Defying all logic and expectations, Sony has announced its intentions to carry on with its plan for a connected movie universe based on secondary Spider-Man characters. At present, it seems as though Peter Parker himself (actor Tom Holland) won’t be appearing in any of these movies, nor will they be directly connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But they will be based on the world Holland’s character lives in.
Confused? Yeah, no one quite gets Sony’s plan for this thing, because it seems to contradict itself. But the first two movies from this new universe have already been announced: Venom, starring Tom Hardy (sadly, as Eddie Brock, not the heroic, Flash Thompson version of Venom) and Silver and Black, a flick pairing Black Cat with Silver Sable. As you can see, they’re definitely focusing on antiheroes thus far.
But that barely scratches the surface of the multitude of riches available to filmmakers in Spider-Man’s world. It’s an utterly massive roster of villains, heroes, friends, annoyances, and everyone on the good-vs.-evil spectrum in between. Here are fifteen suggestions for Sony’s exciting new… thing. You know, Sony’s… um… “Spider-Man-less Spider-Man Cinematic Universe.”
Hopefully, they’ll come up with a better name for it.
Most comic book villains have at least the potential to engage in heroic or anti-heroic activities when the need arises. Most of them can be reasoned with, and truces made in order to combine forces to fight greater foes that threaten, for example, all of existence.
Such is not the case with Carnage. He’s the offspring of Venom, but he’s bonded to a deranged serial killer with no moral compass named Cletus Kasady. There is no part of him that can be reasoned with, no way he would ever do anything noble, and not a chance he could engage in any activity beyond bloody, murderous chaos. Basically, he’s the Joker of the Marvel universe, only without the humor. Oh, and he’s stronger than Spider-Man and Venom combined.
How do you make a movie starring a psychotic red slime monster, with no Spider-Man to fight him? You introduce an ordinary human detective or police officer and make them the protagonist, hunting down this psychotic, super-powered nightmare. And you go dark. Really dark.
Conceived as a female counterpart to Spider-Man, Cindy Moon’s story is one big retcon: the spider that bit him to give him his powers also bit Cindy, imbuing her with similar abilities.
Silk has only been around for a few years, so she doesn’t have the history that others have. Her story so far mostly centers on her origins and subsequent search for her family. Cindy, you see, had a hard time controlling her abilities after being bitten. When her family was approached by Peter Parker’s frenemy Ezekiel Sims with an offer to train her, they accepted. But after tutoring her for six years, Ezekiel locked her up to protect her from his old enemy, Morlun (see #6). Cindy turned out to be one of three spider totem figureheads sought above all others by Morlun and his spider-consuming family.
After seven years of captivity, Cindy escaped with Spider-Man’s help, who she immediately found herself strongly attracted to, and vice versa. It turned out that sharing a common spider’s bite imbued them with a powerful mating instinct, making them irresistible to each other. Cindy adopted the superhero name Silk and set out to find her family — while keeping a safe distance from Peter Parker.
A goofy-looking guy with a fishbowl for a head? Seriously?
If there’s anything the last 5-10 years of cinema have taught us, it’s that in the right hands, a mediocre idea can be made into something remarkable and entertaining. So the solution is to reinvent Quentin Beck, Mysterio’s alter ego, for modern audiences. In the comics, he’s a failed actor with a talent for special effects, who uses his powers of illusion and misdirection to pull off major crimes. Most of the time he’s more interested in taking down Spider-Man than robbing banks, though.
Peter Parker beat him again and again, always managing to outsmart Mysterio’s schemes, which usually included the use of hallucinogenic gases. This gives him more than a few similarities to Batman’s villain the Scarecrow, and Batman Begins showed how to take a goofy-looking bad guy and transform him into something genuinely frightening.
Remember that ’80s movie F/X, about the guy who used special effects to take down real life bad guys? (It got a sequel and later became a TV series.) Mysterio would be the same basic principle, but applied to villainy.
