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Friday, July 1, 2016

15 Characters to Expect in Spider-Man: Homecoming

Edited by Robert Beach 

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We are now a little over one year out from Spider-Man: Homecoming: the joint Marvel-Sony feature that’s set to revitalized the Spider-Man brand after the disappointment of the Amazing Spider-Man film series. This year’s Captain America: Civil War shined a spotlight on Tom Holland's Spider-ManIf you skipped that flick, Holland is a great Peter Parker and an even better Spider-Man. He’s jokey and irreverent with just a hint of obnoxious that feels appropriate for a Spider-Man that’s still in high school while distinctly nerdy and mousey as Peter Parker. 

In short, he’s a thoroughly modern update of the classic Peter Parker story and the bizarre blend of subversion and power fantasy he embodied. Lately, there’s been a deluge of casting news about Spider-Man: Homecoming to the point I’ve stopped trying to keep up and report all of it. Instead, this is my way of capitalizing on the upcoming film: a look at 15 characters likely to show up. That’s 5 fellow heroes, 5 villains, and 5 supporting characters I suspect we’ll see in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Let’s dive in. 

So this one seems fairly obvious, given the last time we actually saw Mary Jane was back in Spider-Man 3. That’s something Marvel really owes Sony as I doubt we’ll be seeing anyone from the Amazing film series pop up in these new Spider-Man films, hence why they’re going with the Vulture as a bad guy rather than the Green Goblin. 

Bringing back Mary Jane will be a good way to continue to ground the new Spider-Man in the familiar, even though the world he’s inhabiting is so different from his previous outings. I mean, this is a universe where he’s on a first-name basis with Iron Man. It’s going to be different, so some familiar parts of the mythos are to be expected. 

The question looming over Mary Jane’s inevitability is how she’ll function in the film. In the books, Mary Jane is an interesting love interest for Peter as she actually has a life and identity outside of him. I’m not sure Marvel will dive into the romance angle right away, especially given how much they want these movies to appeal to everyone and doubling down on the melodrama would be a hard sell. 

My guess is MJ will be slotted into a role similar to her current one in the comics: working for Tony Stark. In the comics, Mary Jane is a Pepper Pots replacement, which I don’t think will happen here. She’ll probably be Tony’s intern. That’d be a nice way to intertwine the Marvel Universe with this new Spider-Man and work towards filling the Pepper Pots-shaped whole in the mythos.

Flash Thompson is one of the more storied parts of the Spider-Man mythos. He initially started as Peter’s bully in school before evolving into his friend, becoming a soldier, losing his legs, and then later regaining them when he bonded with the Venom symbiote.  

Like I said, Flash has a long history to go with his stupid name (who names their kid ‘Flash’?) While that history emerged out of no one at Marvel having a good idea on what to do with him, it’s also made him a pretty major component of Peter Parker’s Spider-Man mythos. Marvel likes to play the long game, so I could easily see them bringing Flash into Spider-Man: Homecoming to set-up his future as a serious supporting character through the Spider-Man franchise. 

The other major reason I’d expect to see Flash Thompson show up is because of Sony’s posturing about creating a Spider-Man movieverse. The details on Sony’s  planned movieverse are still sketchy. We cynically like to think Sony has no idea how to make a shared movie universe and are just blowing smoke to try and finagle an even better deal with Marvel. Still, closer fiscal union leading to greater Marvel creative control of future projects would be lucrative for all, and I could see Sony getting that movie universe off the ground.  

If that happens, a Venom movie would be first on the extended Webhead-verse, and Flash’s time with the symbiote makes him a prime candidate for that spin-off. As Flash Thompson’s Venom was less of a slobbering monster anti-hero, he could still make for a good movie. Either through his time as a symbiote-powered government assassin or as his time as a space knight alongside the Guardians of the Galaxy, Flash makes sense.  

Behold, the other side of the Venom equation.  Brock is more of a toss up as to whether or not he’ll be in the movie. He's historically been part of Peter’s life at the Daily Bugle rather than his high school days, but I wouldn’t rule it out. Setting up Brock early on as a rival for Peter would be a nice way to build up to the Venom reveal rather than springing it in the margins like in Spider-Man 3.  

Speaking of, that movie is the main reason why we might not see Brock. If we do, I doubt he’ll be donning the Venom costume this outing. Even though it’s been awhile, the collective hate and back patting over how bad Spider-Man 3 was has stuck around like a bad penny. Provided that there was a simple reason why people wouldn’t want more Eddie Brock, it’s that. 

Conversely, if we do see Eddie it’ll be because the forces that be really want that Venom movie to be in line with Venom’s peak popularity period in the ‘90s. I’d definitely expect to see the violent, psychotic anti-hero Venom of Lethal Protector or the like, the one who likes to drool ecto-cooler and threatens to eat brains (yes, really).  

