Sony has announced plans to create its own shared universe of comic book superhero movies, in a move designed to rival the work of Marvel, DC, and Fox’s X-Men franchise. The studio has now announced that Tom Hardy will play Eddie in the upcoming Venom movie, to kick off this franchise.
The only problem is that Sony doesn’t exactly have access to a deep well of superhero characters from which to draw inspiration from their movies. Owning Spider-Man and all related characters isn’t really enough to build a solid shared universe – especially since Sony has now agreed to lend Spidey and a lot of his supporting characters back to Marvel to appear in the MCU.
While rumors that Sony might eventually snatch Spider-Man back are still floating around, the company is still trying to put together a shared cinematic universe out of ancillary Spider-Man characters, such as Venom, Black Cat, and Silver Sable. While it’s not known whether these movies will reference the Friendly Neighborhood Wall Crawler in any significant way, it’s worth assuming that, at least while Sony’s deal with Marvel is still in place, Peter Parker won’t be showing his face in any of these films.
So what’s Sony to do? They’re trying to build a cinematic universe around the Spider-Man franchise, without having access to Spider-Man himself. While this might sound like a hopeless scenario, there are a lot of excellent stories connected to the Spider-Man mythos that are ripe for the picking, and characters which, with a little tweaking, would easily be able to carry their own movie within this shared universe.
Here are some stories we desperately want to see when Sony starts rolling out Spidey-free Spider-Man spin-offs:
If Sony’s new cinematic universe can’t have Peter Parker, that’s absolutely fine – there are more than enough different versions of Spider-Man floating around for this new franchise to focus on instead.
Miles Morales is getting his own animated movie, and that’s a great start, but there’s one hero that’s popped up in recent years that has quickly become a fan favorite: Spider-Gwen, a version of Gwen Stacy from an alternate universe who was bitten by the radioactive spider instead of Peter.
From her iconic costume to her engaging backstory as the daughter of a police chief who hates Spider-Woman, this version of Gwen Stacy would do fantastically in her own movie, and would give many fans the chance to see one of the most popular new Marvel characters take to the big screen.
It might take some negotiation with Marvel to let this happen on the big screen, but pushing for a Spider-Gwen movie might be the best chance Sony has of landing a hit franchise to base their cinematic universe around.
Without Spider-Man, pretty much all Sony has access to is the villains that the Web Head regularly tangles with. Luckily, though, Spidey’s rogues gallery make up among the strongest selection of great villainous characters from all of comics (second perhaps only to Batman’s villains).
While the idea of a Sinister Six movie has been floating around for a long time (we’ll get to that a little later in this list), one story that would be fantastic is the Thunderbolts – or a new team with a different name that function the same.
Led by Normal Osborn, the Thunderbolts are a team of supervillains who are given the task of arresting unlicensed superheroes following the events of Civil War. The story is vaguely similar to Suicide Squad, but with one big difference – all the “criminals” the Thunderbolts face are superheroes, making for a great opportunity to examine a circumstance when the bad guys become good guys in the eyes of the law.
For those who might have been disappointed with the execution in Suicide Squad, this would be a chance to see bad guys who are unashamedly bad, fighting heroes whose morals are often ambiguous, all led by Spider-Man’s greatest enemy.
14. Doctor Octopus/Superior Spider-Man
When it was first revealed in Amazing Spider-Man #700 that Peter Parker had body swapped with Doctor Octopus, fans were outraged. This felt like a horrendous betrayal of one of the most iconic characters in comic books, and almost nobody was looking forward to the resultant Superior Spider-Man series.
To everyone’s surprise, though, Superior Spider-Man turned out to be a lot of fun. Doc Ock’s bizarre, supervillainesque methods for keeping New York safe are a joy to behold, and the series ramps up its tension and stakes throughout as the new Spider-Man faces increasing challenges, is forced to kill to protect innocent lives, and is ultimately defeated by Goblin gang warfare when he discovers his technological approach to crimefighting has some serious design flaws.
While a Superior Spider-Man movie might not work for legal reasons, there’s room for a movie about Otto Octavius using his mechanical claws and supervillain ideals to try and save New York from other threats, and there’s more than enough within the source material to build an engaging story that breaks the superhero mold.
