When Spider-Man: Freshman Year was first announced in November, 2021 on Disney+ Day, it seemed like it would turn out to be a pretty straightforward animated series. It was described as following Peter Parker during his freshman year of high school, on his way to becoming Spider-Man in the MCU. Since Marvel Studios had previously eschewed the well-worn Peter Parker origin story when they made a deal with Sony to introduce him into their blockbuster movie juggernaut in Captain America: Civil War back in 2016, surely this new cartoon would simply show us what happened before Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) noticed Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and plucked him from his humble Queens-based superhero life, setting him on the road to the Avengers?
Well, perhaps we should have twigged that something was awry when Marvel also described Spider-Man: Freshman Year as “a journey unlike we’ve ever seen”, because at SDCC 2022 they unveiled a first look at the upcoming series, along with some rather baffling character details. Not only will Charlie Cox bring his voice to the character of Daredevil in the show, but it will feature none other than Norman Osborn as Peter’s mentor. Doctor Strange will be around too, and villains Dr. Otto Octavius, Chameleon, Speed Demon, Scorpion, and Butane the Pyromaniac will also be in Peter’s orbit.
I don’t need to tell you that Doc Ock, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, and Norman Osborn were absolutely not a part of Peter’s pre-Civil War history in the main MCU timeline, freshman year or otherwise; you know this! When Peter Parker first met Matt Murdock and collided with Norman and Otto in Spider-Man: No Way Home, that was the first time he became aware of their existence. So, what the devil is going on here? Intrigue abounds!
The most realistic answers to our many (many) questions about the plot of Spider-Man: Freshman Year can likely be found in the MCU’s burgeoning multiverse. Since Sylvie first broke the Sacred Timeline in Loki, we’ve been treated to various spins on established MCU stories in What If…?, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness showed us that things are very different in other MCU universes. Some feature Peggy Carter wielding a twist on Steve Rogers’ iconic vibranium shield as Captain Carter. One had a version of Reed Richards using Doctor Doom’s time platform to join the Illuminati in their deliberations – an Illuminati that featured Professor X as its leader, no less. In another, Stephen Strange became all-powerful, and destroyed everything!
Is Spider-Man: Freshman Year just showing us another new version of how MCU Peter Parker’s life may have gone? Right now, signs certainly point to “yes”, and setting those narrative wheels in motion could also indicate that Marvel Studios is building towards a new kind of Spider-Verse after the success of No Way Home. With plans already in motion for a second season of the show, Sophomore Year, we can only assume for now that this Peter Parker is here to stay.
Unfortunately, we will have to wait until at least 2024, when the series aims to start streaming on Disney+, to find out more about Marvel’s latest multiverse shenanigans. Until then, let the Spider-Verse speculation begin!