Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

What Will Happen To The MCU With No Spider-Man?

It looks like J. Jonah Jameson is getting his wish. The big screen Spider-Man we know and love will be retiring his web-shooters and leaving the Marvel Cinematic Universe, possibly for good. 

In a truly shocking turn of events, Deadline is reporting that Disney (the parent company of Marvel Studios) and Sony have failed to come to an agreement that would allow the character to appear in upcoming Phases of the MCU. The news was later confirmed by The Hollywood Reporter, which released a statement from Sony saying that MCU guru Kevin Feige would no longer be overseeing the Spider-Man films, and placing responsibility squarely on Disney's shoulders. "We are disappointed," Sony said, "but respect Disney's decision not to have [Feige] continue as a lead producer of our next live action Spider-Man film."

While most audiences likely don't pay much attention to the producer credits on the films they see, this one will likely have a huge impact on upcoming superhero films, both in Sony's Spider-Man franchise and in the MCU. Let's break down just what Peter Parker's surprise exit could mean for MCU films going forward, and how Marvel Studios might cope with such a huge loss. 

Don't expect the death of Peter Parker

Sony purchased the film rights to Spider-Man and all its associated characters from Marvel back in the '90s. Tom Holland's Spidey was allowed to appear in the MCU through a unique collaborative deal between Sony and Disney, in which Sony retained the rights to the character, but Feige oversaw production on the films. Although Holland's Spider-Man films were set in the MCU, his contract was with Sony — and there are still a couple movies left on it.

According to Deadline's sources, both Holland and director John Watts are still committed to two more Spider-Man films, which Sony's statement about "our next live action Spider-Man film" seems to indicate are still going forward. This means that audiences likely will get that Spider-Man: Far From Home sequel we've been expecting — it just won't take place in the MCU. However, Sony has also implied that the split could be temporary, saying, "We hope this might change in the future." 

With more Holland films on the way and the possibility that he could someday swing back into the MCU, Marvel will probably want to keep the door open for Peter Parker. This means that however the MCU manages to justify his abrupt exit, it probably won't be an off-screen death. Not only would killing the character be confusing for audiences, who will still see Peter alive and well in Sony's films, but it would undermine Peter's triumphant return during the final act of Endgame, and Tony Stark's noble sacrifice.

The MCU will be losing more than just Spider-Man

Losing Tom Holland is already a pretty significant gut-punch for the MCU, but the hits just keep on coming. Not only is Sony taking back Spider-Man; they're also reclaiming all the related characters that they'd previously loaned to Marvel. While neither Sony nor Disney has ever been transparent in exactly which characters are included in Sony's licensing deal, Sony holds the rights to around 900 Marvel characters altogether, which likely includes not only every iteration of characters who have ever been bitten by radioactive spiders, but also every villain, ally, and supporting character that first debuted in the various Spider-comics. 

In the MCU, this includes Aunt May (Marissa Tomei), Ned (Jacob Batalon), Betty Brant (Angourie Rice), and Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori), along with villains Vulture (Michael Keaton) and Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal). It also means that we'll be unlikely to ever see characters such as Gwen Stacy or Spider-Woman Jessica Drew introduced in the MCU.

Less clear is the fate of Zendaya's MJ, whose nickname is a nod to Mary Jane Watson, Peter's girlfriend and eventual wife in the comics. In the movies, though, she's technically an original character named Michelle Jones. It's possible that Marvel could go back to calling her "Michelle," as she was referred to throughout all of Spider-Man: Homecoming, and keep Zendaya around in some capacity, perhaps using her to help address Peter's departure. Then again, she may be considered an original Sony character, meaning we may never see her in the MCU again. 

The MCU may have to embrace some creative nicknames

After leaning so heavily on Peter Parker during Phase 3 of the MCU — with two solo Spider-Man films and featured appearances in two Avengers epics and Captain America: Civil War — Marvel is going to have to address his sudden departure one way or another. There's no way Peter can simply evaporate from the MCU with none of the other characters noticing. Even if he could, Marvel is going to want a way to make it clear to its audiences that the upcoming Spider-Man films from Sony aren't tied into the MCU, even though they still star Tom Holland.

The difficulty Marvel will face is that Sony doesn't just own the on-screen portrayal of Peter Parker; they exclusively own the right to even mention his name, along with any of the other 900 characters that Sony owns. Peter Parker is basically the Voldemort of the MCU now — he is the kid who cannot be named. This means that Marvel is going to have to get creative if they want to explain where he's gone, and may have to embrace Tony Stark's penchant for nicknames in order to get their message across. So don't be surprised if upcoming MCU films contain some mentions of "the kid," "the ranting idiot on the internet," "that guy with all the drones," or other pointed references to Spidey characters that are just vague enough to slip under Sony's radar. 