Amateur inventor, vigilante, and one of Spider-Man’s oldest allies, Hobie Brown began as a bad guy. Never truly evil, Hobie hadn’t gotten a fair shake in life, despite his high intelligence and proclivity for invention. So he fashioned himself a super-suit, dubbed himself Prowler, and planned to carry out some robberies so he could return the money and be a hero.
Spider-Man intervened and convinced Hobie to drop theft from his résumé and pursue heroic activities instead. The two quickly bonded, and soon, Spidey relied on his help from time to time, with Hobie even impersonating the web-slinger on occasion. Over the years, their friendship has strengthened, and Hobie remains fiercely loyal to the man who turned his life around.
Prowler’s homemade costume is tricked out with techno-gadgets that could give Batman a run for his money. Prowler even got his very own clone at one point, a kind of legitimization that’s the Spider-Man equivalent of being awarded tenure. He’s a great character with a big heart, and his world was expanded recently with his own solo comic title. It’s high time he showed up in the on-screen world.
Ah, Hobgoblin. Is this cackling menace really corrupt businessman Roderick Kingsley? Is he reporter Ned Leeds? Mercenary Jason Macendale? Young Phil Urich? At one time or another, all of them donned the orange and blue costume of the Hobgoblin to try to destroy Spider-Man’s world.
The original was Kingsley, though his identity wasn’t revealed for a long time. The mystery of who was under Hobgoblin’s mask was a remarkably long-running one, made all the more incredible by multiple changes in writers, each of whom had a different idea about who the villain’s alter ego should be. Leeds was eventually outed, but later retconned as Kingsley. Macendale took on the role for his own purposes, but was eventually murdered by Kingsley. And Phil Urich, nephew of the Daily Bugle‘s ace reporter Ben Urich, was the last to take on the mantle, receiving Kingsley’s blessing.
Sony could have a lot of fun with this if they wanted to, snapping viewers’ necks with reversals and shocking reveals. Who’s under Hobgoblin’s mask? Even outside of the quartet listed above, there are endless possibilities in Spider-Man’s world.
10. Madame Web/Julia Carpenter
Cassandra Webb was a powerful mutant with incredible mental powers. She was a frequent ally of Spider-Man, using her precognitive skills to warn him of impending dangers or assisting him however she could. She took on the moniker “Madame Web” when her husband hooked her up to a life support system shaped like a spider’s web.
Julia Carpenter was a knock-off Spider-Woman, created by the old “bad guys illegally experiment on an unwitting innocent who gains superpowers but turns on them” plot. As the second heroine to use the name Spider-Woman, there was nothing particularly distinct about her.
Things only got interesting for Julia during the “Grim Hunt” storyline in Amazing Spider-Man, when Peter Parker was hunted by the surviving relatives of Kraven the Hunter. After Julia and Cassandra were captured by Kraven’s family, Cassandra was killed, but passed on to Julia her powers before dying, making Julia the new Madame Web. Julia used these new abilities to aid Peter and all the other spider totems across the multiverse.
9. Spider-Man 2099
Meet Miguel O’Hara, a genius scientist living in the year 2099. In his origin story, half of his DNA is overwritten with the DNA of a spider, giving him abilities similar to those of Peter Parker. He dons a futuristic costume and follows Peter’s example, becoming a champion of the people in a dystopian America that’s run by mega-corporations.
From there, the story just gets weirder, because Miguel can’t seem to stop time traveling. Creator and writer Peter David kept him in 2099 for a long time, battling enemies alongside fellow future heroes like Punisher 2099 and X-Men 2099. But soon enough, he met up with the Spider-Man, Peter Parker, thanks to futuristic science. Since then, Miguel’s been all over time and the multiverse, even spending extended periods of time “stuck” here in the present.
A Spider-Man 2099 movie would be a perfectly self-contained story, not requiring Peter Parker’s presence at all. His wholly new and different setting would set his movie outside of existing Spider-Man continuity, too.
Mac Gargan is another member of Spidey’s classic rogues gallery that leaves you thinking, “Wait, he hasn’t been in a movie yet?” Because, in case you didn’t know, he has the distinction of being one of the few villains to have ever beaten Spider-Man in a fight — having done so more than once.
