Report: Hacked Sony Documents Reveal Who Movie SPIDER-MAN Legally Can Be ... and Can't Be

"Spider-Men #2" cover by Jim Cheung
Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Sony Pictures

Among the more conversation-starting pieces of information discovered during the now-infamous Sony leak was the contractual agreement between entertainment giants Marvel and Sony Pictures about the use of Spider-Man.

A recent new wave of leaks gives a revelation for fans in how characters are approached in films — and what core character traits are worthy of being contractually agreed upon. Specifically, according to a new report by Gawker, the contract between Marvel and Sony lists the following strict "mandatory character traits" for Spider-Man, whether it's Peter Parker or an alternative Spider-Man character:

- Male
- Does not torture
- Does not kill unless in defense of self or others
- Does not use foul language beyond PG-13
- Does not smoke tobacco
- Does not sell/distribute illegal drugs
- Does not have sex before the age of 16, does not have sex with anyone below the age of 16
- Not a homosexual (unless Marvel has portrayed that alter ego as a homosexual)

While those are pretty broad parameters, the contract gets more specific with its requirements for Peter Parker specifically, the character/alter ego who's most associated with the Spider-Man costume.

Apparently, it doesn't matter if Peter Parker is a photographer or dates Gwen Stacy or Mary Jane Parker, but there could be a legal roadblock to him sewing his own black costume or being portrayed as non-white or non-heterosexual.

According to the documents, the following Peter Parker character traits are listed specifically for that character:

- His full name is Peter Benjamin Parker.
- He is Caucasian and heterosexual.
- His parents become absent from his life during his childhood.
- From the time his parents become absent he is raised by Aunt May and Uncle Ben in New York City.
- He gains his powers while attending either middle school or college.
- He gains his powers from being bitten by a spider.
- He designs his first red and blue costume.
- The black costume is a symbiotic and not designed by him.
- He is raised in a middle class household in Queens, New York.
- He attends or attended high school in Queens, New York, and he attends or attended college in New York City, New York.

In the report, Gawker takes issue with the idea that "Spider-Man can't be gay or black", although their premise isn't entirely accurate. Since there's no race requirement among the broader “Spider-Man” traits — the character actually could have any racial background — and the contract states that a homosexual could wear the Spider-Man costume, if that character is created first by Marvel.

There is, however, clear direction about the race and sexual orientation of Peter Parker. According to contract, Peter Parker won't be played by anyone other than a Caucasian actor — something notable given 20th Century is changing the race of Johnny Storm in August’s Fantastic Four reboot, either due to a contractual agreement with Marvel or the lack of a legal requirement in the licensing agreement.

In comic books and other media, several other people besides Peter Parker have donned the Spider-Man costume, including fan-favorite Ultimate Spider-Man character Miles Morales, a black-latino teen.

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