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Note: This article contains light spoilers for Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Last week, Sony released the official casting list for Spider-Man: Homecoming, and revealed a lot of secrets — including just who Michael Mando is playing in the film. With the news already out, Mando took to social media to make it public knowledge in style:
As vast as #SpiderMan's rogues' gallery may be, the reality is that Marvel isn't going to introduce a character like Mac Gargan (a.k.a. the Scorpion) unless they've got a future planned out for him. After all, the House of Ideas has ruled out repeating villains, and Sony's taking a number of characters off the table in order to make their Spider-Man spinoff films. So it's safe to say that Mac Gargan's story in the #MCU is just beginning — Homecoming only gives us a slight hint of the Scorpion to come.
In light of that fact, it's time to take to the comics and see if we can't figure out what's coming up next.
The Ultimate Scorpion
The Scorpion was originally created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko all the way back in 1964, and he's been a recurring threat to everybody's favorite Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man ever since. That said, the version of the Scorpion who's most likely to influence the films is the one from an alternate timeline known as the Ultimate Universe.
In the Ultimate Universe, the Scorpion (known as Maximus Gargan) was a brutal crime boss with mysterious superhuman strength and resistance to injury. He'd earned the nickname "Scorpion" because he loved to use a hooked chain as a weapon, rending his enemies' flesh apart in a furious rage. Apprehended by the police, he promptly escaped and fled to Mexico, where he took over local gangs.
And this is where it gets interesting: Gargan paid sneak-thief Aaron Davis, better known as the Prowler, to steal advanced technology from Norman Osborn. Unknown to Davis, a genetically modified spider slipped into his bag. The next day, Davis was visited by his nephew, Miles Morales — who got bitten by the spider, and gained the powers of the Ultimate Spider-Man.
The Prowler and the Scorpion wound up having something of a disagreement, and it got violent — as tends to happen among supervillains. Soon the Scorpion was heading back to New York, where he learned that Davis had killed their mutual friend the Tinkerer in order to hide a secret (Davis had worked out Miles's secret identity). Davis manipulated his nephew into helping him out, desperate to ensure the Scorpion didn't embed himself in New York as a new kingpin of crime.
Visually, Michael Mando is closer to the Ultimate version of the character than he is to the traditional Scorpion; if you were excited to see a green Scorpion exoskeleton in Homecoming, you'll be sorely disappointed. What's more, Homecoming also includes Donald Glover as Aaron Davis, and we've already been told a reference to Aaron's "nephew" is a nod to Miles Morales. The Ultimate comic book range has had a strong influence on the MCU over the years, and it seems clear that's going to continue here.
The Traditional Scorpion
That doesn't mean we should discount the original comics altogether, though. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created the character to be Spider-Man's deadliest enemy, and had Mac Gargan start out as a private detective who attempted to crack the mystery of Spider-Man's secret identity. Mac Gargan agreed to undergo genetic experimentation to gain tremendous physical abilities, and was bonded with a powerful exoskeleton (complete with scorpion tail). Unfortunately the experiment drove the Scorpion insane, and he launched on a brief rampage before Spider-Man stopped him.
Over the course of his long and undistinguished supervillain career, the Scorpion's abilities have been switched up time and again; most notably, his powerful tail has gotten deadly every time, generating acid, tear gas and even powerful electrical charges. Although he's typically been your standard street-level supervillain, the Scorpion's mind has always been fragile, and he's drifted in and out of psychosis over the years. That's led to more than a few insane revenge campaigns on those who persuaded him to go through the Scorpion process in the first place (most notably J. Jonah Jameson).
I find it hard to believe that Marvel would completely discount this version of the Scorpion. He's an iconic villain, one of Spider-Man's deadliest foes, and he's literally beaten the wall-crawler to within an inch of his life on occasion. At the same time, this story would need to be heavily rewritten for the MCU; we currently have no sign Marvel has plans to introduce J. Jonah Jameson anytime soon, for example.
Will we have two scorpions at once in the MCU and Venom?
Intriguingly, there are rumors that Sony is planning to use the Scorpion in #SilverAndBlack, their Spider-Man spinoff. According to MCUExchange, though, this version of the Scorpion will actually have some sort of exoskeleton, unlike the character we see in Homecoming. There's currently a lot of confusion over whether or not Sony's movies are part of the wider MCU, and it may well be this helps answer the question; if Sony cast a different actor for the role, it will suggest we're dealing with two different universes.
It may be a similar situation to how Quicksilver appeared in both X-Men: Days of Future Past and Avengers: Age of Ultron, played by two different actors.
As for the potential Venom version, the 2000s saw a major change in Mac Gargan's status quo. He bonded with the #Venom symbiote and gleefully embraced it, becoming an A-list supervillain at last. This version of Venom became closely associated with Norman Osborn, working as a member of his Sinister Twelve, and joining Osborn in the Thunderbolts initiative. When Osborn briefly ascended to become leader of S.H.I.E.L.D. during the "Dark Reign" era (and reorganized it as H.A.M.M.E.R.), Venom became Osborn's Spider-Man, a key member of the so-called "Dark Avengers."
Sony, of course, is working on a Venom movie, and Tom Hardy has been cast for the central role. Although Carnage is confirmed as the villain for the film, the reality is you don't hire a talent like Tom Hardy if you're only planning on making the one movie. Many fans have already been speculating that Mac Gargan will play a major role in the inevitable sequel, although — as in Silver & Black — this could be Sony's interpretation of the character, rather than Michael Mando.
All in all, this is one of the most intriguing casting choices in Homecoming. It seems certain that Michael Mando is set to play a major role in the Homecoming sequel (scheduled for release in 2019). At the same time, though, it's going to be fascinating to see whether or not the character does turn up in the Sony films; and, with all the confusion over how those films relate to the MCU, it's possible Sony's casting there will ultimately be what settles the issue.