Christmas came early for Marvel fans over the weekend as Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige took to the stage at San Diego Comic-Con 2022 and unveiled the next two phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Among the plethora of announcements that causes fanboys everywhere to shriek in delight was confirmation that Earth’s Mightiest Heroes will return in Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and Avengers: Secret Wars. Not to mention confirmation that Netflix’s Daredevil is being brought fully into the MCU fold and that Anthony Mackie will carry on the mantle of Captain America in his own solo film landing in 2024.
However, the recent Marvel announcement that has excited me most is actually a Disney Plus show that appears to be set outside of the confines of the MCU. Spider-Man: Freshman Year is an animated show about, you’ve guessed it, Spider-Man attending his freshman year of high school. While it was originally assumed to be canon to the MCU, the latest details divulged at Comic-Con would suggest that may no longer be the case, and that’s definitely piqued my interest
Plus, when you consider the webhead's track record when it comes to starring in his own animated shows, there’s every reason to be cautiously optimistic that Spider-Man: Freshman Year could be one of the best Marvel Disney Plus shows yet.
Free from the MCU web
Not a great deal is known about Spider-Man: Freshman Year to date. It’s been confirmed to be an animated series and is currently set to premiere in 2024. It’s also been announced that Charlie Cox will reprise his role as Daredevil for the show and that Doctor Strange will be involved in some form as well.
As you'd expected, the show will follow Peter Parker soon after he acquires his superhuman spiderlike abilities and must grapple with the responsibilities of crimefighting while simultaneously trying to juggle being a normal teenager. That’s the classic Spider-Man story we all know and love, and it seems unlikely the show will deviate too far from the well-established formula.
However, here’s where things get interesting. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man made his first appearance in Captain America: Civil War before going on to star in his own trilogy, starting with 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming. While these films glossed over the specifics of his origin story, we did get confirmation that he’d not had his powers long and was far from an established hero — in Civil War Parker didn’t even have a proper Spidey suit to wear before Tony Stark made him one.
Logically this would suggest that Spider-Man: Freshman Year will need to be set outside of the MCU canon in order to avoid contradicting the current timeline. After all, it wouldn’t make any sense for Spider-Man to have already met Daredevil and Doctor Strange prior to his appearance in Civil War. In fact, we even see Spider-Man and Stephen Strange meet for the very first time in Avengers: Infinity War. Plus, in Homecoming it's stated that Michael Keaton's Vulture is the first supervillain Parker has ever faced.
It seems highly likely that Marvel is going to enter the multiverse and let Freshman Year exist within its own separate timeline. Assuming this theory is correct — and it seems almost impossible that it’s not — some fans may be disappointed but the show being freed from the increasingly complex web that is the MCU's canon is no bad thing in my book.
Removing Spider-Man: Freshman Year from the MCU’s core timeline will allow the show’s creative team a great deal of freedom. They can tell new, and familiar, stories with classic characters such as Norman Osborn and Doctor Octopus without fear of contradicting a plotline or character detail from a previous or future MCU project.
Marvel’s interconnected universe has been a cinematic revelation but it’s becoming increasingly unwieldy, and I’m far more intrigued by the idea of a Spider-Man show that exists outside of its restrictions. Perhaps it'll even open the door to a Peter Parker that isn't portrayed by Tom Holland who is reportedly considering hanging up his web shooters.
Spider-Man has form in the animated arena
It’s also worth pointing out that when it comes to animated superhero shows Spider-Man ranks second only to Batman for successful series. Sure there have been a few duds over the years, Ultimate Spider-Man in particular was a low point, but Spidey’s best small-screen efforts are some of the best superhero shows ever made.
For example, the 90s animated Spider-Man show stands alongside the likes of Batman: The Animated Series and X-Men on the nostalgia scale, and it still holds up remarkably well to this day. Plus, The Spectacular Spider-Man is genuinely phenomenal and it was canceled far too soon over a frustrating dispute over character rights. Its entire run was just added to Netflix, so make sure to watch it if you missed it the first time around.
When it comes to comic book characters Spider-Man is ideally suited for a serialized animated show thanks to his friendly-neighborhood approach to crimefighting and his iconic gallery of villains. So, if Spider-Man: Freshman Year can capture even half the magic of the web-slinger’s best-animated efforts then we could be in for one of the best Disney Plus shows of all time.
Next: This classic TV show is set to leave Netflix in September.