Spider-Man? And why did Alex Ross tweet that art accompanied by #SpiderMan4? Time will -- or at least may -- tell.

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