Comics Watch: Is 'Spider-Man 2099' Destined for a Live-Action Movie?
Welcome back to The Hollywood Reporter's weekly Comics Watch, a dive into how the latest books from Marvel, DC and beyond could provide fodder for the big screen. This week tackles Marvel's Amazing Spider-Man No. 32, so be warned, there are spoilers for the issue ahead.
There’s a new Spider-Man in town. OK, if you’ve been following Marvel Comics recently, then you’ll know there are several new Spider-Men, those from the alternate realities of the Spider-Verse and those from stories outside of continuity and alternate Earths yet to be named and numbered. But the Spider-Man who demands today’s attention is Miguel O’Hara, aka Spider-Man 2099. While not new to Marvel Comics by any means, the fan-favorite character is literally the new kid of the block following his fall through time in The Amazing Spider-Man No. 25, where he landed on the present-day Earth of Marvel’s main Earth-616 continuity in which Peter Parker and Miles Morales patrol the streets of New York. Wednesday's issue, The Amazing Spider-Man No. 32 by writer Nick Spencer and artist Patrick Gleason, who draws his first full issue here, explores just how the Spider-Man from 80 years in the future landed in the present, and why.
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Spider-Man 2099, created by Peter David and Rick Leonardi, made his first full appearance in his self-titled series in 1992. Part of a new line of Marvel books that explored familiar faces, new characters and familiar namesakes donned by new faces, Spider-Man 2099 was the breakout book of the brand that initially consisted of Doom 2099, Punisher 2099, Ravage 2099 and later X-Men 2099, Hulk 2099 and Ghost Rider 2099. Marvel’s future is depicted as a cyberpunk Earth, overrun by corporations like Nueva York’s Alchemax. Unlike the career-challenged Peter Parker 100 years prior, Miguel O’Hara was the head of Alchemax’s genetics program and a brilliant scientist working on a new super-soldier program for the military. When one of his test subjects dies, O’Hara attempts to leave the company, but he is prevented from doing so when his boss and future nemesis, Tyler Stone, injects him with the drug Rapture and blackmails him. O’Hara’s attempt to purify his genetic system is sabotaged by a jealous co-worker who splices his DNA with that of a spider in order to kill him. Instead of dying, O’Hara emerges as a super-soldier with powers similar to Spider-Man. When Alchemax tries to hunt him down, O’Hara dons a Mexican Day of the Dead mask and bodysuit and becomes his generation’s Spider-Man.
O’Hara origin story is vastly more complicated than Parker’s was originally, and yet that is part of what set the character apart and has allowed him to endure in a way that the other 2099 characters haven’t. O’Hara also has the significance of being the first Latino to take the name Spider-Man, proceeding the Black-Latino, Miles Morales. Spider-Man 2099 has been stranded in the present-day Earth-616 numerous times before, and each time his efforts in the present end up cementing the future he hails from. While certain events have established 2099 as an alternate reality, O’Hara’s frequent presence have broken down the walls between the two realities, making it more and more likely that 2099 is the future Marvel’s Earth-616 is rocketing towards. The latest issue of The Amazing Spider-Man serves as a prelude to a larger event that sees O’Hara, along with other heroes of the 2099 timeline, attempting to prevent the events that lead to Doctor Doom becoming a global dictator. The event kicks off with 2099 Alpha on Nov. 20 and concludes with 2099 Omega in December, with a series of one-shots featuring previously unseen future versions of Marvel characters, like Venom and Conan, in between.
Marvel is going all in on its revitalization of 2099, positioned as an event celebrating Marvel’s 80th anniversary and a look at 80 years into the future. Given the synergy that often happens between Marvel Comics and Marvel Studios, something that seems likely to become even more prominent given Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige’s additional role as chief creative officer, 2099 seems like something that, at least aspects of, will make its way to the film side soon enough. In fact, within Sony’s Spider-Verse, they already have. In the post-credit scene of the Oscar-winning animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018), Miguel O’Hara (Oscar Isaac), along with his personal AI Lyla, test out a new device that allows them to travel to alternate dimensions. It seems obvious that Isaac wasn’t hired just for a fun post-credit sequence and that Spider-Man 2099 will play some role in an Into the Spider-Verse sequel or spinoff. But what about the live-action possibilities of Spider-Man 2099?
Alternate futures are the kind of thing fans go wild for. Be it Star Trek, Terminator or superhero stories like Kingdom Come, Batman Beyond, and Days of Future Past, there’s always room to explore how terribly wrong things could become, or how right we could get them. There’s certainly a likelihood that a live-action Spider-Man 2099 is something Sony has considered. Oscar Isaac could even portray the role in animation and live-action if willing. But part of the fun of the 2099 universe is that it encompasses more than just Spider-Man, and that O’Hara’s work and struggles are directly related to the superheroes of the past — heroes like Captain America and Thor, whose legacies corporations seek ownership over, and villains like Doom, who has become an immortal threat. 2099 is about the legacy of characters in the Heroic Age and how their choices shaped the future for good and ill. We saw the Avengers create alternate timelines in Avengers: Endgame, but we’ve yet to see them travel to the distant future.
Currently, there’s a lot of room to explore the legacy of characters like Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye and Iron Man in the films and Disney+ series that are making up Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But while those will largely rely on familiar characters in a time we recognize, there’s a lot of creative potential in looking at stories beyond that in a world that looks and feels entirely unlike the MCU as we know it. And there’s no reason why we need to wait another 80 years to see it. Whether it is present-day heroes arriving in the future or future heroes arriving in the past, Marvel stands to gain a lot of mileage from its 2099 timeline across comics, the Spider-Verse and the MCU.
by Sheraz Farooqi
by Graeme McMillan