No Spider-Man, no problem?
Face it, obscure Spider-Man-adjacent characters, you just hit the jackpot.
In an effort to make as much money as it can off the Spider-Man movie rights acquired years before Marvel Studios was a Disney-backed powerhouse, Sony seems to be throwing every character under that license at the wall to see which ones stick (not unlike Peter Parker). Those that do, it is hoped, will form a shared cinematic universe like Marvel’s.
“Venom” is first out of the gate this fall. It seems unlikely Spider-Man will actually be a factor in the film, at least not the Tom Holland version Sony shares with Marvel Studios.
Venom transitioned from villain to antihero and headlined a slew of limited series in the ’90s. The alien symbiote costume migrated to a few different hosts in recent years before reuniting with Eddie Brock and isn’t dependent on Spider-Man outside of his origin (which can be worked around I suppose) and appearance (that’s a little harder).
The “Venom” trailers have received lukewarm reception, and some have theorized a box office bomb could short circuit the whole venture, a la Universal’s scrapped classic monsters franchise following a ho-hum reception for “The Mummy.”
But Sony is pushing ahead with scripts and directors for other Spider-Man characters, from villains (Kraven the Hunter) to frenemies (Morbius the Living Vampire) to allies that would make even Spider-Man and devotees to “The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe” do double takes.
Black Cat? Sure. Silver Sable? Not much name recognition, but lady mercenary who rules a country gives you something to work with.
Nightwatch? I still don’t understand how Todd McFarlane never sued the pants off Marvel for a character that looks so much like Spawn, but the underlying concept – guy pulls mask off dead guy superhero to find out it’s him from the future – is promising. If Spike Lee is interested, you take that call.
Jackpot? I know there her story involved superhuman registration and drug use to stand in for a friend who actually had powers, but I mainly recall the character as a red herring to get folks thinking Mary Jane Watson was a superhero.
Silk seems to have the most potential of the announced bunch. If this Spiderverse is going to be light on Spider-Man or not have one at all, a character with almost the same origin as Peter Parker (she was bitten by the same spider on the same day) could be their lynchpin. And while I know some people will groan at the political correctness of it all, having a headliner who isn’t a white dude is not a bad thing at all.
But how deep will they go? How deep should they go?
Just because a character hasn’t been popular doesn’t mean there isn’t a good story to tell. Cardiac, a doctor who gave himself powers and targeted drug companies who prioritized profit over medicine and morals, would be topical. Maybe the time has passed for Rocket Racer, the inner city science prodigy who turned to a life of crime and then heroism with his rocket-powered skateboard; maybe not.
At least Sony has some material to work with before pitching “Man Mountain Marko: Year One” or a “Big Wheel” trilogy.
One unlikely feature I wouldn’t mind seeing is a J. Jonah Jameson movie – IF they could get J.K. Simmons to reprise his role from the Sam Raimi “Spider-Man” films. I don’t know what the story would be, but seeing Simmons return to one of the best-cast roles in comic movie history would be worth the price of a ticket.
Evan Bevins is the writer of the webcomic “Support Group.”