Far From Home sets up a possible exit for Peter Parker

At the end of Spider-Man: Far From Home, the Daily Bugle (now an Info Wars-like website rather than the physical newspaper it is in the comics) releases a doctored video that frames Spider-Man for the murder of Mysterio, and for the drone attacks that devastated a handful of European cities. It also reveals his identity as Peter Parker, turning Peter from a seemingly regular high school student to a wanted fugitive in an instant. 

While fans originally assumed that this scene could indicate a paradigm shift that would ricochet throughout the MCU, Marvel may instead use it to help explain the disappearance of Peter Parker. Although they can't refer to either Peter or the Daily Bugle by name, they could still make it clear that Peter had to go underground due to the world now thinking he's now a villain. It might take a bit of narrative gymnastics to convince audiences why the Avengers wouldn't rush to assist their besmirched former colleague, but sending Peter into hiding for an indeterminate amount of time could explain his prolonged (or permanent) absence from the MCU. It could also help make Holland's films with Sony less confusing for audiences who haven't been paying any attention to which studio owns which hero. 

The unfinished legacy of Tony Stark

Ever since Spider-Man: Homecoming, the MCU has been setting up Peter Parker as the heir apparent to Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), a theme which took center stage in Spider-Man: Far From Home. Not only did Tony step into Peter's life as a father figure, a bond which fueled some of the most heartbreaking moments in both Infinity War and Endgame, but he also saw in Peter a kindred mind and spirit, someone who could follow in his innovative footsteps after he was gone. 

In Far From Home, the departed Stark bequeaths Peter a pair of glasses equipped with E.D.I.T.H. technology, an artificial intelligence that carries the virtual keys to Stark's massive technological kingdom. Later on in the film, Peter designs himself a new Spider-Man suit using Tony's equipment as Tony's best friend and assistant Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) looks on. Tony clearly meant for Peter to be the one to carry on his legacy, both emotionally and technically, with Marvel's full blessing. Now, with no more Peter in the MCU, those E.D.I.T.H. glasses will likely wind up in the hands of someone who's sticking with the franchise (probably Happy), but it will have to fall on the other heroes of the MCU to keep the memory of Tony alive in their hearts. 

The Avengers may have to head to Wakanda for their tech now

Stark Industries still exists in the MCU, but it's lost its resident innovator, along with the character who was meant to follow in his footsteps. Although it's likely that a different MCU character will take the reins of Stark Industries — maybe Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), who we saw applying for a job at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier — it requires a unique type of thinker to invent the trailblazing new technology Tony Stark was responsible for. 

There are a number of super-geniuses in the MCU, including Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), who was also close to Tony and resides in New York, but whose specialties of biochemistry, nuclear physics, and gamma radiation don't have much overlap with Tony's technical prowess. However, with Peter gone, there's still one character who has been shown to be just as (if not more) technically brilliant than Tony Stark. Princess Shuri (Letitia Wright), the younger sister of King T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) oversees all of the advanced scientific operations of the kingdom of Wakanda, including the Wakandan International Outreach Centre. She was also responsible for crafting Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) a new vibranium arm and nullifying the HYDRA programming in his brain, and for gathering a significant amount of information from the Mind Stone before it was destroyed. Without Peter to take over the innovative branch of Stark Industries for Tony, it may be Shuri the Avengers turn to for any future technical needs. 

Say goodbye to the possibility of the Sinister Six

The end of Spider-Man: Homecoming paved the way for a new kind of super-team in the MCU: the Sinister Six, a group of supervillains who unite around their shared hatred of Spider-Man. In the comics, the Sinister Six forms when a group of villains, including Quentin Beck/Mysterio and Adrian Toomes/Vulture, escape from prison and hatch a plot to take down Spider-Man once and for all. In Homecoming, it looked as though Mac Gargan/Scorpion (Michael Mando) would be filling in for one of the Six, approaching Toomes in prison to ask about Spider-Man's secret identity. The end of Far From Home also seemed to tease the Sinister Six by introducing an antagonistic version of J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons), who has occasionally been linked to the villainous team in the comics. 

However, since Sony now holds creative control of all of Spider-Man's villains in addition to Spidey himself, it looks like we can let go of any hopes of eventually seeing a Sinister Six story play out in the MCU. Vulture, Scorpion, and the rest could still appear in future Sony films (as was the plan before the Andrew Garfield-fronted Spidey franchise got dusted) but we no longer expect to see them face off against the Avengers

The tragic love life of Happy Hogan

Poor Happy Hogan can't seem to catch a break. Just when things were beginning to look up for him after the death of his best friend, Tony Stark, he gets the rug pulled out from under him. In Spider-Man: Far From Home, the perpetual bachelor finally found romantic companionship, and maybe even more than that, with Peter Parker's single (and presumably widowed, although the MCU hasn't ever clarified the specifics of what happened to Uncle Ben) Aunt May. During the climactic battle toward the end of the film, Happy even professes his love for May, although May later plays down their relationship as simply a "summer fling." 