Gargan was a private investigator before he turned to supervillainy, and guess who’s responsible for that transformation? J. Jonah Jameson. That’s right, back in the wall-crawler’s early days, Jameson’s hatred for Spider-Man was so strong that he did a lot more than just try to sway public opinion about the friendly neighborhood hero. He actively sought ways to destroy Spidey. This scheme came back to bite Jameson, as the experiment he arranged for Gargan caused the new supervillain to go insane.
From that day forward, both Spider-Man and Jameson became the target of Gargan’s obsessions. Even when Gargan became Venom for a while — which of course, only made him crazier — he was never able to let go of his grudge with Jameson and Spidey. Any movie with Scorpion in it would be a study in obsession-turned-madness.
7. Spider-Man Noir
In 2009, Marvel launched an imprint set on an alternate Earth where superheroes lived in a version of the ’30s defined by “hard boiled” film noir tropes. In addition to obvious characters like Punisher and Daredevil, there were more daring choices, including the X-Men and Spider-Man.
Spider-Man Noir, or “the Spider-Man” as he’s known in-universe, is the Peter Parker you know and love with some major changes. Unlike most of the other Marvel Noir characters, Spider-Man has actual superpowers, given to him by a mystical spider bite. He has organic web shooters, but uses them for netting and climbing, not swinging. The most shocking difference, of course, is that this Spider-Man carries a gun.
Spidey’s familiar cast of characters are all there, but with some fascinating tweaks. Felicia Hardy owns a night club called The Black Cat. Otto Octavius is a wheelchair-bound scientist involved in grotesque human experiments, later recruited to work for the Nazis.
Spider-Man Noir turned up in the Spider-Verse saga, like every other Spider-Man ever, but melding seamlessly with Sony’s main cinematic universe isn’t a requirement. A solo flick set in this conceptualized “Noir” world? Sold.
6. Morlun vs. Ezekiel
Years ago, before the One More Day fiasco, Peter Parker was stunned when a fifty-something man appeared in his life, possessing the same powers as Spider-Man. This storyline introduced the concept of “totems,” people ritually given animalistic powers. Ezekiel Sims was his name, and he explained that he and Peter were both spiders, particularly powerful totems that were sought by a terrifyingly powerful being who feeds on spider totems named Morlun.
During the Spider-Verse events, when Morlun and his fellow Inheritors hunted the spider totems across all dimensions, an alternate version of Ezekiel appeared who was unofficially dubbed “Old Man Spider.” He was an older version of Spider-Man who’d taken up the mantle after his reality’s Peter Parker had died.
Here’s an idea: combine these two Ezekiels and pit them against Morlun. They were pretty much arch enemies from the get-go anyway, and it’d be impossible to translate the Ezekiel storyline into film — even if Peter Parker were part of it — without Morlun. These two going mano a mano could be Marvel’s Dark Knight Returns.
5. Ben Reilly
The Clone Saga is one of the most reviled stories in comic book history, something no fan has ever desired to see on the silver screen. But if Sony is serious about building a big, connected movie universe around Spider-Man’s allies and enemies, sooner or later, they’re going to have to send in the clones.
Ben Reilly is the best-known Peter Parker clone, but his convoluted story could easily be streamlined for film. Just ditch all the confusion about who the “real” clone is and focus on Ben’s life, his search for purpose, and the mystery behind why he was created. He’s enjoyed an on-again/off-again career as the superhero Scarlet Spider. You’d need to incorporate Kaine, a previous clone who was unstable and dangerous, and the Jackal, the super-villain responsible for all that cloning.
Despite his mediocre origin story, Ben has developed a solid fan base over the years, so a movie is not so crazy a notion. The problem is how to depict a clone of Peter Parker without using actor Tom Holland (or some past cinematic version of the web-head, which could lead to continuity hurdles). But there are always ways around that sort of thing if you’re creative enough.
Spider-Girl is May Parker, the daughter of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson on an alternate Earth, who took up her dad’s cause after he lost a leg in the line of duty and retired his tights. At first, she kept her crimefighting a secret from her parents. But after the course of several adventures, they found out and eventually came to support her.