13. Agent Venom
The idea of seeing Venom on the big screen yet again, without Spider-Man making an appearance, fills many comic book fans with dread. Spider-Man 3 didn’t exactly nail the character of Venom, and considering that Spider-Man himself is a huge part of this character’s origin, it will be difficult to do Eddie Brock’s Venom justice without access to a wider pantheon of Marvel characters.
While we will apparently be getting Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock’s Venom next year, fans have long hoped for a different version of the character. The Agent Venom comic series stands on its own, without connections to Peter Parker, even though Spider-Man’s high school bully, Flash Thompson, is in driving seat of the Venom symbiote.
More of a spy thriller than a superhero story, Agent Venom would work perfectly as a standalone movie so long as Venom’s origin story is fudged a little. The story of an amputee former soldier who works for the government with the help of an alien symbiote would certainly stand out from most comic book movies. It’s a shame that this won’t be coming any time soon.
12. Maximum Carnage
If Venom is going to get his own movie, it makes sense to give Carnage a spin as well. The less focused, more brutal symbiote, Carnage is bonded to a serial killer, and is eager to do as much damage as possible to the people around him.
Carnage would never work as a superhero, but as a Godzilla style monster movie, this could be a very exciting movie. Imagine a team of crack scientists, military leaders, and even Norman Osborn, all working together to come up with a solution to a violent, dangerous Carnage that’s running amok on the city streets.
Bring in Spencer Smythe’s Spider Slayer robots, and this could be a fantastic movie filled with big action setpieces and a tense tone, as New York reels from the effects of an unhinged, unstoppable alien warrior that’s rampaging through the city.
11. Front Line
Cropping up periodically for major crossover comic events, the Front Line series of comics tells the story of journalists, reporters, and news professionals as they rush to cover the big, dramatic events of the Marvel universe. The stories feature a variety of journalists, but often focus on Ben Urich, who appears in the MCU in the Daredevil Netflix series.
This kind of story – a movie in which a major event is shown through the eyes of Daily Bugle journalists – would be a fantastic new way to see a big, explosive superhero showdown. It would also give J Jonah Jameson the chance that the starring role that he deserves.
JK Simmons did a phenomenal job with the character in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy, but even if the Oscar winner is unavailable to reprise his role, it would be great to see JJJ back on the big screen, alongside his team of dedicated news reporters, as they work hard to uncover the secrets behind a superhero’s real identity, or work to expose government dealings with a supervillain.
10. Black Cat vs Silver Sable
Making a movie about Black Cat is a no-brainer for Sony, and is possibly something the studio had already been attempting to set up by including Felicity Jones as the character of Felicia Hardy in Amazing Spider-Man 2. When the Black Cat movie was announced, nobody was all that surprised – until it was also made clear that Silver Sable would be tagging along for the ride too.
A mercenary whose comic book presence is far less notable than that of Black Cat’s Silver Sable seems like an unlikely choice for this movie, not least because, with her white hair, she looks so similar to Felicia Hardy as to potentially create confusion. Seeing the two teaming up to work together brings no comic book fans a great amount of joy.
Instead, why not have the pair working against each other as rivals? Their movie could be a heist film with a twist, as both go after a priceless artifact while under the employ of a shadowy organization that’s aiming to pit the pair against one another.
This would make the inherent problems with the characters’ similarities the selling point of the film, and would make for an energetic, fast-paced movie in which neither side has the upper hand for most of the action.
9. Green Goblin/Hobgoblin
All the way back in the nineties, a limited series of comics saw Daily Bugle intern Phil Urich stumble upon one of the secret lairs used by the original Green Goblin, Norman Osborn (who was deceased at the time, because comics are confusing).
When his uncle’s life is threatened, Phil uses Norman Osborn’s Goblin tech to save the day, becoming a new, heroic form of the character. Later in the comics Phil becomes an alternative version of the Hobgoblin and slips somewhat into supervillain territory, but at his heart, he’s still a guy who wants to do the right thing (some of the time).
