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2016 has been jam-packed with superhero films — but 2017 is going to take that to a whole new level. We've got at least 7 sure-to-be-blockbuster hits, ranging from Justice League to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. Perhaps most excitingly, we also have Spider-Man: Homecoming — the eagerly awaiting solo Spider-Man movie that will introduce us to Tom Holland's web-spinning world!
Last week, my fellow Creator Max uncovered a hint that Homecoming may include a few surprises:
“... there will be a surprise appearance from a character that is central to the Spider-Man mythos, one who will play a larger role in upcoming films. We just can’t confirm who it is at this time.”
He gave some fascinating and inspired suggestions as to who this mystery character could be, but I want to make another suggestion.
Ezekiel is a fascinating character, created by J. Michael Straczynski and John Romita, Jr. in the early 2000s. The idea was to subtly reinterpret Spider-Man's history, adding another layer of meaning to his origin; this was done by introducing the concept of Totems.
A 'Totem' is a person who has gained superhuman powers from a mystical link with a certain animal. The idea of Totems is a smart one, as it neatly explains why so many of Marvel's superheroes and supervillains are connected to animals; the list is endless, and ranges from Wolverine to the Rhino. There's even an X-Men supervillain who goes by the name of Grizzly!
According to Ezekiel, Peter Parker is the latest Spider-Totem. In fact, he went so far as to suggest that the spider would always have bitten him, and that it wasn't the radiation that granted Peter his powers — rather, the radiation was the reason the spider died. Ezekiel was a Spider-Totem himself, albeit one who used his powers selfishly, for the sake of his own preservation.
The Totems Could Be a Useful Concept for the MCU
Although the Totem idea isn't particularly popular with Spider-Man fans, it's a subtle enough retcon that you can ignore it if you want to. That said, the idea dovetails perfectly into the MCU; Black Panther's mystical link to the Panther God, sure to be an element of 2018's Black Panther, can be explained away as being Totemic. There's no reason the idea couldn't be exploited to phenomenal effect, used to explain away any number of superhumans. It may even save Marvel from having to endlessly circle back to origin stories!
But there's another, far more important, reason why it would be smart to introduce Ezekiel.
Ezekiel and the Road to "Spider-Verse"
One of Ezekiel's greatest enemies was a powerful being known as Morlun, one of a race called the Inheritors — who drain Totems of their life, consuming their Totemic energy as a food source. Ezekiel had done his best to minimize the presence of Spider-Totems on Earth - right down to having Cindy Moon, a.k.a. Silk, secreted away for decades (a classmate of Peter's, she'd been bitten by the same spider before it died).
Ultimately, Silk was freed from confinement and her presence triggered the events of "Spider-Verse" — an epic Spider-Man story that spanned the dimensions, introducing Peter to countless other versions of himself. "Spider-Verse" has had a lasting impact on Marvel Comics, not least because of the event's breakout character, Spider-Gwen. Spider-Gwen's popularity grows by the moment, and she's sure to enter the MCU sooner or later.
Could the MCU Launch "Spider-Verse"?
Back in June, Sony head honcho Tom Rothman was asked whether or not he was planning more work with Marvel, in order to extend the Spider-Man corner of the MCU. His answer was surprisingly honest:
"Yes to both those questions. It’s been fantastic, our relationship with Marvel."
We know that figures at Sony have long been fascinated by Spider-Gwen. Back when the character made her debut in late 2014, Sony's leadership were said to be enthralled by the character's success; unfortunately for Sony, their latest Spider-Man franchise had just killed off its version of Gwen Stacy, played so brilliantly by Emma Stone. It wasn't long before the Sony hacks revealed Sony's internal difficulties, and soon Sony was forced into its Marvel deal.
By all reports, that deal is paying off; but I can see no reason why interest in Spider-Gwen would have dwindled over time. Her comics are still selling well, after all, and there are rumors her title is one of few books to perform better digitally than in paper sales.
In another intriguing detail, a leaked cast list for Spider-Man: Homecoming — which bears every indication of being genuine — has cast Tiffany Espensen as 'Cindy'. Given Cindy Moon, a.k.a. Silk, is the only 'Cindy' who's ever played a major part in Spider-Man's life, this could be an important role. She also bears a real resemblance to the character of Silk. If Spider-Man: Homecoming is introducing Silk, it may well be that Ezekiel isn't far behind.
Fans are eager to see Spider-Gwen on the big screen, and Dove Cameron's brilliant portrayal of the character in Ultimate Spider-Man has only whetted their appetite. As well as being a brilliant voice-actor for the role, Dove Cameron is also a popular fancast — her physical resemblance to Gwen is, frankly, uncanny.
Of course, a "Spider-Verse" movie would introduce a lot more than just Spider-Gwen. It would further extend the MCU, revealing the Marvel Multiverse, and opening the door to a potentially unlimited range of adventures. With the Multiverse established, Marvel could introduce alternate worlds, and even try out more experimental stories (say, for example, a Spider-Man 2099 film).
The truth is that I have no way of knowing whether or not Ezekiel is going to make a surprise appearance in Spider-Man: Homecoming. That doesn't change the fact that introducing Ezekiel would pave the way for some tremendous stories, and give us a very real opportunity to extend the MCU beyond anything we could ever imagine!