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In an exclusive interview with Sony head honcho Tom Rothman, The Hollywood Reporter got a chance to ask one telling question:
Since you teamed with Marvel, do you plan to make a whole Spider-Man universe? Do you have plans for more work with Marvel?
"Yes to both those questions. It’s been fantastic, our relationship with Marvel."
My fellow Creator Alex Hodgson has already explored some of the wider implications, but I want to focus in on a single question: what could be part of a #SpiderMan universe? Here are five possibilities...
It's pretty much traditional for Marvel Comics to run a summer event, and 2014 was no exception. The main event was called "Original Sin", and it was one of the best in recent years. The concept was simple; the Watcher, who had supervised the Marvel Universe since the 1960s, would die. With his death, we'd essentially have what was described as "WikiLeaks with superheroes" - both superheroes and readers would be treated to shocking secrets, buried in the history of Marvel Comics! Even better, Marvel gave the writers a tremendous amount of leeway to create their own new twists. Amazing Spider-Man writer Dan Slott decided to go with a real shocker.
He revealed that Peter Parker wasn't the only one bitten by the radioactive spider on that fateful day. His classmate Cindy Moon was also bitten, but she was spirited away by a character called Ezekiel, and kept in hiding for years. Horrified, Peter broke her out; her being released promptly led to Slott's excellent "Spider-Verse" event. Nowadays, Cindy's taken up the codename Silk, and is the star of a solo book where she attempts to find her missing family.
The truth is, Silk was Slott's first move in turning Spider-Man comics into a wider Spider-Man universe (and multiverse, as we'll see). She's a popular character, and very distinctive, but crucially her story works best if Marvel wait a little before bringing her into play. If Marvel wait till the second (or even third) Spider-Man film to reveal Silk, then it would be easy to adapt the plot of Silk's solo book, and keep the character recognizable to comic book fans.
4. SPIDER-MAN 2099
Back in 1993, Marvel Comics launched an unusual project - to chart the future of the Marvel Universe! Marvel's 2099 range gave us a dystopian future in which a new generation of superheroes rose to meet the challenge of a sci-fi world gone wrong. There were four core titles - Ravage 2099 (written by Stan Lee himself), Doom 2099, Punisher 2099, and, of course, Spider-Man 2099. The Spider-Man of 2099 was created by comic book legend Peter David and artist Rick Leonardi. He was secretly the scientist Miguel O'Hara, working for the corrupt mega-corporation Alchemax. A reluctant superhero, Miguel's DNA was crossed with that of a spider (of course), and he soon wound up forced to fight for the cause of right.
Miguel's a remarkably popular character. When the rest of the 2099 range faltered, Spider-Man 2099 endured. What's more, the last few years have seen a resurgence of interest in Marvel 2099, and Spider-Man 2099 has been successfully relaunched - back under the pen of Peter David!
For Marvel, a Spider-Man 2099 film would be a remarkable opportunity to open up a whole new film franchise. On the one hand, this glimpse of a dark future would serve as a backdrop for the conventional Marvel Cinematic Universe - can this future be averted? On the other hand, it would allow them to create a new world, and in so doing to maintain the sense of joyful exploration that characterized Marvel Studios's first films. The one question is whether or not Marvel would like to show their vision of 2099. After all, it's only 83 years away, and the MCU may only be in Phase 30 by then...
You remember Gwen Stacy from Andrew Garfield's Spider-Man films? Ably portrayed by the beautiful Emma Stone, Gwen was Peter Parker's unlucky love-interest, and died in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. While heavily adapted, that scene was lifted from The Amazing Spider-Man #121-122. In those two horrific issues, Spider-Man failed to save the girl he loved - in fact, his attempt to save her may well have been what killed her.
In 2014, while toying with different alternate-dimension Spider-Men, Dan Slott made the throwaway suggestion of "Gwen Stacy as Spider-Woman". In this reality, it hadn't been Peter Parker who was bitten by the radioactive spider; it had been Gwen. The idea wound up being worked on by writer Jason Latour and artist Robbi Rodriguez, and the result was an iconic concept that was christened "Spider-Gwen" on Twitter! Senior figures in Sony reportedly watched #SpiderGwen's success with fascination.
I've actually already discussed the question of whether or not Spider-Gwen could ever enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Without the death of Gwen Stacy, Spider-Gwen's story lacks a lot of emotional pathos. That said, I can't help loving the idea of seeing Emma Stone playing Spider-Gwen...
2. SPIDER-MAN'S ROGUES' GALLERY
It's a matter of legend that Marvel has a villain problem. Marvel films tend to focus in on the superheroes, with the villains taking a back-seat - often, they're simply 'the dark to the hero's light'. Is your hero Iron Man? Deck the supervillain in a suit of armor. Writing an Ant-Man movie? Your supervillain needs to shrink too.
Spider-Man has always been different. His supervillains are stars in their own right. In fact, there's a sense in which Spider-Man is Marvel's Batman - just as the Dark Knight has a rich rogues' gallery, so does Spider-Man. Arguably one of the best superhero films of all time, Spider-Man 2 shone particularly brightly because of Alfred Molina's tremendous portrayal of Doctor Octopus. Even Marvel visionary Kevin Feige describes Spider-Man 2 as "one of the best superhero movies ever". And the great thing is, Spider-Man's rogues' gallery is filled with characters who have every bit as much potential as Doctor Octopus!
Although Sony had already toyed with a Sinister Six movie, Spider-Man fans are more interested in one particularly iconic supervillain: #Venom. Surprisingly enough, though, Venom might still be off the table. Back in March, THR reported that Sony was considering a solo Venom movie not connected to the Spider-Man franchise!
1. MILES MORALES
Few characters have caught the public eye more than Miles Morales! In the early 2000s, Marvel had launched a range of comics based in the 'Ultimate' Universe. Essentially, these were alt-universe reimaginings of classic superheroes, with their origins transplanted to the present day. Naturally, Spider-Man was central to the Ultimate Universe.
In 2011, though, writer Brian Bendis came up with a shocking twist. The Ultimate Spider-Man died in battle. In honor of Peter Parker, Miles Morales - a Black Hispanic teenager who was also bitten by a radioactive spider - took up the mantle of Spider-Man. Artist Sara Pichelli (of Witchblade fame) designed a gorgeous new look for Miles, and he's become a firm fan-favorite.
There's definite interest in seeing Miles come to the big screen. In fact, about a month ago rumors circulated the internet that he'd be the star of Sony's animated Spider-Man film. We now know that's not the case, but the level of fan excitement was surely a wake-up call for Marvel and Sony. Donald Glover - whose campaign to play Spider-Man in part inspired the creation of Miles Morales - has been recruited for the cast of Spider-Man: Homecoming, and many fans are wondering if he'll play an older version of Miles. Personally, I hope not; I think Miles works best as a teenager, I'm afraid.
So there you have it! I have no doubt that Sony and Marvel are deep in discussion about the future of the wider Spider-Man universe. In adding Peter Parker into the mix, Marvel has also embraced a tremendous range of superheroes and supervillains, all of whom could add something really special to the Marvel Cinematic Universe!