Sony Race-Swaps Mattie Franklin For Upcoming Spider-Man Spin-Off ‘Madame Web’

Mattie Franklin (Celeste O'Connor) readies herself for a fight in Madame Web (2024), Sony Pictures
Mattie Franklin (Celeste O'Connor) readies herself for a fight in Madame Web (2024), Sony Pictures

Like so many heroes and heroines before her, the first trailer for Sony’s Madame Web has revealed that Marvel Comics’ third Spider-Woman, Mattie Franklin, has been race-swapped in her translation to the silver screen.

Mattie Franklin appears for a pin-up in honor of her solo series' final issue in Spider-Woman Vol. 3 #18 "Dry Bones" (2000), Marvel Comics. Words by John Byrne, art by Bart Sears, Randy Elliot, and Steve Oliff.
Mattie Franklin appears for a pin-up in honor of her solo series’ final issue in Spider-Woman Vol. 3 #18 “Dry Bones” (2000), Marvel Comics. Words by John Byrne, art by Bart Sears, Randy Elliot, and Steve Oliff.

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Therein, thanks to both her being referred to as such by the other characters and her donning of an admittedly accurate take on Franklin’s comic book costume, Ghostbusters: Afterlife actress Celeste O’Connor was revealed for the first time since her casting in May 2022 to be playing the film’s version of the magical web-slinger.

Mattie Franklin (Celeste O'Connor) is skeptical of the titular heroine's (Dakota Johnson) in Madame Web (2024), Sony Pictures
Mattie Franklin (Celeste O’Connor) is skeptical of the titular heroine’s (Dakota Johnson) claim to superpower in Madame Web (2024), Sony Pictures

However, while it has no bearing on her actual talent or potential performance on the film, O’Connor’s casting as Franklin, as mentioned above, stands as yet another in a long-line of live-action superhero race-swaps.

Making her first full body appearance in Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 #441, the niece of J. Jonah Jameson began her comic book career taking her father’s place in Norman Osborn’s Gathering of Five, an arcane meeting held with the intention of either ‘blessing’ or ‘cursing’ each participant with the gift of either power, knowledge, immortality, insanity, or death.

Mattie Franklin offers herself up for the Gathering of Five in Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 #441 "And Who Shall Claim a Kingly Crown?" (1998), Marvel Comics. Words by John Byrne, art by Rafael Kayanan, Bud LaRosa, Matt Hicks, Mike Rockwitz, Richard Starkings, and Liz Agraphiotis.
Mattie Franklin offers herself up for the Gathering of Five in Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 #441 “And Who Shall Claim a Kingly Crown?” (1998), Marvel Comics. Words by John Byrne, art by Rafael Kayanan, Bud LaRosa, Matt Hicks, Mike Rockwitz, Richard Starkings, and Liz Agraphiotis.

With Osborn being turned over to the grips of ‘insanity’, nominal side-villain Morris Maxwell finding himself privy to the vast depths of ‘knowledge’, eventual-Scarlet-Spider-villain Gregory ‘Override’ Herd having his body possessed by the forces of ‘death’, and Cassandra Webb – the original Madame Web – receiving eternal life courtesy of ‘immortality’, Franklin was left to receive ‘power’, which ultimately manifested within general superhuman attributes and the ability of flight.

A fan girl of the web-slinger in her own right, Franklin would eventually be spurred to a life of costumed crime-fighting when Peter Parker temporarily took a break from the scene in order to spend time with Mary-Jane.

Mattie Franklin hands the Spider-suit back to its rightful owner in Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 2 #2 "I can't...(and I don't want to)...but I must!" (1998), Marvel Comics. Words by Howard Mackie, art by John Byrne, Scott Hanna, Gregory Wright, Richard Starkings, and Liz Agraphiotis.
Mattie Franklin hands the Spider-suit back to its rightful owner in Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 2 #2 “I can’t…(and I don’t want to)…but I must!” (1998), Marvel Comics. Words by Howard Mackie, art by John Byrne, Scott Hanna, Gregory Wright, Richard Starkings, and Liz Agraphiotis.

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However, when Peter eventually turned to the webs, Franklin – with the blessing of the original, Jessica Drew – would later establish herself as the second Spider-Woman, a moniker she would wear when she eventually absorbed and took the supervillain Charlotte Witter’s own set of spider-powers – including the ability to wall-crawl and spawn eight-extra combat limbs ala the Iron Spider armor – for herself.

Mattie Franklin acquires actual Spider-powers in Spider-Woman Vol. 3 #1 "Spider Spider" (1999), Marvel Comics. Words by John Byrne, art by Bart Sears, Randy Elliott, Raymond Kryssing, and Steve Oliff.
Mattie Franklin acquires actual Spider-powers in Spider-Woman Vol. 3 #1 “Spider Spider” (1999), Marvel Comics. Words by John Byrne, art by Bart Sears, Randy Elliott, Raymond Kryssing, and Steve Oliff.

Unfortunately for Franklin, her super hero career would languish when she received her powers, as the next few years would see her subject to such events as having her genetic material forcibly extracted in order to be used as a biological base for Mutant Growth Hormone operation, joining and having her trust broken by the superhero support group the Loners, and even being passed over for recruitment into the Fifty State Initiative.

Eventually, Franklin’s string of bad luck would culminate with her being abducted and violently sacrificed by the Kravinoff family in order to revive Kraven’s son, Vladimir, from the dead.

Mattie Franklin has one final request for Madame Web in Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 #634 "The Grim Hunt: Chapter 1" (2010), Marvel Comics. Words by Joe Kelly, art by Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano, Matt Hollingsworth, and Joe Caramagna.
Mattie Franklin has one final request for Madame Web in Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 #634 “The Grim Hunt: Chapter 1” (2010), Marvel Comics. Words by Joe Kelly, art by Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano, Matt Hollingsworth, and Joe Caramagna.

Of course, this is comic books, and Franklin would not stay dead for long.

Thanks to the second Jackal – otherwise known as Ben Reilly, but that’s a rant for another day – and his New U cloning technology, the young Spider-Woman would soon thereafter be brought back to life, fully convinced of her benefactor’s benevolence.

Mattie Franklin returns from the grave in Silk Vol. 2 #14 (2017), Marvel Comics. Words by by Robbie Thompson, art by Irene Strychalski, Ian Herring, and Travis Lanham.
Mattie Franklin returns from the grave in Silk Vol. 2 #14 (2017), Marvel Comics. Words by by Robbie Thompson, art by Irene Strychalski, Ian Herring, and Travis Lanham.

Sadly, Franklin’s second shot at life would be even more short-lived than her first.

Once, Spider-Man rejected the Jackal’s offer to revive Uncle Ben, the unstable madman triggered the latent Carrion virus he had planted within each and every one of his clones.

Managing to briefly stave off the infection through sheer force of will, Mattie ultimately sacrifice her life in service of protecting her new friend, Silk, from the Jackal’s mindless monsters.

Mattie Franklin passes away once more in Silk Vol. 2 #17 (2017), Marvel Comics. Words by by Robbie Thompson, art by Irene Strychalski, Ian Herring, and Travis Lanham.
Mattie Franklin passes away once more in Silk Vol. 2 #17 (2017), Marvel Comics. Words by by Robbie Thompson, art by Irene Strychalski, Ian Herring, and Travis Lanham.

And yet, through out every single one of these adventures – as well as the very few brief appearances she’s made through out the multiverse – not once has Franklin ever been depicted as anywhere close to black.

Sony’s bizarre attempt at a Madame Web movie is currently looking to kick off its Spider-shenanigans on February 16th, 2024.

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