You would have thought that Spider-Man, arguably Marvel’s most iconic superhero, would be a no-brainer to translate well to the big screen. And back in 2000, Evil Dead director Sam Raimi managed two pretty good stabs at evoking the comic book's canon, web-slinging radioactive everyman Peter Parker played by Tobey Maguire and bringing the fun of the panels to the silver screen (although the less said about Raimi and Maguire’s Batman & Robin moment in the third one).
But then Marvel somewhat foolishly signed away the rights to Peter Parker and pals to Sony, so when the appropriately named music-video directorial mainstay Marc Webb was attached to the contractually obliged Amazing Spider-Man reboot, the company had no say in matters whatsoever. Casting a "so hot right then" Andrew Garfield as Parker, the first film was competent enough if narratively unnecessary but its follow-up was a disaster, the Andy Murray lookalike somehow too cocky, and a third film suddenly seemed in doubt.
Fast-forward to this week and Marvel has struck a deal with Sony so the rights will be partly returning to the comic-book originator, allowing it to use the character in the many, many Marvel Universe features it has on the way while also appearing in Sony's own Spidey features. There will even be a new actor dangling in front of audiences in the familiar red tights, the third in less than 20 years no less.
"Marvel's involvement will hopefully deliver the creative continuity and authenticity that fans demand," Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige said this week. "I am equally excited for the opportunity to have Spider-Man appear in the MCU, something which both we at Marvel, and fans alike, have been looking forward to for years."
Of course, there is very good money on Spidey appearing in 2016's Captain America: Civil War before he stars in a new solo cinematic outing around 2017 (we'd quite like a hint of a tease, like Cap's shield in Iron Man, rather than a full-blown cameo, thanks). But when he finally gets the spotlight, there's a fairly untapped comic-book history spanning over six decades for the new filmmakers, whoever they may be, to use for inspiration. Spoilt for choice. Here's some that have yet to be tackled that they really need to get on with…
Spidey's Killing Joke if you will, this Eighties epic by writer John Marc DeMatteis and artist Mike Zeck saw crazy, gun-toting superhero-hunter Kraven destroy Parker’s life – literally – before the mother of all comic-book comebacks. It would make a fantastic Hollywood blockbuster with the opportunity to cast a top thesp – British, no doubt – to cackle and chew the scenery in that leopard-skin outfit
Before he went on to create his own universe of iconic characters in comics like Kick Ass and Wanted, Mark Millar’s slightly more adult take on Parker and the Spidey universe between 2004 and 2007 – Aunt May's been kidnapped and our hero's being blackmailed over his identity – could be a fine template to use for a dark reboot. It was later renamed to The Sensational Spider-Man, if you're rifling through Amazon.
Speaking of dark, Todd MacFarlane, the man who created Spawn, started his career drawing Spider-Man for Marvel and this multimillion-selling comic from the 90s would be a great new springboard for the web-slinger. It features a more edgy Spidey than readers were used to hunting old foe The Lizard, plus fellow villain Calypso.
Not to be confused with the rightly reviled 90s Clone Saga, or the Star Wars one come to think of it – this classic slice of 70s Spider-Man saw adversary The Jackal bring Parker’s dead love Gwen Stacy back to life, forcing him to relive that tragic moment of loss once again *sniff sniff* It would have audiences balling, I tell you, although it may be too mired in Spidey continuity to work that well now.
In possibly the wackiest story of recent years, running from September 2013 to August 2014, writer Dan Slott has Parker dying and Doctor Octopus becoming Spider-Man, taking over his actual body and everything. Raimi made the mechanical armed arch-nemesis work in Spider-Man 2 thanks to Alfred Molina's full-blooded portrayal, so perhaps this would be an ingenious way to reintroduce one of Marvel's more interesting villains.