The Logistical Hurdles Facing Spider-Woman’s Big-Screen Debut

Sony plans to bring an animated Spider-Woman to the big screen, but here's why fans are skeptical without a deal with Marvel.

There’s still so much to be decided about an animated Spider-Woman movie. Sony Pictures

Spidey fans have been begging for more—not only did this year’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse surpass all expectations for an animated take on the webbed wunderkind’s story, but Spider-Man: Far From Home left off on one of the biggest cliff-hangers of the year. Fans were clamoring to know when Tom Holland (playing Spider-Man) and Zendaya (the object of his teenage desire) would get the chance to have a happy ending in a third and final film… or if a third film would happen at all. Why was this initially in doubt? It all relied on Sony, who owns the rights to the Spider-Man character (having bought them from Marvel in 1998), allowing Marvel (and parent company, Disney) take him out for a spin one last time.

Surprisingly to all, on Friday Sep. 27, Sony and Disney/Marvel finally came to an agreement that if Disney put up 25 percent of funding for the final solo Spider-Man film, then the company would receive 25 percent of profits. Marvel Studios announced that chief, Kevin Feige, would produce the third standalone movie in Tom Holland’s franchise on behalf of Sony, and in return, Spider-Man’s character would be able to continue to interact with other Marvel characters in another Marvel crossover movie in the near future.

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Spidey fans rejoiced! Sure the deal signaled an eventual end to the standalone Spider-Man films operating as part of the MCU, but it certainly beefed up the roster of upcoming webbed superhero content for the foreseeable future: after Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse hit the box office, Sony revealed that there were plans in the making for both a Spider-Verse sequel and an all Spider-Woman animated spinoff. They announced that Bek Smith, who worked with the production of Captain Marvel (2019), would be helm the script of the new female Spidey flick, and Sony’s Oscar-winning Spider-Verse producers, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, would return along with Marvel producer Avi Arad. There have been no formal announcements relating to the plot or synopsis of what a Spider-Woman film may include, but Amy Pascal, former head of Sony Pictures, who played a huge part in developing the first Spider-Man trilogy, shared a sneak peek with Vanity Fair, saying that the film would “feature [the characters] Spider-Gwen and Cindy Moon (a.k.a. Silk) as well as Jessica Drew (a.k.a. Spider-Woman).”

And yet despite the excitement, there are still a lot of questions about logistics. Namely: will Marvel have anything to do with this high-stakes venture? Sony has the opportunity to rekindle another partnership with Marvel/Disney, or they can opt to solely produce this women-centered spinoff film, as they did with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. But with fan expectations extremely high, and Marvel’s expertise in bringing these characters to life (after all, they were the originators) many are hoping Sony will go back to the negotiating table with the Mouse House in order to do an animated Spider-Woman justice. Sony declined to comment in response to questions for this story.

What Are the Benefits of Making a Deal?

A partnership between Sony and Disney/Marvel isn’t necessary to make a Spider-Woman film, but when it comes to bringing superhero comics to the big screen, the general fan consensus is that the most successful movies come from when Sony and Disney/Marvel join forces.

In the past, the two studios have partnered together to create dozens of fan-favorite cinematic masterpieces, but they’ve also produced some stellar films on their own. For example, Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man (2002) is Sony’s second highest grossing film (and eighth highest worldwide) with more than $400 million domestic, and it was produced completely in-house. The highest grossing superhero film worldwide is Avengers: Endgame (2019), which was produced solely by Marvel Studios and brought in a whopping $2.79 billion worldwide. Now, just because one film trafficked more revenue than another doesn’t mean that one particular production company is superior to another. It is, however, helpful to review the past efforts in this lane.

A recent example of Sony’s individual work in superhero cinema is Tom Hardy’s Venom (2018). The film brought in about $822 million worldwide while garnering just 29 percent from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, but 80 percent from audiences. Viewers either love it or they hate it.

One main example of the studios’ joint ventures is the current Spider-Man trilogy, which fans are raving about. Marvel and Sony came together to create two all-around heartwarming films that brought in $880.2 million globally in 2017 and $1.132 billion in 2019. The films gave fans the naive and innocent Peter Parker who was somewhat absent in past iterations, and the partnership of Marvel and Sony is to thank for that.

What Will Satisfy the Fans?

Marvel Comics has been setting a high bar for versatile and beloved storytelling since their first issue, Marvel Comics #1, in 1939. Their characters are relatable and are deeply developed, which is one of the main attractions to fans according to Matthew Smith, a founding member of the Comics Studies Society and a co-curator of the first ever “Marvel: Universe’s Superheroes” exhibition. Smith explains that both Marvel and Sony have built a heart-capturing Spider-Man character who continues to flourish in cinema, and says he “could see why both Sony and Marvel are keen to keep the character in the public eye, there’s a lot of material they can pull on.” So perhaps there’s an incentive for the two studios to broker a deal and possibly foster an animated Spider-Woman film with the same crowd-pleasing feel as the live-action Spider-Man trilogy.

Beyond that, there are a lot of different options to choose from when developing a Spider-Woman movie. Too many cooks is usually a bad thing, but given the studios’ track records, a collaboration might represent the best chance of setting Spider-Woman off on a promising cinematic future… maybe even one that eventually extends to live-action, should this go well.

One of the fan favorites who made her screen debut in Spider-Verse was Gwen Stacy, who first appeared on the page in Marvel’s Amazing Spider-Man #31 in 1965. Fans and comic lovers often compare Gwen Stacy with Jessica Drew, another adaptation of Marvel’s Spider-Woman character, who appeared for the first time in Marvel Spotlight #32 in 1977. But for many, Gwen is the favorite to feature. “[Gwen’s] youth is what’s endearing about her; it’s a certain sort of energy and optimism that she brings to the role of Spider-Woman that Jessica Drew, I don’t think ever quite perfected,” Smith said.

And there are a wide variety of other Spider-Woman comic stories to choose from besides Gwen Stacy and Jessica Drew. Peni Parker, an anime version of Spider-Man, was also introduced in the 2019 animated film. A recognizable face such as Julia Carpenter, who’s also a former member of the Avengers, is also a viable possibility. Although it’s clear that Spider-Gwen is one of the top candidates, for now, no one really knows who we could see next.

Skepticism and all, Smith explains that, “Spider-Man has been in continuous publication since 1962, [publishing] one to five comic book titles a month, so you know there are literally thousands of Spider-Man stories that they could go in and mine.” Until we find out what story has been chosen, we’ll have to wait and hope that Sony and Marvel will work together to bring audiences and comic fanatics the best possible version of a cinematic Spidey Woman, whoever she may be.

The Logistical Hurdles Facing Spider-Woman’s Big-Screen Debut