As weird as it sounds now, Iron Man/Tony Stark was a pretty obscure superhero until 2008. While he’d popped up in a couple of children’s animated shows over the years, he never broke through to the general public consciousness in the same way Spider-Man and the Hulk did. That all changed when Robert Downey Jr. strapped on the repulsor gloves for Iron Man though, and the rest is history. But things could have gone very differently if Sam Raimi had stuck with his original script for Spider-Man 2.
In this early draft, Tony Stark is revealed as the inventor of Otto Octavius’ robotic tentacles. These are key to the plot, fusing with Octavius’ body, driving him mad and turning him into the villainous Doctor Octopus. If you think about it, Octavius not inventing the tentacles does actually make sense, too. The Spider-Man 2 Octavius is a nuclear fusion scientist obsessed with creating renewable energy, so him being an expert roboticist as well is stretching disbelief a bit.
The draft doesn’t explicitly say if Stark appeared in the film in person or not, though Fandom Wire claims that he would have. Unfortunately, though, or perhaps fortunately, this concept was discarded early on as Sony didn’t have the rights to use Tony Stark. In the filmed script, the creation of the tentacles are glossed over, leaving the viewer to assume that Octavius created them to assist with his fusion experiments.
It’s fascinating to imagine what could have been though. If Raimi had gone through with his plans, Sony may have purchased the rights to Iron Man from Marvel. This would mean no Downey Jr. Iron Man in 2008, meaning the MCU (if it existed at all) might have begun with Captain America or Thor as their introductory characters. And who’s to say it would have been a success if those films were the debut MCU features?