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4 Spider-Man Movies That Almost But Thankfully Didn’t Happen

Posted on the 27 April 2014 by Weminoredinfilm.com @WeMinoredInFilm

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is almost upon us, but maybe this version of Spider-Man just isn’t for you.  Maybe you prefer good ole prick-him-and-he’ll-bleed Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker, and the decidedly kiddie Sam Raimi films.  However, whether or not you’re favorite Spider-Man is Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire they’re both a heck of a lot better than the versions of Spider-Man that almost happened over the years.

1) Peter Parker Almost Sang in a Spider-Man Musical Decades Before Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

From Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

From Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

It was a long time before Marvel actually knew what the heck they were doing in Hollywood.  Originally, they sold off the film rights for their characters for embarrassingly cheap, long-lasting contracts, and were supposed to be consultants on projects but were usually ignored.  In fact, in 1971 the rights for all of the characters were sold to a concert promoted named Steve Lemberg, who intended to not just make movies but also radio plays, TV shows, and Broadway musicals.  However, everything he wanted to do would have cost too much to make, and by the middle of the decade Marvel managed to get out of that contract.  They then sold the rights for a live-action Spider-Man movie to Steve Krantz, with whom they’d previously worked on the animated 1960s Spider-Man cartoon (which they generally didn’t like).  What did Krantz originally want to do?  A musical-fantasy picture.  That’s right – basically, Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark, just several decades earlier.

By 1976, Krantz realized a Spider-Man musical was just an awful idea.  So, he opted for a more straightforward approach with a college-aged Spider-Man, but this being the 1970s and all he’d still be fighting a 100-foot-tall robot and Nazis.  Plus, Gwen Stacy would have died by the end, but did I mention the 100-foot-tall robot.

2) Peter Parker Almost Single-Handedly Prevented a Nuclear War with Russia

Legendary schlock-fest producer Roger Corman did this to the Fantastic Four in 1994:

That was so bad it was never officially released to theaters or home video.

So, imagine what he could have done to Spider-Man!  Well, it almost happened when Roger Corman picked up the film rights in 1982.  At the time, Stan Lee was manning the Marvel Productions office in Hollywood, trying to get movies and TV shows made.  What Corman picked up was a treatment written by Stan Lee meaning it actually was fairly familiar stuff, i.e., Peter Parker as a college student, Dr. Octopus around as the bad guy, Mary Jane Watson as the love interest.  However, Lee also went a little crazy, throwing in some sexy KGB agents, and having Spider-Man stop a nuclear war with Russia all by his lonesome.  He also wrote Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus fighting much as they would in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 in 2004:

Yeah, there’s no way they could have pulled off anything remotely like that in 1982, especially not from low-budget master Roger Corman.  The rights slipped away from Corman because what they were proposing was just too darn expensive.

3) Peter Parker Was Almost a Giant, Mutant Spider

Canon Spider-Man

Marvel wanted to make a movie, sure, but a cheap one.  So, in 1985 for $225,000 (spread across 5 years) they sold the film rights to the Cannon Group, which was being run by two Israeli cousins whose model was scraping the bottom of the barrel for intellectual properties and turning a quick profit.  This worked for them through in the first half of the decade with hits like Death Wish, Delta Force, Exterminator 2, The Last American Virgin, and Breakin’.  Unfortunately, they had no idea what Spider-Man really was.  They brought in horror-film directors like Tobe Hooper (Poltergeist) and Joseph Zito (Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter), but the latter quit when he realized the Canon guys seemed to think Spider-Man was like the Wolfman. 

So, how strange was this thing?  


Think Island of Doctor Moreau, and that’s the general ballpark we’re talking here.

Their script featured a mad scientist named Dr. Zork who creates mutants, and wouldn’t you know it his unfortunate assistant Peter Parker accidentally gets turned into a Spider-Man.  Isn’t that always the way?  This Spider-Man would then have to fight off Zork’s army of mutants.  This is actually best-case scenario, though.  In another script, Parker gets turned into an eight-legged tarantula.  

Those were the early days.  Eventually, sanity actually re-entered the proceedings, and they dropped the Dr. Zork nonsense, opting for a more traditional approach.  The villain was going to be Doctor Octopus, with Bob Hoskins a potential choice for the role.   Though don’t just imagine Hoskin’s face photoshopped over Alfred Molina’s Doc Oc in Spider-Man 2.  They had a fairly nasty vision of a Doc Oc who would wear a latex fake torso to make it appears as if his cybernetic tentacles had fused with his body. 


Sam Raimi’s Peter Parker’s eyesight being fixed by the spider-bite thus negating the need for glasses did apparently come from one of these scripts

Once they hired Albert Pyun as director (“the new Ed Wood” who eventually gave us the truly dreadful 1990 Captain America) the Doc Oc script was discarded in favor of Spider-Man fighting a scientist-turned-vampire.  Pyun’s preference was for The Lizard to be the villain, and he almost got the film made. He told io9, “We were experimenting with centrifuges and wire work but it was daunting on a low budget. We were fully cast and had most of the major sets built when the plug got pulled.”


