How Spider-Man Film Rights Work With New Comic Releases

Long before Marvel was a Disney-owned, billion-dollar powerhouse, the brand was a scrappy little publisher trying to get by. At one point nearly 30 years ago, that meant the House of Ideas was forced to sell or license the film rights to some of its largest characters. This is ultimately how Fox once got its hand on the Fantastic Four and X-Men families before Disney acquired the corporation. It's also how Sony managed to land the film rights to Spider-Man and his vast library of characters, an arrangement that still lasts to this day.

The thing is, Marvel still publishes Spider-Man comics each and every month, despite not being able to use the character in Marvel Studios programming without making a deal with Sony. As one former Marvel lawyer tells us, the deal means Sony gets the rights to new characters introduced in the comics, even decades after the deal was first struck.

"I do believe that the concept is, the Spider-Man universe is anything that appears in publishing, becomes a film character," attorney Paul Sark says. "So think about it as like there's an advantage to having continuity. Comics are not static, right? And that's what fans love about it, right? That things evolve, the storylines evolve. So if you come up with this new, amazing character in the comic books, Sony, I believe, has the rights to exploit them in their films if it's in the Spider-Man family."

In addition to Spider-Man films, Sony's branched out and started its own Universe of Marvel Characters. To date, the outfit has released a pair of Venom flicks and the widely-panned (and memed) Morbius. Dakota Johnson's Madame Web will enter production before long at all and Kraven the Hunter starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson recently wrapped principal photography.

And should Marvel introduce a new character in the next Spider-Man comic, it looks like Sony has free rein to make a movie of them as the studio sees fit.

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Sarker can be heard on his podcast Better Call Paul, a weekly show covering the various facets of entertainment law. Stateside, Spider-Man: Homecoming is streaming on Starz while Far From Home is on Hulu and No Way Home is available for purchase wherever movies are sold.

Where would you like to see Spidey pop up next? Let us know your thoughts either in the comments section, or by hitting our writer @AdamBarnhardt up on Twitter to chat all things MCU!