Fans were stunned by news that the four-year-old deal between Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios to co-produce Spider-Man films had come to an abrupt end. For the moment, at least, it looks as if Tom Holland's web-slinger is no longer part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
When it was announced in 2015 that Spider-Man would appear in Marvel Studios films, the promise of the hero interacting on the big screen with the likes of Iron Man and Captain America was cause for excitement, and paid off across three Avengers features (Civil War, Infinity War and Endgame) and two solo adventures (Spider-Man: Homecoming and Far From Home). But with Disney's acquisition of 21st Century Fox arrived hope for a crossover with Deadpool, with whom Spider-Man has forged an unlikely friendship in the comics.
However, without a doubt, the former Fox property that has the most history with Peter Parker is the Fantastic Four.
The web-slinger first met the Fantastic Four in 1963's The Amazing Spider-Man #1, when he broke into the Baxter Building in hopes of impressing Marvel's First Family with his abilities so they would offer him a job. Following a brief altercation, the team informed Peter they were a nonprofit organization that couldn't offer him a position. And with that, one of comics' longest-tenured friendships was born.
Two issues later, in The Amazing Spider-Man #3, Johnny Storm, aka the Human Torch, paid a visit to Peter's school to give a lecture on heroics. It just so happened that, at the same time, Spider-Man was considering giving up the hero gig after losing his uncle and not finding a way to make money. Johnny's pep talk to the class gave Peter the inspiration he needed, despite the Human Torch having no idea of who he was.
Over the years, Spidey has been a member of the Fantastic Four, fought alongside the team against a bevy of threats, and become close friends with Johnny. Peter and Johnny were even briefly roommates, at least until the latter was thrown out for being an inconsiderate housemate. In 2005, Marvel even launched the short-lived Spider-Man/Human Torch comic, which told the story of the duo's friendship over the decades.
With the Fantastic Four expected to arrive in the MCU as part of Phase Five, fans scoured films for any potential Easter egg that might signal their existence in the blockbuster cinematic universe. In the trailer for Spider-Man: Far From Home, for instance, a brief image of what used to be Avengers Tower could be seen, with the building under construction. Many jumped to the conclusion that it was Reed Richards who bought the structure and was turning it into the Baxter Building. That didn't end up being the case, but it goes to show how badly MCU fans want the Fantastic Four in the universe.
With Spider-Man likely out of the fold, a crossover between him and the Fantastic Four may never come to fruition. If that's the case, fans will be robbed of one of the oldest, and most genuine, friendships in the modern Marvel Universe, which dates back nearly 60 years.
Hopefully, Sony and Disney work out a deal so their audiences aren't robbed of such a wonderful opportunity.