Marvel Studios has formulated a rough schedule for its comic book-based properties on through to 2028, which has – to no unsubstantial degree – motivated other Hollywood studios to plan ahead with their own superhero franchises. Just a few weeks ago, 20th Century Fox outlined a release strategy on through to 2018 for its X-Men and Fantastic Four film properties. Meanwhile, much further back before then, Sony claimed release dates in 2016 and 2018 for new Spider-Man movies; that was prior to when the studio officially announced development on Amazing Spider-Man spinoffs, centered around the villainous Sinister Six and the villain/anti-hero Venom.

It has been confirmed by no less of an authority than Sony co-chairman Amy Pascal that this May’s Amazing Spider-Man 2 sets up the characters who will form the Sinister Six team. In addition, Drew Goddard – screenwriter on Cloverfield and co-writer/director of The Cabin in the Woods – is putting together a screenplay for Sinister Six, which we recently learned he shall be directing to boot.

Between Goddard working on Sinister Six and Venom being co-written by Ed Solomon (Now You See Me) in collaboration with Amazing Spider-Man 2 & 3 co-writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (Kurtzman is also set to direct Venom), it’s becoming increasingly obvious of late that one of those films could take the 2018 date that was previously thought to be reserved for The Amazing Spider-Man 4.

Spider-Man franchise producer Matthew Tolmach confirmed as much to be true, when he revealed the following during an interview with Den of Geek (during a promotional event for the upcoming release of Amazing Spider-Man 2):

“Before we know what we do with Spider-Man 4, we’re going to do Sinister Six, Venom and Spider-Man 3. There is going to be a lot of crossover in those movies. So we’re just not at Spider-Man 4, because we still have a whole other Spider-Man movie and two other movies. So we don’t know yet what [Spider-Man 4] is going to be.”

Tolmach then clarified that the aforementioned 2018 release date might indeed go to Sinister Six or Venom instead of Amazing Spider-Man 4, but that this isn’t a given. The implication, in other words, is that the Spider-Man spinoffs could be released before 2018, depending on how quickly they come together; either way, both movies will have made their way to the theater scene before a fourth Amazing Spider-Man installment arrives.

This news doesn’t come as a shock, all things considered. As far back as Comic-Con 2013, Amazing Spider-Man 1 & 2 director Marc Webb (who’s also going to call the shots on Part 3) started dropping hints that Amazing Spider-Man 4 may not be a regular Spider-Man film, while in more recent times current Peter Parker actor Andrew Garfield revealed that, until further notice, he’s not contracted to appear in any more Spider-Man movies after he finishes working on the Amazing Spider-Man trilogy. Which is to say, a fourth regular installment in the rebooted Spider-Man cinematic continuity is clearly in the very early stages of finding a concrete form right now.

Meanwhile, hints continue to drop about which established Spider-Man villains may, in fact, make the cut in the Sinister Six film. The most recent piece of viral marketing for Amazing Spider-Man 2 (via Yahoo! Movies) – an article from the fictional Daily Bugle – is credited to Eddie Brock (a.k.a. the journalist who traditionally becomes Venom); it also makes reference to the murderer Cletus Kasady, who is known for transforming into the super villain Carnage in Spider-Man comic books. In short: right now, the signs point to Venom being properly introduced in Amazing Spider-Man 3 and/or referenced ahead of then in the second installment, thus paving the way for the character (and maybe also Carnage) to show up sooner than later.

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2 video game movie tie-in trailer also teases a future appearance by Carnage, among other super-powered baddies – several of whom are either confirmed for or heavily-rumored to be introduced over the course of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 film – such as Kraven. Garfield was previously quoted as saying he’d like to see Kraven in Sinister Six (hint, hint), alongside Venom, Doc Oc and Vulture; the latter two’s onscreen appearance shall, at the least, be foreshadowed in Amazing Spider-Man 2, as was revealed in the first trailer.

Of course, much like we need to get through this May’s X-Men: Days of Future Past before we can have a serious discussion about potential X-Men spinoffs, first it remains to be seen how much moviegoers actually enjoy Amazing Spider-Man 2 – and thus, if the sequel is able to leave the ticket-buying masses excited to see Sinister Six, Venom, and so forth.

Early reviews for the second Amazing Spider-Man installment have been mixed to positive, so it’s hard to gauge whether or not this film will be that much better received than its predecessor. As far as ticket sales go: right now, the demand for superhero entertainment is currently being filled by Captain America: The Winter Solider, but that niche should be available for another superhero juggernaut to occupy come early May or so. Best to just wait and see what happens, as always.

In the meantime, here’s the latest featurette released for Amazing Spider-Man 2 (via MTV), which – fittingly enough – is focused on the Sinister Six:

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opens in theaters on May 2nd, 2014, followed by The Amazing Spider-Man 3 on June 10th, 2016, and then another Spider-Man project (possibly Sinister Six) on May 4th, 2018.

Source: Den of Geeks, Yahoo! Movies, MTV