After a night of trolling by actors Tom Holland, Zendaya, and Jacob Batalon, Sony and Marvel Studios finally revealed the title of their third Spidey movie: Spider-Man: No Way Home. It’s an apt title for a film that will reportedly see heroes and villains from across the Spider-Verse collide once again, but this time, it’ll happen in live-action, which likely means the return of a few big-screen favorites.
It’s been reported that the movie will not only include Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange, taking over from the late Tony Stark as Peter’s mentor, but also Jamie Foxx and Alfred Molina, reprising their roles as Electro from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Dr. Octopus from the original Spider-Man 2 respectively. It’s also long been rumored that these villains will be bringing along their own Spider-Men, played once again by Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire. That last bit is still worth taking with a grain of salt, but there’s bound to be at least some multiversal shenanigans when Strange and two villains from other Spidey movie universes are involved.
And it’s not like the Spider-Man franchise is a stranger to big, epic storytelling involving multiple timelines and Earths. Just look at 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which is arguably the best movie starring the character ever made. In the animated film, young Miles Morales gains the powers of Spider-Man and is immediately thrust into an adventure full of Spider-Men, including a deadbeat Peter Parker from another Earth who is down on his luck. There’s also Spider-Woman, Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Man 2099, the mechanical SP//dr, and even Spider-Ham. Together, they team up to take down Kingpin and Doc Ock before they can shatter reality.
It was the Spider-extravaganza of the decade, one that performed well at the box office and received rave reviews, so it’s no surprise that Sony and Marvel want to push the Spider-Verse concept even further with an animated sequel as well as No Way Home. But as we prepare to watch three big-screen Spider-Men team up to fight crime in the MCU (again, a rumor!), we should also take a moment to celebrate the video game that made this all possible: Beenox and Activision’s Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, the game from 2010 that first introduced the “Spider-Verse” as we know it today.
Developed as a single-player title that allowed fans to take on a whole list of baddies while switching between four Spider-Men — Amazing, 2099, Noir, and Ultimate — Shattered Dimensions was a unique video game treat for its time, sending gamers on adventures that spanned four different and distinct versions of Spider-Man’s world. One level you could be swinging through Marvel’s classic vision of New York City, while the next could send you to the black-and-white, 1930s-inspired Noir universe or the futuristic cityscape of 2099. Each Spider-Man had unique abilities too, and their levels usually required specific playstyles — Noir missions, for example, involved more stealth while 2099 could slow down time, and even featured boss battles with universe-specific baddies like The Goblin (a 1930s version of the villain) and Doc Ock 2099.
The story that ties all of these universes and Spider-Men together is pretty good, too: Spidey accidentally shatters a mystical artifact known as the Tablet of Order and Chaos while fighting Electro, breaking it into 17 fragments that end up scattered across the four universes. So Madame Web recruits the four aforementioned webslingers to recover the fragments and bring order back to the multiverse.
This is the kind of setup fans of comic book crossover events would undoubtedly love, and each level in the game does really feel like another chapter (or issue) of the story. It makes perfect sense, then, that the game’s story was written by Dan Slott, who was just at the start of his decade-long Spider-Man run (2008-2018), the longest in Marvel history, when Beenox began work on the game.
Inspired by other Spider-Men stories from the ’90s like the controversial “Clone Saga” and the “Spider Wars” arc in Spider-Man: The Animated Series, which also opens with Madame Web recruiting and training a group of Spider-Men to save the multiverse, Slott’s work on Shattered Dimensions was a precursor for what would come next at Marvel Comics: several multiversal clashes that seriously expanded the scope of what Spidey stories could be.
In 2012, Brian Michael Bendis finally introduced Peter Parker to his Ultimate Marvel counterpart Miles Morales in the 5-issue miniseries Spider-Men, which partly inspired Into the Spider-Verse. While an extremely popular addition to the Spidey mythos, Miles had existed solely in his own universe and timeline in the comics up until this point. It’d taken 12 years for Ultimate Marvel characters to cross over with the main Marvel universe, but even this meeting of Spider-Men was small-scale when compared to what Slott brought to the table next: 2014’s “Spider-Verse” storyline that brought together all of the versions of the hero he had used in Shattered Dimensions plus quite a few others.
“Spider-Verse” was a game-changing, status quo-shattering story that introduced infinite possibilities for who Spider-Man could be and how all of these different versions of the webslinger could come together to fight a common enemy. Even if you’ve never read these comics, you’ll likely feel their influence in what’s to come for Tom Holland (and maybe Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, too).
Slott’s massive event has received several follow-ups since 2014, including tie-ins to Jonathan Hickman’s seminal Secret Wars and a direct sequel called Spider-Geddon. And Shattered Dimensions got a sequel, too.
Written by another Marvel legend, Peter David, Spider-Man: Edge of Time cut back on the cast, this time bringing back only the original Spidey and his 2099 counterpart for a romp through time and space. But Beenox’s sophomore Marvel effort didn’t quite capture the same magic, delivering a much rougher gameplay experience this time around, even if the story of Miguel O’Hara trying to save Peter Parker’s life in the past was a generally captivating one. This would be the end of this particular corner of the Spider-Verse.
Whether No Way Home truly picks up the multiple Spider-Men torch, or we’re simply treated to Peter, MJ, and Ned dealing with a few villainous blasts from past, it’s worth remembering Shattered Dimensions place in Spidey history and how it helped get us to a point where we can speculate about the Spider-Verse in the first place.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is out on Dec. 17.