There’s at least a few angles worth working with that version of Venom, mainly about the conflict between the suit’s will to kill and Brock’s desire to not murder. Ultimately, that era was just Spawn without the theology or blackness, so I wouldn’t be too thrilled with his appearance. 

I’ve talked about this one before, but something unique about Spider-Man: Homecoming’s colorblind casting is that it’s a sneaky way to subvert the issue of fatigue and iconography.  Homecoming will be our 6th Spider-Man movie in the past 20 years. By this point, you risk going over ground so familiar the audience is liable to get bored.  

Partially that’s because we’ve seen this characters done time and time again, but also we’ve seen them done so well or so poorly.  We aren’t going to see Green Goblin in Homecoming because the last 3 Goblins were awful, goofy, and excellent. If Homecoming is frontloading itself with actors of color to break the immediate comparison to Raimi’s excellence or Webb’s awfulness, that would be a smart lateral move. 

Given that, I do think Homecoming will try and fit a new version of J. Jonah Jameson into its working. If that is the case, it’ll probably be a fairly reimagined version of Jameson compared to the obnoxious, old-school newsman we got in the Raimi films. This means the new JJ will most likely either manage a digital media outlet (ala Buzz Feed or the like), or he’ll act as Mayor of New York as he did during Dan Slott’s run on Spider-Man.  

I’m personally inclined towards the latter, but I'm sure they’ll go with the former. It’d allow them to have Peter still be a photographer without cluttering things up. You know it will once you add city hall as a component of the universe in addition to high school, the Bugle, villains, and fellow Avengers. 

One of the reasons Spider-Man’s rogues gallery is so beloved is that they all tend to have some personal connection to Peter. In the films, this usually manifests itself as Pete’s teachers or family friends turning evil like Dr. Connors in Amazing Spider-Man or Doc Ock in Spider-Man 2. Those examples also mean we probably won’t see new versions of those characters as Spider-Man teachers. Instead, I suspect we’ll see Michael Morbius, intermittent Spider-Man villain and ally, turned into one of Peter’s high school teachers. 

Morbius is a science whiz in the comics who ended up turning himself into the “living vampire.” He’s like Blade in that he can move in day and has some vampire powers, though he’s not a vampire in the traditional sense. He can’t control bats or the weather, and garlic doesn't grosses him out.  

He’s one of the few Spider-Man originating characters to go on to a long career in comics, so I could see Marvel trying to plant those seeds here. This seems even more likely if Marvel plans to bring their movies and Netflix shows closer as it’d be easy to have Morbius transition from a Spider-Man supporting character to a Blade supporting character/fellow hero as Marvel is allegedly plotting a Blade Netflix show. 

As we enter the possible superheroes, we start with another Sony movieverse tie-in: Silver Sable. Silver Sable’s a weird character for Sony to seem so fixated on in that she’s one of the blandest and most boring parts of the entire Spider-Man mythos. I seem to recall she’s tied in to Silvermane, a fairly bland Spider-Man foe who’s tied to the even blander group the Maggia.  

The Maggia were essentially a transparent mafia fill-in group Marvel cooked up in the ‘70s because the mob controlled trucking and distribution, so they couldn’t actually write stories about them. The Maggia have always been one of the blandest Marvel creations, and Silvermane their blandest member (he did once live as a disembodied head, which was cool.)

As for Silver Sable, she’s what you’d get if Black Widow was a lot more bland and soulless and featured a silver color scheme instead of a black one. Seriously, she’s a bog standard super assassin that never amounted to much of anything other than another hot chick for Spider-Man to awkwardly flirt with when he wasn’t hanging out with Mary Jane. It’s been forever since anyone even remembered Silver Sable existed (Editor's Note: Ultimate Spider-Man, anyone?), so if she does show up in Homecoming, it’ll only be to placate Sony’s demand for a Spidey-verse of movies. 

If ever there were a two-word rebutle to the idea that a Silver Sable movie needed to happen, it’d be Black Cat. I think the only reason Sony isn’t talking about a Black Cat spin-off is that she’s like Catwoman. That movie bombed, so they aim to get a soulless Diet Black Widow (Silver Stable) cash grab under the wire before Marvel finally pulls the trigger on that movie. 

In any event, Black Cat is even better than Catwoman. The big difference between them is Catwoman is the sanest character in the Batman universe, which ends up usually making her the blandest. Black Cat is like Peter Parker without the angst and self-loathing that make him so normal.

She's like Peter where her life changed forever by a traumatic experience at a young age. Unlike Peter, her trauma didn’t give her super powers. Instead, it inspired her to learn all types of fighting skills to become a master of stealth and combat. As an adult, she used those skills to become a master thief. She's if Catwoman and Batman were the same super sexy hot chick.  

