comment 1

Multiverses, Spider-Man & The MCU – Part One

This is a multi-part series that is a slightly modified version of my MSc Dissertation.

As Doc Ock – or Doctor Otto Octavius – (Alfred Molina) goes to impale Spider-Man (Tom Holland) underneath the freeway in the first action set-piece of Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021, Jon Watts) the nanosuit covering masking his identity shifts to protect his chest. Doc Ock looks at Spider-Man confused and states, “You’re not Peter Parker”. Before this moment in the film, the casting of Alfred Molina to play the character of Doc Ock suggested to those interested in the film, that Marvel and Sony were merely accepting that no one could play the character again in live action better than Molina. This was the same thinking when J.K. Simmons reprised his role as a different J. Jonah Jameson at the ending of Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019, Jon Watts). However, the moment he questions the identity of Peter Parker meant that the previous live-action versions of Peter Parker/Spider-Man were now a possibility in the MCU.

im batman - General Discussion - Custom Cursor Community

Runaways #11 (2005)

What this then brings up is, does this mean that the previous reboots of the character are no longer ‘reboots’? 14 years after Tobey Maguire last swung through New York and 7 years after Andrew Garfield started his fight with Rhino (Paul Giamatti), these iterations of the character are now a part of a singular transmedia narrative. In retrospect, does this alter the way that mainstream blockbuster cinema conducts franchise narratives? There has already been a shift in recent years with the ‘legacy-qual’, taking a popular franchise or film, sometime long dormant, and creating a sequel which brings together original cast members – examples being Top Gun: Maverick (2022, Joseph Kosinski), Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021, Jason Reitman), and Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015, J.J. Abrams) – does this now mean that the MCU and the multiverse is going to use nostalgia for financial gain in the same way as these ‘legacy-quals’?

Which brings us onto questioning and exploring what the potential larger business purpose of the multiverse is. As will be explored, the MCU is a franchise, an example of the comic-book genre in the middle of its lifespan. Does the introduction of the multiverse mean anything to the larger narrative and lifespan of the genre and franchise? If, as will be explored, reboots and remakes are linked to genre cycles, where does the multiverse place within this? Spider-Man: No Way Home is the example used to deconstruct this, with scenes from the film referenced throughout to support my argument.

In his piece which covers the intertextuality of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, James C. Taylor says that, “…because Marvel Studios develops existing practices of cinematic intertextuality and combines these with a shared universe model of serialization adapted from comic books.”[1] (pp. 130) Taylor and the sources he cites from the edited collection, Make Ours Marvel, explore the meaning of the narrative of the shared universe and consequent multiverse. These analyses look at how the MCU has constructed the shared cinematic universe, and how this applies to intertextuality and narrative. The difference here with this exploration is looking at what the MCU is, and how the introduction of the Multiverse and the applications of it in Spider-Man: No Way Home, can potentially alter the course of the genre.

The next part, ‘”…you’ve become part of a bigger universe”: Franchise, Genre, and the Success of the MCU’ discusses the success of the MCU, how it is an example of genre and franchise, how the two are symbiotic, and then giving a history into the creation of the MCU and explaining how successful it has been since its inception in 2008. The purpose of which is to show that this is the foundation on which the ‘multiverse’ is being built upon.

Part 3, ‘Connoisseurs Of Context: Plot Synopses, Box-Office Performance and Critical Reception’, gives a very brief cinematic history of the character leading up to the release of Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021, Jon Watts).

‘Of all the places I could be…: Multiverse, Transmedia & Convergence’, is Part 4 and gives examples of the multiverse in cinema – specifically films and TV relating to the MCU, and Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022, Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert) – giving examples of it relating to Spider-Man, transmedia and convergence.

We then examine the reasons for the existence of the Multiverse with the chapter entitled, ‘Why Does The Multiverse Exist?: Nostalgia, Cyclism, and the Perpetual Second Act’. This chapter examines why they – in this explicit case Disney & Sony – are turning to the multiverse as a narrative device. I look at if this is a case of mining nostalgia, delaying genre saturation and the end of a cycle, or if this relates to the narrative structure put forward by Syd Field. I will also present some of the opportunities that the multiverse gives, with examples from Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness (2022, Sam Raimi), Spider-Man: No Way Home, and the MCU Disney+ TV Series Loki (2021). This chapter examines the work of Liam Burke and Syd Field, which I hope will show how the introduction of the multiverse is affecting the MCU and the genre.

All of the above will be surmised and concluded in a final part.

The quote that opened this part, “Yes. I’m Batman.”, is from the Marvel comic The Runaways whose grander story is about superpowered teenagers who discover that their parents are super-villains. The appearance of Spider-Man in Issue #11 comes at a shock to the characters and to the readers. Spider-Man’s response is to make joke of the obvious: yes, he is here saving the day as a superhero, and yes, he is Batman. The latter part of the joke is an intertextual reference to the grand idea of superheroes, saving the day when you need them to. They can appear at any time, much the same as villains like Doc Ock in Spider-Man: No Way Home, with Spider-Man’s appearance in The Runaways being example to this. These are endless possibilities. Much like the multiverse.


[1] Taylor, J. C. (2021). Reading the Marvel Cinematic Universe: The Avengers’ Intertextual Aesthetic. JCMS : Journal of Cinema and Media Studies, 60(3), 129–156.


1 Comment so far

  1. Pingback: Multiverses, Spider-Man & The MCU – Part Four – SUPERATOMOVISION

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s