Could Dakota Johnsons Madame Web actually be a Spider-Woman movie? Marvel Comics history says could be!

Sony has rekindled another expansion in its Spider-Man-centric ‘Universe of Marvel Characters’, which so far includes Venom, Morbius, and a planned Kraven movie, adding actor Dakota Johnson as the star of a Madame Web film based on the longrunning Spidey supporting character. First announced in 2019, Johnson’s casting has the film, to be directed by SJ Clarkson, back in the news.

Madame Web, likely known to viewers of the ’90s Spider-Man animated series, seems like a strange choice for a solo movie, given her usual status quo as an observer and mentor to Peter Parker – and the fact that she’s usually an old lady who rarely leaves her special spider-throne, where she psychically monitors Spider-Man related goings-on.

But there’s more to Madame Web’s history, especially in recent years, that could point to Johnson’s Madame Web movie as more than its title lets on, perhaps with a direct connection to another Spider-hero (or two).

So who exactly is Madame Web, and how might she manage to hold down her own movie? Newsarama will gaze into the psychic web and explain it all right now.

Who is Madame Web?

Amazing Spider-Man #210 panel

Amazing Spider-Man #210 art (Image credit: Marvel Comics)

For starters, there are actually two characters in the Marvel Universe who have gone by the name Madame Web – the second and current of whom, who we’ll get to in a moment, has also gone by a much better-known codename and superhero identity in the past.

The original Madame Web, real name Cassandra Webb, was an elderly woman who suffered from a real neuromuscular condition known as myasthenia gravis, which causes muscle degeneration, especially in the eyes. 

As a result of her condition, the original Madame Web (introduced by Denny O’Neil and John Romita, Jr. in 1980’s Amazing Spider-Man #210 (opens in new tab)) was blind, wearing a blindfold to hide her eyes and spending most of her time seated in a special web-like chair that also functioned as her life support system.

Amazing Spider-Man #210 cover

Amazing Spider-Man #210 cover (Image credit: Marvel Comics)

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Interestingly enough, Cassandra Web was also a mutant with the powers of precognition and clairvoyance, as well as telepathy. She first encountered Peter Parker when she aided him in finding the victim of a kidnapping, going on to act as something of a guide and mentor to Spider-Man over the years – even psychically learning his identity, though she later lost this knowledge after a near-death experience in a fight with the Juggernaut.

The original Madame Web also has a connection to three heroes who have used the name Spider-Woman – she had a relationship with the second Spider-Woman Julia Carpenter (more on her momentarily), she acted as a mentor to the third Spider-Woman Mattie Franklin, and she was the grandmother of the fourth Spider-Woman Charlotte Witter.

Sadly, there’s a reason we’ve been referring to the original Madame Web in the past tense, as she was killed by Ana Kraven, the daughter of Kraven the Hunter, in the story ‘The Gauntlet (opens in new tab).’ However, before her death, she was able to pass her abilities, as well as her mantle as Madame Webb, down to a successor – Julia Carpenter, the previously mentioned second Spider-Woman.

Who is Julia Carpenter?

Secret Wars #7 panel

Secret Wars #7 art (Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Julia Carpenter was introduced in 1985’s Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars (opens in new tab), as a resident of the city of Denver, Colorado who was transported to the artificial planet known as Battleworld when its creator the Beyonder stole Denver to make up part of his new world, on which he pitted Marvel’s greatest heroes and villains against each other in combat.

She was already active as Spider-Woman by the time she appeared in Secret Wars, with her backstory revealed as being a government agent who was given a special formula that caused her to develop powers akin to those of Spider-Man, along with the added power of being able to create psychic telekinetic web, her version of Spidey’s web-shooters.

Avengers West Coast #74 cover

Avengers West Coast #74 cover (Image credit: Marvel Comics)

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Though she initially sided with the villains, she switched sides in the fight after meeting Spider-Man. Despite this, when the participants of Secret Wars returned to Earth, Carpenter, still in the guise of Spider-Woman, joined the government mutant-hunting team known as Freedom Force alongside former members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, including Blob, Pyro, Avalanche, Destiny, and leader Mystique, ostensibly acting as a villain and enemy of the X-Men for a time.

Once again, however, she switched sides when Freedom Force got embroiled in a fight with Avengers and X-Men, going on to join the West Coast Avengers (opens in new tab), and later serving on Iron Man’s Force Works (opens in new tab) team. For a little while, she quit being a superhero to raise her daughter as a single mother, though she later returned under the name Arachne. 

