Who Is Madame Web? Comic Book Origins & Spider-Man Connection Explained

As many hardcore Marvel fans are surely aware, Sony controls the movie rights to the "Spider-Man" franchise and all of the characters closely associated with him. While Sony and Disney have a deal in place that allows Tom Holland's Peter Parker to exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that leaves hundreds of characters just sitting around waiting in the wings to be used for the sake of solo franchises. That's what led to "Venom" and, thanks to that movie's success, Sony is looking to other characters to expand what it now calls Sony's Spider-Man Universe.

One of the next characters to get the big-screen treatment will be Madame Web, with the character to be played by Dakota Johnson ("Fifty Shades of Grey," "Suspiria") while S.J. Clarkson ("The Defenders," "Succession") sits in the director's chair. Given that this is a slightly more obscure character (and one with a wild history), we are here to go over her history in the pages of Marvel Comics, her connections to Spider-Man, and what her inclusion in this universe might mean in the grand scheme of things. Let's dig in.

Madame Web's Comic Book Origins

Madame Web first debuted in "The Amazing Spider-Man" #210 as the creation of writer Denny O'Neil and artist John Romita Jr. Cassandra Webb, who eventually becomes an ally of Spider-Man, was diagnosed with a neuromuscular disease known as myasthenia gravis, losing her vision as a result. She ends up utilizing a complex life support system that just so happens to look like a spider web — hence her name. Another item of note is that she is generally depicted as an elderly woman and typically doesn't fight villains herself. That makes Johnson's casting quite interesting and could pave the way for a dramatic re-interpretation of the character for the purposes of the movie.

As far as her powers go, Madame Web is a strong clairvoyant mutant who has precognitive powers in addition to telepathy and a truly impressive intellect. Her first adventure with Spider-Man involved her helping him to find a kidnap victim. Long before he was unmasked as part of the "Civil War" event in the comics, Web was one of the people who actually knew that Peter Parker was Spider-Man. The two ended up having a long history together with Web serving as a consistent ally. She tends to show up when he is in dire need of guidance and utilizes her clairvoyances to warns him about the possible outcomes of his actions.

One particularly noteworthy event from the comics had to do with something called the Gathering of the Five. During that storyline, Web seeks the aid of Spider-Man to help prevent her impending death. (Clairvoyance: Simultaneously a benefit and a curse.) To prevent this, Peter is tasked with retrieving one of five artifact fragments, with each of the five participants receiving either knowledge, power, immortality, insanity, or death. Luckily for Web, she ends up with immortality, restoring her to youth and curing her myasthenia gravis — for a time, at least.

In another storyline involving the nefarious Doc Ock, Otto Octavius created a new Spider-Woman using none other than Web's granddaughter, Charlotte Witter. She had the ability to absorb the abilities of each of the other Spider-Women, including Jessica Drew, Julia Carpenter, and Mattie Franklin. Web brought together the various spider-women to defeat Charlotte, which they ultimately did. However, she still managed to absorb Madam Web's abilities, which ended up making her an elderly woman again while maintaining her immortality.

Madame Web In Other Media

As it turns out, the "Madame Web" movie won't be the character's first foray into another medium, though it will serve as her live-action debut. Many Spider-Man fans of a certain age very likely became familiar with her thanks to her turn in "Spider-Man: The Animated Series" in the '90s. Web showed up in later seasons to help prevent some universe-shattering events, in addition to setting up a loose adaptation of the beloved "Secret Wars" storyline. Taking major liberties with the source material, far fewer heroes were involved, and it pitted Web against the Beyonder.

Web's main purpose in the show was to help prepare Peter for the arrival of Spider-Carnage, who was attempting to destroy all universes. Because of her abilities, Web can sort of traverse various timelines and universes, and though she's not necessarily physically imposing, Web is not to be discounted in terms of her ability to influence major events. Her arcs in the '90s cartoon were a great example of that. (As for other appearances on TV, the Julia Carpenter version of the character also appeared in "Ultimate Spider-Man.")

Another prominent role for the character in another medium was the acclaimed "Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions" video game, which was released in 2010. Long before "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" made the notion of the multiverse cool for the masses, this game told a wildly ambitious tale involving Spider-Man, Spider-Man Noir, Ultimate Spider-Man, and Spider-Man 2099. Web gets involved when a tablet is broken, which ends up shattering the dimensions in question.

The Big Picture

So, how does the inclusion of a "Madame Web" movie shake things up for the live-action Marvel multiverse? "Spider-Man: No Way Home" certainly at least opened the door for the Sony films to crossover with the main Marvel Cinematic Universe in some ways, with Tom Hardy's Venom/Eddie Brock making a brief cameo. More than that, much of the larger implication for future crossovers had to do with Benedict Cumberbatch's Doctor Strange tearing open the fabric of the multiverse, which brought both Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield's Spider-Man into the MCU for a time.

We know that Sony also has "Morbius" on the way as well as a "Kraven the Hunter" movie, and there are even rumors that Garfield may not be done just yet. One might imagine that Sony would like a way to unite all of these universes under one roof again, especially when looking at how well "No Way Home" did at the box office. To that end, a report from Deadline discussing the casting of Johnson in this role states that "Insiders say due to her psychic sensory powers, she is essentially Sony's version of Doctor Strange."

That, coupled with the nature of her appearances in projects like "Spider-Man: The Animated Series" and "Shattered Dimensions," could pave the way for some further multiversal madness in the future. It is not a stretch to imagine that the "Madame Web" movie could provide Sony a lynchpin for future, ambitious crossovers. A live-action "Spider-Verse" movie perhaps? That is getting into wild speculation territory, but it's not tough to connect the dots when looking at everything we have out on the table.

The "Madame Web" movie does not yet have a release date set.