Quick note: Okay, so I made a mistake, and thought I could take last week off. But I was forgetting that I’d been sitting on this pitch to release alongside the new Spider-Verse movie… so Batman will come out next Friday.
This one started as mostly a joke idea, until I realized, “Multiplicity, but with Spider-Man” was the pitch, and then… then I realized we could just do a straight-up comedy, and even loop in Michael Keaton’s Vulture as the straight man for it, and fell in love with the idea. This is the year of the Spider, so… why not? Oh, and we’re definitely pulling in Paul Rudd, who has his own similarly-themed Netflix show called Living with Yourself, and because I think his character would be a hilarious mentor to Peter, the angel on his shoulder to the devil that is the Vulture. Plus, the two of them have comedy chops that we could really lean into. You might even be able to get Adam McKay to come and do this one, with all of that talent and budget, and that would be fun madness.
To start, this movie would finally play up the “Peter can’t keep a job to save his skin” angle. I’m going to say he’s staying with Felicia Hardy in the apartment he used to share with May- that their relationship has progressed since Heroes for Hire 2. Felicia’s footing the bill, but since Peter insists they pay their bills legitimately, they’re in danger of losing the apartment, so he’s searching the want ads for something that isn’t going to interfere with his school, or his heroing, which he coyly refer to as his night school (because Felicia is worried he’s going to accidentally blurt out something Spider-Man to a classmate without thinking). “Last weekend you were up for three straight days. You forgot to put on pants the whole day- not that I’m complaining. But you ordered a pizza, and the delivery girl could definitely see your web sack.”
“Felicia!” She nods, and we see the sack of webbing where he keeps his Spider-Man gear, definitely in full view of the front door. “That sack; yeah, I need to be more careful about who sees my sack.”
There’s a knock at the door, and Peter forgets to hide his websack, even though they were just talking about it. Thankfully, it’s Miles, wanting to be trained (especially having seen firsthand a fight with an Inheritor in Edge of the Spider-Verse). It’s subtle, to start, but he’s acting like he and Peter have already had this conversation, that Peter already agreed to mentor him. Peter doesn’t feel ready for the responsibility. He tells Miles that part of being a mentor is having the maturity to know when you’re not ready to be a mentor- but that Dr. Connors helped him a lot when he was Miles’ age. Miles is unhappy, but mentions that Dr. Connors wanted him to pass a message, one that doesn’t make any sense to Peter. Felicia hands Peter his phone, telling him he missed a call; MJ leaves a message telling him it was really cool meeting him and she had fun at lunch.
The trouble is, he still hasn’t contacted her, and he didn’t take her to lunch- he was with Felicia. Things come to a head when Vulture brings a second Peter home. He’s expecting to deliver Peter to May and tell her to keep him away from his daughter.
At that moment, Man-Spider (having taken the name Ben Reilly for himself) arrives, having had a thought. Realizing there are already two of them there, Ben tries to excuse himself, “Oh, I see we’re already here.”
“God, they’re multiplying,” Vulture says.
Felicia asks for a moment to talk to, “the supervillain standing in my foyer?” She leans into him. “He might have a problem with killing people like you. Look at him sideways in my apartment, and see if I have the same compunction.”
Felicia lets Vulture enter the room with the other three Peters. “Wait, how was he anywhere near Liz? I thought she moved to the West Coast,” our Peter asks.
“They’re in town. For a visit,” Vulture says.
“Really?” Pete says, leering.
“Dude,” Ben says, “Felicia.”
“I was teasing him. That overprotective father thing is so… ten years ago.”
“And what do you have to say for yourself?” Ben asks the new Spider-Man Vulture delivered.
“It was innocent,” Casanova Spider says with a shrug. “I was swinging along, and-”
“Wait,” our Peter interrupts. “How were you swinging. I invented my web-shooters.”
“I remember. I remember everything up until you got caught by the Jackal.”
“Oh, crap,” Peter says.
“So I grabbed one of your extra costumes, and built some web shooters. And I knew MJ had gotten that internship, and I was in the area. She… wanted to play a game like we’d never met, but we got lunch. She’s a really great girl; she deserves to have some quiet time with you. But after that, I was swinging around on patrol, when my spider sense lit up. It was him.” He nods at Vulture. “I followed him, and he met up with Liz. Then left. And she looked so sad. And so sweet. And… we were just talking.”
