When the announcement finally came, a few months back, it caused rippling, excitement-filled shock-waves around the internet: Spider-Man was coming to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and that was just about the best news it was possible to hear.
Soon, though, the visceral awesomeness of the news began to wear off, and the realities of the deal slowly came into focus. After all, the theory went - surely Marvel must have been preparing the MCU for life without Spider-Man, assuming that Sony wouldn't be willing to make a deal happen. That, the logic went, was precisely why, at the launch of Marvel's Phase 3, such a big deal was made of The Black Panther joining in time for Captain America: Civil War - so that he could take on Spidey's comic-book role in the story.
Well, as it turns out, that assumption was true...sort of.
In fact, it seems:
Marvel Had a Plan for a Spider-Man-Less MCU - And One Starring Him
As Kevin Feige recently put it to /Film:
"As you might have imagined, [the Spider-Man deal] had been in the works for a long, long, long, long time. And we had, as we often do, mapped out various alternatives if things don’t happen. So we had a plan how it would continue without him and we have a plan how now it will continue with him. I wouldn’t say it was “drastic” but we were certainly happy when it all came together."
Which very much seems to suggest that - despite the Black Panther's prominence at the Phase 3 announcement - Marvel always considered Spider-Man's arrival to be the more likely option, and had provisionally planned the next five years accordingly, with a back-up plan there just in case the deal didn't work out.
The big question now, though?
Just What Was the Difference Between the Two Plans?
Well, aside from the release dates of several Marvel movies - which were adjusted by a few months to accommodate Spider-Man's arrival in 2017 - there are a few likely candidates:
The Black Panther Could Have Had a Larger Role
A plausible option in part because of that whole 'Chadwick Boseman hanging out with Cap and Iron Man' picture from the Phase 3 announcement, the Black Panther would also have made a natural stand-in for Spidey, being largely a solo hero by nature.
The Original Avengers Could Have Filled in the Gaps
One word: Hawkguy.
An Alternative Hero Could Have Been Introduced
It's less likely - with it creating a lot more necessary follow-through work than the others - but it's possible that Marvel would have introduced a whole new character into the MCU to replace Spidey. The recently introduced teen version of Nova, perhaps?
Daredevil Could Have Been Called Up to the Majors
Which, had Netflix's recent Daredevil series not gone down well, could have been something of a risk. As it is, though, this is what we got...
...so Marvel pretty much would've been OK...
Captain Marvel's Arrival Could Have Been Brought Forward
Made more likely by Feige's recent reveal that Joss Whedon had originally intended to slip Captain Marvel into Avengers: Age of Ultron - suggesting that she's very much on her way to the MCU - it's entirely possible that we could have seen Captain Marvel take on some of Spidey's plot duties.
They Could Have Just...Not Mentioned Spider-Man
After all, we don't actually know for sure how much involvement Spidey will have in the wider MCU. It's possible that he's largely going to merely cameo in the crossover movies, in which case his involvement (or lack thereof) wouldn't dramatically effect Marvel's plans.
What do you think, though?