Sony Pictures Television has tapped The LEGO Movie and Cloudy with a Change of Meatballs filmmakers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller to develop a number of programs based on the company’s piece of Marvel Entertainment as part of an overall development deal, according to news reports.
At first glance, it definitely looks like a good fit, as Lord co-wrote Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, the phenomenal, Oscar-winning, and Certified Fresh debut of Spider-Man Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) in theaters — who will likely continue his adventures on the big screen.
But can the duo sustain a whole Spider-Verse industry with just the intellectual property available to them through Sony’s control of Spider-Man and related characters? Perhaps these five TV show ideas prove just how easy it will be to build a television Spider-Verse.
Original Creators: Tom DeFalco and Mark Armstrong
Format: half-hour animated series
Considering the impact Spider-Ham made in Into the Spider-Verse, we’ll be stunned if a Spider-Ham animated series was not the first thought Miller and Lord had when the ink dried on their deal.
Originally a goof character in one of Marvel’s honest-to-goodness funny books, Peter Porker stayed around to earn his own title. The conscious funny animal parody of Spider-Man is a key part of the appeal – and why he is such a success in the film – and it is easy to imagine a half-hour cartoon playing on the fact Spider-Ham and his world’s inhabitants know they are cartoons. Spider-Ham could face Mysteriape, the Buzzard (Spider-Ham’s take on The Vulture), and the King-Pig – a part we’re sure Vincent D’Onofrio would love to make his own. To say nothing about Spider-Ham’s team-ups with Goose Rider and Deerdevil! Provided the Spider-Ham spoofs of Ghost Rider and Daredevil are part of Sony’s Spider-Man IP package, of course.
The series would have to be more than punny names and one-liners. But considering Lord and Miller managed to find emotional content in LEGO minifigs and a spoof of 21 Jump Street, the hardest part will be casting the voices joining John Mulaney on this journey. We are, of course, presuming he would return to voice Spider-Ham. He already reprised the role for the Caught in the Act short film accompanying the home video release of Into the Spider-Verse.
If there is one stumbling block, it may be Marvel Entertainment’s – and therefore Disney’s – general control of the characters in regards to television animation; they produce the current Spider-Man cartoon, for example. It is entirely possible they would the first shot at an animated Spider-Ham series.
Original Creators: Jason Latour and Robbie Rodriguez
Format: hour-long live-action drama
The Spider-Gwen comics re-imagine Spider-Man’s ill-fated girlfriend Gwen Stacy as the one bitten by the radioactive spider on that high school field trip. She becomes Spider-Woman, while Peter uses his abilities with science to emulate her. The premise is full of great hooks thanks to the way it restructures Spider-Man’s origins and world. Peter, for example, becomes the Lizard and after he attacks the school dance, Spider-Woman ends up blamed for his death. On her world, Matt Murdoch is both the Kingpin and one of her constant adversaries, Peggy Carter is the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., and a female Sam Wilson is the Captain America who fought in World War II (Steve Rogers made comics about her exploits after she vanished at the end of the war).
But all of those changes to established characters underpin the relationships between Gwen and her friends – which include Mary Jane Watson, Betty Brant, and Glory Grant – and with her father, Captain George Stacy. He initially hunts Spider-Woman not knowing she and Gwen are the same person. And considering a lot of the elements of Spider-Gwen’s larger world would not be available to the production because of complicated rights reasons – Matt Murdoch cannot be a live-action character until 2023 thanks to the original deal with Netflix, for example – getting to the meat of Gwen’s story would be key in a live action take on the comic book. Keeping her identity secret from her father definitely makes for a great season 1 story.
Original Creators: Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz
Format: hour-long live-action drama
But for a character without complicated rights issues, Lord and Miller could turn to Silver Sable, a character so clearly in Sony’s control, they very nearly made a film teaming her up with Black Cat. It had a release date at one time and director Gina Prince-Bythewood (who defined the look of Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger) set to helm the production. Then Sony separated the characters into their own projects. Now, it is unclear if it is happening at all. But maybe the character would be better served on television.
