The word “Multiverse” has become the hottest buzzword in the comic book movie world.
It began in 2016 when Tilda Swinton’s Sorcerer Supreme explained that the magic her and other Masters of the Mystic Arts, like Stephen Strange, pull is energy from other universes. And then Loki happened in 2021 and changed the game forever. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki discovered the Time Variance Authority and the truth behind the Multiverse, time, Variant versions of himself and others, and just about everything in between.
Now, this setup, exploration, and build to the expansion of the Multiverse and the discovery of its secrets all comes down to one kid from Queens.
With the Multiverse cracking open in the Spider-Man: No Way Home trailer, the doorway to alternative universes outside the MCU comes with it. With endless universes suddenly being accessible, the possibilities of revisiting some of the biggest franchises in comic book movie history are more present than ever before.
The Spider-Man IP has been one of the most storied and iconic brands in the history of blockbuster films. Ever since 2002, Spider-Man movies have been the center of attention every time they hit theaters. Three official Spider-Man franchises, a spinoff universe starring the classic Spidey Rogues gallery, and an instant classic animation branch has allowed Sony Pictures to develop five different movie universes with the Spider-Man character roster.
The original Sam Raimi Trilogy from the early 2000s, the Andrew Garfield-led reboot, the MCU tie-in adaption, an anti-hero spinoff, and an animated heavyweight make up the five different Spider-Man universes Sony created. With that comes an elaborate list of Spider-Man characters in each one.
Sony's Spider-Man Movie Universes Explained (Infographic)
Here is a breakdown of which iconic Spider-Man characters have appeared in which Spider-Man movie universe and their potential to spill over into others.
The best place to start is usually at the beginning. Peter Parker is the face, heart, and soul of this franchise. The community debate on who everyone’s favorite Peter Parker is right up there with the debate on everyone’s favorite Batman. This is the pencil of the Spider-Man franchise and, really, the reason for this article.
Tom Holland came into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. This made him the third live-action Peter Parker, following Tobey Maguire’s trailblazing run from 2002-2007 and Andrew Garfield’s reboot iterations in 2012 and 2014. The rumors of the two legacy Spider-Men appearing in Holland’s third solo film are fueling the hype-fire of Spider-Man: No Way Home.
Director Jon Watts claimed that No Way Home will be “Spider-Man: Endgame.” For that to be true, how can Tobey and Andrew not show up?
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (ISTV) is the movie that introduced so many wild concepts and ideas to the Spider-Man universe, the least of which is the idea of multiple Peter Parkers existing within the Multiverse. Chris Pine and Jake Johnson both got the opportunity to voice their own versions of Peter Parker.
With Into the Spider-Verse being one of the most highly acclaimed Spider-Man projects by fans and critics alike, this type of exploration for such a wild concept will surely allow audiences to accept that fate if and when it hits live action.
Mary Jane Watson/MJ
Peanut Butter and Jelly. Movies and Popcorn. Peter Parker and MJ.
The ultimate love interest for Peter Parker has and always will be Mary Jane Watson, or “MJ” for short. Zendaya has played an alt version of this iconic comic book character since 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, set in the MCU. Before her, Kirsten Dunst was the secondary face of the Spider-Man franchise of the early 2000s, being a part of some of the most iconic moments in that universe.
Not pictured, Shailene Woodley filmed multiple scenes as Mary Jane for 2014's The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which were eventually scrapped during post-production. Woodley's deleted scenes included interactions with both Peter and Gwen outside of Peter's house as well as shots of her working as a waitress, although the film's final cut still includes a blink-and-you-miss-it shot of the back of Woodley's MJ working in a restaurant during Rhino's rampage.
Zoe Kravitz was able to voice the character in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, delivering one of the greatest speeches in comic book movie history.
There are no signs that Dunst will appear in No Way Home just yet, but mentions of Tobey Maguire’s past, if he is in this movie, are almost a sure thing. Expect there to be mention of Mary Jane if and when Tobey shows up.
Sometimes people like honey with their peanut butter and candy with their movies. And that is where Gwen Stacy comes in.
For as prolific as Mary Jane Watson is, Gwen Stacy is just as beloved in the Spider-Man community. Emma Stone brought the character into mainstream superstardom in The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Stone and Garfield broke through some story issues and potential studio setbacks and became one of the favorite couples in comic book movie history. This was a huge moment for the character after being used as a distractionary side character in Spider-Man 3, played by Bryce Dallas Howard.
