Comics on Film: Despite His Inclusion in the MCU, Sony Still Wants Their Own Spider-Man Universe

Comics on Film: Despite His Inclusion in the MCU, Sony Still Wants Their Own Spider-Man Universe

Jul 21, 2017

When comic book and movie fans the world over were hotly anticipating the release of Marc Webb's The Amazing Spider-Man 2 three years ago, we had begun to get a picture of Sony's larger plans for the world of Spider-Man that didn't necessarily include the Webslinger himself. Indeed, in that 2014 sequel, a lot of hints were thrown at the audience that seemed to indicate the cinematic world of Peter Parker would soon be getting a whole lot bigger.

Rumblings of a film based on a group of infamous Spidey foes known as the "Sinister Six" was looked at as the next inevitable film to be based on the characters of Spider-Man comics, apparently even with a release date to come before Marc Webb's and actor Andrew Garfield's third turn with the primary hero. Drew Goddard was slated to be the creative mind tasked with writing and directing the film, with a tentative release date in November of 2016, before Sony would eventually turn to a third primary Spider-Man film, as well as a new effort with popular Spidey villain/anti-hero Venom.

Then, in early 2015, we heard the news that Peter Parker would be joining the same world as the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy in 2016's Captain America: Civil War. With Spidey's dedicated solo movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe having been recently released to critical acclaim and commercial success, the Spider-Man "ship" at Sony seems to have been righted. So...naturally, you'd think they'd defer expansion plans to their new creative partners at Marvel Studios, right? Well, it doesn't look that way...not at all.

 

Already Announced Spin-offs and Efforts

According to a piece at Variety, Sony Pictures is already hard at work on capitalizing on the success of Spider-Man: Homecoming to beef up their slate with new cinematic offerings based on other characters that have been featured in Spider-Man comics. Already announced has been yet another attempt at turning Venom into a spin-off movie, as well as a project known as Silver & Black that's said to focus on two characters who haven't made fully-fledged appearances in any previous Spider-Man films: Silver Sable and Black Cat (the latter of which may have appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but certainly not in her identifiable costume). Venom has reportedly secured actor Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight RisesDunkirk) to star as the main character, though no word on which incarnation of Venom he'll actually be playing has been made public.

One telling quote from the Variety piece is from Sanford Panitch, president of Sony Pictures, who is described as heavily immersing himself in the source material. Sony has apparently licensed works of the comics going back into the early 2000s, a character catalog reportedly totaling more than 900. After that detail, though, the telling quote from Panitch reads like this: "With the Sony universe of Marvel characters, our mission is only to do what’s the absolute best for each individual property. I just want to honor the original DNA."

Notice what he said: not an extension of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, nor any other pre-established canon. He specifically said the "Sony universe of Marvel characters," which seems to imply that with or without the primary Spider-Man, Sony wants to get in on the same game as Disney, Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox by creating their own shared universe of comics characters.

 

Good Idea, Bad Idea?

While on its face this sounds very much in line with Sony's plans in 2014-15, the studio also seems far less interested in what they describe as "typical" superhero fare. In fact, interviewed executives and even tentative Silver & Black director Gina Prince-Bythewood spoke openly and candidly about creating films in the genre that move beyond the "typical trappings" of comic book cinema, and stand far more on their own from a tonal and thematic perspective.

The approach seems to be an attempt to emulate 20th Century Fox's success with lauded Wolverine film Logan as opposed to trying to chase the next Avengers or Iron Man, with signed director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) envisioning his Venom project as more of a hard-edged horror film, while Prince-Blythewood describes Silver & Black as having more in common with Thelma & Louise than with Spider-Man or The Incredible Hulk.

So, what's the problem, then? It sounds like these are unique enough offerings, and if they're aiming to line up more with the likes of Logan than yet another "typical" comic book movie, why not encourage studios to take this approach? Well, for this comic book fan at least, there's one pivotal factor that makes this idea not just potentially bad, but really, really strange.

 

The Weird Part

Sony wants to make their own Spider-Man universe, and they want to do it without Spider-Man.

Nobody is disputing that Venom, Silver Sable and Black Cat aren't great characters. They absolutely are, with decades of source material to substantiate just how well they've been used over the course of each of their respective existences. It seems a bit strange, though, that Sony is so hell-bent on populating a cinematic world of Spider-Man characters without the primary character himself, for no other reason than to pad their release schedule with projects that don't have to be creatively or financially split with Marvel Studios. Spider-Man thrives in a shared universe setting with other superheroes, as proven by over fifty years of comics as well as Spider-Man: Homecoming itself. The characters that will be the basis of these movies, though, have no such track record.

Speaking personally for a moment as a comic book fan, the reason that I like Venom, Black Cat and Silver Sable is because I love Spider-Man. Maybe there's a strong enough vision from these filmmakers so that there isn't necessarily a need for the Webhead to be featured in these movies, but if there are future installments, then Spidey's absence will naturally become more than glaring, not to mention the fact that featuring these characters in their own walled-off world likely means we won't see them anytime soon in the same frame as either Spider-Man himself or other MCU characters, which just seems like a missed opportunity.

What say you, Spider-fans? Are these new projects from Sony just big hits waiting to happen, or will the Spidey train have trouble pulling out of Sony's station if it doesn't have Peter Parker himself aboard? Sound off below, and we'll see you for a new edition of Comics on Film next week.


Chris Clow is a comic book expert and former retailer, and a writer with work having appeared in the Huffington Post, Fandango and others. He also hosts the podcasts GeekPulse Radio and Comics on Consoles. You can find his weekly Comics on Film column every week here at Movies.com, and you can follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.

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