As the owner of a private military contracting service, Silver Sablinova could find herself in a political drama like The West Wing or a spy game program like Alias. Trained by her father to hunt Nazis, Silver Sable personally handles any contract which leads to the apprehension or elimination of war criminals. Using those ideas, a Silver Sable TV show could be one of the meatier and grittier programs Miller and Lord develop. Provided Sony wants something more like Homeland, of course.
If the company really wants multiple television shows, varying up the tone and pitching the content to different age groups will be a must. And even if the show skews more toward the adventure aspects with less of an emphasis on geopolitics or Silver Sable’s interior life, it could prove to be the concept meant for an older audience. Also, we’d welcome another pilot directed by Prince-Bythewood, who made the first episode of Cloak & Dagger quite compelling despite the fact the title characters only meet for a minute or two near the end.
Original Creators: David Hine, Fabrice Sapolsky, and Carmine Di Giandomenico
Format: hour-long live-action limited series or half-hour animated series
We’ll be honest, Spider-Man Noir, whether voiced by Nicolas Cage or not, really cannot sustain a long-running television series in the vein of Arrow or even Daredevil. But if designed as an eight-episode limited series, it has just enough of a premise and style to make it a stand-out short-run television program.
Then again, a Lord and Miller series based on the concept could take its cues from the original 2009 Spider-Man Noir comic book miniseries, in which Daily Bugle reporter Ben Urich uses his network of informants to blackmail local crime boss “the Goblin” and pay for his secret drug addiction with the money. Peter initially appears as someone Ben takes under his wing in this story, until Peter gets bitten by a mystical spider – science takes a back seat to mysticism in this reality – and learns the truth about Ben. While things do not turn out great for Ben in the comic, keeping him the focus of a television series and Spider-Man as something of a mystery re-centers the concept in thrilling way. Ben becomes the eyes and ears of a heavily shadowed 1934 in which we see characters we recognize, but in whole new ways; like the Chameleon as a simple master of disguise or Otto Octavius as a Nazi agent.
The reality of producing a show with a stylized period aesthetic would keep Spider-Man Noir a limited series – or turn it into a prestige animated program – but it could be strong enough to commission a second eight-episode run.
Original Creators: Dan Slott and Ryan Stegman
Format: hour-long animated series
The Superior Spider-Man is one of the best twists on Spider-Man ever devised: a dying Doctor Octopus transfers his mind into the body of Peter Parker and vows to be a “superior” version of Parker in every way – including as Spider-Man. He becomes a more efficient hero by deploying spider-bots to canvass the city for him. He also returns to college to complete the doctorate Parker abandoned sometime earlier. And, for a time, it seems Otto Octavius is, indeed, superior.
But soon, Parker’s consciousness reemerges in their shared body, and Otto must fight the Amazing Spider-Man in his head while facing off against his old comrades in the Sinister Six. Also, a certain ruthlessness appears in the Superior Spider-Man, leaving his friends in the superhero community to wonder about his sudden willingness to kill.
The ideas are great and the images are big, necessitating the rare use of the hour-long animated format. A Superior Spider-Man television show would be unlike anything anyone has ever seen – it will literally convince the audience to side with Doc Ock – with big action, an absolutely outstanding central character, and the sort of unconventional superheroics any writer versed in Spider-Man would love to play with.
Of course, these are just five ways Lord and Miller could populate TV Spider-Verse today. Characters like Spider-Girl, Silk, and Spider-Man 2099 could all lead their own shows. It is also possible to promote supporting characters to lead status in shows more focused on, say, the Daily Bugle or Empire State University. Venom also proves you can take the characters out of the familiar Spider-Man context but maintain essential elements in places far from New York. As long as the tones are varied enough, Lord, Miller, and Sony could pull off multiple series. Whether it actually happens remains to be seen.