Marvel Studios proper is pretty quiet right now, prepping Thor: Dark World marketing and hyping the soon-to-be-released Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot, but it doesn’t mean all Marvel productions are quiet. In fact, just this week producer Avi Arad’s nonspoiler answer to questions concerning Amazing Spider-Man 2 may have been a spoiler. It doesn’t take much to guess that the expansion of Spider-Man’s world, and the shift from a trilogy into a four-film set is to accommodate an eventual supervillain team-up (with Electro, Rhino and Norman Osborn all showing up in the 2014 sequel), but could Spider-Man be finding some friends along the way?
Many think that Felicity Jones is playing Felicia Hardy, Spidey love interest and antihero Black Cat. When Arad was asked directly if another superhero would show up in Amazing Spider-Man 2, he told Den of Geek, “I’d rather not answer that at this point. This is what the word ‘spoiler’ means. We want to always leave the audience with a couple of surprises. All of a sudden, you feel like, yeah, there’s a continuity. So if we say today how we go about it, we’d take away from the surprise of the movie.” We pretty much know that “I can’t tell you” almost always means “yes.”
Discounting any possibility that Sony has worked out a backroom deal with either Disney or Fox to see one of their Marvel franchise characters show up on-screen alongside Peter Parker, are there enough heroes in the pages of Spider-Man for Sony to build a whole Spider-Man universe of its own? Sort of.
Obviously, there’s the Black Cat, who has a good amount of visual recognition as a Marvel hero. Before Amazing Spider-Man was released, Arad said they’d be pursuing a Venom solo film between ASM1 and ASM2, so it’s clear that if they approach Venom, they’re going to treat him as someone on the side of good (either as the original “lethal protector” Eddie Brock or as the more recent incarnation of Venom, which has Parker’s rival Flash Thompson wearing the symbiote for government black ops missions). The Venom film may have been sidelined, with the thought of introducing the character in Webb’s films instead of in his own solo outing right away. So, that’s two potential heroes to spin off right there.
After that, things start to get a little dodgy. It’s not that Spider-Man doesn’t have a handful of helpful heroes in his world, it’s just that they aren’t particularly well-known. There are C-list guys like Prowler, Puma, Paladin, Solo, Silver Sable and the Slingers who would all make Spider-Man fans happy, but none of those names would mean much to the casual Spider-Man fan. Sony may be sitting on its own little superhero universe, but without any big names, the studio is going to have to do the heavy lifting itself. It would have to make guys like Prowler matter - sell them to audiences as cool, relevant A-listers despite of their obscurity.
As a comic fan, it’s crazy to think that Sony might cobble together its own version of the Outlaws (the short-lived team that consisted of Spider-Man, Puma, Prowler, Sandman and Rocket Racer), but it has to deal with the cards it has. Sony is looking at what Disney has and what Fox has, and it wants some of that. The bad news is that most fans recoil when they hear a comic book film will try to have a couple of heroes and a few villains in the mix. The stories get messy trying to take introduce new characters and concepts in a way that makes their conflict feel organic. Should they try to force that expansion to happen with just Spider-Man characters?
Maybe Sony will stop with Black Cat and maybe it won’t. At some point, though, the folks in charge of these Marvel properties are going to have to dig deep and find what makes the properties special instead of trying to one-up each other with destruction and character count. Our “armchair quarterback” advice to Sony would be to make the best Spider-Man adventure possible - not just the one that can fill the most toy aisle pegs or out-spectacle whatever the latest Avengers outing is. Let Spider-Man be the best Spider-Man and stop treating every new superhero movie like it’s a contest as to who can make the loudest noises. Sony has the power and the responsibility, but can the studio make it great?