Hailee Steinfeld voiced the character for the Into the Spider-Verse universe in a much more super-powered interpretation, no doubt preparing her for her future breakout role in the MCU’s Hawkeye Disney+ series.
The combination of what fans saw in ITSV and the rumors of Andrew Garfield’s return has created a dark horse possibility that Emma Stone will suit up for a Spider-Gwen cameo. Web-shooters crossed.
Holding the entire Spider-Man universe together is one woman who has become the matriarch of the comic book movie world, Aunt May.
Currently being played by Marisa Tomei, Aunt May has been the family touchstone for Peter Parker in all three live-action universes that apply. She was introduced in the Sam Raimi-directed movies with Rosemary Harris portraying a classic comic accuracy of the grandma-esque figure, as opposed to Tomei’s more motherly vibe.
Sally Field split the difference in The Amazing Spider-Man (TASM) universe to play the role of exploration for the mysterious past of the Parker family. She was also voiced by Lily Tomlin in the ITSV universe in a much smaller role.
Tomei is likely to be the only Aunt to appear in No Way Home, but references to the common denominator for all three Peter Parkers would likely take place.
If Peter Parker is the most important name in the Spider-Man universe, Uncle Ben is a close second.
Cliff Robertson portrayed Uncle Ben in the Raimi movies in the early 2000s and brought the importance of this character to life. He is also credited for the hyper-brief appearance of Uncle Ben in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, as they used archival footage from Spider-Man (2002).
Martin Sheen was the reboot casting in the TASM universe and created the paradox that owns Spidey debate to this day. With two live-action portrayals of the death of Uncle Ben, many wondered how the MCU would handle the defining moment of the Spider-Man story. Marvel Studios put it in Peter’s past with the potential to explore it down the line.
Uncle Ben is a hot-button topic for Spider-Man fans, and many are wondering if and when he will be addressed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The idea of three Peter Parkers in a room together brings that opportunity to the forefront.
J. Jonah Jameson
Here is where things get interesting. J. Jonah Jameson has appeared in one way or another in every live-action universe involving Spider-Man characters. That includes the Sony Spider-Man Universe that houses the Venom franchise and the upcoming Morbius film. The post-credits scene for Venom: Let There Be Carnage leaves some ability in play as to which universe J.K. Simmons' JJ Jameson actually appeared in, but he does have a speaking line in the movie.
Simmons has portrayed live-action J. Jonah Jameson in multiple Spider-Man movie universes and seems to be some sort of meta key to this entire rumor mill. Many fans believe that after his scene-stealing performance in the early 2000s Raimi movies, bringing him in for the shocking reveal in Spider-Man: Far From Home was the only thing that made sense.
With the Multiverse open and present in the MCU, J.K. Simmons’ J. Jonah Jameson seems to be the first crossover/Variant character in the story.
This is the biggest name on this list because of the simple fact that Alfred Molina was introduced in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 and is shown in the No Way Home trailer in full Doc Ock regalia coming after Peter Parker.
That last part is important, so it deserves to be expanded on. Alfred Molina’s Doctor Otto Octavius recognizes and seems to be ready to fight Tom Holland’s Peter Parker. This is the biggest mystery in comic book movies today. Why and how does Molina’s Otto recognize Holland’s Peter Parker?
The options are all over the place, but it comes down to two major possibilities. This could be the same Otto Octavius that sunk to the bottom of the river in Spider-Man 2, meaning that movie, and the universe it lives in, is a part of the MCU Multiverse making its way into No Way Home. This would also lean toward any appearance of Tobey Maguire to be the same Peter Parker from the Raimi movies, being placed in the canonical MCU with Tom Holland.
Or this is a variant Otto Octavius from a completely different and unlisted universe who is aware of Peter Parker’s existence for some reason. Many believe the attempted spell from Doctor Strange to make people forget Peter Parker is Spider-Man causes the Multiverse to leak into the MCU. That could thread to some sort of familiarity with Peter Parker by anyone crossing universes, but that remains to be seen.
Either way, this article would not exist if Alfred Molina hadn't announced his involvement with this film back in mid-2020. The speculation and theory for what, how, and when have been running rampant since then. Fans will likely get a resolution on December 17, 2021.
MCU star Kathryn Hahn was also able to make her presence felt as Doc Ock in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. However, she is surely more focused on her role as Agatha Harkness from WandaVision in a potential upcoming spinoff series.
