The recent news that Sony is pushing ahead with a Kraven the Hunter movie potentially robs the MCU of one of Marvel's best villains - and one of the most memorable Spider-Man stories of all time. Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko back in 1964, Kraven is one of Spider-Man's most dangerous foes, one of the few villains to successfully defeat the wall-crawler.
Kraven believes himself to be the ultimate hunter, and he's traveled the globe seeking out all the most dangerous prey. Unlike other hunters, Kraven prefers not to work with rifles and sniper-shots; while he happily takes advantage of a wide range of poisons and toxins, for Kraven the ultimate triumph is always won with his own hands. When he learned of Spider-Man, Kraven headed to New York to hunt him down. That was the beginning of a dangerous obsession, with Kraven even serving as a founding member of the Sinister Six.
Marvel and Sony have a deal that allowed Marvel to bring Spider-Man - and some of his greatest foes - into the MCU. It's generally believed, though, that characters Sony is developing in their own spinoffs are off-limits. If that's the case, the MCU version of Spider-Man has lost one of his greatest enemies, and thus, one of his best stories: "Kraven's Last Hunt."
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Kraven's Last Hunt Explained
One of the most remarkable Spider-Man stories of all time, Kraven's Last Hunt started out as a Batman plot. Writer J.M. DeMatteis wanted to tell a story in which the Joker succeeded in his goal of killing Batman, and the shock of it drove him sane. The idea was turned down by DC, as certain elements were too similar to another plot that was in the works, The Killing Joke. After attempting to tweak the story in order to make it acceptable to DC, DeMatteis decided to change tack. He turned it into a Spider-Man plot and pitched it to Marvel. To DeMatteis's delight, Marvel accepted. The writer had to change his plot a little when Marvel decided to have Spider-Man and Mary-Jane marry. The marriage became an emotional center of the story, while Kraven himself was added by chance after DeMatteis happened to skim through the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe.
Marvel turned Kraven's Last Hunt into a six-part event that ran through all three of the Spider-Man titles of the time. The story was a dark one, in which an aging Kraven decided it was time to demonstrate his superiority to Spider-Man once and for all so that he could die in peace. Kraven successfully defeated Spider-Man, shooting him with a drug that left him comatose for two weeks. With the web-slinger "dead," the Hunter adopted Spider-Man's identity and demonstrated his perceived superiority by brutally mauling criminals and capturing the monstrous Vermin, a creature Spider-Man had needed help to best. When the real Spider-Man awoke, Kraven confronted him and freed Vermin in order to draw the wall-crawler away. Satisfied that he had proved himself, Kraven committed suicide.
In DeMatteis's view, the central theme of Kraven's Last Hunt is the question of just who Spider-Man really is. Although Kraven believed himself to be the superior Spider-Man, in truth he failed to understand that the web-slinger's humanity is the center of his character, his identity, and his strength. Thus the version of Spider-Man Kraven became was one lacking in compassion, grace, or basic human goodness. The true demonstration of Spider-Man's superiority came at the end of the plot, unseen by Kraven, when Spidey handed a defeated Vermin over to the police and promised to call Reed Richards in to see if he could cure the beast of his mutation. Rather than kill, Spider-Man chose mercy.
Given the popularity of this story, many Spider-Man readers had someday hoped to see it adapted for the big screen. That seems increasingly unlikely now, though, given Sony's recently-announced Spider-Man plans.
The Kraven Movie Plans
It seems Sony is making it a priority to add Kraven the Hunter to their nascent Spider-villains universe. This new shared universe will be launched in October, with Venom. Although audiences had initially been skeptical of a Spider-Man-less Venom story, the signs are good that it will be a hit. The first trailer was the most-viewed Spider-Man trailer in the franchise's entire history, beating even Spider-Man: Homecoming. Meanwhile, the October box office is pretty empty, especially after Warner Bros. decided to abandon plans for a theatrical release of Mowgli. It looks as though there's genuine interest in Venom, and the film releases at a time when there's next to no competition. Assuming the film performs well, Sony will be able to continue developing their Spider-villains franchise.
Silver & Black was an early priority, but that's been delayed indefinitely as director Gina Prince-Bythewood wanted the script to undergo significant rewrites. Sony is pushing ahead with other projects instead, most notably Daniel Espinosa's Morbius film, starring Jared Leto as the titular vampire. The studio has now commissioned Richard Wenk to work on a script for Kraven the Hunter, suggesting this film is another priority.
Page 2 of 2: Can the MCU Still Use Kraven?
- Venom (2018) release date: Oct 05, 2018
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 05, 2019