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Spider-Man: No Way Home’s Avi Arad credits nod is 20 years of baggage in one ‘thank you’

He did the thing

Premiere Of Sony Pictures’ “Spider-Man Far From Home” - Red Carpet Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Matt Patches is an executive editor at Polygon. He has over 15 years of experience reporting on movies and TV, and reviewing pop culture.

Avi Arad is alive, despite what a very intense Spider-Man: No Way Home thank you message would have you believe.

Arad, a film producer who’s been translating Marvel stories for screen since the 1990s, gets a massive shoutout between post-credits scenes in the Tom Holland-led Spider-threequel. Allow me to stylize for emphasis:

It’s the type of grandiose gesture that might be reserved for the In Memoriam portion of the credits, but no, Arad is still alive and kicking it at the age of 73. And in this case, the victory lap is both controversial and well-deserved.

Who is Avi Arad?

Arad is an Israeli-American entrepreneur who came up in toys, but took a winding road to becoming a mega-movie producer. In the 1980s, Arad became one of Toy Biz’s kead designers, inventing such playthings as Baby Rollerblade and Baby Giggles ‘n’ Go. In the ’90s, he also developed the first line of X-Men toys.

“He is the hottest toy developer in the business,” said toy-industry analyst Sean McGowan in a 1993 New York Times profile. “He has a creative mind that is in tune with what kids are looking for.”

Toy Biz’s partnership with Marvel became a lucrative deal as the toy company’s sales rose and the comic book company teetered on the brink of bankruptcy. By the mid-’90s, Toy Biz, run by the now-notorious Ike Perlmutter, would own a major stake in Marvel. In 1998, the two companies merged, with Toy Biz running the show.

Avi Arad’s role in the Marvel movies

By that time, Arad had already pivoted to a loftier role, helping to produce the ’90s X-Men and Spider-Man cartoons. When Marvel set sights on more ambitious movie adaptations, Arad became the Marvel insider who would protect the brand — he knew what kids were looking for. After the false start of absolutely atrocious David Hasselhoff-led Nick Fury: Agent of Shield TV movie, Arad and Marvel found a groove with Blade, X-Men, and Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man. By his side for Spider-Man was X-Men producer Lauren Shuler-Donner’s ex-intern, who would act as Arad’s assistant during the making of Raimi’s movie: a plucky young kid named Kevin Feige.

Twenty years later, Arad is a controversial figure in many fans’ eyes. Raimi’s plans for Spider-Man 4 were reportedly nixed by the producer in favor of a reboot, and movies like Elektra, Ghost Rider, Fantastic Four soured the Marvel brand in a way today’s superhero-consuming audiences may not be able to imagine. When Marvel Studios eventually became an independent entity with Feige at the helm, Arad veered off to remain a producer on characters licensed to other film studios, like Spider-Man.

“The time came when, for me, it was time to move on,” Arad told Deadline in 2019 of his decision to leave Marvel Studios proper. “There are a lot of theories behind it, but it really doesn’t matter. I tried correcting some of them and it always looked like an aggressive posture by someone who is begrudging.”

The Amazing Spider-Man 2: sinister six tease
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Image: Sony Pictures

After leaving Feige to run the “Marvel Cinematic Universe,” Arad and producer Matt Tolmach would oversee a pair of Amazing Spider-Man films starring Andrew Garfield, which seemed to revel in convoluted mythology as it ramped up to a Sinister Six movie that never happened. Arad would swing back with Venom, though as many noted in 2018, the success of the film seemed to rest beyond the sphere of top-down creative decisions — as star Tom Hardy went completely ham on what the character was known for in the comics.

Arad continues to be credited on Sony and Marvel Studios’ Tom Holland Spider-Man movies, along with the animated Spider-verse franchise, though his creative input is unknown. In April 2018, a viral tweet accused Arad of being the destructive component to many of the Spider-Man series’ most off-putting decisions, sparking memes lashing out at the producer.

The viral moment, along with vague rumors that Feige and Arad were butting heads behind the scenes over the future of the Spider-Man franchise, prompted Spider-verse producer to speak out in Arad’s defense.

So why now for a huge shoutout to Avi Arad? Probably because there would be no Spider-Man: No Way Home without it. Whatever you think of the man, he produced Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man movies. He landed Andrew Garfield, an amazing actor, for the Amazing Spider-Man reboot. By all accounts, he has remained more than just an in-name producer as Marvel and Sony navigated a tough dynamic to bring the Tom Holland films to life. And in No Way Home, the history of all three films collides.

The Arad shoutout might be Feige’s way of not only honoring his elders, but quelling fan fears. Hate on the producer as much as you want, but without him, there is no Spider-Man movie franchise — it’s that simple.

In the wake of a 2014 Bloomberg story that praised Feige for steering Marvel back on course, Arad wrote in an open-letter response that “It will sound arrogant to you, but I single-handedly put together the Marvel slate. Read it carefully and you will notice the natural progression of the character’s design to get to where we are today.”

The filmmakers behind Spider-Man: No Way Home seem to agree. And Arad will continue to shape the film Marvel universe. Up next: January’s Morbius with Jared Leto and whatever is store for Venom. No Way Home isn’t the end of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man and doesn’t seem to be the end of Arad’s run either.

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