In the summer of 2022, the news broke that Puerto Rican rapper, singer, and actor Bad Bunny would headline another feature in Sony’s growing list of Spider-Man spinoffs. The film, El Muerto, would star Bad Bunny as the titular super-powered wrestler. More recent reports, however, have put the future of the film in doubt.
Here’s everything we know about El Muerto.
El Muerto Is In Development Limbo
A little year after El Muerto was announced, this past June, Variety reported Sony had removed the film from its release schedule. No specific reason for the removal has been given, but the film is presumed to still be in development. Whether or not we will ever see the movie is anyone’s guess.
Judging by the kind of money Sony has already made from its Spider-Man spinoffs, an interest in El Muerto will likely be kept alive. In spite of the commercial underperformance and critical embarrassment of 2022’s Morbius, Sony still has the Tom Hardy led Venom films and the animated Spider-Verse features, all of which have proven to be big money makers.
Not to mention that Sony still has two more live-action Spidey spinoffs confirmed to be on the way: Kraven the Hunter and Madame Web.
Bad Bunny Was Almost El Muerto
Sony first announced Bad Bunny’s casting as the Marvel character at CinemaCon in Las Vegas, where the rapper said, “To bring El Muerto to life is just incredible… so exciting.” Sadly, a little over a year later the film lost its release date and Bad Bunny had exited the project.
With no official word from anyone involved on why El Muerto was shelved, we’re faced with a chicken-and-egg question; i.e. did Bad Bunny leave because the movie was shelved, or was the movie shelved because Bad Bunny left? If it’s the latter, then it would seem reasonable to expect the role to be recast.
Spider-Man Could Appear
As part of Sony’s Spider-Verse, El Muerto could see Tom Holland make an appearance as Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man. So far, he’s only appeared in an end-credits scene for 2021’s Venom: Let There Be Carnage.
Meanwhile, the antagonist from his first solo film, Michael Keaton’s Vulture, made a similar appearance at the end of last year’s Morbius.
Even before El Muerto was pulled from Sony’s release list there was no word about Tom Holland making an appearance. However, with Sony no doubt hoping to squeeze as much out of Spider-Man as they can, never say never.
El Muerto’s Marvel Comics Appearances Have Been Brief
El Muerto is perhaps the single most unexpected choice for a Marvel Comics adaptation. The character is fairly obscure, but we’re not even referring to that; after all the Guardians of the Galaxy weren’t particularly well known and now Rocket Raccoon and Groot are household names. But in the case of El Muerto, the guy has only ever shown up in two comic books.
No, we don’t mean two different comic book titles–we mean he’s only ever appeared in literally two issues of a single title. In 2006 — a few months before Marvel kicked off the game-changing Civil War event — El Muerto made his first appearance in Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #6. He returns for the following issue, and that’s it.
El Muerto has not returned to Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, any other Spider-Man title, or any other Marvel Comic at all since 2006.
He’s Part Of A Long Line Of Enhanced Wrestlers
El Muerto’s real name is Juan-Carlos Sánchez. To be more accurate, we should say that’s the name of the most recent version of El Muerto. Before he wore the mask, it was donned by his father Marcus Estrada de la García, and before García there was a long line of wrestlers.
So far, the powers granted by the mystical El Muerto mask are pretty basic: it gives the wearer enhanced strength and endurance. Then again, Sánchez has only had two appearances in Marvel Comics, so the mask could give him powers we don’t know about yet. There could be powers he doesn’t know about yet.
He Fights Spider-Man To Unmask Him
In order to be worthy of the El Muerto mask, the potential wearer must confront the mystical luchador El Dorado and when Sánchez is offered the opportunity, he refuses. When El Dorado retaliates by trying to kill Sánchez, his father García intervenes and is killed in his place.
Before leaving the grieving Sánchez, El Dorado gives him an ultimatum: Sánchez has ten years to wear the mask, train, defeat a masked hero, and unmask that hero. If Sánchez fails, El Dorado will murder him.
When El Muerto locks horns with Spider-Man in Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #6, it’s in the hopes of escaping his fate. After Sánchez saves J. Jonah Jameson from armed kidnappers, Spider-Man’s biggest hater rewards him by arranging a wrestling match between the two.
When Sánchez is defeated and recovering in the hospital, El Dorado comes calling. Together El Muerto and Spider-Man defeat the villain.
The Unmasking Irony
What would prove to be the most ironic thing about Spider-Man’s conflict with El Muerto is that the wrestler’s goal — to unmask Spider-Man — not only happened shortly afterwards, but it happened by Parker’s choice.
Along with the death of Captain America (he got better), one of the bigger moments of the Marvel Comics Civil War event is when Spider-Man willingly reveals his identity at the end of 2006’s Civil War #2. This causes no end of trouble for Spidey, particularly after he switches sides from pro-registration to anti-registration in the middle of the saga.
Parker’s unmasking is eventually undone. But you have to imagine that — while his identity is still public knowledge — El Muerto must muse that if Parker had been willing to be unmasked just a little bit earlier, it could have saved the wrestler a trip to the hospital and a near death experience.