Sony’s seemingly interminable behind-the-scenes endeavor to expand its Spider-Man-centric (Marvel Cinematic Universe-adjacent) big screen arena has taken a major step with the hiring of a prolific voice in genre television, S.J. Clarkson.
A secret Marvel movie is reportedly in focus over at Sony Pictures, and Variety reports that the studio has signed Clarkson—a veteran of genre television shows, notably Marvel’s Jessica Jones and The Defenders—to develop and direct. While specifics were not provided on the project, it is expected to manifest as the first female-centric movie in Sony’s Marvel Cinematic Spider-Verse. Additionally, in a claim one might be inclined to take with a grain of salt, the report cites insiders who are saying that the project in question will be none other than the recently-mooted Madame Web spinoff movie. No writers have been attached as of yet.
Madame Webb debuted in The Amazing Spider-Man #210, which was dated November 1980. Blind and suffering from the neuromuscular disease, myasthenia gravis, the character, born Cassandra Webb, will likely be instantly recognizable to casual fans from her shades and signature spiderweb-resembling life support chair. However, she also possesses the abilities of clairvoyance and precognition, attributed to her being a mutant; an aspect that might present narrative challenges for the film, since the concept of mutants won’t likely be present until Marvel Studios inevitably reboots the X-Men in the wake of Disney’s acquisition of former rights holder Fox. Nevertheless, Madame Web has been a powerful ally to Spider-Man over the years, providing guidance and wisdom.
Interestingly, Madame Web has been depicted outside the pages of the comics, and viewers of the classic 1990s Spider-Man animated series will likely best remember the character from her integral role in the show’s alternate-reality-addled finale. However, a 2010 storyline of The Amazing Spider-Man saw a dying Cassandra pass on the mantle (and powers) of Madame Web to Julia Carpenter, a.k.a. the second Spider-Woman, who, not encumbered by blindness or disease, thwips and wall-crawls around, becoming an amalgamation of sorts of the two characters. Indeed, the 2012-2017 Disney XD animated series, Ultimate Spider-Man, depicted Julia Carpenter as Madame Web by default.
That’s where things get intriguing regarding Sony’s prospective approach to Madame Web, since the report also cites sources claiming that the studio is eyeing headliners in A-list actresses such as Charlize Theron and Amy Adams, none of whom are elderly like the character’s original comic version. This idea, coupled with the aforementioned narrative obstacle of the mutant aspect, could mean that Sony might be planning to bring Julia Carpenter’s version of Madame Web to the big screen, since her original powers were explained by way of a secret government experiment. This method would bring about a female-centric quasi-Spider-Man substitute that could effectively scratch a prominent Spider-Gwen itch without having to deal with alternate-universe implications.
Regardless, this secret Sony Spider-verse movie will have quite the visionary on its hands with the hiring of S.J. Clarkson. Besides the aforementioned Netflix-Marvel shows, she’s put in sporadic episodic work on shows such as Succession, Orange is the New Black, Dexter, Bates Motel, TURN: Washington’s Spies, Heroes, Banshee and Life on Mars amongst many others. She was also attached to direct the pilot to a Game of Thrones prequel series, which would ultimately be taken off the table by HBO, which instead went with another iteration, titled House of the Dragon.
Of course, we are still quite far from knowing any substantive timeline for production on Sony’s secret project. This is especially the case as the current entries on the studio docket, Venom 2 and Morbius, recently saw their release dates shifted back significantly from this year to dates in 2021. However, the studio’s hiring of Clarkson is a clear sign of commitment.