Unlike most other alternate Earths, where events happen at a time running parallel to Marvel’s primary Earth-616, Spider-Girl‘s universe unfolds fifteen to twenty years in the future. So instead of alternate versions of heroes and villains, we see the next generation of both — most of whom are descendants of today’s major characters. During her career, she’s bested countless villains, succeeded as a popular teenager in high school, and managed to reform a surprising number of bad guys.
Not bad for a character whose life began in a one-off What If? comic. She’s crossed over with Marvel’s core Spider-books several times, most recently during the Spider-Verse saga, during which she suffered an irrevocable loss and graduated from Spider-Girl to Spider-Woman, at her mother’s behest.
3. Kraven the Hunter
Sergei Kravinoff is one of the few remaining major villains that has yet to appear in a Spider-Man movie (most of whom are on this list). This Russian big game hunter is a baddie like no other, with a code of honor and a love for killing things with his bare hands. He first encountered Spider-Man because he was hunting the wall-crawler to prove himself as the world’s best hunter.
Beaten by Spidey time and again, Kraven the Hunter eventually prevailed as he was nearing the end of his life, burying the hero alive and impersonating him to ruin his reputation. When Peter escaped his premature burial, Kraven was already dead. He’d committed suicide and left a confession note, detailing his crimes.
This being comics, he didn’t stay dead forever. It wasn’t long before he was resurrected to pursue Spider-Man once more, though his sense of honor has brought him over to the side of the angels on occasion. A Kraven the Hunter movie would likely be a redemption story, chronicling his journey from ruthless hunter to something a little more sympathetic.
Gwen Stacy is remembered as Peter Parker’s first love, and the first keeper of his secret. She’s also well known for dying at the hands of Norman Osborn, of course, who threw her off a bridge.
Spider-Gwen is Marvel’s way of having its iconic death and holding on to a great character at the same time. In an alternate universe, Gwen was bitten by the radioactive spider instead of Peter, becoming Spider-Woman, a heroine with struggles and difficulties of her own. Her father is a policeman, which adds a very different angle to her travails, while her “Uncle Ben” moment came with the death of her reality’s Peter Parker. It’s a fun universe with lots of alternative versions of familiar heroes and villains, but Gwen has quickly become a fan-favorite — an appealing protagonist who possesses Peter’s abilities along with her dad’s detective skills. She’s the drummer in a girl band called the Mary Janes, too. Seriously.
Even though Spider-Gwen exists on an alternate Earth, she owns a bracelet that allows her to travel across dimensions. Whether on primary Spidey’s Earth or over on her own, depicting her as part of Sony’s cinematic universe would pose no problem, and would be undeniably awesome to boot.
1. Miles Morales
Miles Morales was introduced in 2011, a move for diversity that Marvel made in response to the election of the first African-American president, Barack Obama. Miles’ spider powers include everything that Peter Parker can do, plus venom stingers in his hands and the ability to camouflage himself within his surroundings.
For the first five or so years of his life, Miles existed as the Spider-Man of the Ultimate Marvel universe, a parallel world where Marvel’s heroes were reimagined for modern audiences. He became Spidey after Ultimate Peter Parker was killed (don’t worry, he got better). But he eventually found his way into Marvel’s prime universe, where he fights evil alongside Peter, the Avengers, and most recently, a team of teenage supers.
Miles seems like a no-brainer to bring into Sony’s cinematic universe. He’s popular among readers, he has friends, family, and other supporting characters all his own, and he has a unique origin story that stands apart from Peter’s. Sony is currently working on an animated Spider-Man movie centering on Miles Morales, but a live-action Miles could easily cross over with other Spider-flicks or carry an entire franchise of his own. Fans have been calling for the character for some time now, and Sony’s decision to keep their films separate from the MCU would make a ton more sense if it was centered around giving Miles his time in the sun.
What other Spidey characters do you want to see in Sony’s shared universe? Can it work without Peter Parker? Sound off in the comments.