However, with all of the Spider-Man characters exiting the MCU en masse, that leaves Happy back on his own, left behind while May and Peter move on to... wherever they're going. Happy wouldn't be the first MCU bachelor to be dumped off-screen — Thor and Jane broke up at some point between Avengers: Age of Ultron and Thor: Ragnarok, although it was hinted at in Ultron that they were already on the rocks — but we can't help but feel bad for him, especially since he and Peter had finally started to bond over the loss of Tony, and now he'll be gone too. 

Leaning into the multiverse

Marvel is probably breathing a sigh of relief right now that the multiverse they teased in Spider-Man: Far From Home turned out to be a fakeout, created by disgruntle former Stark employee Quentin Beck. Although Marvel's Phase 4 plan looks to embrace the idea of the multiverse in a major way, with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness set to hit theaters in 2021, it could have been disastrous for the MCU if it had tried to build Phase 4 and beyond on a character it no longer had the rights to. 

However, the multiverse could also be exactly the tool Marvel needs to make sense of a world without Spider-Man. It's unclear what exactly the MCU version of the multiverse will look like or how it will come about, but in the comics, the multiverse has been responsible for all sorts of alternate realities where characters and stories played out very differently than in the main storylines. Perhaps the MCU's introduction of the multiverse in Phase 4 will lead Earth's Mightiest Heroes to a world where there is no Peter Parker at all, or where Tom Holland plays a different character entirely. It sounds strange, but when adapting the bizarre multiverse of the comics, anything is possible. 

What If...? could help fill in some holes

Marvel's upcoming animated series What If...? has been pitched as entirely hypothetical, but what if... it's not? We've previously speculated that What If...? may be a way for the MCU to provide backstory on various multiverse storylines, before tying some of them into the primary live-action universe. Although Sony's deal precludes Marvel from including even an animated version of Spider-Man or any related characters in its Disney+ series, What If...?'s unique format may allow Marvel to fill in some of the Spidey-shaped gaps in its Phase 4 worldbuilding without significant retooling of any of its live-action properties. 

Of course, even with an animated multiverse, Marvel would have to get creative in order to explain away the absence of a major character without using his name, the names of any of his family or friends, or referencing his abilities, but if there's one thing Marvel is known for after more than a decade of successful and unprecedented worldbuilding, it's thinking outside the box. 

There's room on the roster for a new young superhero

Marvel only recently announced their Phase 4 slate, which features five feature films and five TV shows spread out over 2020 and 2021, and have yet to firmly announce what they have planned for Phase 5 and beyond. However, it seems like a safe bet that they originally had a slot reserved in their Phase 5 lineup for a third solo Spider-Man film, which means that spot could now be up for grabs. 

Kevin Feige has previously hinted at an eventual Young Avengers film in the MCU, and while Peter Parker was not a Young Avenger in the comics, he could've been the perfect character to bridge the gap between the old guard and the newer, younger team in the films. Now that he's gone, Marvel may be in need of a new young superhero to eventually shift over to the Young Avengers alongside Kate Bishop and Cassie Lang, possibly sooner than they'd originally intended. It would be great if Marvel decided to fill the hole in its roster by bringing in a new high school-aged superhero like America Chavez, Riri Williams, or Kamala Khan, making lemonade out of its Peter Parker-shaped lemons.

The next phase of the Avengers

Unless Marvel has been working really hard to throw us off the scent, it seems like a safe assumption that Spider-Man was intended to be one of the co-leaders of the Avengers in the next few Phases of the MCU, alongside Anthony Mackie's Sam Wilson, who was chosen as Captain America's (Chris Evans) successor at the end of Avengers: Endgame. Not only did Peter Parker get some of the weightiest emotional moments in both of Phase 3's Avengers films, but Far From Home came as close to a literal passing of the torch as it could without involving an actual torch. We'll never know what the original plan for Peter was in the MCU, but it doesn't seem like much of a stretch to assume that he was meant to follow in Tony's footsteps, both at Stark Industries and as a leader of Earth's Mightiest Heroes. 

Although Sam is definitely capable of leading the Avengers by himself, chances are that Marvel will still want someone else there to balance him out. Although Sony's statement said that they hope their agreement with Marvel may get revived at some point in the future, after finding themselves in this position once, it's doubtful that Marvel would want to bank on the possibility of ever getting Peter back, which means a different character will probably get a significant promotion soon. We just hope that before Marvel appoints a new lead Avenger, they make sure they've got the rights situation locked down.