This week we learned Sony has scrapped plans for Silver and Black, a team-up movie that seemed entirely based on the premise that two supporting Spider-Man characters sported complimentary colors.
The Hollywood trades are reporting separate films starring Black Cat and Silver Sable, respectively, will now be pursued, joining an ‘everyone-but-Spider-Man-proper’ development slate that includes Morbius (okay), Kraven (eh), Nightwatch (seriously?) and Jackpot (oh, c’mon now).
Of course, all this may be entirely dependent on whether audiences embrace October’s Spider-Man-less Venom starring Tom Hardy. Now Sony doesn’t need a Marvel Studios-sized hit to continue to develop a universe of Spider-Man supporting characters, but an outright bomb would likely alter the studios plans, in the same way audience indifference to last year’s The Mummy pretty much put the brakes on Universal's long-in-development classic Monster shared universe.
… and the less said about Justice League, the better.
But if the anti-hero Venom finds enough compelled moviegoers, there is one Spider-Man property that seems inevitably destined for Sony to try to exploit … and no, we're not talking about Spider-Gwen … or Ghost Spider… or whatever Marvel is calling her these days.
The Marvel-Sony relationship is complicated and as mere observers we don’t enjoy that much insight into how the studios are navigating the Spider-rights, but we can make some educated guesses.
On one hand they’ve obviously come to an agreement on the use of Spider-Man and how hands-off Sony needs to be on the main property as they try to exploit their contractual rights as much as they can. On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine Marvel Studios and Disney being thrilled with F-list properties like Nightwatch and Jackpot being anywhere near a feature film.
With Spider-Gwen’s prominence on the ‘rise’ (wordplay intentional), particularly in Marvel’s new kid/girl-friendly Marvel Rising animated series and December’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse from Sony, you have to think the studios have carved out an agreement about just how and how much the newer character can be leveraged, even if Dove Cameron and Hailee Steinfeld aren't on Instagram liking terms.
And no, we're not talking about Spider-Woman either. With her profile shrinking at Marvel Comics itself in recent years and legitimate questions about whether she’s even considered a character Sony holds the rights to, Jessica Drew seems fated to remain in movie limbo.
Now that Spider-Man is in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, she’d likely just come off as derivative and confusing to more mainstream MCU fans, and just her character name may be flying too close to the sun at Sony. (May we suggest Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for the one-time S.H.I.E.L.D. operative – which technically is the MCU … sort of).
So, if you bared with us this long it’s time for the pay-off:
We’re talking about the Superior Spider-Man … or as he’s now conveniently called, the Superior Octopus.
Let’s get straight into the reasons why:
1. Before Michael Keaton’s Vulture came along, Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus was perhaps the most well-regarded Spider-Man movie villain from 2004's still-holds-up Spider-Man 2.
Molina made Octavius a compelling presence and powers were rendered terrifically on-screen even by ‘04 CGI standards, and now that it's going on 15 years an audience appetite has probably been built up for a reimagining of the classic villain.
2. While the concept of Doc Ock taking over Peter Parker’s body, life and career had a limited narrative shelf-life, the storyline is arguably the creative, critical and commercial highpoint of Marvel Comics Spider-Man titles over the last decade.
3. Marvel Comics has just recently revived the concept in what they hope is a more sustainable form – as the Superior Octopus, a new anti-hero setting up shop in San Francisco as its protector (hold that thought) starting in October.
Now we’re not suggesting a Marvel Comic book is feeding directly into the plans of a rival film studio (well… maybe we are a little), but the publisher couldn’t have served this one up on a platter for Sony any better if they tried.
They’ve given the popular character that’s had success on the page and on the screen a new superhero identity that doesn’t trade on the name Spider-Man, they’re set him up as an anti-hero which seems to fit in seamlessly with Venom and the rest of the Sony properties in development and placed him in San Francisco, which just so happens to be where … wait for it … Hardy's Venom takes place.
Imagine Venom vs. the Superior Spid... we mean Octopus, and then teaming up to fight the even badder guys.
Screw it. Isn’t it more fun to consider it isn’t??