Superhero Rights: A Tangled Web

In 1986, Marvel Film Studios made a decision that almost ruined them and continues to have a lasting impact to this day- Howard The Duck: The Movie. This live action telling of the anthropomorphic ducks story was so poorly received that Howard wouldn’t be seen again until 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Even then, his return was met with almost unanimous backlash from fans. The biggest blow-back came financially, with the film only making $38 million from its $37 million budget and on top of this, interest in Superheroes was dwindling. In order to save the company from bankruptcy, they would sell the rights of some of their most famous characters to rival studios. X-Men and the Fantastic four as well as Daredevil and Electra made their way to 20th Century Fox while The Incredible Hulk ended up at Universal . Finally, Spider-man and almost all of his character roster went to Sony, which brings us to the 2000s.

In 2002, director Sam Raimi brought Spider-man to the big screen for the first time. Featuring the origin of our titular hero, born Peter Parker, and the Green Goblin, born Norman Osborne, Spider-man was a huge success financially and with fans. Both Mary Jane Watson, his love interest, and J. Jonah Jameson, his boss, would make their appearances. Despite Tobey Maguire clearly being 26 years old playing a teenager, his performance was well received, leading to a sequel in 2004.

Spider-man 2, for the longest time, was the gold standard against which Spider-man films were measured. The film featured Doctor Otto Octavious in a heartbreaking origin story as well as James Franco continuing his story arc as Peters best friend Harry Osbourne. The film was given more praise than the first leading to the third and final installment in 2007.

Spider-man 3 was not the perfect landing that many had expected. The film featured fan favourites Venom and Sandman as well as The New Goblin, but many decreed that this was too many characters to try and focus on. Though there are those, like myself, who have a softspot for Spider-man 3 it was the last time we would see Tobey Maguire don the suit of the web slinger.

While Spider-man 3 was hitting cinemas across the globe, work was already beginning on Spider-man 4. Sadly, disagreements between Sam Raimi and Sony, as well as the pressure to deliver a perfect film, and various writers being unable to pen a script, Spider-man 4 would never see the light of day. However many of its details, through interviews with Raimi and storyboards, reveal what may have been. Supposedly it would feature The Vulture, The Lizard, Black Cat and Mysterio. As it transpires, each of thee characters had a part to play in Spidey’s future.

In 2012, under a new direction, The Amazing Spider-man hit our screens with Andrew Garfield as the new Peter Parker. Once again we would receive his backstory, but this time featuring Gwen Stacy as his love interest and The Lizard as his villain. It did well enough, garnering mostly positive reviews which praised it for the new direction that the franchise was taking.

The Amazing Spider-man 2 was released in 2014 and was not given its predecessor’s praise. It featured The Green Goblin, Electro and Rhino as well as the death of Gwen Stacey, which was deemed too much by general audiences. It was supposed to be the jumping off point for a cinematic universe, much like the MCU, and the news coverage means that the plans for this universe are not difficult to find. The Sinister Six were to play a huge part going forward but all plans were scrapped and Sony came back to, the now immensely popular, Marvel Studios for help.

By 2015, Sony and Marvel had reached an agreement. Spider-man and all the characters that came with him, would star in Marvel films with Sony having final creative control. There were 2 films still in production at the time of this merger, Venom and Into The Spiderverse, which were both released in 2018, with the latter receiving highly positive reviews.

Meanwhile in the MCU, Tom Holland was cast as Peter Parker and in 2016 made his debut in Captain America: Civil War. This would be followed by Spider-man: Homecoming in 2017 with appearances in both Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Rather than re-telling Spideys origin story, Homecoming takes place 5 years later and features The Vulture, with small roles for The Tinkerer and Shocker. With Spider-man: Far From Home introducing Mysterio, only Black Cat remains as an unused character of the cancelled Spider-man 4, for now.

The story continues…

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