Recently, Sony Pictures announced their own Spider-Man-based universe. With a Venom film arriving in 2018 and a Silver & Black (a Black Cat & Silver Sable movie) in development, they signed Tom Hardy to star as the titular symbiotic life-form and recently landed a director for Silver & Black. The Venom movie brings with it some exciting possibilities, while opening up yet another confusing microcosm of Marvel’s disjointed cinematic wing. Since Spider-Man is currently a communal property between Sony and Disney, the Venom movie muddies the waters for the joint Marvel-Sony cinematic endeavor. How can Venom, who’s origin story is intrinsically linked to Spider-Man, exist without a direct link to the MCU (at least if Spider-Man: Homecoming director Jon Watts is correct)?
Without access to Spider-Man, Sony will either be forced to withdraw Spider-Man from the MCU – potentially scuttling their profits and alienating many fans (and Disney) – or create a separate and perplexing shared cinematic universe of their own with an alternative Spider-Man. However, Sony does have another option, one which would allow them to craft their “Spider-Verse” and break the traditionally slow-moving gears of Hollywood progress: an alternative universe with Spider-Woman as the focal point rather than Spider-Man.
The Dawn of the Alternative Spider-Verse?
Opening up the first studio-conjoined cinematic universe with Disney would be neat if difficult to pull off. However, Sony seems determined to go ahead with their Spider-less Spider-Verse, seeing as they’re pushing forward with Venom and the Silver Sable/Black Cat film. Unless they pull the rug out from under the Disney-Marvel, which is improbable, especially with contracts already in place, their Spider-Man-oriented microverse will begin without its key component. The challenge going forth will be to create a relatively respectful origin story for Venom without Peter Parker – presuming they need one at all – without tweaking the story to introduce his confusing array of clones, such as Ben Reilly or Kaine Parker.
Sony could turn their lack of Spider-Man to their advantage. Venom, Silver Sable, etc. have all taken on lives of their own since their introduction. While Eddie Brock/Flash Thompson and the alien skin both rose to prominence thanks to their Parker connections, the most compelling Venom stories occurred with a diminished role for the main web-head. Although pertinent to the origin story, a heavy Spider-presence in the Venom film would actually steal the spotlight away from their leading character. The symbiote’s starring turn is actually better off without Spider-Man. But the film could also be used to introduce another distinctive wall-crawler presence, Spider-Woman.
With only two movies announced thus far, both focused on Spider-Man periphery characters, Sony has a lot of unique possibilities. The studio is already developing a film based on a strong pair of women, so altering the Spider-Verse to include a strong female hero or three would offer an excellent and well-balanced foil for Venom. Black Cat and Silver Sable are also both edgy, tough characters that often flirt with outlaw status, if not crossing into it completely. Including at least one Spider-Woman as their main ally or adversary, depending upon how Sony orients their anti-heroines, would actually make a lot of sense. The question is, of course, which Spider-Woman is the ideal character to star in the Spider-Verse?
Although Jessica Drew is the first Spider-Woman, rumor has it that, thanks to her origin in Marvel Spotlight #32, her character’s rights may reside with the House of Ideas. With the release of a Venom movie, Julia Carpenter is the first woman that comes to mind – especially since her black costume half-jokingly inspired Spider-Man’s “stealth suit” (which eventually became Venom). Much like Eddie Brock, though, her nature is a little shadier than Peter Parker’s, despite her generally heroic bent. Introducing her as the main hero in a burgeoning Spider-Verse could also set up an event or crossover movie, making her time spent as Madame Web even more useful. Of course, Carpenter’s origins (during the first Secret Wars) could mean she’s one of the few arachnid-based characters that belong to Disney’s chapter of Marvel.
Adding Julia, Jessica Drew (if either is available), the Ultimate version of Spider-Woman (who is a Peter Parker clone), or another edgy heroine would also establish a grayer tone to their film world. Seeing as their shared realm kicks off with one of Spider-Man’s most gruesome villains, Sony’s vision may already be skewed towards the darker side of Marvel. If the studio does head in a Logan/Deadpool-style R-rated direction with their microverse, the studio could also counterbalance the grittier nature of its universe with a goody-goody character. A heroine like Silk (Cindy Moon), Spider-Gwen Stacy, May “Mayday” Parker, or even Anya Corazon’s Spider-Girl (depending on rights) could provide the right combo of smart-alecky asides and unobtrusive moralizing when faced with brain-eating foes (Venom) or the shifting balance of a potentially criminal-oriented storyline, such as Black Cat and Silver Sable.
Assuming Sony pursues this route, they could literally set their universe apart from the classic Marvel continuity, placing in inside the rich alternative realm of Spider-Gwen, who hails from Earth-65, where Gwen Stacy was bitten by a radioactive spider instead of Peter Parker. “Mayday” Parker, who the grown daughter of Peter from yet another alternative universe and even wore the Venom symbiote for a time, would also be a fantastic fit, especially given her trademark Parker snark. Sony could stick with the Prime continuity, but instead use Anya Corazon, a character imbued with Spider-Powers by a super-secret group called the Spider Society – something which could open up enjoyable subplots and even entire movies.
A Manifold Opportunity
Admittedly, Peter Parker is the reason for the Spider-Verse in the first place, and shifting emphasis onto his contemporaries or making him a background character is a risky move. But so is launching two much less three Marvel-based movie realms. Emphasizing a character related peripherally to the saga might make it easier to introduce a Spider-Man-light universe or even bring in other related characters without detracting or inviting comparisons from the MCU and its now-spider friendly agenda. If properly designed, Sony’s Spider-Woman-led microverse could keep things relatively fresh and continue to prove the viability of female-led properties to Hollywood, something studios seem to forget on a regular basis (*ahem* Hunger Games, Star Wars, Divergent, etc.).
Fans also must remember that Spider-Man himself isn’t always a guarantee at the box office. Amazing Spider-Man 2 received middling reviews and diminished returns, stalling out the franchise and making the MCU-Sony deal possible. The time is right for Spider-Woman to swing into action alongside Sony’s other arachnid-based heroes. Don’t think of it as a departure from Peter Parker, merely shifting the spotlight onto his much-deserving Spider-Women.
Leading the charge with web-slinging women also gives Sony a unique opportunity to expand on the sadly neglected world of super-heroines. Until recently, most female movie characters weren’t given much screen time or much to do (with a few rare exceptions). Damsels in distress and women in fridges, essentially characters that exist as plot points, offer deeply unsatisfying roles for actresses and denigrate the performers. With Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel on the way, female heroes will finally get to step out of their male characters’ shadows and further prove that women leads can’t just carry a film but also entertain the heck out of an audience.
The Spider-Verse can introduce a balanced superhero realm, the first of its kind, where women and men play equal roles in keeping the assorted thugs, space scoundrels, and time-travelling terrors under wraps. If Sony chose to lead the charge with Julia Carpenter, “Mayday” Parker, Araña, Spider-Gwen, Mattie Franklin, or any of their feminine arachnids, they’ll be able to build a shared universe that’s distinct from Disney’s, champion the cause of women in and on film, and line their pockets with fat box office receipts.