When Sony Pictures announced back in August its own Spider-Man-themed cinematic universe, internally referred to as Sony’s Universe of Marvel Characters, fans of the Marvel heroes and villains the studio owns the cinematic rights to were understandably skeptical. Part of that skepticism likely came from the slate of films the studio announced around the same time, which promised to follow the exploits of Spider-Man villains like Morbius the Living Vampire, Kraven the Hunter, Mysterio, Silver Sable and Black Cat, among others. Complicating all of this was one, singular, grim assurance: Spider-Man likely would not make an appearance in any of these films.
The reason for the Web-Slinger's absence is simple, really. While Sony has the big screen rights to the character, the studio opted to lease those rights out to Marvel Studios, allowing Tom Holland's incarnation of the character to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That agreement seemingly only flows one way, though. For while Spider-Man has appeared in three MCU films so far (there's also a fourth Spidey solo movie in the works and he's almost guaranteed to appear in Avengers 4), we've seen neither hide nor hair of him in a SUMC movie. Granted, the only Sony Marvel movie that has been released thus far is Venom, but if the studio isn't going to put Peter Parker in a Venom movie then he's surely not going to pop up for a cameo in Morbius.
That hasn't kept fans from decrying the situation, though. After all, every character on Sony's slate is irrefutably a Spider-Man villain. While the characters might have tangled with other heroes throughout the years, there's no denying that their most pivotal arcs come back to Peter Parker. On paper, it sounds like madness to claim that any of these villains could hold down their own solo movie. Who is Kraven the Hunter or Mysterio without Spider-Man, after all? They're charismatic villains, sure, but can they carry a whole movie alone? Surely not, most fans assumed. Spider-Man must appear in at least some of these movies, right?
Let's all collectively hope that's not the case.
Admittedly, it's a comforting lie to think that the addition of Spider-Man would make any of these films instantly better, but that's denying the giant, gaping reality at the core of this conundrum, which is that the modern big screen incarnation of Spider-Man is the product of laborious marketing and a deft, long-term branding strategy. Spider-Man is a brand, after all -- a Marvel Cinematic Universe brand. And, of course, people love it.
Now, the natural inclination in 2018 when someone mentions "marketing" or "brands" is to recoil so hard your entire body flips inside-out and only your skeleton is left to look revolted, which it does quite well naturally. But that minimizes that amount of work that Marvel Studios has put in to salvage the image of Spider-Man, which Sony spent a good long time grinding into dust. Basically, Marvel spent a considerable amount of time thinking about exactly how to introduce MCU fans to a brand-new Spider-Man. Even his introduction was meticulously designed to appeal to both long-time comic book fans and people who had only ever experienced Marvel heroes through the lens of the MCU.