Seriously, Black Cat is so perfectly suited to a spin-off feature it’s ridiculous. She’s built from the ground up to be awesome that way.  If Marvel is smart, they’ll try and find a place for her in the movie. Though, there’s a chance she’d be a bit much for how chaste the Marvel films are. 

White Tiger is a much more recent addition to the Spider-Man mythos. Given her success in the Ultimate Spider-Man animated series, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a place for her in Homecoming.  

The other big reason I’d expect to see her in some capacity is that she’s one of the few characters of color native to the Spider-Man mythos. I’m fine with Marvel deciding to throw canon to the wind and just making any Spider-Man foe any race they want, but White Tiger is already a kick-ass woman of color they could adapt easily. 

She’s actually a legacy hero, adopting the name and powers of a ‘70s character of the same name, one of the first Latino superheroes. Aside from being a gifted martial artist, her mystical pendant grants her vaguely defined tiger powers. The main reason we might not see White Tiger pop up in Spider-Man: Homecoming is that she’s very much a street-level hero.  

Most of her adventures take place in alleys rather than the sky, and she’s had a long relationship with the Heroes for Hire; although, a lot like Michael Morbius, there’s the distinct possibility we might see her introduced here than have White Tiger migrate over to the Netflix shows. Her time with the Heroes for Hire could spell a spot for her on Luke Cage. 

This one seems the most unlikely, but it would honestly be the smartest move. So far, all of Marvel’s heroes have had a black best friend to help give the overall sense of diversity and representation as part of Marvel’s tenuous balancing act of appealing to everyone.  

It’s the same reason Marvel manages to fit beefcake shots into all of their movies. They’re trying to find something that every conceivable demographic can latch onto. Miles Morales would be the perfect way to fill this spot in Spider-Man since all the previous black friends have become heroes in their own right (War Machine, Falcon, Heimdall, and on).

What’s more, this would be the fastest way to try and get the Spider-Man of the movies to have the same broad universe of supporting characters as the Spider-Man of the comics. The current Spider-Man comics are full up with other Spider heroes: Spider-Man 2099, Spider-Gwen, Spider-Woman, Silk, etc. Getting audiences to accept multiple Spider-Men and Spider-women would be a great first step in bringing that level of powerhouse branding to the big screen, and Miles Morales would be a great way to do that.  

Additionally, the popularity of Black Panther in the wake of Civil War shows that well-done black superheroes can easily capture the public consciousness and dominate a film’s conversation. Throwing Miles Morales into Homecoming, maybe setting him up in the ending stinger, would be a dynamite move for Marvel. 

Silk is one of the more ingenious recent additions to the Spider-Man mythos as she’s one of the few Spider-Women with an easy-to-understand origin story. After that radioactive spider bit Peter Parker, it scampered off and bit another teenager there that day.  That teenager eventually grew up to be Silk, and she manifested Spider-Man powers too.  

Recently, Silk’s become a real breakout character for Marvel alongside Spider-Gwen and Ms. Marvel as the new generation of women superheroes. Spider-Man: Homecoming won’t be an origin story movie, but it’s bound to touch on Peter’s origin, which would provide a clear and concise time to simply continue the story and reveal Silk to the audience. 

Realistically speaking, the Marvel universe is still tragically lacking in women superheroes. While Valkyrie and Captain Marvel are apparently in the pipeline, they can’t carry this banner alone. Fitting in a female version of Spider-Man with a clear and simple origin like Silk would be a great way to start solving this problem going forward and lay the groundwork for the spin-offs that execs are so convinced need to happen.  What’s more, Silk is one of the few Asian-American superheroes out there. Getting her up on the big screen would be a good way to smooth over all the bad blood over Iron Fist and Doctor Strange.

Villain time. We start with Shocker. Something that’s been pretty surprising about Spider-Man: Homecoming is the sheer number of bad guys in the movie. Currently, the number is clocking in at three, but it could easily go as high as six.  

Like a lot of other decisions swirling around this flick, this seems to be a reactionary set-up. They slot in six bad guys to the movie as a way to set-up a Sinister Six movie Sony still pines for. I’m not sure how you could even approach a movie about a super villain team without playing them for comedy, though that’s tomorrow’s problem. It also seems like the folks at Marvel are being smart about the villains they’re setting up, adopting more traditional villain divisions of labor and focus. 

As such, I suspect Vulture will be the big, money man villain behind everything while someone like Shocker could work as the muscle of the team. Shocker isn’t a very interesting bad guy. He can’t carry a movie at least, but he’s cool enough to carry a fight scene or two and would be a nice addition. His power is to shoot concussive blasts from his gauntlets, which would make him a good hands-on threat, and his techno nature mean he could stand in for Electro given how tainted that character is in the wake of Amazing Spider-Man 2. 

