Spider-Man is Bad For Marvel’s Brand
Sony and Marvel have worked out their differences and announced a joint deal where both studios will share Spidey and officially make him a part of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. While there is a lot of excitement in seeing Spider-Man share space with Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and the rest, I can honestly say I feel exactly the same way as I felt when I first heard the rumors – disheartened. Save for one particular caveat that could cause me to 180, Marvel getting the Wall Crawler for their universe could be a step in the wrong direction for the House of Ideas.
Non Spider-Men Are Second Class Citizens
This one is already happening. Dates have changed. Movies have been pushed back, and a new Spider-Man film has been announced for 2017 in the middle of all Marvel’s Phase Three. Spider-Man is essentially taking Black Panther’s spot who, along with fan favorite female superhero Captain Marvel, have both had their films pushed back in 2018 to make room for Marvel to jam an ostensibly “new” character into their meticulously planned film mythology.
I suppose Marvel could do a thing where Peter Parker just swings in with no real origin story or build up. Imagine, Captain America punching Space Hitler when suddenly the clone of Peggy Carter trains a gun on him. Then, from up above, THWIPP! Clone Peggy Carter is webbed up against a building. Captain America exclaims, “Thank you, Spider-Man,” and they resume punching the Space Reich together.
Admittedly, I’d pay double to see that, but it’d be quite the deviation from how Marvel has done things up to this point with their franchises. Speaking of which…
What About The Plan!?
Marvel is all about their vaunted “plan.” They took the gamble of telling an elaborate macrostory inside a shared universe much in the same way they handle all their comic book properties. The beats of this macrostory are planned years in advance to the point where Marvel haven’t been shy about kicking out solid directors who were unable to get with the larger blueprint a la Edgar Wright.
Now that Sony decides to play nice and share Spider-Man, Marvel has 2 years to perfect a story and make a movie that fits in with everything else Marvel has planned with the Avengers and TV and bold new IP’s they’re launching in film and on Netflix. That’s quite a bit for even the most talented of writers and filmmakers.
Then again, maybe Marvel and Sony could have been planning this for some time and just keeping quiet about it; subtly waiting for the right time to tell everybody about their plan to take all the money from their bank accounts.
Marvel Did Their Best Work Without Their “Best” Characters
Not only did Marvel Studios launch the first successful shared blockbuster universe in film,, but they did it without their franchise players. No Spiders, Fantastics, or Mutants. No Wolverine!
If I owned the rights to Wolverine, I wouldn’t even try to sell my lemonade without him on the label. Yet somehow, lacking their most popular intellectual properties, Marvel Studios became a force to be reckoned with. They made Captain America cool in the 21st century. They made Iron Man more popular than Batman (which he should be). They even managed to sell the entirety of planet Earth on a patently ridiculous property like Guardians of the Galaxy without needing a single Avenger or to do it.
In my opinion, it was having so “little” that allowed Marvel Studios to do so much. They scraped the barrel until they dug a well.
While I believe that every character is valuable in the right hands, it takes very special hands to make so much of so many diverse properties. Marvel takes chances and those chances pay off, but my fear is that getting their big webbed gun back will open the door to the type of conservativism that makes geeks collectively slap their foreheads every time DC/Warner Bros. makes an announcement similarly ruining Marvel’s brand. Hopefully Marvel can retain that renegade spirit now that Spider-Man, arguably the greatest superhero ever invented, is under their creative umbrella.
The Caviar of Caveats: Enter Miles Morales
Let’s look at the facts. We’ve had 4 Spider-Man movies since 2000, and despite having largely the same make up, only 2 of them were any good.
They were all about a young guy named Peter Parker who got spider powers from a radioactive spider then learned the hard lesson that “with great power comes great responsibility”. After his Uncle Ben is killed by a criminal, Peter could have easily stopped but instead decides to dress up as a costumed vigilante and use his extraordinary powers to fight crime.
I’m guessing you probably skipped that paragraph. You’ve skipped it because you’ve read, seen or dreamed about it a thousand times since you first were exposed to Spider-Man in your mother’s womb because Spider-Man is THAT ubiquitous.
What we need with a Marvel Comics Universe (MCU) Spider-Man is diversity. Not the kind that makes racist and sexist geeks complain (just kidding! Definitely that kind). We need diversity of concept! Diversity of character motivation! Diversity of spider powers! Diversity of attitude! Diversity of having actual parents! Hell, we need diversity of borough (Brooklyn stand up!) And for that, we have Miles Morales.
All New Ultimate Spider Man
Miles Morales was introduced as a character that would take over for 16 year old Peter Parker after he’s killed by the Green Goblin in an alternate universe. This universe was called “The Ultimate Universe” and over 15 years, many of its ideas were implemented in the regular universe and by extension on the big screen in the MCU.
While still a relatively new character in comic book superhero terms, Morales’ origin, style, and world all fit much better than Parker’s into the MCU. Morales would be a Spider-Man who is instantly out of his depth in a world already teeming with spies, super soldiers, deathloks, As Guardians and soon, Inhumans.
Every established character in this world is older, more experienced, and has pretty much seen everything. This gives young Miles Morales the opportunity to be the first of a new generation of super folk that have grown up in a fantastic world and want to make a difference in it.
The MCU with its high tech, more grounded setting is the perfect place for a younger, more eager, and more conflicted young hero. In fact… it’s exactly the youthful energy the MCU could use more of right now.
In 2015, Miles Morales is now a character with honest to goodness comic book roots. This could be the golden opportunity to do something incredibly fresh with the Spider-Man mythos and the macro story of the MCU. The fact that Miles Morales is a young, Black, male, teenage superhero from Brooklyn in an era where people need to be constantly reminded that #BlackLivesMatter is only the icing on the layer cake.