“Your lips were literally on her ear,” Vulture says menacingly.
“We started talking. She’s- the move was really hard on her. The blip was really hard on her, too. Everything, really, has been hard on her. She just needed a friend… I guess I was maybe a little too sympathetic an ear.”
“And when did you visit Connors?” Ben asks.
“I haven’t seen Dr. Connors since… since I was you, I guess.”
“Crap,” Ben and Pete say at the same time.
Vulture drives them across town. The Peters chatter amongst themselves, a little too loudly; some suspect, as a Jackal associate, that Vulture might be involved, and they should keep their friends close but their enemies closer. “Was thinking the same thing,” Vulture says.
They find out from Connors that there’s another Spider-Man, a Nerd Spider (is Poindexter-Man too much?). “He was wearing glasses, like you used to, Peter, and kept complaining about his allergies. Apparently, sneezing in the mask is… a problem.”
They track him down at the public library, doing research. He has braces, for some reason, and is dressed like the 60s version of Peter. He has some theories about what’s going on. His original hypothesis was that Jackal had some kind of a master plan. But research of the Bugle archives has found a series of brutal murders. There was flesh torn from the bodies, and each was found with a hand-print friction burn on their face. Nerd Spider picks up a piece of graph paper and sticks to it with his hand, before peeling the paper away. We zoom in to see that some of the fibers stay on his hand. “When we stick to surfaces, we extend what is, in essence, a low-level gravity field, just enough Gs to hold up a little more than our body weight- roughly us plus a person, plus compensating for whatever momentum we reach the wall with. But imagine one of the clones came out… not exactly correctly. A mutation, an aberration, something that amplified this field. Then imagine applying that force to a human being’s face.”
“The first murder,” we flashback, “was a man neighbors knew as Jack.” It’s another Peter, this one with a shaved head, and a little shorter than the others. “I believe he was one of the Jackal’s first attempts at cloning Peter, and worked to assist him. He was found, murdered, wearing a green outfit similar to the one the Jackal wore, with that tell-tale handprint across his face.” And we’re back in the library. “That’s when I realized the truth: Warren lost control of his clones. Someone has been letting us out.”
“To what end?” Ben asks.
“That…. I don’t know. But at least one of them is a killer. A Spider-Murderer- and that should give all of us pause.”
We see some of New York’s finest walking a Peter in Spider-Man feety pajamas into Peter’s building. This Peter keeps repeating the address. I’m going to try and walk a line, here. In Multiplicity (hell, in virtually every story of this type), they do a ‘one of them came out wrong’ sort of joke. The character’s always some kind of handicapped, usually played for comedy. Obviously, that’s problematic, when the joke is that handicapped people are funny (as in the butt of the joke, not as in capable of being humorous). But I want to be able to have my cake and eat it, on this. So my thought, and were we to do this, we would absolutely consult with sensitivity professionals and stakeholders, is that one of the clones has trisomy 21, Down syndrome. This would be the one clone not played by Tom Holland, because we’d get someone with Down syndrome to play him. The cops knock on the door, and tell Felicia that this young man claims to be her nephew, that this is where he lives. Felicia invites him in (I’m going to call him Corky, after Chris Burke’s Life Goes On character; bit before my time, but at least Google seems to think he’s been a good advocate for that community), and calls Peter. Just as a note, this clone might be younger; I want him in adorable Spider-Man feety pajamas, but I want them appropriate to the character (which, I will note, he corrects people to call his “Petey Pajamas” because that’s adorable).
I think the only ‘joke’ we’d have, here, is largely a reference to Multiplicity. Vulture goes into a room where the extra Spider-Men, including this one, under the direction of Nerd Spider, are hard at work assembling web shooters for all of the Spider-Men. Vulture emerges a little shaken. “He said ‘she’ touched his peppy. If ‘she’ was my daughter, I’m killing them both.” Seeming to understand that sounds bad, even for a villain, he adds, “It’s not because he’s different. It’s that he’s 2. And one of you.”
“Can we postpone the filicide?” Original Pete asks.
“Because my daughter’s a filly?” he asks, glaring.
“From the Latin, fillia. I did take Latin in the first place to impress your daughter, though. That’s, basically a compliment. It takes studying Latin to impress her, even a little, and all I got from her was this little wiggle smile. Worth it, but, now I have a head full of murder- it could be a prolicide. She’s probably not technically a kid, anymore, or it could be a pedicide.”
