With the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming, Peter Parker has finally made his long-awaited solo debut in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. While Tom Holland’s teenage Spider-Man stole the show in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, the web-slinger had a long road to the MCU that was filled with scuttled projects and changing plans. While every long-running multi-media franchise has had its fair share of false starts and abandoned projects, Spider-Man has had an especially high number of canceled stories, across several major media platforms, which were never released.
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Now, CBR is taking a look back at some of the biggest canceled Spider-Man stories you’ll never see. For this list, we’ll be looking at Spider-Man projects from comics, TV, movies and video games that never saw the light of day. While we’re not covering every Spider-Man story that never happened, every title on this list was in some stage of production or pre-production when it was canceled. The troubled productions of some of these unreleased Spider-Man tales made international headlines, while others ended unceremoniously or never really began in earnest. Thanks to contemporary reports and subsequent comments from those involved in these failed efforts, we’re left with tantalizing hints of what could’ve been.
15. SPIDER-MAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES
After five seasons on Fox, Spider-Man: The Animated Series ended in 1998. For most of its 65 episode run, it had fairly high ratings and a solid critical reception. After a storyline involving teleportation, the Marvel Animation and Saban Entertainment series ended with Spider-Man and the mystical Madame Web traveling through dimensions in search of Mary Jane Watson.
While that was a fitting finale, the reunion between Peter Parker and Mary Jane was only implied onscreen. Plans for the show’s sixth season were allegedly scuttled due to a conflict between Marvel’s producers and executives at Fox. According to story editor John Semper, Spider-Man and Web would’ve traveled to Victorian England to save Mary Jane from Carnage, who was also Jack the Ripper. Along with villains like Beetle, Puma and the Rose, longtime Spider-Man supporting character Betty Brant probably would’ve been introduced, and Spider-Man might’ve teamed up with Ghost Rider.
14. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2: THE MJ CUT
Among other things, Marc Webb’s 2014 film, Amazing Spider-Man 2, was criticized for trying to do too much with too many characters in a single film. While the relationship between Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker and Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy was ostensibly the film’s emotional core, it was muddled by the dense cameo-filled CGI-action spectacle that surrounded it.
Peter and Gwen’s relationship was almost complicated even more by the introduction of Mary Jane Watson, played by Shailene Woodley. Although Woodley filmed the character’s scenes, Mary Jane’s relatively small role was excised from the film in editing. While Webb was complimentary of her performance, he said that this decision “streamlined” the story between Gwen and Peter. These deleted scenes were never released to the public, and any chance of her reprising the role likely died along with Columbia Pictures’ plans for this cinematic incarnation of Spider-Man.
13. THE SINISTER SIX
With Venom, Silver and Black and an animated Miles Morales movie, Columbia and Sony Pictures are on track to begin their much-hyped expansion of Spider-Man’s cinematic universe. While those films are all set to be released in 2018, Drew Goddard’s Sinister Six stalled out long before it hit the big screen.
Although plans for the project were put on hold following the deal that allowed Marvel Studios and Sony to share Spider-Man, the film would’ve been a “redemption story” starring several Spider-Man villains. Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man 2 teased the team’s potential members with a handful of moments, including a glimpse of the Vulture and Doctor Octopus’ signature weapons. Even if some version of the Sinister Six eventually reaches the big screen, it almost certainly won’t be the take on the team that was teased in the Amazing Spider-Man sequel.
12. KEVIN SMITH’S AMAZING SPIDER-MAN
In 1998, Kevin Smith and Joe Quesada altered the course of Marvel’s history with an acclaimed run on Daredevil that helped launch the influential Marvel Knights imprint. After helping DC revive Green Arrow in 2001, Smith returned to Marvel in 2002 to work with Terry and Rachel Dodson on the miniseries Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do.
Around that same time, it was announced that Smith would be writing Marvel’s flagship title, Amazing Spider-Man as a follow-up, along with a new, ongoing Black Cat series. Smith was scheduled to take over the title from J. Michael Straczynski in 2002 or 2003, possibly working with the Dodsons once again. Smith’s other commitments, specifically his 2004 film Jersey Girl, took his attention away from comics, and his initial miniseries wasn’t completed until 2006. Smith’s ongoing run never materialized, but the Dodsons drew Mark Millar’s Marvel Knights: Spider-Man in 2004.
11. SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN
Over two seasons, Spectacular Spider-Man offered a fan-favorite take on the Spider-Man mythos on the CW and Disney XD. Starting in 2008, the Sony Pictures Television animated series adapted characters and elements from all eras of Spider-Man’s mythology in a high school setting. With a large cast and highly serialized storytelling, it’s widely regarded as Spider-Man’s best animated series.
