Some of comic book giant Marvel’s most popular characters belong to other people, at least as far as movies go. That’s why there’s no onscreen crossover between the X-Men and the Avengers; why, even though the Fantastic Four plays a big part in the Civil War comics, they won’t show up next year in Captain America: Civil War. Occasionally a deal can be struck, like the agreement between Marvel and Sony that will allow Spider-Man to show up in the MCU, and just in case, Marvel has a contingency plan in place should they magically get other character rights back.
Marvel has a road map in place laying out the future installments of their movie world, but it’s not hard and fast and set in stone. At a recent Q&A for the Blu-ray release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, as witnessed by Collider, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige talked about getting characters back. He said:
This has been a dream of ours for a long time, and we always had contingency plans should you know—which we always do anyways. Are we going to be able to make another movie with this actor? If we are then we’ll do this, if not, we’re going to do this. If we get the rights to a certain character that’d be great, then we’d do this, if not, we’d do this. So we always sort of operate with those alternate timelines available and are ready to shift if something happens.
This flexibility is what allowed them, when Sony was ready to make a deal instead of continuing on with their The Amazing Spider-Man franchise, to welcome the Wall Crawler back into the fold. Though Peter Parker and Spider-Man will appear next year in Captain America: Civil War, he will also get his own solo joint in 2017.
To accommodate this long-lost family member, Marvel had to shift around the release dates for a handful of their upcoming titles. The movies specifically impacted were Thor: Ragnarok, which was pushed back from July 2017 to November of the same year; Black Panther, which was delayed eight months and will now be the first MCU movie to come out after Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 on July 6, 2018; and Captain Marvel, now slated to hit on November 2, 2018.
While none of these are earthshattering delays, it does illustrate a willingness on Marvel’s part to move things around. Say, if something was originally supposed to appear in Black Panther that has an impact on Infinity War, that element would have to be moved; there’s a certain fluidity to the future of the MCU.
That said, Spider-Man is one of the most popular comic book characters in the world, so you can bet that Marvel would also be willing to bend over backwards to bring him home—they stand to make a fair amount of money on the deal. But you can bet that they’d also welcome back the X-Men or the Fantastic Four with open arms as well.
Marvel’s Spider-Man, starring Tom Holland as the Web-Slinger, is scheduled to be released on July 28, 2017.