The history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is actually a far more complex one than most people realize or remember given how things have “come together” in the last few years and the potential that it has in the future. The biggest thing of course is that when it started, it didn’t have access to many of its most popular characters. The X-Men, Fantastic Four and others were sold to Fox Studios while Spider-Man’s movie rights were sold to Sony. Why? Marvel Comics at the time was sinking, and they sold the rights to stay afloat. This of course led to all sorts of things including the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man trilogy under Sam Raimi.
But, of course, what would be known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe wouldn’t stop there. They just pivoted and focused on the Avengers and made them more mainstream than they had ever been before. They started with Iron Man, then The Incredible Hulk, and built up the roster from there, and the rest is history…more or less.
Here’s the thing, it was noted all the way back in 2008 that the director of The Incredible Hulk wanted Tobey Maguire to be in the movie as a cameo in order to slowly bring the universes together.
Louis Leterrier said that there were going to be references and cameos in not just his movie, but Iron Man and eventually the Avengers. Maguire was going to appear on the campus that Bruce Banner went to in order to meet Samuel Sterns, aka The Thinker. In Iron Man, they were going to make a reference to Doctor Octopus, and then in Avengers they would have Oscorp in the skyline of New York.
What happened? Sony wouldn’t let that happen, at all. So it wasn’t until Civil War that Spider-Man came into the MCU via Tom Holland, and not until 2021 that Maguire made his return to the role via Spider-Man no way home. Oh well, better late than never.