While Sony gave Spider-Man’s TV rights back to Marvel as part of a larger deal, they still owned elements of the actual series. This left both companies without the full rights necessary to make season three of Spectacular Spider-Man. According to writer/producer Greg Weisman, the third season of the show would’ve introduced Carnage, Scorpion, Hobgoblin, Hydro-Man and Liz Osborn, who was set to play a major role. While Ultimate Spider-Man replaced this series in 2012, Weisman’s other beloved comic book show, Young Justice, is set to return in 2018.
10. GRANT MORRISON’S SPIDER-MAN
While Grant Morrison has written some of the most iconic superheroes in comics for years, he’s never worked with Spider-Man. That almost changed shortly after the success of his and Dave McKean’s Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on A Serious Earth. In the same way that graphic novel offered a dark, psychological take on Batman and his rogues gallery, Morrison wanted to do a similarly dark Spider-Man graphic novel with artist Simon Bisley around 1990.
In that Steve Ditko-influenced novel, Mysterio would’ve sent Spider-Man to a parallel world where Aunt May died and Peter Parker never married. Although that project never materialized, Morrison allegedly completed a script for a Spider-man miniseries, which would’ve been illustrated by artist Klaus Janson. Morrison later said that he had lost interest in writing the character and said that his version of Spider-Man would’ve been “a shadow” of Stan Lee, Ditko, and John Buscema’s Spider-Man.
9. MTV’S SPIDER-MAN
One of the more unusual entries in Spider-Man’s animated history is Spider-Man: The Animated Series. Over one season in 2003, Sony Pictures Television and Mainframe Entertainment offered a more mature, CGI-animated take on Spider-Man, who was voiced by Neil Patrick Harris.
While it was loosely set in the same continuity as Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, it was heavily influenced by the early days of Ultimate Spider-Man. Brian Michael Bendis was one of the show’s executive producers, and the look of the show’s college-aged cast was influenced by Mark Bagley’s art on the title. Due to lackluster ratings, the series was canceled after 13 episodes. This left the show with an unintentionally downbeat ending where Peter quit being Spider-Man and had falling outs with Mary Jane Watson and Harry Osborn. Some of these events would’ve been undone in the show’s un-produced second season, which also could have included Mysterio and the Vulture.
8. SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED
Before Sony’s Spider-Man: The New Animated Series debuted, Marvel and Saban Entertainment needed to put a new Spider-Man cartoon on Fox for contractual reasons. While this show was originally going to adapt some of Spider-Man’s early comic adventures, Marvel’s deal with Sony meant that most of Spider-Man’s cast was unavailable to be used.
As a result, Spider-Man Unlimited hit airwaves in 1999. The cartoon was supposed to see Spider-Man travel to a parallel world where Uncle Ben never died and Peter Parker became Venom, but this idea was nixed by Marvel. The show morphed into a sci-fi influenced series where Spider-Man battled Venom and the High Evolutionary on Counter-Earth. After 13 episodes, the series ended on a cliffhanger, as symbiote spores threatened to exterminate all life on Counter-Earth. While work on the show’s next season had already started, it was canceled due to relatively low ratings.
7. SAM RAIMI’S LIZARD AND MYSTERIO
Every modern superhero movie teases minor characters that could play bigger roles later on in a sequel. While that wasn’t always the case, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy introduced two characters who could’ve gone on to become major Spider-Man villains. After being mentioned in 2002’s Spider-Man, Dylan Baker’s Doctor Curt Connors was shown to be one of Peter Parker’s college professors in Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3. Despite public comments from both Raimi and Baker, Baker’s Connors never transformed into the monstrous Lizard.
Similarly, Bruce Campbell made small cameos as incidental characters throughout the trilogy. According to storyboard artist Jeffrey Henderson, these cameos would’ve culminated in the revelation that Bruce Campbell was the villain Mysterio during an opening montage in Spider-Man 4. While Mysterio still hasn’t made his cinematic debut, Rhys Ifans’s Dr. Connors transformed into the Lizard and was the primary antagonist of 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man.
6. THE CLONE SAGA: BEN REILLY LIVES
One of the most infamous storylines of the 1990s was Spider-Man’s Clone Saga. While the story is notoriously unwieldy, it revolves around the reappearance of Ben Reilly, a Peter Parker clone that was originally created by the Jackal in the 1970s. Reilly became the heroic Scarlet Spider and even took over as Spider-Man for a while before he died in 1996’s Peter Parker, Spider-Man #75, by Howard Mackie and John Romita Jr.