“And what would killing a spider be?” Vulture menaces.
The punchline for the joke would occur in an end-credits scene. The clone with Down syndrome excitedly exclaims that, “She’s touching my peppy,” from the closed room. Vulture and Felicia both protectively barrel into the room, to find that Pizza Dog, yes, from the Hawkeye series, is licking his pizza- his pepperoni pizza. “She’s touching my peppy,” he says with a scowl, before closing the box, and sauntering off with it.
But also, he’s not just here for a joke. He’d be there, as part of the finale, suited up, part of the good Spider army fighting against the villains. I think, to make sure we’re being responsible, one of the other clones asks him if he’s up to the fight. He pulls on his mask. “Don’t worry about me,” he says, “I’m Spider-Man.”
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Realizing this is all getting out of hand, Peter starts calling his former mentors. Starting with Dr. Strange, then Nick Fury, then ringing through to Happy. Then he calls the Avengers line, and we see the call ring through to several others (to save money, we can always have the calls just show on a phone in the right setting. Finally, Ant Man answers, calling him “Peanut,” before realizing he isn’t his daughter; Peter doesn’t realize it’s not a pet name for him, and awkwardly calls him “Biscotti.” He agrees to help Peter, largely because Multiplicity is one of his favorite Harold Ramis movies. He and Michael Keaton will end up in an argument over which is the better execution to the idea, Multiplicity or Living with Myself, with each arguing for the other’s version (because that’s funnier).
Again and again, the story comes back down to Peter both feeling responsibility for his clones, but also feeling like they shouldn’t be his responsibility. That’s the secret weapon we have, here; Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man and Michael Keaton’s Vulture are both actually really devoted fathers, and despite themselves, will give him the kind of solid advice he’ll need.
I think they investigate a series of murders and break-ins, dead spiders, and tech stolen from former Parker mentors. That’s because the rogue spiders all share Peter’s memories, as well as his scientific acumen. So their goal is, largely, to make a New York where they won’t be freaks, where they can be normal, or at least where the only freakish thing will be that they’re clones. This leads to a confrontation, the good Peters convinced that it isn’t worth the risk- some people will die, especially the old, the sickly, the young- that they don’t have the right to force this evolution on people.
I imagine, to get a more personal show-down, the good clones each stake out a different final component, and it’s original Peter who is there when Kaine breaks in. Kaine… is not a fan of his, blaming him for a lot of what happened to all of them, for first letting himself be kidnapped by Jackal, by not rescuing the rest of them, by letting the Avengers make him their goofy kid mascot, rather than make it okay for mutants to be public with their mutations. Peter tries to reason with him; in a way, Kaine is his wayward son, and in others, he’s Peter if things had gone very badly for him.
But Kaine is full of rage, rage borne of pain, both physical and psychological, and he lashes out. He’s strong, stronger than Peter; for the uninitiated, Kaine is basically what happens when the spider powers end up turned to 11. Even though Peter is more experienced, he’s just not ready for Kaine’s unbridled fury; Ben shows up, and saves him. Kaine flees, but with the tech he needed (he was never really there for a fight, anyway). Peter manages to hit Kaine with a tracker, one that will allow them to confront him before he finishes his device.
To fill out the ranks of the Bad Spiders, we’re mostly going to use Kaine’s various personae over the years, Tarantula, Scarlet Spider (the black and red costume); it could be neat to have Otto side with the evil Spiders as Superior Spider-Man, maybe bring some spider robots into play (maybe having been injured during Sinister 7 and back to using his tech to puppeteer a clone- maybe one who suffers a head injury and ends up comatose?).
We do a big knock-down drag-out fight between the good and bad Spiders, including the triumphant arrival of Footy Pajama Spider-Man. He is completely competent as a Spider-Man; it’s possible, if there’s some fun to be had, in the idea that he’s different from how we’d expect from a typical Spider-Man, provided he’s not the butt of the joke, and provided he’s different, but in a way that totally works (see the Feety Pajamas); I am, likewise, toying with the idea that he has a pig stuffed animal that he sewed a matching costume for, so that we can sort of have Spider-Ham in this thing (though he will properly be in the next one, but shhh… you’re not supposed to know that yet).