When the original Madame Web is killed by Ana Kraven, she’s able to psychically pass her powers onto Julia Carpenter through their shared metaphysical connection to the so-called ‘Great Web’ that connects Spider-Man and his related Variants throughout the Multiverse (or rather Spider-Verse – more on that momentarily).

And along with her role in the ‘Great Web’ and her powers – which cause Julia to go blind as a result of taking them on – Madame Web also imparts a message for Julia: a warning about the then-impending events of the story Spider-Verse (opens in new tab).

Madame Web in the Marvel Universe

Amazing Spider-Man #637 panel

Amazing Spider-Man #637 art (Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Since ‘The Gauntlet’, Julia Carpenter has been Madame Web, using her psychic connection to the ‘Great Web’ and her precognitive powers to aid Peter Parker just as her predecessor did. 

However, in the events of Spider-Island (opens in new tab), in which the Jackal uses genetically engineered spiders to give all the people in Manhattan powers like Spider-Man’s, she falls into a coma.

Julia later awakens at the end of the story Spider-Verse, in which villains known as the Inheritors attempt to kill all versions of Spider-Man across Marvel’s Multiverse. Though she’s able to aid in the outcome of the Inheritors’ spider-hunt, the experience costs Julia her precognitive powers.

Amazing Spider-Man #15 page

Amazing Spider-Man #15 page (Image credit: Marvel Comics)

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There was also a time when the original Madame Web, Cassandra Webb, seemingly returned from the dead. In actuality, she was a clone, created by the Jackal in the story Spider-Man: The Clone Conspiracy (opens in new tab)

Along with all the memories of the original Madame Web, the clone also had her powers, which led her to see what the future would hold, should she remain alive and return to the Great Web. Seeing only disaster if she were to do so, she instead sacrifices herself along with the rest of the clones created in the Jackal’s scheme. 

Despite no longer having her precognitive powers, Julia Carpenter is still Madame Web, and along with some level of clairvoyance and telepathy, has developed highly sophisticated blind-fighting skills under the training of Shang-Chi.

She hasn’t played a role in any Spider-Man stories for a while, but with Dakota Johnson about to take a starring role in the Madame Web movie, some version is liable to return sooner or later.

Madame Web in movies

Amazing Spider-Man #637 panel

Amazing Spider-Man #637 art (Image credit: Marvel Comics)

In terms of Sony’s Universe of Marvel Characters, the idea of a Madame Web-centric movie doesn’t give us much to go on, given the character’s usual supporting role. But there are some clues that the planned Madame Web movie may not be what it seems on its face. 

Sony is already prepping a Kraven movie as well – and given Kraven’s connection to the original Madame Web and her successor Julia Carpenter through his daughter, there’s a good chance the storylines of both Kraven and Madame Web could connect across films.

And of course, that lends itself to the possibility that the role Dakota Johnson will play in the Madame Web film may actually be more akin to a hero like Spider-Woman, if not actually specifically Spider-Woman – perhaps taking on a superheroic role after the death of a mentor at the hands of Kraven.

Amazing Spider-Man #637 page

Amazing Spider-Man #637 page (Image credit: Marvel Comics)

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It would make a lot more sense for a rising star like Johnson to take on a role like that, with big superhero potential, than to play a character who is most often an elderly woman who doesn’t fight or do much in the way of action – especially if she were to bear some kind of resemblance to the original Spider-Woman Jessica Drew, one of Marvel’s most famous brunettes.

(No, Jessica Drew isn’t connected to the story of Madame Web or even Julia Carpenter, but Sony could easily take inspiration and tweak things, as most superhero movies do).

And that in turn leads to the question of whether all of this could somehow lead to a larger live-action Spider-Verse movie, as those comic book storylines did, maybe piggybacking off this winter’s blockbuster Spider-Man: No Way Home, in which three versions of Spidey from around the Multiverse team-up.

And not for nothing, an Easter egg in that movie’s climax seemed to suggest there’s a version of Kraven in the Multiverse with a connection to Spider-Man – likely the one to appear in the upcoming Sony film.

It’s also worth noting that, should her original backstory be maintained, if the Cassandra Webb version of Madame Web comes to Sony’s Universe of Marvel Characters, that would mean they’d have a prominent mutant on deck.

Whatever is coming, it would take someone who can gaze into the ‘Great Web’ to say for sure – or at least someone with the patience to wait for the movies to eventually come out.

You don’t need Madame Web’s powers to know what’s coming for Spider-Man in comic books – you just need our listing of all the new Spider-Man comics planned for release in 2022 and beyond.

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