In editor Tom DeFalco’s original outline for the event, Reilly would’ve survived a shorter version of the crossover and continued to operate as the Scarlet Spider. Over time, plans changed, and Ben Reilly was set to be revealed as the original Spider-Man. While Peter Parker and Mary Jane retired to raise their soon-to-be-born child, Ben would take over Spider-Man’s identity in an effort to rejuvenate the Spider-Man line. Due to fan outcry, these plans were ultimately nixed.
5. THE CLONE SAGA: TIME LOOP
As “The Clone Saga” continued to grow out of control, editor Bob Budiansky led the effort to finish the story and make Peter Parker the one, true Spider-Man. In 1997, Marvel even parodied this exhaustive process with Spider-Man: 101 Ways to End the Clone Saga, by Mark Bernardo and Ben Herrera.
In 1995, editor Tom Brevoort proposed the idea of a time loop, which went through several iterations. In this scenario, Peter and Ben Reilly were time-displaced versions of the same person, and one would be sent back in time to become the other, without full memories of what happened. Ironically, one version of this story featured the demonic Mephisto, who would eventually dismantle Peter and Mary Jane’s marriage in 2007. This angle was deemed “too cosmic” and dropped in favor of the published ending, where Ben was the clone and the whole affair had been organized by Norman Osborn.
4. SPIDER-MAN CLASSIC
In 2008, Activision released Shaba Games’ Spider-Man: Web of Shadows to moderately positive reviews. Around that time, Shaba began work on a follow-up game, tentatively titled Spider-Man Classic. This game would’ve featured Wolverine as another playable character in a Marvel Team-Up-style adventure.
The main focus of the game would have allegedly involved recreating famous comic book battles with most of Spider-Man’s villains. Since he played a central role in Web of Shadows, Venom would not have played a major role, but his savage fellow symbiote Carnage and a hologram-projecting Mysterio were both set to appear. Plans for the game evaporated when Shaba filed for bankruptcy in 2009. Despite that, the proposed game’s episodic level design was mirrored in 2010’s well-received Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, which was developed by Beenox.
3. CANNON’S SPIDER-MAN
After a few false starts, Cannon Films bought the rights to make Spider-Man’s first movie in 1985. AS the script went through multiple rewrites, both Tobe Hooper and Joseph Zito were attached to direct at one point. Stuntman Scott Leva and a young Tom Cruise were both considered for the title role; Leva had already portrayed the character on a few comic book covers.
Allegedly, the movie would’ve pit Spider-Man against Doctor Octopus, possibly played by Bob Hoskins. Stan Lee even campaigned for the role of J. Jonah Jameson. Despite continuing budgetary and creative issues, the film was actively promoted and set for a possible release date around the end of 1986. Cannon even released a teaser trailer for the film, filled with shots of Spider-Man posing and overblown narration. Ultimately, progress on the film stalled out amid Cannon’s various financial woes in the late 1980s.
2. JAMES CAMERON’S SPIDER-MAN
By 1990, the Spider-Man film rights had migrated to Carolco Pictures. As the production of True Lives came to a close, director James Cameron turned in a similar script for a Spider-Man movie, where Arnold Schwarzenegger was rumored to play Doctor Octopus.
Cameron turned in another, different script that featured heavily altered takes on the Sandman and Electro. While this script kept those villains from appearing in Spider-Man cartoons for years, the film was allegedly a darker, more mature take on the character that wasn’t exactly kid-friendly. Both Edward Furlong and Leonardo DiCaprio have been identified as potential candidates for this version of Peter Parker in subsequent years. Thanks to numerous lawsuits and the 1996 bankruptcies of Marvel and Carolco, this version of Spider-Man got caught in a tangled web of legal red tape. Despite this, a few of Cameron’s ideas, like organic web-shooters, were eventually used in Sam Raimi’s 2002 film, Spider-Man.
1. SPIDER-MAN 4
Even after Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 received a lukewarm critical reception in 2007, it was a commercial hit that warranted a sequel. Around that time, Columbia Pictures and Sony started development on Spider-Man 4 and began planning more sequels, too. Sam Raimi was attached as the film’s director, and Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst would’ve stayed on as Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson.
Although several minor villains would’ve appeared in an opening montage, the film’s main antagonist would’ve been the Vulture, likely played by John Malkovich. Anne Hathway was linked to the role of Felicia Hardy, who would’ve become the Black Cat or a new character called the Vulturess. A year before the film’s scheduled 2011 release, Raimi dropped out of the project, citing script trouble and a tight deadline. While this film didn’t happen, the Vulture, played by Michael Keaton, just made his long-delayed cinematic debut in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Keep it locked to CBR for all the latest in the world of Spider-Man and the rest of Marvel’s heroes. Let us know what unreleased Spider-Man project you would’ve most liked to see in the comments below!
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