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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Who Is Madame Web, the First Female Superhero in Sony’s Spider-Verse?

The Big Picture

  • Sony Marvel introduces Madame Web, a complex hero within Spider-Man’s world, played by Dakota Johnson. She has powers similar to Doctor Strange and can see the future.
  • Madame Web, despite being blind and elderly, possesses clairvoyant abilities that enable her to sense danger and see beyond what others can.
  • With a cast including Sydney Sweeney, Adam Scott, Emma Roberts, Zosia Mamet, and Isabela Merced, Madame Web’s character may be adapted from later versions of the comics where her powers and role are different.

The Sony branch of Marvel is ready to welcome a new hero to the big screen. Dakota Johnson plays the titular hero in Madame Web, a complex character within Spider-Man’s orbit that has powers akin to those of Doctor Strange. She, too, can see the future, except she doesn’t need a Time Stone to do so. Directed by S.J. Clarkson, who also directed episodes of Netflix’s The Defenders and Jessica Jones, Madame Web boasts an impressive cast including Sydney Sweeney, Adam Scott, Emma Roberts, Zosia Mamet, and Isabela Merced. We know that Venom and Spidey have a love-hate bromance in the comics, and that Morbius is a bloodthirsty anti-hero, but what’s the deal with Madame Web?

Madame Web Newest Film Poster

Madame Web

Cassandra Webb is a New York City paramedic who starts to show signs of clairvoyance. Forced to confront revelations about her past, she must protect three young women from a mysterious adversary who wants them dead.

Release Date
February 14, 2024

Kerem Sanga , Matt Sazama , Burk Sharpless

Spider-Man Initially Doesn’t Take Madame Web Seriously

Given the fact that Johnson was cast to play the obscure hero, it’s likely that they’ll be taking Madame Web in a very different, more youthful direction than in the comics. Created by Denny O’Neil and John Romita Jr., Madame Web (also known as Cassandra Webb) made her debut in 1980’s The Amazing Spider-Man #210 and helped our favorite web-slinger solve a confusing kidnapping involving secret identities, which is something Spidey knows about all too well.

Funnily enough, even though Madame Web ends up saving Spider-Man’s arachnid-butt by the end of the issue, the story starts off with Peter Parker dismissing her and her supposed psychic powers when his love interest Debbie Whitman shows him her business card. (Little did Peter know that he was scoffing at a telepathic mutant.) Peter is working for the Daily Globe, which is run by the reclusive K.J. Clayton. For the first time, the staff meet Clayton in a meeting, where she reveals herself to be a beautiful young blonde. She tells everyone that they are to report from here on out to the newly-hired Rupert Dockery, who now controls the paper. (Something doesn’t seem quite right, does it?)

Meanwhile, Peter can’t even get to the mysterious meeting because the guard won’t let him in. The meeting takes a deadly turn once five disguised men break in and hold everyone at gunpoint. Fortunately, Spider-Manalso breaks into the meeting, though it appears to be too little too late. The masked men escape, and all that’s left behind is a piece of paper with Madame Web’s picture. Maybe it’s about time Spidey finds out who this webbed woman actually is.

Madame Web Is Always One Step Ahead in Marvel Comics

Madame Web in Marvel Comics 
Image via Marvel Comics

It turns out, Madame Webb is, like, super…old? When Spider-Man enters her apartment, he’s stunned to learn that the psychic is not only elderly, but blind and suffering from myasthenia gravis, a degenerative neuromuscular disease. She explains to the baffled web-slinger that the intense, convoluted, web-like structure that she’s permanently hooked up to is actually a complex life-support system created by her deceased husband. Despite her inability to see in the literal sense, she has clairvoyant abilities that enable her to see beyond what others can. In other words, she can see into the future and sense danger, just as Dakota Johnson’s version is able to.

