Maximum Carnage Inbound: The Spider-Man Franchise You Didn’t See

We’re counting this as part of the Spooktacular because of alien parasites and Black Cats and whatnot.

Part Two: The Road to Sinister Alliances, the Year 2099, & Carnage

And now folks, we’re going to start getting into the nitty gritty of where Spider-Man, as played by actor Andrew Garfield, would’ve been headed as the lead of his own cinematic universe. It’s important to note that the pop culture trends I spoke of in Part One ultimately resulted in Spider-Man’s melding with another successful cinematic universe (the MCU), but it should also be noted that the colliding egos of producers at Sony Pictures & the unrefined directions they wanted things to proceed in also contributed to the metaphorical “House of Cards” falling down. We’ll take a peak at each film that was planned (some more detailed than others) with some notes I would’ve liked to have offered the people in charge at the time. (If Only)

Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man; Copyright Sony Pictures, 2012

Before we do that though, there’s a few key players we need to gradually introduce ourselves to, three for this round. Each one of these new characters would have played an important part in what was to come, some definitely for the long-term.

Felicia Hardy/Black Cat: Privileged daughter of Lydia & Walter Hardy, Felicia discovered her father’s secret life as an infamous cat burglar. Following a failed vengeance crusade against the old college boyfriend that date-raped her (said boyfriend died in a car crash due to being drunk), Felicia decided to follow in her father’s footsteps, eventually coming into contact with Spider-Man. The two developed quite the flirtatious dynamic, but Felicia’s efforts to gain super-powers (by allowing a scientist in the employ of Wilson Fisk to experiment on her) created a rift in their relationship for some time afterward, Fisk being the Kingpin of Crime, a mutual enemy of Spider-Man & Daredevil. In the early comics, Felicia’s abilities consisted of the rather on the nose taking after her namesake, where bad luck was brought to those she crossed. Thankfully, later revisions had her become something more akin to Captain America, essentially being a human at peak physical condition.

Felicia Hardy, the Black Cat; Copyright Marvel Comics

Cletus Kasady/Carnage: Beat/molested by his father and hated by a mother who favored her dog more, young Cletus didn’t get off to a great start in life. The little ginger started his path towards darkness by pushing his grandmother down a flight of stairs & torturing his mother’s dog. Then, mommy tried to kill Cletus, the action being misinterpreted by his father, who in turn killed mommy, landing the old man in the slammer, thus sending Cletus off to an orphanage. The percolating young maniac then proceeded to burn down said orphanage, that all being just the beginning, dear readers. As an adult, Cletus became a notorious serial killer, landing himself in Ryker’s Island prison, right alongside Eddie Brock, recently separated from the alien symbiote that turned him into Venom. The symbiote managed to break Eddie out eventually, whilst simultaneously leaving behind an offspring, which managed to enter Kasady’s bloodstream. This new symbiote, a striking red in color, gave its insane host a new means to bring terror to the human race he hated so, as Carnage. Because of the bonding on a more intimate level then Eddie & the first symbiote, all it would take for Cletus to become Carnage was for him to bleed.

Cletus Kasady as the bloodthirsty CARNAGE; Copyright Marvel Comics

Miguel O’Hara/Spider-Man 2099: At the end of the 21st Century, Miguel O’Hara worked as the head of Alchemax Corporation’s genetics department, and happened to be fascinated by the idea of recreating the powers of the original Spider-Man from years long since past. Following in the bad luck ridden footsteps of one Peter Parker, Miguel found himself secretly addicted to a drug called “Rapture”, by none other than his own boss, Tyler Stone, as means to insure control over his employees. Miguel decided to try and cure himself of the drug (which couldn’t be worked out of the body), his solution being to rewrite his genetic code. An attempted sabotage by a co-worker added a random code to the process, which cured Miguel, but also gave him spider-like powers to boot. Snagging a costume from a Day of the Dead celebration, Miguel battled a cyborg bounty hunter in pursuit, and thus began his crime-fighting career as the Spider-Man of the year 2099.

Miguel O’Hara as the Spider-Man leading into the 22nd Century; Copyright Marvel Comics

With those introductions out of the way, let’s take a gander at the first film that was to follow The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014), Sinister Six. Two plotlines were developed for SS, and they went as follows:

The first featured the six Oscorp created villains teased in the final moments/end credits of Amazing 2: Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Vulture, Kraven, Mysterio, & Rhino. Spider-Man would have been pursuing Black Cat early in the film (established in Amazing 2 as an employee/secretary of Harry Osborn/Green Goblin, & played by Felicity Jones), only to be ambushed by the Six. The villains would lead Spidey to Oscorp, where he would be infected by none other than the symbiote, it becoming a black suit. In the suit, he would’ve been able to overpower the Six. In their desperation to not be pummeled, the Six would attempt to appeal to Spidey, convincing him of Oscorp’s ulterior motives, which prompted him to get rid of the symbiote suit. At this point, Eddie Brock (here a photographer) would wind up with the symbiote, having taken pictures of Spidey’s initial skirmish with the Six. Eddie becomes Venom, but to add further complication to an already busy plot, Carnage would also be included, a team-up with Venom ensuing, and Spider-Man forming a reluctant alliance with the Six to take the symbiotic alien monsters down.