Stan Lee hated and rejected all of the scripts Cannon sent him, but he was reportedly angling to land the role of J. Jonah Jameson in the film

Pyun didn’t let it all go to waste. He combined the completed production work on sets and props for his Spider-Man film as well as an aborted Masters of the Universe sequel respectively for his film Cyborg.

4) Peter Parker Was Almost a James Cameron Character Fighting a Doc Oc Who Constantly Said, “Okey Dokey!”

The James Cameron Spider-Man fiasco is so notorious it can be difficult to discern between legend and fact.   So, here’s what happened: the Cannon Group went under, but one of its producers, Menahem Golan, still had the rights to Spider-Man, which he sold to Carolco (Terminator 2: Judgement Day) in 1990 with a stipulation that he receive a producer credit on whatever film they would make.  Carolco hired James Cameron to direct, and gave him a contract (really just his same Terminator 2 contract) which granted him final approval over all credits on the film.  One of Cameron’s first questions?  Probably who the hell Menahem Golan was.  He would give Golan the producer credit, and boy did the lawsuits start flying left and right after that.

That’s all fine and good, but what kind of movie were they actually trying to make?  It started off with a 31-page “scriptment” with snippets of dialog from Cameron.  In this version, Uncle Ben never gives a “with great power comes great responsibility” speech, and his death is not really the catalyst to spur Parker into do-gooding – he’s already started thinking about that before Bun takes a bullet to the gut.  The Daily Bugle wouldn’t feature at all, but at least J. Jonah Jameson was around as a TV station owner.  The villains would be Electro and Sandman, though with completely new origin stories and different names.  Mary Jane Watson would be around as the love interest, but she’d kind of be a bit snoppish, have an abusive father, and have a very S&M-esque love scene with Parker.  By the end, Parker would tell MJ he was Spider-Man.  Oh, and also this would happen:

THE NEXT DAY. Tight on Peter as he wakes up. He opens his eyes cautiously. Not knowing what to expect. PULL BACK to reveal that he is still in bed. All is normal. He breaths a sigh of relief. In fact… he feels pretty good. Lots of energy. He pulls back the covers and…

Something is causing the sheet to stick to him. He lifts it, revealing a sticky, white mass completely covering him, gluing him to his bedding.



This is webbing, you hear me. Not some metaphor for puberty-era wet dreams. Just webbing.

To Cameron’s credit (or discredit, depending on your interpretation), he is the one who came up with the idea of having Peter Parker’s webbing simply coming out of his wrist as part of the genetic mutation post-spider-bite:


Spider-Man wrist

Where it gets confusing is the even worse full script from 1993 which does feature James Cameron’s name as co-author.  However, the script actually dates back to the Cannon days when Menahem Golan commissioned a script from John Brancato and Ted Newsom, had it re-written by Barney Cohen, and then Golan re-wrote it himself (under the pseudonym James Goldman).  Those are just the screenwriters whose names actually ended up on the script.  Legend has it Cameron simply added his name to the script, making minimal to no changes, simply so he could collect the $3 million Carolco owed him, payment contingent upon the delivery of a script which could be budgeted at $60 million.

So, who knows how much of this you can blame on Cameron, but the script features Doctor Octopus as the villain except he’s not even really a Doctor.  Instead, he’s a college physics professor, “That’s Professor Octavius to you!”, who spends most of the plot trying to steal Peter Parker’s physics paper.  Seriously, that’s basically it.  So, cry if you must about Green Goblin having no grand plan in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, or the Lizard’s “turn everyone into a lizard” plan in The Amazing Spider-Man being a bit on the silly side, but at least they weren’t simply trying to rip-off a college student’s paper.

Octavius and Parker are bitten by the same radioactive spider leading to some consistent humor (or attempted but failed humor, really) of Professor Octavius decreeing that he is the actual Spider-Man when he meets Parker’s Spider-Man.  Octavius calls his mechanimal arms waldos, and has a henchman named Wiener.  Plus, characters say things like, “Holy jumping jellybeans!” and “He can get to the power-to the max,” and Octavius says the catchphrase, “Okey dokey” around 15 times.  The lore has it that Cameron wanted Arnold Schwarzenegger to play Octavius, and at some point early in production for his Pter Parker he wanted Michael Biehn (whom Schwarzenegger killed as the Terminator when Biehn was Kyle Reese in Terminator).  That may or may not actually be true, but the whole process soured Marvel to the whole rotten prospect of a Spider-Man movie.

You can read Cameron’s 31-page “scriptment” here, and the 1993 screenplay here.

It would be nearly a decade until Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man came along, and based upon the prior failed attempts at adapting Spidey to screen we can be very thankful that it was Raimi who finally made it happen and not the likes of James Cameron.

Sources: io9.com, Cracked.com, Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story

Marvel: The Untold Story

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By Michael J. Vassallo
posted on 27 April at 18:09

Hi, You have Sean Howe's fantastic book mis-titled. The title is "Marvel Comics: The Untold Story". "My" and Blake Bell's book is titled "The Secret History of Marvel Comics". http://tinyurl.com/Marv-hist. Both written at the same time, for a while we both had similar titles before Sean's name change. Our book goes back further and covers the 1930's through the 1950's. Sean's focuses on the 1960's to present. We complement and bookend each other nicely.