Right alongside Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus is the Green Goblin, the first-ever villain in the Spider-Man franchise played by Willem Defoe and then followed up with a mantle pass by his son, played by James Franco. During the reboot of The Amazing Spider-Man franchise, Dane DeHaan played Harry Osborn and rode the glider in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Another brief appearance of such a legendary character in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse showed a more goblin-like version of Norman Osborn from the Marvel Ultimate Comics.
The No Way Home trailer featured a signature cackle and the iconic pumpkin bomb from Spider-Man (2002). While this certainly leads one to believe that Defoe will be returning as Green Goblin, the circumstances leave more questions than answers. Unlike Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock, audiences saw Willem Defoe’s Goblin die on screen. It was even the focal point of the next two movies, all but cementing his death.
This adds a ton of weight to the camp of Molina, Defoe, and all other similar villains being variant versions of characters we know, as opposed to continuations of the Raimi and TASM universes.
And then everything changes again with the recent release of Spider-Man: No Way Home trailer, with a full look at the Green Goblin in his vintage 2002 Sam Raimi suit. So, while there are signs pointing toward both sides of the new variant vs original variant theories, the original Green Goblin suit being on a piece of print marketing seems to make the original continuation the favorite.
And of course, there is the twist of a completely different-looking Goblin, with similar pumpkin bombs, wearing a ski mask, in the same trailer. There really is no clear answer with these characters.
Jamie Foxx is the one who tore the doors off the hinges with his seemingly accidental announcement of his return as Electro in Spider-Man: No Way Home. He also announced in the same erased Instagram post that he would not be returning to his patented blue from The Amazing Spider-Man 2. This adds some interesting theories to the pot.
In the second official trailer for Spider-Man: No Way Home, the legendary rumor who started the madness was officially confirmed. Jamie Foxx returned as Electro, with a shockingly new look. Ditching the blue and radiant electric skin, Foxx is covered with what looks like Stark-tech powering his abilities. This is the biggest and most clear indicator of which universe a villain is coming from. This is not the blue-skinned Electro from The Amazing Spider-Man 2. And this is not the same Max Dillon from TASM 2 either. Jamie Foxx has a totally different appearance, both powered and not.
With the information that can be gathered from Loki, a variant does not need to be completely different to be from another universe. But an appearance switch like this almost guarantees it for Electro in No Way Home.
Much like Foxx’s Electro, Thomas Haden Church’s Sandman seemingly evaporated into thin air at the end of his run in Spider-Man 3. These types of deaths are open-ended to an extent, but it would be interesting to see how they pull two characters from different universes.
Sandman made his appearance in the MCU in the latest No Way Home trailer. His appearance seems different, but at the end of the day it is a humanoid pile of sand, so there is no telling how different it really is.
Dr. Curt Connors
Rhys Ifans portrayed Dr. Curt Conners as the main antagonist of The Amazing Spider-Man. This was the first time the Lizard was brought to full form in live-action but not the first time audiences saw Dr. Connors in a Spider-Man movie.
In the early 2000s, Dylan Baker played Doctor Connors as one of Peter Parker’s professors. At the time, this was surely just a simple Easter egg with the potential to use the character down the line, which never ended up happening.
In the latest No Way Home trailer, the Lizard could be seen in full effect, with a design virtually identical to the TASM run. With Lizard being a transformation of the human Dr. Curt Connors, there is no telling who the man behind the scales is, or which universe he is coming from.
One of, if not the most, iconic villains in the Spider-Man universe is Venom. Introduced in 2007’s Spider-Man 3 by Topher Grace, this was a pretty hands-off character for a while. The reception to Grace’s iteration of the character was not well received, and it led to skepticism when Sony announced it was re-relaunching its Sony Spider-Man Universe with Tom Hardy’s Venom at the forefront.
Venom, however, was a box office success and led to Venom: Let There Be Carnage following suit in 2021. The post-credits scene for the sequel was marketed as the biggest one of all time. And that may be right.
Tom Hardy’s Venom was suddenly transported somewhere with some visual effects that made audiences think of Doctor Strange. He then appeared in a hotel room watching the news of J. Jonah Jameson announcing that Tom Holland's Peter Parker is Spider-Man.
This might be the first look at a character from one of these five universes being transported into the MCU for a rendezvous in No Way Home. That remains to be seen, but it has made the official trailer for No Way Home even more anticipated than the legendary teaser.
This one is interesting because this character has not been introduced yet, but Morbius is coming in February 2022, and Jared Leto is bringing the living vampire to life.