Despite having seen the Green Goblin on screen in three different forms (ranging from Power Ranger villain to extreme sports enthusiast, to reject from Pan’s Labyrinth), fans still have yet to see the character appear in a movie in a comic-accurate costume, meaning that a Green Goblin movie could easily stand aside from its predecessors by featuring a truly eye-catching design from the costumes.
Switching out an Osborn for Phil Urich also helps to keep the formula fresh, and this character’s more altruistic reasoning for putting on the Goblin suit would make for the kind of traditional superhero story that Sony is otherwise lacking.
8. Spider-Man Noir
A popular alternate universe from the comics which has also appeared in video games, Spider-Man Noir imagines a version of Peter Parker that emulates pulp black and white noir fiction of the fifties.
Spider-Man works surprisingly well in this setting, with a pair of big goggles forming the basis of his dark costume, the character has an origin that’s almost identical to the traditional Peter Parker backstory, but which allows for greater use of moody lighting and brawls in abandoned warehouses and back alleys that make up much of what Spidey was getting up to in his early days in comics.
What’s more, this movie could make use of some of the many crime lord supervillains that Sony has access to, such as Hammerhead, who’d look silly in a more modern setting.
It might be too much to hope that Sony would lean into the noir setting by releasing a big budget movie that’s shot entirely in black and white, but depending on how Logan does in the theaters when it debuts in this artsy style, this might not look like such a terrible idea in a few months.
7. Aunt May Spy Movie
One of the least likely projects to be resurrected from Sony’s past attempt to kickstart a cinematic universe revolving around Peter Parker is the frankly bizarre decision to make a prequel movie about Aunt May.
In the film, May Reilly (her maiden name) works as a spy for the US government, in a similar capacity as Peter’s parents, before uncovering some big secrets and potentially falling in love with a handsome young man named Ben Parker.
Obviously, nobody asked for this movie, and nobody thinks that it’s a good idea in this form, especially as Aunt May continues to do a great Benjamin Button impression in the movies that really doesn’t leave the character anywhere to go.
So how about a twist on the formula? Get back Rosemary Harris from the original Spider-Man trilogy. As an elderly woman, May is contacted by an agent from her former employer, and is forced to go on the run. Over the course of the movie, May tells this younger agent of her previous exploits, which are shown in lengthy flashbacks, but the audience can never be certain whether or not May is telling the truth.
6. Dark Reign
Norman Osborn is, without a doubt, one of the best characters that Sony has at its disposal. Everyone remembers Willem Dafoe’s performance in the original Spider-Man, but in the comics, Osborn is so much more, from his ability to manipulate heroes like The Sentry, to his persistent drive to rise to the top of whatever difficult situation he’s placed in.
This comes to a head in the Dark Reign comic event, wherein Osborn becomes the head of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s replacement, which he names H.A.M.M.E.R., and assembles his own team of Avengers. Osborn abuses his power to make the world a nightmare for his old enemies, and manipulates big players within the Marvel universe into fighting among themselves while he tries to keep peace between warring factions of supervillains.
A Dark Reign movie would give Norman Osborn all the time that he needs to shine, while setting up Sony’s cinematic universe as a very different place to anything audiences have seen before.
5. Spider-Man 2099
With Spider-Man 2099, Sony has an excellent opportunity to build a science fiction superhero world that’s both recognizable, thanks to still featuring Spider-Man, and totally unconnected from anything that’s happening in the MCU.
In a Blade Runner style future of giant skyscrapers, neon lights, and flying cars, Miguel O’Hara becomes a new Spider-Man, fighting a giant megacorp that’s out to rule the world. These kinds of cyberpunk stories are coming back into fashion in a big way at the moment, thanks to Blade Runner 2049 and Ghost in the Shell, so it’d be great to see a superhero movie set in a similar world.
What’s more, Miguel O’Hara is no stranger to time travelling and teaming up with Peter Parker in the comics, so getting him into an Avengers style team of Spider-Men wouldn’t be that difficult if Sony wanted to take their cinematic universe in that direction.
