With the beginning of the 21st Century a new sort of media franchise began to rise to a dominant place in motion pictures: superhero movies or rather, superhero film universes. While arguably began by 20th Century Fox with its series about Marvel super-team “X-Men” and Columbia/Sony with its “Spider-Man films, it was Marvel themselves that mastered the super-verse with its MCU franchise. Years later, Fox is on the verge of being acquired by Marvel’s parent company Disney, potentially uniting the X-Men with the MCU, which currently shares Spider-Man film rights with Sony. Sony however continues to develop its own Marvel films, and may have hit upon a possible franchise name.
Comic Book Resources has it that Columbia Pictures, a Sony subsidiary and the studio that has been producing movie adaptations of Marvel’s “Spider-Man” character for years, has just hit on a description for their current project of producing films based on the friendly neighborhood web-crawler’s vast supporting cast of allies and foes. Columbia Pictures president Sanford Panitch reveals in an interview that internally their anthology of Spider-man related Marvel movies such as the Tom Hardy starrer “Venom” this October, has been addressed as the Sony’s Universe of Marvel Characters (SMUC).
The earlier agreement between Marvel Studios and Sony/Columbia on sharing “Spider-Man” and certain characters connected to him (by virtue of first appearing in his comic book titles) has some rather complicated arrangements. Some Spider-characters are free game, enabling Marvel Studios to add Peter Parker/Spider-Man in the MCU’s “Captain America: Civil War” and “Avengers: Infinity War”. Others however, remain under Sony’s purview and can only appear in films they produce. “Venom” was the first of these movies under the arrangement and can be considered the progenitor of the SMUC, soon to be followed by “Morbius the Living Vampire” starring Jared Leto of Warner-DC’s “Suicide Squad” fame.
At a glance, the Sony Universe of Marvel Characters comes across as being limited in scope, with only Spider-franchise characters being considered for use by Columbia. Then again, in the strictest definition that means that Sony/Columbia can work with around 900 unique characters in Spider-Man’s long comic history, ranging from recurring figures to one-off individuals.
“Venom” is originally based on a constant Spider-Man super-villain and occasional antihero, but in the upcoming movie his character, played by Tom Hardy, is apparently retooled to have an origin independent of Spider-Man. The film is directed by Ruben Fleischer and also features Michelle Williams and Riz Amed in cast. Aside from this and “Morbius”, other possible SMUC films will feature allies and enemies of Spider-Man including Silver Sable, Black Cat and Kraven the Hunter.
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