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Has Marvel already set up Norman Osborn as the villain of the MCU’s Phase 4? Next year’s Avengers: Endgame will bring the first three phases of the MCU to an end. Although Marvel is currently attempting to keep discussion of their future plans to a minimum, it hasn’t stopped anyone speculating about just who could be the next “big bad” in the shared universe.

We’ve already suggested that the next major villain could be Norman Osborn. As any comic book reader will know, there’s a lot more to Osborn than just his insane Green Goblin persona, which Sony has already brought to the big screen twice before. In the comics, Osborn is a genius scientist and industrialist; although he’s traditionally associated with Spider-Man, the truth is that over the last 20 years or so he’s become a mainstream Marvel villain and even a nemesis for Iron Man and the Avengers. In the 2007-2008 “Dark Reign” era, for example, Osborn successfully manipulated himself into a position where he became the new Nick Fury in the Marvel Universe, the man in charge of the world’s superheroes. Needless to say, it didn’t go well for the heroes.

But has Marvel already prepared the grounds for Norman Osborn to appear in the MCU? Right now, there are four unanswered questions in the MCU, mysteries that have so far been unresolved. And every one of them could be answered by Norman Osborn.

This Page: Spider-Man: Homecoming & The Vulture
Page 2: Stark Tower and Ant-Man & The Wasp

When Marvel introduced Spider-Man into the MCU, they deliberately decided to skip the origin story. It was an understandable decision; after all, that had been brought to the big screen twice since the year 2000. Just how many times would audiences tune in to watch Uncle Ben get shot? Interestingly, though, Marvel Studios has studiously avoided telling the origin story in any of the tie-in media. It was initially assumed that the Spider-Man: Homecoming Prelude comic would fill this gap, but instead it settled for retelling the events of Captain America: Civil War.

Everybody assumes they know the story of how Peter Parker became Spider-Man, but a few simple questions reveal just how much wriggle-room Marvel has left themselves. Where did the radioactive spider come from in the MCU? In the original comics, a spider happened to dangle on a web in front of a science experiment; its body was subjected to powerful radiation, and it fell from its web on to Peter’s hand, reflexively biting him. In the modernized Ultimate Universe – which has often served as an inspiration for the MCU – the spider was part of experiments being conducted by OsCorp. One of the specimens escaped, just the day before Peter attended OsCorp on a school trip – and the outcome was never really in doubt. Clearly, then, if the MCU origin of Spider-Man is lifted from the Ultimate Universe, Norman Osborn could well be an important part of it.

But here’s another key question: Was there only one spider? In the Ultimate Universe, it didn’t take Osborn any time at all to realize that Peter Parker was developing superhuman abilities. He became convinced that these genetically engineered spiders were “the key that unlocks the next step of human evolution,” and continued experimenting upon the spiders. That allowed Marvel to have other characters bitten by them, meaning there could be other Spiders in the Ultimate Universe. The most prominent of these, Miles Morales, took over as Spider-Man when Peter Parker was killed. Significantly, Miles has already been established as part of the MCU, so there’s already potential for him to become another wall-crawling superhero. All Marvel need is another spider – and if Norman Osborn and OsCorp are involved in Spider-Man’s MCU origin, then that’s not a problem at all.


The plot of Spider-Man: Homecoming actually left a lot more unanswered questions. For one thing – who was originally buying the Vulture’s tech? Back in 2012, in the aftermath of the Chitauri invasion of New York, Adrian Toomes began obtaining illegal tech and selling it on the black market. Curiously, though, it’s only four years later that the businessman starts selling advanced weapons on the streets, to criminals like Aaron Davis. So who were the Vulture’s first customers?

Toomes is a smart businessman, so it’s safe to assume he initially approached technology companies and weapons manufacturers. Perhaps he’s the reason Hammer Industries developed the Judas Bullet, as seen in Luke Cage season 1 and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 4. If that’s the case, it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where Norman Osborn – genius industrialist and weapons developer par excellence – would be another of his clients. Osborn would find Chitauri weapons alluring, would be fascinated with Ultron tech, and would love to get his hands on Dark Elf gravity bombs. Over the years, though, presumably that market would dry up; these companies would acquire enough Chitauri tech to be confident they didn’t need any more, for example, and they’d only be interested in so many samples of the same equipment. Thus by the time of Spider-Man: Homecoming, Toomes has been forced to find new customers.

In the aftermath of Avengers: Age of Ultron, the Avengers moved out of Stark Tower; by the time of Spider-Man: Homecoming, Tony Stark was selling it and moving out himself. But who was buying Stark Tower? At the time of the film’s release, a lot of viewers speculated that it could be Reed Richards, preparing the way for the MCU to introduce the Fantastic Four. While that’s still possible, it could also be Norman Osborn. The idea of basing himself in a former Avengers base would appeal to Osborn’s ego, and the purchase would indicate his ambition of replacing Tony Stark in every way possible.

It’s important to note that it was probably impossible for Stark to extract all of his tech from the building. The tower was intended to be revolutionary, the first completely clean energy-powered skyscraper in New York. It’s powered by one of Stark’s pioneering Arc Reactors, which means the tower can run itself for over a year. It seems reasonable to assume whoever bought Stark Tower would also acquire the Arc Reactor – and that would most certainly be of interest to Norman Osborn. In the “Dark Reign” era, Osborn quite enjoyed experimenting with creating his own version of the Iron Man armor.


The final unanswered question is the mystery of Sonny Burch’s employer in Ant-Man & the Wasp. When Burch learned the potential of Pym Particles, it didn’t take him long to find a buyer, and he then proceeded to attempt to get his hands on as much Pym-Tech as possible. The film was careful to avoid revealing just who Burch was working for, but there was one notable hint; the criminal offered Hope $1 billion for the tech, suggesting he was expecting to receive a far healthier paycheck himself. Whoever Burch was working for, then, is interested in advanced tech – and extremely wealthy. Norman Osborn definitely ticks those boxes.

All this may simply be a coincidence, of course, but the fact remains that right now there is a distinctly Norman-Osborn-shaped hole in the MCU. Assuming all these do indeed point to Norman Osborn, then the MCU’s version of the villain is an up-and-coming industrialist and weapons manufacturing who’s been conducting illegal deals to acquire advanced technology that will give him a competitive edge. He’s greedy and ambitious, not afraid to cut corners, and he’s already very wealthy indeed. Looking forward to Phase 4, that would perfectly position him to become a terrifying new threat for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.