I know, I know. I just said that Amazing Spider-Man 2 tainted Electro, and now I’m suggesting Rhino might appear in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Bear with me here. Rhino was barely in Amazing Spider-Man 2 and was actually one of the things they did fairly well. I don’t mean the boring robo-rhino suit they threw together for that movie. That was lame.  

I mean framing the Rhino as a supporting villain who didn’t need his own long winded and elaborate origin story for the movie to work.  Rhino could conceivably work as the only villain of a Spider-Man movie. It’d be a very different take on superhero films, more drawn from the natural disaster playbook than the plot-heavy, character-driven spectacle of modern superhero blockbusters. 

No, I think if Rhino shows up in Homecoming, it’ll be as the muscle. He'll be the big difference between him and Shocker, a bad guy powerful enough to take on the Hulk. That’s the main reason I think we’ll see Rhino. He’s a super powerful Spidey bad guy and could easily work as a counter to Iron Man or the Vision or whichever Avengers the movie might have knocking about.  

Look, Civil War may have proved that you can make a movie with a ton of Avengers that’s still a tightly focused personal narrative, but it’s a super difficult trick to pull off twice. It would behoove Homecoming to limit the number of impossible tasks it’s setting out to achieve. Having Rhino burst in to stomp around and keep the Avengers engaged while Spider-Man deals with the main threat would be a great way to solve that problem from the outset.  

This one seems like the biggest gamble, but it’d fit the idea of the Sinister Six popping up in the movie. At this rate, Homecoming could use a big-name Spidey foe like this to keep things interesting.  Additionally, Doc Ock could work within the boundaries of a more standard villain hierarchy. If Vulture is the money and one of the other villains is the muscle, Doc Ock could function as the brains, which would fit his comic book origins as both mad scientist and mad scientist’s monster.  

If they do try and fit Doc Ock in the movie, I expect they will try and do a version more in line with the comics to separate themselves from the excellent Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man 2. Shedding the sympathetic approach to the character and doubling down on the villainous rogue scientist would be a good way to show this is a different version and isn’t trying to compete.  

Honestly, there are only three Spider-Man foes of any name value, and Doc Ock is the only one of the three Homecoming could even hope to attempt. Green Goblin is too tainted by previous attempts, and Venom is too caught up in the question of spin-offs and the mythology of the black suit to be properly deployed. If Homecoming wants a big-name baddie, it has to be Ock. 

HYDRO MAN           
This one might be a bit more wishful thinking than reality. I still think there’s enough of a chance that it might happen. Hydro Man, like a lot of C-list Spider-Man foes, is only interesting because of his super power and doesn’t really have much of a persona to back it up. He does have a character and origin story, though it rarely pops up in stories. He tends to end up slotted into the “normal crook becomes god, now what?” Spider-Man story template. The main reason I think we’ll see him in Homecoming is that he’s a great substitute for Sandman. 

This goes back to that Sinister Six thing, which, even if it’s not in aid of a spin-off, certainly makes sense as something to set-up to fight a Spider-Man who’s backed by the strength of the Avengers.  Anyway, Sandman is one of the core members of the Sinister Six, but I doubt Marvel wants to try and do him again after how perfectly he was adapted in Spider-Man 3. Seriously, all Marvel would hear if they try and bring back Sandman would be either jeers over how bad Spider-Man 3 was or complaints over how great Sandman already was in Spider-Man 3. 

Moving sideways around that idea and bringing in Hydro-Man as someone with basically identitcal powers but no baggage would be a smart move. Hydro-Man’s lack of back-story means the movie could pretty much write their own ticket with him in terms of whether he’d be a sympathetic foe, a malevolent madman, a lunkhead super henchman, or something completely different. 

Carnage might seem like a left-field choice. He actually makes a good amount of structural sense in terms of villain roles and replacing core parts of the Spider-Man mythos. I’m not just talking about the Sinister Six either, though Carnage could fill in for the Hobgoblin/Kraven the Hunter spot on the team.  

This is going back to that “3 core Spider-Man foes” thing I mentioned with Doc Ock. Carnage would be a great way to cover the roles of both Venom and Green Goblin without getting bogged down in unfortunate comparisons or additional story lore. Carnage is a crazy bad guy with the Joker-inspired psychopathy that fits very well into the Green Goblin's breed of villainy.

That’s part of why writers had Carnage kill Gwen Stacey in the Ultimate universe. He’s just a really good Green Goblin stand in for those in a pinch. Meanwhile, he’d allow Marvel to jump straight to the symbiotes with a villain powerful enough to take on Iron Man and the Vision without even once needing to address the black suit or deal with Sony’s spin-off demands. Finally, Carnage could work as a wild card bad guy, the crazy, murderous team member that could snap at any minute that audiences are just waiting for him to lose it and kill everyone. 

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