Rumours seem to be strongly suggesting that Sony and Marvel Studios are cooking up some sort of live-action crossover that will link together the Spider-Man film franchises starring Tom Holland, Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire.
Although a lot of these rumours are yet to be confirmed by anything close to official sources, the internet has pretty much unanimously agreed that a Spider-Verse crossover between our various big-screen Spidey stars would be very welcome indeed.
For gamers and comic-book readers, however, this may sound very familiar indeed. Read on to discover how Marvel's multimedia output has been building ol' web-head's multiverse for over a decade...
The crossover began in the gaming world
Although comic book writers and artists have been dreaming up alternate versions of Spider-Man for yonks now, the first major crossover event between different wall-crawling heroes actually occurred in the realm of video games.
It was a Canadian studio called Beenox who had the idea of a multiverse-hopping game called Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, which they eventually delivered for a 2010 release on PS3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii and PC. There was also a Nintendo DS version by Griptonite Games.
With a clairvoyant mutant named Madame Web acting as the cosmic lynchpin, the game brought together four different heroes: a traditional modern-day 'Amazing Spider-Man', a 1940s 'Spider-Man Noir', a futuristic 'Spider-Man 2099', and a symbiote-enhanced 'Ultimate Spider-Man'.
Mysterio smashed up a powerful ancient tablet in the game's opening scene, which bestowed extra powers on various iconic villains across the multiverse.
The player was tasked with controlling each different Spider-Man in turn, hopping between their universes to clean up the superpowered villains that Mysterio had created.
It was a fairly simple story (as far as any story containing multiple universes can be 'simple'), but the seed was sown here. An idea was planted. The Spider-Verse was born, and the wider Marvel media group took notice.
In 2011, Beenox and Other Ocean Interactive released Spider-Man: Edge Of Time, a sequel to Shattered Dimensions which brought the Amazing Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2099 back together for a timey-wimey quest. But it would be in comic books that the wider Spider-Verse took shape.
The comics went wild with Spider-Verse stories
Let's jump back in time for a second. Back when Beenox was making Shattered Dimensions, they brought in Marvel Comics writer Dan Slott, with the comic-book Spidey expert helping to write the game.
As Slott recalled in a Twitter thread last year, "Beenox studios flew me to Quebec to show me their new game in development: Spider-Man Shattered Dimensions so I could write the story around it. It'd involve Spidey, Ultimate Spider-Man, Spider-Man Noir, & Spider-Man 2099, all in one big adventure.
"I called my editor, Steve Wacker, from the studio. Told him the game looked GREAT and that we should do this story in the comics, but one up them, make it BIGGER and do something they couldn't do, have all the Spideys interact, and use EVERY SPIDER-MAN EVER!"
And so the idea of a multiverse-powered Spider-Man crossover leapt from video games into comic books, with Dan Slott bringing the idea back to Marvel Comics. But he wasn't the only writer thinking along these lines.
To fully understand the Spider-Verse, you also need to know who Brian Michael Bendis is. Along with artist Sara Pichelli, the writer Brian Michael Bendis created Miles Morales in 2011. The biracial teenager Miles Morales was first introduced in the comics' 'Ultimate' Marvel universe, where Peter Parker died and Miles took up the Spidey mantle in his wake.
To mark the 50th anniversary of Spider-Man's existence, in 2012, Bendis penned and released a comic-book series called Spider-Men, which brought together the Ultimate-universe Miles Morales and the original-universe Peter Parker.
Again, Spider-Men was fairly simple as dimension-hopping crossovers go. But with the gift of hindsight, we can see this as a 'toe in the water' for printed Spider-Verse stories. Because if you can handle two Spider-Men, why not have tens of them all in the same story?!
In 2014, Dan Slott finally kicked off the huge comic-book Spider-Verse event he'd been dreaming of since working on Shattered Dimensions. Running from November 2014 to February 2015, this truly massive event was an intricate web of stories, where heroes came in from countless different dimensions and hopped between the main book and its numerous spinoff titles.
Miles Morales, Spider-Gwen, Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Ham and many more well-crawlers joined the original Spider-Man for this adventure. There was even a version of Spidey whose mind had been swapped with that of Doctor Octopus! Also, as a tease for film fans everywhere, there was brief dialogue exchange alluding to versions of Spidey who looked like Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield.
The main villain of the Spider-Verse comic-book event was a vampire-like chap named Morlun. He was the leader of a nefarious family called the 'Inheritors', all of whom wanted to hunt and devour Spider-Totems across the multiverse. These totems, of course, were the Spider-People of various dimensions, and it took all of these heroes teaming up to defeat Morlun and save the day.
Animation put the Spider-Verse on a more mainstream map
In the years since Dan Slott's Spider-Verse comic-book series wrapped in 2015, there's been an explosion of Spider-Man multiverse action all over the pop-culture shop. While some punters may have missed a couple of video games and a comic-book event, the existence of multiple Spider-Men is now mainstream knowledge.
Marvel's animated shows, toy lines and mobile games soon started to reflect the fact that Spider-Man isn't just one single character anymore. The 'brand' of Spider-Man is now a vast multitude of possibilities where anyone could wear the mask.
No slice of multimedia reflects the 'anybody could be Spider-Man' mythos quite like Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, an animated big-screen feature film which Sony released in 2018 to huge acclaim and box-office success. The movie was directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman, and it went on to win the 2019 Academy Award for Best Animated Film.
Into The Spider-Verse shows a young Miles Morales witnessing the death of Peter Parker, in his own universe, before being thrust into a huge multiverse-saving crossover with an alternate-universe's downtrodden version of Peter Parker, along with fresh versions of Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Gwen and Spider-Ham. Kingpin was the main villain this time: the New York crimelord was willing to rip the multiverse apart if it meant he could fix things with his wife.
There have been more comic-book events (see 2017's Venom-Verse and 2018's Spider-Geddon) and further references in video games (see 2020's Spider-Man: Miles Morales game, which paid a huge homage to Into The Spider-Verse), but the commercial and critical success of Into The Spider-Verse seems to have catapulted this concept into a whole new dimension of possibilities.
And now Hollywood could be calling...
As an outsider looking in, it seems like Marvel and Sony have finally come to a conclusion which fans reached ages ago: if the concept of a Spider-Verse can work for games, comics, toys and animated adventures, why would it not work as a live-action cinematic spectacular?
With Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield and Tom Holland already established as big-screen Spider-Men in their own right, it almost looks like Sony's hasty reboots of years gone by could be due to pay off. To see those actors bringing their different versions of Peter Parker to life in the same story? That could be something really special.
It has to be said, though: as of right now, a live-action Spider-Verse has NOT been officially confirmed by Sony or Marvel. But when you see an incredibly reputable trade publication like The Hollywood Reporter stating that Alfred Molina's Doc Ock and Jamie Foxx's Electro are both returning from the Spider-Man franchises of yesteryear, it's hard not to get excited for what the MCU's Spider-Man 3 could hold.
At the time of this paragraph being written, only more rumour-focused publications seem convinced that Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield are also coming back. The likes of The Hollywood Reporter are steering clear of saying that's confirmed.
Marvel and Sony have not commented on that matter, even after Jamie Foxx posted artwork of three Spider-Men on his Instagram page (and then hastily deleted the post).
We shouldn't take those returns as fact, then, but one thing's for sure: if all of these rumours are true, we're more than ready to jump back into the Spider-Verse again. Just don't forget that we have a game from ten years ago to thank...