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Judging by the subtitle of Sony’s animated Spider-Man feature, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, it might not just be Miles Morales who’ll be making his big-screen debut in the movie. In fact, all manner of Spider-Men (Spider-Mans? Spiders-Man?) could be waiting in the wings.
While the movie teases a meeting between Morales — the Spider-Man in a universe where Peter Parker seemingly died — and Peter Parker, the original Spider-Man, that echoes the plot of the 2012 comic book series Spider-Men, the subtitle points instead to a 2014 storyline that featured spider-inspired heroes from multiple universes, each offering a particular twist on the Marvel superhero character.
“Spider-Verse” — the hyphen originated in the comic book incarnation, which might be a shout-out to writer Dan Slott’s compulsion to correct any incorrectly punctuated use of Spider-Man’s name — ran across multiple issues of the central Amazing Spider-Man comic book series, as well as spinoff titles including Spider-Woman, Spider-Man 2099, Scarlet Spiders and Spider-Verse Team-Up, all telling the story of one entity, Morlun, leading an attempt to kill every incarnation of Spider-Man in existence in every timeline and parallel universe. Only by teaming up with each other did they stand a chance of surviving.
In practice, what this meant was a meta textual adventure that allowed Slott, artist Olivier Coipel and the many other creators involved the chance to play not only with the tropes of the Spider-Man mythos, but also with different media versions of the character from his 50-plus-year history. (Ahead of the series, Slott teased that it would include “every Spider-Man ever,” including “some … that I’m surprised we got to use” as well as all-new creations that would later be spun out into their own series and properties, including Spider-Gwen, Silk and the unfortunately named British version, Spider-UK, who would go on to anchor the Web-Warriors comic book series.)
Even if the comic book “Spider-Verse” feeds into the movie only tangentially through the multiverse connection, it nonetheless helps the animated movie stake out its own territory. As Spider-Man: Homecoming made clear — as did both of Sony’s earlier solo takes on the franchise — the live-action Spider-Man movies are far more down-to-earth affairs that feature regular people with irregular abilities committing, for the most part, small-scale crimes. The animated version of events? That’s all about crossing between universes and the attendant threats that come from such adventures … which tend to threaten all of reality itself.
Of course, it might not be Morlun trying to kill every Spider-Man in sight that’s at the core of the animated feature. Whether or not the Into the Spider-Verse movie will follow the comic book storyline remains unclear from the teaser trailer, but it should definitely be noted that the final line of the trailer suggests the movie could feature quite a few Spider-Men and -Women. After all, what else should the audience expect from ending a trailer with “So… how many of us are there?”
Quite a few, as it turns out. More than enough to create multiple animated franchises, if a studio was of a mind to do so.
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is set to swing into theaters in December 2018.
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