Sony Will Never Stop with the Spider-Man Spinoffs

Venom Smile

With 900 characters to rummage through, Sony is sure its Spider-Verse can compete with the MCU.

There is no doubt that Spider-Man has one of the finest rogues’ galleries amongst comic book superheroes. The Green Goblin, Venom, Doctor Octopus, Sandman, The Lizard, The Vulture, Mysterio, Black Cat, Kraven the Hunter, Electro… okay, maybe not Electro. The only other comic book character whose nemesis-list rivals Spidey’s is Batman, and that’s because he’s Batman.

Peter Parker is surrounded by diabolical scientists and genetic freaks packing as much pathos and motivation as the hero. They’re easy to fall for, and as such, the desire to spin them off into separate adventures is reasonable.

This is a narrative sickness that has plagued comic books for decades. When single issues featuring Venom and Harley Quinn soared above the rest, their publishers scrambled a creative team to helm their titles. The Venom and Harley Quinn books did fairly well, and continue to this day, but the less said about “Doom 2099” and “Foolkiller” the better. Not every bad guy is created equal.

As the Disney and Fox merger gets ever closer to reality, Sony Pictures is looking to its Spider-Man properties as genuine competition for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The very idea of which is a little tricky since they’re already kinda in bed with them over Spider-Man: Homecoming and next year’s Spider-Man: Far From Home. Sony needs those Spidey dollars to keep flowing into their bank account, and to make that work they have to plunge deeper and deeper into the rogues’ gallery toy chest.

According to Variety, Sony Pictures has put all their faith into Ruben Fleischer and Tom Hardy’s upcoming Venom. As long as that picture brings in a healthy return, Sony is determined to open the floodgates on every Tom, Dick, and Jane in the Spider-Man universe. We already know that they are planning standalone vehicles for Silk, Morbius: the Living Vampire, Kraven the Hunter, and Nightwatch. Plans for a Silver & Black film featuring female anti-heroes Black Cat and Silver Sable have been scratched, but only so the characters can find their movies to inhabit.

Columbia Pictures president Sanford Panitch is the executive in charge of the studio’s newly monikered brand “Sony’s Universe of Marvel Characters, or SUMC” (great, another awkward acronym we’re forced to swallow). He claims he is determined to remain faithful to the source material, and that decision is what drove the disintegration of Silver & Black. Why have one movie when you could have two?

Sony’s Spider-Man license oversees 900 comic book characters. Panitch believes that every one of them is worthy of his or her own film:

“Spider-Man connects to a lot of the characters. There are villains, heroes, and antiheroes, and a lot are female characters, many of whom are bona fide, fully dimensionalized, and utterly unique.”

Yes. Okay. But what about Spider-Man? Sony is quick to rattle off a list of potential characters linked to supporting players, but they’re pretty quiet when it comes to how, or even if, Tom Holland will interact with them. There were rumors for a while that Venom could stretch into darker, more adult themes a la Logan and Deadpool, but according to the Variety report, Sony doesn’t want to go R-Rated in an effort to keep the Spider-Man grudge match still on the table.

Venom may not yet sport a Spider symbol on his chest, but fear not, the versus battle could be coming. Hopes and dreams are still alive on the Sony Pictures lot, but why should Disney and Marvel play ball? They got Spider-Man onto the Avengers, and their endgame seems complete.

There is a reason the word “Spider” appears nowhere within Sony’s new acronym. Due to their Disney deal, they have to make their other movies work with what they’ve got. As popular culture embraces heroines like Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel, Sony will focus a lot of their efforts on the female-driven properties they control. Silk, Black Cat, Silver Sable, and Jackpot.

Who or a what is a Jackpot? She’s not one super-badass, she’s two. Sara Ehret was a pregnant scientist working for Oscorp. Her efforts to cure Parkinson’s disease through gene therapy were accidentally corrupted by a mysterious virus known as “Lot 777.” Her exposure to the infection dropped her into a coma, but upon awakening, Sara discovered a newfound superhuman strength.

Sara gave birth to a healthy daughter that thankfully did not exhibit any residual powers. For a brief period, Sara used her abilities to aid a governmentally sanctioned superhero squad in New York City. When random stranger Alana Jobson uncovered her identity, Sara took the opportunity to sell her Jackpot status to the inquiring mind. Sara went on to live a happy, “normal” life while the new Jackpot teamed up with Spider-Man to fight off an invading Skrull army.

Panitch is reaching well beyond C-list and D-list characters, but he is eager to put heroes on the screen that are different than the usual male brawn archetypes:

“We feel there’s no reason the Marvel characters shouldn’t be able to embrace diversity.”

No one in the comic book community is screaming for a Jackpot film. No one. The idea that she may be getting her own set of sequels to plunder through further illustrates Sony’s desire and desperation to make their cinematic universe work. I’m not saying it’s impossible to spring a valuable competitor to the MCU from the furthermost corners of Spider-Man’s web, but it will require a lot of work and retooling to achieve. 

I don’t doubt that Venom will be a success. Same goes for the animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Those films revolve around characters that people have been craving for some time. That means we’re going to get at least one more Spider-Man spinoff for sure. Who makes it to the gate first? Silk? Kraven the Hunter? Jackpot? The true test will come down to how that film succeeds.

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Trekkie, Not Trekker. Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects, co-host of the In The Mouth of Dorkness Podcast.