Do Marvel's Comics Hint at Sony's 'Spider-Man' Future? (Analysis)

Should fans of the "Amazing Spider-Man" movies look to the comic books for hints about what to expect from the newly announced spinoffs?
Should fans of the "Amazing Spider-Man" movies look to the comic books for hints about what to expect from the newly announced spinoffs?

While the announcement of Sony's expansion of the Spider-Man movie franchise might have surprised some yesterday -- especially with its focus on the villains of the Spider-Man mythology, as opposed to other heroes -- there's a group that would've looked at the choice of Venom and Sinister Six as spinoffs and felt a sense of deja vu: faithful fans of Spidey's comic book family.

After all, as recently as October, Marvel's Spider-Man comic book franchise consisted of a solo Spidey book, a team-up Spidey book, a Venom book and a Sinister Six book -- albeit one that features just five somewhat inept bad guys, and goes by the somewhat ironic title Superior Foes of Spider-Man (I'm underselling it with that description; it's actually a pretty great dark comedy, akin to the more famous Hawkeye series from the same editorial office).

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The parallel is an odd one; was the choice of movies influenced by the Marvel comics -- if so, we narrowly avoided a Scarlet Spider series, featuring a clone of Peter Parker; that concludes its run this month, before the character moves on to next year's new New Warriors title -- or is it simply a coincidence? Should movie fans be looking to the comic books for hints at what to expect from future movies?

The current cinematic incarnation of Spider-Man is one clearly influenced by recent comics, but not those in the "regular" Marvel Universe -- instead, it's Brian Michael Bendis' Ultimate Spider-Man that the new movie series has its roots in, with specific plot points originating from that comic book's revision of the character's origin and backstory. (Most noticeably, the scientist background of Peter Parker's father, and the conspiracy surrounding his disappearance.)

Indeed, Peter Parker, per se, is actually absent from any ongoing Spider-Man comic series right now, with the exception of the series that adapts the Disney XD television series. In the Ultimate continuity, Parker died and was replaced by Miles Morales in a much-publicized storyline in 2011; in "regular" Marvel continuity, he was the victim of a brain swap with Doctor Octopus in another much-publicized storyline in 2012, with the current "Superior Spider-Man" being Octopus in Parker's body.

If the movies are intending to follow even a general story arc similar to that offered in either comic book continuity, then things don't look too good for Andrew Garfield's onscreen alter ego. (Of course, killing off Parker and replacing him with another character would allow for Garfield to move on from the franchise without requiring another reboot, so it's not impossible.)

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That would fit with the general trend within superhero movies -- Fox's X-Men aside, superhero films tend to stay away from direct adaptations of specific storylines, tending instead to create versions of origin stories for important characters and then move on to all-new material that's more suited to the limited movie format than monthly (or, in some cases, more frequently) comic books that can offer continuing storylines and regular cliffhangers with quick resolution.

If Sony has taken anything from Marvel's current Spider-Man output, it's as likely to be its demonstration of what properties are viable outside of the series as anything else. Considering that comic book fans would doubtlessly want to enjoy -- and be surprised by -- the movies as much as anyone else, surely that's the best-case scenario, keeping the movie storylines as fresh and unpredictable for the hardcore followers as it is for the newest devotees.