Next year's Spider-Man: Homecoming can be viewed as a bit of a do-over for the on-screen Spidey universe. Marvel and Sony struck an historic deal to bring the web slinger into the ongoing MCU, but with Homecoming, Marvel's able to start building its own unique Spider-Man universe that's totally separate -- by design -- from the stories built around Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield. That means we get a new Aunt May (Marisa Tomei). It means we might get a new Mary Jane Watson. And it means supporting cast members with important comic book names should have die-hard Spider-Man fans sitting up and paying attention.
For example, Jacob Batalon has been cast alongside Tom Holland in Spider-Man: Homecoming as one of Peter Parker's classmates. We didn't know WHO Batalon was playing, but now that he has revealed this, it's incredibly intriguing. In an interview with news channel KHON2, the Hawaiian actor drops the info that he is playing Ned Leeds, Peter's best friend in the film. Wait, who?
Now, if you grew up reading Spider-Man comics, you know that Ned Leeds was a pivotal figure in Peter's life, but in a different capacity. Leeds was a reporter at The Daily Bugle, who romanced Betty Brant, Peter's one-time love interest. And in a dramatic comic-book twist, it was revealed that Ned Leeds was operating as one of Spider-Man's deadliest foes, the Hobgoblin (though later, it was deduced that Leeds was being brainwashed by a different villain):
However, there are alternate versions of Ned Leeds in Ultimate Marvel, and in the animated series, so there are plenty of different ways that they are able to use the character. Could the seeds be being laid for Ned Leeds to eventually become some version of a Goblin? The villain has been manipulated in various ways in the Spider-Man movies, giving Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) the reigns in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and taking he more traditional route in Sam Raimi's first Spider-Man, with Willem Dafoe. I can't see this new version of Spider-Man rushing into another version of The Green Goblin, but like I said, this is a do-over, and the suggestion that Ned Leeds is going to be a character at least hints at the possibility that Peter's best friend in the new story could eventually turn into his nemesis. Because that's a very Spider-Man thing to happen.
For now, Jacob Batalon is only playing Ned Leeds. But calling him Ned Leeds raises all sorts of questions, and we can't wait to see the answers when Spider-Man: Homecoming opens on July 7, 2017.
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Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Sean created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.