Miles shows up at the final battle, in his own home-made costume, saying he couldn’t stand by and let other people fight, let other people get hurt. Peter takes a moment to apologize. “I’m the reason you got sucked into this insane world; I didn’t want that for you, and I certainly wouldn’t have chosen it, but I have a responsibility to help you be the best Spider-Man you can be; we all have a responsibility to make each other the best we can be. So stay alive, kid, and I’ll teach you,”
“How to stay alive?” Miles asks, ducking one of the Doppleganger’s talons.
“I guess that’s all I have to teach you. You’ve already got the patter down.”
We get a big fight, with everyone getting a moment to shine:
Casanova: “I’m really more of a lover than a fighter,” he says, as Superior advances on him. He webs Superior’s elbow to a gargoyle, then takes a step back. Superior lunges forward, before hitting the end of his leash- and then the web sproings the gargoyle into him.
Kaine confronts Feety Pajama Spider-Man: “You should be with us. We’re fighting for a world where mutants are treated with respect, and dignity.”
“Spider-Man isn’t evil. That’s what’s wrong with you.” He ducks a punch, webbing Kaine’s feet to the ground, before leaping over him and and delivering a crushing uppercut.
Miles, in his home-made black and red suit, confronts the Scarlet Spider, also in red and black. Peter’s nervous, because this one is nearly as deadly as Kaine. Peter keeps telling him to feel for the tingle, but Miles is having trouble sensing it, before his hand grazes Scarlet’s shoulder, and he zaps him with a venom blast. “Think I felt the tingle,” Miles says.
“I think we all felt that one,” Peter says, before spraying a web for another Spider-Man to knock an opponent over.
I think Ben fights a newly re-formed Doppleganger. (yes, from my Maximum Carnage pitch– though this time I’m assuming they put that symbiote on a different clone, so Ben can literally face his demons) I think he maybe gets his clock cleaned by it earlier, and so he refuses to take the serum Dr. Conners made for him, and at a dramatic moment in the fight, mentions Popeye, “except for me, it’s actually the opposite of eating my spinach.” His four extra arms tear their way out of his sides; it’s clear it’s pretty painful, but suddenly they’re evenly matched, in fact, maybe Ben is on top, and furnishes a syringe he shoots the Doppleganger up with. “That should help with the mutation, and I put in some tranquilizers, too.”
“I’ve been analyzing some of the tissue samples left behind by Electro, and realized some of the organic compounds they contained could bind with our webbing fluid.”
“You’re putting me to sleep, Poindexter,” Tarantula growls, swiping wildly.
“Yes. The point.” He hits him in the chest with a web that then zaps him. “Difficult to believe we emerged from the same gene pool,” he says over the smoking spider.
It’s only after defeating and unmasking Kaine that we find out the biggest reason he’s been pushing this fight so aggressively: the clones are defective. As the oldest clone, Kaine’s damage is the furthest progressed. He was hoping to make being a spider/clone okay, then to harness the sympathy and acceptance to try and get some of the MCU’s big brains to help save them. He wasn’t really a bad dude, just a desperate one, who felt responsible for the clones who came after him. On the one hand, this gives us an out, for why Peter isn’t the real villain, but it also gives us a way to hand-wave away the clones until/unless we want to bring them back- that they’ve been off curing/arresting the degeneration.
End Credits Scene:
Feety Pajama Spider-Man is still a little out of sorts, eating his pizza sticking to the side of a water tower, as Pizza Dog barks at him from the roof below. “My peppy,” he says, taking a bite from a slice. His stuffed Spider-Ham is webbed to the tower beside the pizza box.
A portal opens, energy and electricity scaring Pizza Dog, who barks at it. Petey drops his pizza, gobsmacked, and the dog snatches it and runs off. Petey’s not even paying attention, because he’s more interested in the portal. It starts off screen. I’m assuming he’s off screen, but we hear John Mulaney’s distinctive voice. “Hey, kid, how’s it hanging?”
“I told you, it’s Peter.”
“Kid, we’re all Peter.” We finally reverse, and see that Spider-Ham is there, with Indian Spider-Man and Penni Parker. “Okay, so half of present company excluded. This place has got way too many spiders. It’s ringing the dinner bell before we’re ready to serve just desserts. So come with us. We’ve got a safe place to prepare. And, yeah, kid. You’re going to need your Petey Pajamas.”
We cut to black. White text appears one word at a time.
Feety Pajama Spider-Man
In The Spider-Verse