Spider-Man: No Way Home may have been the final chapter in Tom Holland's Spider-Man origin story, but it doesn't mean MCU fans have seen the last of the web-slinger or his friends. While the Multiversal epic masterfully set up Spidey's future in New York City, due to Doctor Strange's spell, the future of Jacob Batalon's Ned and Zendaya's MJ is in question and a huge topic of Spider-Man 4 speculation.
No Way Home's emotional ending confirms that MJ and Ned are still headed to MIT; however, leading up to that tearful conclusion, the film teases Ned's own superhero - and supervillain - potential.
In addition to showing Ned's ability to open portals and having him briefly sport the Cloak of Levitation (which has even sparked discussion about a sorcerer-themed spin-off), No Way Home included a moment where Ned learns from Tobey Maguire's Peter that his best friend turned into a villain and tried to kill him. This prompts Ned to promise Tom Holland's Peter that he wouldn't do the same; however, in the comics, Ned Leeds is often associated with a villain known as the Hobgoblin.
As fans eagerly await news about Spider-Man 4, Ned Leed's Jacob Batalon just added fuel to the speculative fires concerning the potentially dark future of his character.
Jacob Batalon Teases His Hobgoblin Spider-Man Future
Jacob Batalon recently reshared an image of himself holding a Hobgoblin action figure on his Instagram story, which was shared via Reddit, leading to further speculation about the future of Ned Leeds in the MCU.
The picture can be seen below:
While the character of Ned Leeds has been associated with the Hobgoblin in the comics, it's a complicated story.
Various individuals in the comics have owned the Hobgoblin persona through the years, including Robert Kingsley, who acquired the Green Goblin's gear and became involved with the criminal underworld. Ned Leeds is roped into the drama after having been brainwashed to believe he's the Hobgoblin and even forms an alliance with Kingpin's son to overthrow Wilson Fisk.
How Are Marvel Fans Reacting?
In response to Batalon's picture, a number of fans shared their opinions on the possibility of Peter Parker's "guy in the chair" becoming the Hobgoblin.
For instance, HavengulWitch claimed that Ned is too "wholesome to be the least bit threatening" and that past Spider-Man franchises have "played out" the trope of Peter's best friend becoming a villain:
"MCU Ned would make a terrible Hobgoblin. He’s too goofy and wholesome to be the least bit threatening (plus Ned wasn’t even the real Hobgoblin
They’ve done the “Peter’s best friend becomes a goblin themed villain” way too much. It’s played out"
Methdotrandom agreed, saying that "Hobgoblin would suit someone who looks as menacing as Harry Osborne:"
"Don’t want to sound offensive but don’t you think that he won’t fit the persona of Hobgoblin? I mean he looks like a cheerful guy who would give you a hug. Hobgoblin would suit someone who looks as menacing as Harry Osborne."
However, tangoliber had a different perspective, noting that Spider-Man: No Way Home spell likely changed Ned's life and led to "a massive shift in personality:"
"Peter was his best friend. Now, the memory of him has been replaced, leaving behind a weird empty spot. All those times that Ned and Peter ate lunch together in the cafeteria? With Peter’s memory erased, Ned now only remembers eating alone, day after day. Could be a massive shift in personality, if they wanted to go that route."
West-Cardiologist180 agreed, explaining that two former best friends going head to head would "be Cap vs Iron Man levels of emotional:"
"Like I’ve been saying, I wouldn’t be surprised if the MCU takes Ned down that route...and I wouldn’t be mad either. If done right, Ned as Hobgoblin would absolutely work. Imagine Ned Leeds as Hobgoblin vs Symbiote Spider-Man. It’d be Cap vs Iron Man levels of emotional."
Will Ned Actually Become a Villain?
It's difficult to know, or even predict, what Marvel Studios has in store for Jacob Batalon's Ned - or anyone within the Spider-Man franchise - given the studio shares the characters with Sony. And, despite fans knowing Ned's story in the comics, Marvel Studios and Sony have always favored adaptation over imitation.
It's safe to say that Ned will be back though, as Zendaya's MJ is already confirmed to make a return. Now, since Ned was given magical Doctor Strange-esque abilities in No Way Home, and there's no precedent for such in the comics, it seems like the studios are hinting at a different path for the on-screen Ned Leeds.
With Ned and MJ presumably off to MIT, perhaps Batalon's character could find himself going down a villainous path there. Future MCU hero Riri Williams will be attending MIT in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever too, so perhaps she will have something to do with Ned's transformation into the Hobgoblin.
However, that's not to say that audiences don't get a darker version of the character in Spider-Man 4. After all, having Doctor Strange's spell change the trajectory of Ned's life and serve as his villain's origin story has a lot of storytelling potential.
Finally, it's important to note that Batalon's picture may not mean anything at all. The actor is aware of the Hobgoblin speculation and he has commented on it before. His social media post could very well be the Spider-Man star having fun.
But still, it's hard to deny the fact that No Way Home teased a different kind of future for Peter Parker's "guy in the chair." But in the meantime, just what the future will look like remains up for debate.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is available for purchase on all major digital platforms.