Spider-Man hands her the paper he found at the disastrous meeting, and she’s able to sense that it belongs to a student of hers named Belinda Bell, who has crossed paths with a woman named Katrinka Janice Clayton (also known as K.J. Clayton). From just that scrap of paper, she’s also able to tell that Belinda regrets some of her recent behavior and, as a result, is in a life-or-death situation…involving trains.

Though Madame Web cannot see exactly what the future holds, she can sense its stability (or lack thereof). She knows that unless Spidey can save Belinda, both Belinda and K.J. Clayton will die. While some specifics would’ve been ideal for Spider-Man, Madame Web’s telepathic abilities proved to be super helpful. It turns out that Belinda Bell was hired by Rupert Dockery to pretend to be K.J. Clayton and lie to the Daily Globe staff that he was the new leader. While the real K.J. Clayton did agree to having Belinda pretend to be her, she certainly did not know that Rupert was planning on taking over the paper and killing them both in the process.

Madame Web and Spider-Man Team Up To Save the Day

Spider-Man and Madame Webb in Marvel Comics
Image via Marvel Comics

Rupert calls his henchmen, who are holding Belinda hostage in a toy store basement, and tells them to get rid of her. Thankfully, Spider-Man breaks in before it’s too late (unlike the meeting in the beginning) and saves Belinda. How did he know that Belinda was in a toy shop? Well, remember Madame Web said she was somewhere with trains? Spider-Man made the connection that the trains were perhaps model trains, and (thankfully) checked out the local toy shop that Rupert also owns (for some reason).



The Best Madame Web Was Played By Stan Lee’s Wife

Before you swing into theaters for Dakota Johnson’s take on Madame Web, check out Joan Lee’s impressive performance.

Then, in a whirlwind series of events, Belinda tells Spidey that he needs to save Clayton. Spidey saves Clayton from her apartment that Rupert set on fire, and then Rupert confesses once Spider-Man stops him trying to escape in a limousine. Understandably, the Daily Globe is put on hold, which, as a result, puts the staff out of work. As a perfect bow on an intricate story, Madame Web has a little bit of fun with her powers. She calls up an unemployed Peter Parker (due to her all-knowingness she’s well aware that Parker is Spider-Man) and lets him know that his secret identity is safe with her and that in a matter of seconds, J. Jonah Jameson of the Daily Bugle will be calling him for a job opportunity (which he does).

Madame Web Passes Her Mantle to Julia Carpenter’s Spider-Woman

But could this really be the character Dakota Johnson will be playing? An elderly woman who can’t move? Probably not. Let’s remember that Marvel has no problem making characters that are old in the comics young on screen (ahem, Kathryn Hahn as Agatha Harkness and Marisa Tomei as Aunt May). There’s a good chance that Marvel will stray from the original Madame Web origin all together, and adopt a version of her from later iterations of the character.

In The Amazing Spider-Man #637 during the “Grim Hunt” storyline, Cassandra Webb dies and passes down her powers and her blindness to the much younger Julia Carpenter, who, up until that point, was the second Spider-Woman (now that’s a whole other article) and then later, the second Arachne. (Boy, she sure likes her seconds.) Carpenter’s first major feat as the new Madame Web is to prevent Spider-Man from killing Kraven the Hunter, because killing him would have brutal long-term consequences. (She sees into the future, and it ain’t pretty.) The Julia Carpenter version of Madame Web also interacts with Doc Ock, Morbius, Shang-Chi, and Venom, all of whom are active in either the MCU or the Sony Spider-Verse (or both). It appears that Sydney Sweeney will be playing Julia Carpenter, or a character similar to her.

Sony’s presence in the Marvel Universe continues to gain momentum. In addition to producing Tom Holland’s Spider-Man movies, Sony’s responsible for Morbius and Tom Hardy’s Venom franchise, which is set to release Venom 3 in November under the direction of The Changeling’s Kelly Marcel. Additionally, Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Kraven the Hunter is clawing its way to theaters in August. What else might the future hold? Ask Madame Web.

Madame Web is playing in theaters on February 14.

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