So, Spider-Man has become part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After the underwhelming Amazing Spider-Man 2, the hero is set to reboot in the MCU, first appearing in (most likely) Captain America: Civil War before starring in his own movie. After the inevitable rejoicing about this news, fans quickly began to ask another important question: which Spider-Man will this be?
The obvious and likely answer is Peter Parker. The original Spider-Man in his original setting is a proven money maker, and it will benefit both Marvel and Sony. The vast majority of fans crave consistency, which is why this is the most likely option. Peter Parker, set in high school with his Aunt May, is safe. It won’t make any waves, and that’s unfortunate. If comics are going to keep relevant, they need to appeal to the changing face of audiences. However, that isn’t to say that they can’t maintain relevance with the silent majority of fans who just want to see Peter Parker slinging webs. Marvel has done great work in recent years to increase diversity in their titles, the Spider-Man books leading this trend with Miles Morales, the upcoming Spider-Gwen and the unexpectedly solid Silk solo series. These characters are however unlikely to move to film.
I’d love to see Miles Morales in a movie. I think the character is fresh and his solo comic has been pretty consistently interesting. However, I think he works best in a world that also includes Peter Parker. Unless Marvel plays a wild card and makes Miles Morales the main Spider-Man for the upcoming reboot—and change a lot of aspects to his character—Peter Parker will be Spider-Man for the foreseeable future. We’ve yet to see how producers and audiences would react to alternate universe superhero but I imagine it would cause a number of problems. Thus, a world where Gwen Stacy has become Spider-Woman, or a world where Peter Parker has died and Miles has taken the mantle, would be a hard sell. Audiences have enough trouble with reboots and continuity in a linear sense; two ongoing continuities with the same franchise would dilute the box office and confuse people. It’s confusing enough with Marvel’s franchises split across Disney, Sony and Fox!
The reason these approaches to characters work in comics is because the risk is much lower. It’s unfortunate that market interests ultimately don’t compel creativity and diversity, but it’s something that no amount of blog posts and musings about potential will change. Amazing Spider-Man outsells Ultimate Spider-Man more than three-to-one, though this hasn’t always been the case, and Peter Parker has a wealth of cultural capital gained from previous adaptations in different media. This isn’t to say that diversity in the franchise isn’t possible, but the only feasible way Miles, Silk, or Spider-Gwen will enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe is via significant changes to their characters.
Superhero film and television media are becoming increasingly team-based. The CW’s Arrow and The Flash feature supporting teams around the titular heroes—some original, some based upon existing characters—that assist and aide them in their superheroics. The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and the de facto “teams” in Captain America films and even Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter suggest that this is a potential route for Marvel films. As a team, the new Spider-Man could introduce Miles or Silk as supporting characters to Peter Parker that could conceivably spin off into their own films.
The multiverse is an idea that works with variable success in comic books and television, but the scale of films deters this idea. While the (soon-to-be three) versions of Spider-Man in film could be considered a multiversal viewing of the character, they are linear. Miles could work in the same way his character works in the comics, provided he is introduced in the same universe. The same could be said of Silk, or Gwen; remove the multiverse, add spider-powers, and modify for film. Diversity in the Spider-Man film franchise is just as possible as it is in the comics, it just needs additional modification for the film audience. Perhaps the success of films like X-Men: Days of Future Past could lead films towards including a multiverse within their continuity, but a tempered approach that utilizes important aspects of all included characters can work in a single universe. I’m hoping that this, or something similar, is the route they take!