It looks like Sony wants to turn their Spider-Man into Spider-Men.
Last week, Sony announced via press release that it is looking to expand the Amazing Spider-Man film franchise into a franchise family with two spin-off movies, Venom and Sinister Six. The idea of multiple heroes (or, as it is, villains) – and film series – existing in a shared universe is not thing new; Marvel created the formula with Iron Man, and both DC and the Fox-owned X-Men movie franchise is doing the same. But what makes an Amazing Spider-Man shared movie universe distinct is that Spider-Man is only a subset of the Marvel Universe, and unlike the large team (and large line of ancillary titles), Spider-Man as a comics franchise is relatively slim. Be that as it may however, Spider-Man does have several notable characters under its umbrella – most notably Venom.
Following the announcement last week that Sony was has created a “brain trust” of writers and producers to create a family of Spider-Man movies including Venom and Sinister Six, Newsarama has delved into the Spider-family of characters and titles at Marvel Comics and came up with six prospects for spin-offs with some expected names as well as some unexpected surprises.
It’s a no brainer, right? Since his creation in 1988, Venom has been a big player in the Spider side of the Marvel U, having solo titles on multiple occasions and even appearing in 2007's Spider-Man 3 film. Even back then, Sony had their eyes on a spin-off movie, announcing one for the Topher Grace Venom, with screenwriters Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese (Zombieland, G.I. Joe: Retaliation), as well as director Gary Ross (The Hunger Games) attached. That project ultimately fell through, but with the advent of the rebooted Spider-Man movie franchise it also rebooted the chance of a Venom feature film – this time, possibly even before he makes his debut in an Amazing Spider-Man film.
Although the Venom symbiote has yet to make its debut in the Amazing Spider-Man continuity, several of his hosts have; although you might overlook them. Peter Parker has of course made his appearance, but so has Flash Thompson – played by American Horror Story’s Chris Settlemire. Given the multiple hosts and numerous solo storylines outside of his crosses with Spider-Man, a Venom feature film franchise has a large pool of stories to pull from. That’s not to say that they’ll necessarily depict the Agent Venom era of the character but, given the success that character has had, it would be an interesting third act and new era for the character at some point in time.
They don’t have anyone pegged to act in front of the camera, but Sony’s already hard at work to write and shoot the Venom film. It’s tapped the Amazing Spider-Man 2 writers Alex Kurtzman and Bob Orci, along with incoming writer Ed Solomon. Furthermore, Sony has given Kurtzman the option of directing Venom, which is a bit of a surprise given he’s only directed one other feature film – the 2012 drama People Like Us. But given Kurtzman’s immense track record as a screenwriter and Sony’s ability to staff around Kurtzman with veteran hands, it could work out amazingly.
#2 Sinister Six
So you think villains can’t have their own movie? Think again. Sony is doubling down on their big bet to debut (or at least strongly tease) the Sinister Six in next year’s Amazing Spider-Man 2 by rolling out the red carpet to give the sextet their own feature down the road. Presumably this wouldn’t come out until after the second and third Amazing Spider-Man films (the latter of which is set for June 10, 2016), but given the characters and the A-list actors already tied into the roles it could be the superhero film genre’s version of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Sony’s done well with tapping Drew Goddard to write and direct this, but given the Buffy alum's busy schedule with the Daredevil television series and an adaptation of the prose novel The Martian for 20th Century Fox, one of these three projects would have to give way to allow Goddard the time to devote to the massive undertaking which is directing a big screen feature.
Thinking of storylines for the film however, Marvel have already inadvertently (or purposely) provided a game plan of how a Sinister Six film could go with their current comic series Superior Foes of Spider-Man. Although the cast is different, it shows these known antagonists working as protagonists to pull heists against other super villains. Of course Sony and Goddard could go in a completely different direction, allowing the dearth of comic stories featuring the Sinister Six in a lead role to provide an open landscape to create an entirely new story.
#3 Black Cat
Although some might typecast Black Cat as a rip-off of DC’s Catwoman, the white-haired cat burglar has done more than enough to carve out her own story and her own potential as a leading lady. Although she’s never been depicted in live-action film, she was nearly in two previous movies – Spider-Man 2 as well as Spider-Man 4, which director Sam Raimi had gone so far as hire Anne Hathaway to play her – years before her role as Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises. Nothing to date has been announced about the Black Cat appearing in the Amazing Spider-Man movie-verse, but given the vitality of the character in comics and Sony’s awareness of the character in previous installments it’s bound to be a thought to have crossed their minds already, and could be part of a “Phase 2” for their Spider-movie plans.
As far as storyline goes, Sony would do well to consider her portrayal in Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man comic series. Although her backstory there is intertwined with Kingpin (whose movie rights are sewn up by Marvel and not Sony), there are numerous analogues available in the Spider-library. An orphaned young woman driven to crime to avenge the death of her father, Felicia Hardy uses her ill-gotten gains to fund her one-woman vendetta against her father’s killer. Heist stories have always been a fertile playground for movies such as the Ocean’s Eleven series, so imagine a character like the Black Cat acting that out within the Spider-Man corner of the Marvel U.
#4 Spider-Man 2099
Wait wait, don’t kill me. Give me a chance to explain. Years before Warner Bros. thought up the idea of Batman Beyond, Marvel had the same idea with their flagship character. Comics creators Peter David and Rick Leonardi spun a web of stories profiling a upstart young scientist named Miguel O’Hara in the late 21st century who through an unlucky series of events ends up with the powers and the legacy of Spider-Man. Although none of the original Spider-Man’s cast makes it to the times of 2099, this new version of Spider-Man exists in a world where those stories have reached near mythic proportions, especially considering the dire straits Earth is in due to global warming, pollution and corporations running rampant.
Could it work as a standalone series? Sure enough. Marvel itself was working on an animated version of it in the late 1990s, but due to the success of Batman Beyond (as well as other factors), mothballed it in favor of Spider-Man Unlimited. Here now in 2014, the idea of new competing Spider-Man franchises with heroes bearing the same name might be complicated, but the X-Men movies done it successfully with new versions of Magneto and Professor X. Although not entirely the same thing, the broad range of time separating Amazing Spider-Man with Spider-Man 2099 could open the door to Sony taking the formula that made Amazing Spider-Man great and create a second one, placed in a futuristic setting.
#5 The Daily Bugle
Following in the footsteps of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the staff of the fictional New York newspaper The Daily Bugle could be an overlooked diamond in the rough in terms of a Marvel/Sony television series. Already established in the first Amazing Spider-Man film as both a newspaper and television station, a Daily Bugle television series could show the life of newspaper and television journalists working in a world populated by super-heroes. The backstage politics of Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom mixed with the “superhero around every corner” aspect of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., with J.K. Simmons reprising his role as J. Jonah Jameson and storming through a bullpen comprised of Robbie Robinson, Ben Urich, Betty Brant, even plucky reporter Kat Farrell. As a comics journalist I might be a little too partial on this, but hey – we can all dream, can’t we?
#6 Scarlet Spider
While the Scarlet Spider still has the stink of the original Clone Saga, the elements are still note-worthy and potentially riveting. Look no further than Bendis and Mark Bagley’s “Ultimate Clone Saga” from Ultimate Spider-Man for a gameplan of how it could work successfully and spin out of the Amazing Spider-Man franchise, or the complicated superhero fun of Scarlet Spider, a series centered on flawed clone Kaine and set in the not-full-of-superheroes Houston, Texas. It’d still take some work, but I could see the Clone Saga beginning in Amazing Spider-Man 3 or 4 then spin Scarlet Spider out with Ben Reilly or Kaine under the mask.