The second was not near as crowded, but in some aspects was even crazier than the first, if not rather disconnected from what would’ve been its predecessors in Amazing Spider-Man 1 & 2. Here the roster of the six is actually only five at first: Doctor Octopus, Black Cat, Sandman, Vulture, and Mysterio. This lot blackmail Spider-Man into joining their team, the goal being a heist to retrieve Pandora’s Box from Doc Ock’s old lab on the Savage Land, a.k.a the Marvel Comics’ version of the prehistoric Lost World trope, complete with hungry dinosaurs. At some point, in the city of London, a battle would feature a Godzilla-sized Sandman on the rampage. Drew Goddard, director of Cabin in the Woods (2012) & show-runner of Netflix Marvel’s first season of Daredevil, would’ve directed either version proposed here.

The Sinister Six as they appear in one iteration from the comics (clockwise from bottom): Mysterio, Kraven, Doctor Octopus, Electro, Vulture, Green Goblin, & Sandman; Copyright Marvel Comics

My notes: Ideally, a combo of these two plots would’ve been preferable before cameras rolled. The first proposal obviously has the strongest ties to the first two Amazing films, but is way too crowded, evoking deja vu of how Spider-Man 3 (2007) handled the Venom/symbiote elements, Eddie Brock in particular being a repeat of what he was in said film, which is a no-no. Plus, I would find it hard to believe that Peter would so easily agree to work with a team led by the man (Harry/Green Goblin) who killed his girlfriend (Gwen Stacy) in the previous film. In this case, the producers seemed to agree with me, suggesting that Venom & Carnage be used for the Venom solo film(s) of which producer Avi Arad was pushing for, despite the doubts of his producing partner, Matt Tolmach, on the viability of Venom working on his own.

The second version however runs into some issues with what concepts from Marvel Comics Sony was within their legal rights to use, namely the Savage Land. Also, the purpose of obtaining Pandora’s Box, so Doc Ock could use its reality bending powers to snatch his deceased wife from an alternate dimension, would step all over the toes of the then in development animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018), which had Kingpin attempt to do the same thing (minus the Box).

Various ideas from Plot Two were still salvageable though, namely some casting ideas. Apparently, Felicity Jones was being dropped as Felicia Hardy, & suggestions like Emilia Clarke (of Game of Thrones fame) & Elizabeth Olsen were tossed around as replacements, Olsen eventually being snagged for the MCU as Scarlet Witch. For Flint Marko/Sandman, director Goddard was very much in favor of Tom Hardy for the part, with alternatives like Woody Harrelson & Jason Clarke being considered. As fate would have it, Tom Hardy ended up taking the part of Eddie Brock/Venom for the solo film, whilst Woody Harrelson would end up playing Cletus Kasady in the mid credits sequel set-up. And the biggest of all, to match Garfield as the leading man (or take his place, had Spidey not been involved), Matt Damon was among the contenders for playing Doctor Octopus, the two characters of Spider-Man and Ock forming a bond through most of the film, but ultimately settling on being enemies once their morals are shown to clearly differ. Tolmach even colorfully compared Ock’s character arc to that of Michael Corleone from The Godfather!

Elizabeth Olsen (left) & Emilia Clarke (right) sporting Felicia Hardy-esque blonde locks; Copyright Marie Claire & Elle France
Former Sandman contenders Woody Harrelson (top) & Tom Hardy (bottom) would end up playing Cletus Kasady & Eddie Brock in Venom instead; Copyright Sony Pictures, 2018

What’s missing from either one of these is the strong connective tissue carrying on from the previous films, plus a necessary set-up for what would become the Venom film. In Venom (2018), Eddie and fiancee Anne Weying have a conversation over dinner that alludes to Eddie having been chased out of New York for his reckless reporting. To connect this to Sinister Six, we would have Eddie included as a reporter who jumps to conclusions about Spider-Man’s involvement with the SS (much to the delight of Daily Bugle editor J. Jonah Jameson, who has it out for Spidey anyway). A tense relationship is teased between Peter Parker, as a Bugle freelance photographer, and Eddie, with Spider-Man eventually revealing (towards film’s end) Eddie’s false reports on his connection to the SS team, thus ruining the journalist’s credibility, sending him packing back to San Francisco, where Venom takes place.