This is a look into the post-No Way Home world, and it shockingly provides more questions than it does answers. Morbius is firmly set in the Sony Spider-Man Universe along with Tom Hardy’s Venom. But the trailer shows hints of Raimi’s Spider-Man suit, TASM’s Oscorp logo, and a character plucked straight out of the MCU.
If this is a tease as to what No Way Home is going to do to the rest of the Spider-Man world outside the MCU, then it seems like the Sony Spider-Man Universe has something big cooking.
The MCU character that appears in Morbius is Michael Keaton’s Vulture. Vulture hit the scene in 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming as arguably one of the best villains in MCU history.
His appearance in Morbius doesn’t provide enough context to speculate the how and why. But the fact that a villain born in the MCU is appearing in the first Spider-Man project post-No Way Home, almost guarantees that the rosters for each universe are bound to cross over.
Sam Raimi Trilogy (Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3)
The universe that kicked off everything is on the verge of a renascence set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus is confirmed and has been seen in Spider-Man: No Way Home, with the signature pumpkin bomb from Spider-Man (2002)’s Green Goblin right behind. This already confirms that this classic trilogy is making waves in the MCU.
The rumors about Tobey Maguire are the talk of the town and will likely be the most exciting moment for Spider-Man fans if and when it happens. The door is still cracked for Spider-Man 4, but this feels much more like a swan song for the legacy cast that started the Golden Age of comic book movies.
TASM Universe (The Amazing Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man 2)
The Spider-Man reboot was a risky move by Sony, who took the character in a new and dark direction following the success of The Dark Knight in 2008. Shortly after The Amazing Spider-Man premiered, Marvel Studios dropped Avengers, The Winter Soldier, and Guardians of the Galaxy, three projects that defined the expansion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe from great comic book movies to a great comic book movie universe.
When the studio saw this move by Marvel Studios, they decided to use The Amazing Spider-Man 2 for as many spinoffs and sequels as it could imagine. This left the movie in a messy spot that put the franchise to a screeching halt.
Spider-Man: No Way Home seems to be acting as a jumping-off point for that once-promising gritty franchise to be relaunched into the new age. Electro, Lizard, Rhino, Black Cat, and Gwen Stacy are appearing in other universes across the board. If Andrew Garfield returns in a mask, the opportunity to continue his story as an adult Spider-Man in the Sony Spider-Man Universe is ripe for the taking.
The Sony Spider-Man Universe has been establishing its tone, and it needs a Spider-Man. Garfield could be that Peter Parker, while Tom Holland runs things in the MCU.
Into the Spider-Verse
The animated entry into the world of Spider-Man movies is widely considered one of the best. This movie does not have a lot of play in Spider-Man: No Way Home, but that does not mean fans should consider it irrelevant.
The idea of multiple versions of similar characters being moved from one universe to another is complex and wild. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse has done some foundational heavy lifting, getting webheads everywhere ready for that storyline.
How it is handled in the MCU remains to be seen, but the pieces are falling into place more and more as new projects are released.
MCU (Homecoming, Far From Home, & No Way Home)
Well, this is it. Spider-Man: No Way Home. After highlighting all of these characters that span across all of these different Spider-Man universes, No Way Home is going to be the movie where it all comes together. Questions will be answered, and universes will be changed forever.
Villains from other universes along with Peter Parker’s from the years gone by offer up “Spider-Man: Endgame.” December 17, 2021 cannot come soon enough.
Sony Spider-Man Universe
Venom introduced a new Spider-Man corner of the theaters, Venom: Let There Be Carnage blew the doors off any perceived dividers between these universes, and Morbius is bringing in elements from every live-action Spider-Man movie ever made.
Whatever happens in Spider-Man: No Way Home will have the fortunate advantage of a fallout movie in Morbius to set the tone for whatever the new shift in the Spider-Man world is.
A Live-Action Spider-Verse
All of these characters, all of these movies, and all of these incredible stories are being told through the lens of a Friendly Neighborhood Webslinger. This is what dreams are made of for fans of the fantastic. For many of those fans, Spider-Man is their entry point to this cape and spandex world. No Way Home is the ultimate Spider-Man movie set in the ultimate comic book movie universe.
There are a ton of balls in the air, moving pieces, and important characters in play. This is a huge risk for Sony and Marvel Studios. There is so much firepower with all of these players. But we all know how the saying goes.
With great power, comes great responsibility. Let’s see if Jon Watts and the team can save the day one last time.