Speaking of giant team-up events, Sony has at their disposal access to far more different version of Spider-Man than they can use under normal circumstances. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man may be out, but there are a half a dozen different Spider-Women that could be used, as well as versions of Spider-Man that are robots or cosmic beings or British or clones or aliens. There’s even one that teams up with a giant robot named Leopardon.
All of these different versions of Spider-Man team up in the huge crossover event Spider-Verse, in order to face the evil Morlun and his family, who want to devour Spider essences from across all dimensions. This story is ripe for the pickings if Sony wants to throw as many different types of Spider-Man into a movie as possible, especially as it’s already been adapted into an animated series.
This could also be the chance for Sony to make use of their impressive cast from previous Spider-Man movies. Getting Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield to reprise their roles wouldn’t be impossible, and would give us the chance to see two classic Spideys interacting on-screen. Add in Willem Dafoe, JK Simmons, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, and even Martin Sheen, and this movie could be an all-star celebration of everything that Sony’s achieved with the Spider-Man franchise thus far.
3. Spider Island
Another big Spidey event is Spider Island, in which everyone in New York starts developing powers similar to Spider-Man for no discernible reason. Eventually, those who are “blessed” with this power begin turning into enormous spider monsters, and Spidey, along with his clone, Kaine, and a bunch of uninfected superheroes, have to work to save the city from this infectious disease.
Taking Spider-Man out of the mix might hurt the story a little, but there are plenty of supporting characters, such as J Jonah Jameson, Kaine, Eddit Brock, and Spidey’s ex-girlfriend Carlie Cooper, that all play important parts in the story, and could have a larger role in this movie.
Most important, though, is the contribution of Mary Jane Watson, who finds herself resistant to the disease thanks to all the years that she and Peter “shared a toothbrush” while intimate together (the comic’s literal euphemism to explain this for younger audiences).
2. Sinister Six
It’s hard to believe that Sony isn’t working towards putting a Sinister Six movie back together – Amazing Spider-Man 2 seems more focused on setting up this spin-off than on building a coherent story, so with plans for a shared Sony universe back on the table, the studio is almost definitely looking to resurrect this idea. Factor in the popularity of Suicide Squad, and it’s likely that Sony is already hard at work building their own supervillain team.
That said, the Thunderbolts would do a much better job of filling a niche with this idea, so if we are to get a Sinister Six movie, it’d be better if the villains involved don’t play nice together. The movie could focus on gang warfare between rival villains, who are ultimately forced to make an uneasy truce in order to try and achieve a common goal.
If these villains play nice together, all of the fun is gone. It’s better to see Doc Ock and the Green Goblin scheming against each other, trying to win allies from within the rest of the ranks of the Sinister Six. Ultimately, this would dissolve into a battle royale between the team, as their master plan is destroyed by their own inability to get along.
1. The Amazing Spider-Ham
One of the big stars of the Spider-Verse event, Spider-Ham has been enjoying a new wave of popularity ever since the interdimensional Spidey team-up brought him back into relevance. Peter Porker (of course that’s his name!) is pretty much the same as any other version of Spider-Man, except he’s a cartoon pig.
Sony’s not in a position to make a movie about Spidey on his own – that’s being done thanks to the partnership with Marvel – so if the studio wants to get an alternative version of the character on the big screen, it might as well be a talking cartoon animal, if only because the resulting movie would be utterly hilarious.
If the world is ready for Ben Affleck’s Batman and Will Arnett’s Lego Batman to appear concurrently in separate universes, a Spider-Ham series could also thrive.
While at first glance, it might appear that there aren’t many substantial stories for Sony to draw from when building their shared universe of comic book movies, after more careful examination, there are plenty of different directions the studio could take with their plans.
For now, we’re probably unlikely to get too much originality and effort put into this universe, as Sony seems content with giving us an R-rated Venom movie alongside a probably also R-rated Black Cat and Silver Sable movie. If these two do well, though, we might just get the chance to see some more obscure Spider-Man characters taking to the limelight to have a starring role in a big budget movie, and that would be fantastic.
If Sony’s smart, the studio could build something really special with this comic book world. All they need to do is avoid the same pitfalls they’ve been falling into for the past decade, and they should do fine.