But what of the symbiote itself? If we go back to Plot One (thus saving the alternate dimensions for Into the Spider-Verse, where they belong), the purpose for the symbiote could be as a cure for Harry Osborn, who in Amazing 2 took on Goblin-like features thanks to the effects of Retroviral Hyperplasia (a fictitious version of Syphilis). Osborn would be aware of corporate competitor the Life Foundation (the villains of Venom), & their recent trip to space to acquire resources for their disease treatments. The audience wouldn’t know (yet) that these “resources” were actually the colony of symbiotes riding to Earth on a comet from Venom, therefore meaning at least some of Sinister Six would occur at the same time as Venom. In Plot Two of SS, the team would’ve faced off against Gog, a creature tied to the Savage Land. With those elements dropped, & the symbiote now the prize, the goal would be to get at least one symbiote that the SS hijacked from Life Foundation operatives (that one being the black Venom symbiote), which the team do manage to get to Harry, but he ends up becoming possessed by the alien, then fights the SS and Spider-Man, before it even reaches Eddie. It doesn’t cure Harry, & he is sent back to Ravencroft Institute. (more on this later)

Much like in the recent PS4 Spider-Man game, could Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) have become the first host of the Venom symbiote in the finale of Sinister Six? Copyright Sony Pictures, 2018 & 2014

As a final note on Sinister Six, we should consider what would eventually cause the budding friendship between Doc Ock and Spider-Man (alternatively Otto Octavius & Peter Parker) to morph into a permanent rivalry. Octavius’ decisions as leader of the team would probably not be morally sound, which would of course be a problem for boy-scout Peter, but even more so would be a betrayal of the mission that Peter thought he was on with the Six: to cure his friend Harry, which would in turn be a reconciliation for Harry’s misdeeds as the diseased Goblin, namely Gwen Stacy’s murder. A reveal would entail Octavius being secretly employed by the Life Foundation, and together with career criminal Adrian Toomes/Vulture and failed Hollywood special-effects man turned Oscorp holo-drone expert Quentin Beck/Mysterio, the three would be placed with the rest of the team in order to insure the symbiote would return to the Life Foundation’s HQ in San Francisco, once again leading into the Venom film.

Top Row: Actors Michael Keaton & Jake Gyllenhaal as Adrian Toomes/Vulture & Quentin Beck/Mysterio, as they appear in the Tom Holland-led Spider-Man films Homecoming & Far From Home; Copyright Sony Pictures, 2017 & 2019.
Bottom Row: Matt Damon was one of Sony’s picks for playing Doctor Octopus in the Sinister Six film that never was; Doc Ock property of Marvel Comics

The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Sinister Six, Venom, and one more film would have been the equivalent to what the MCU does with its films, that is, building up a “Phase” that would lead into a event-type film, usually an Avengers. The fifth film in Sony’s “Spider-Man: Phase One” would’ve been an origin for Miguel O’Hara/Spider-Man 2099, who Sony pictured as their “Captain America type” character. Instead of being a relic of the past like Steve Rogers, Miguel would be a displaced time traveler, after facing off against the energy vampire Morlun, who travels to various dimensions to absorb the life energies of their Spider-Men. This choice of villain would be befitting of time-displacement, allowing Miguel to help Spider-Man, Black Cat, and Venom in the present, against a truly lethal threat…

Left: Energy absorbing villain Morlun attacks Spider-Man 2099. Right: One of the covers to the Maximum Carnage mini series featuring Cletus Kasady/Carnage menacing Spider-Man, Venom, Captain America, Iron Fist, & Deathlok; Copyright Marvel Comics.

Sony’s grand finale to Phase One would’ve been their adaptation of the comic mini-series Maximum Carnage, which featured Cletus Kasady discovering his ability to regenerate the crimson Carnage symbiote from his blood, as well as his breakout from Ravencroft Institute for the criminally insane. Once out, he amasses a following of other deranged super-villains, giving Spider-Man, Venom, plus various other allies an immense challenge in trying to apprehend them all.

My Notes: How Cletus would get the symbiote offspring in a film version of this story would’ve been the interesting question, since Spider-Man and Venom hadn’t had an encounter yet, at least with Eddie Brock as Venom. Since the symbiote remembers the memories of its hosts, it’s possible Eddie would’ve started getting mental flashes of the symbiote’s fight with the Sinister Six & Spidey. Drawn to New York, Eddie/Venom would eventually realize that Peter Parker and Spider-Man were one and the same, plus responsible for Eddie’s professional retreat to San Francisco, leading to a confrontation. This would be cut short once Eddie realized that Riot, the symbiote team leader in the Venom film, had produced an offspring, that winds up in the possession of Cletus Kasady, whom Eddie met for an interview beforehand. Once the paths of Spider-Man and Black Cat (who’s become Spidey’s lover) cross those of Venom and Spider-Man 2099, the four would team together to stop Carnage’s onslaught.

Now, with that grandiose epic out there for all the interested readers to chew on and digest, next time, in Part Three, I will cover the suggestions Sony were putting forth for Phase Two of their Spider-Man franchise, and the themes that were set to define it, namely the past being dug up, in the form of Gwen Stacy & the wacky science of cloning…

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