It’s an innocent question, really, one that any 12-year-old who digs superheroes might ask: Why isn’t Spider-Man ever in any movies with Iron Man or Captain America or The Hulk? The question is simple, but the answer is complicated. It begins with, “Because once upon a time, Marvel was almost broke.”
Long before Kevin Feige and turned Marvel Studios into a cash machine, Marvel Comics — barely staying afloat — had parceled off all of their marquee characters to whomever would pay. Which is how Sony got Spider-Man; Fox got the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, and Daredevil; and how New Line got hold of Blade. No one wanted Iron Man, Thor or Captain America — along with thousands of other characters — so they stayed with Marvel.
Now, the rights to some of those characters have returned to Marvel (Fox tried to make Daredevil work, but couldn’t and the option lapsed, hence the new Netflix Daredevil series), but for the other studios, the deal remains: As long as they keep actively working on new films featuring those characters, they retain the rights. Which is why Fox going to make X-Men films and spin-offs until hell freezes over and why Sony rebooted Spider-Man with Andrew Garfield weeks after Tobey Maguire hung up his tights.
These characters are worth billions, which is why Marvel wants them back and no studio will give them up. Until yesterday, when Marvel announced that they’ve reached a deal with Sony to, well, share Spider-Man:
Under the deal, the new Spider-Man will first appear in a Marvel film from Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (MCU). Sony Pictures will thereafter release the next installment of its $4 billion Spider-Man franchise, on July 28, 2017, in a film that will be co-produced by Kevin Feige and his expert team at Marvel and Amy Pascal, who oversaw the franchise launch for the studio 13 years ago. Together, they will collaborate on a new creative direction for the web slinger. Sony Pictures will continue to finance, distribute, own and have final creative control of the Spider-Man films.
So, yeah, Spidey will swing through the same Manhattan that houses Avengers tower, the same Harlem that the Hulk crushed that one time, over the same Brooklyn that gave birth to Captain America.
But it won’t be the same Peter Parker: Buzzfeed reports that Andrew Garfield — who was the face of The Amazing Spider-Man twofer — will be out of a job. Most likely to make room for Miles Morales, the mixed-race hero who first donned the blue-and-reds in 2011.
Everyone wins in this scenario. Marvel gets to put fucking Spider-Man in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War (according to The Wall Street Journal), Sony gets the boost from that to bring back to their own Spider-Man movies (and Marvel has moved Thor: Ragnarok from that July 28, 2017 date so as not to compete) and fans get the Marvel Team-Up they’ve always wanted.
Now, about those X-Men…
Marc Bernardin is the Deputy Editor of Playboy.com. He might be wearing Underoos today.