Miles Morales isn’t included in Spider-Man: Homecoming — not a surprise, since Marvel has said as much before — but the studio managed to find an interesting and low-key way to establish that the character does exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
[Warning: The following contains spoilers for Spider-Man: Homecoming.]
Marvel’s tribute to Morales doesn’t even mention the character by name. This is a universe where Peter Parker is a sophomore in high school, so it wouldn’t make any sense for Morales, many years younger than Peter, to make his debut now. What Marvel does instead, however, is introduce an mundane, run-of-the-mill criminal named Aaron Davis, who is played by Donald Glover.
That name might not mean much to those who aren’t immersed in the Spider-Man universe, specifically the one that Marvel Comics has created, but it’s important. Aaron Davis is the uncle of Miles Morales and while Davis never says Morales’ name, he does refer to having a nephew who lives in Queens, New York during a conversation with Spider-Man in an empty parking lot. In Miles’ story, his uncle’s criminal activities are indirectly responsible for how he gets his powers.
But the homage to Morales goes a little deeper than just a casual, underplayed reference from his uncle. Brian Michael Bendis created Morales in 2011, when Marvel introduced the character as the new Spider-Man in the Ultimate Spider-Man series. In an interview with Newsarama at the time, Bendis said part of the inspiration for the character came from Donald Glover announcing on Twitter that he wanted to play Spider-Man. That innocent tweet, as the actor has referred to it since then, kickstarted a campaign to get him to play the character.
According to Bendis, everything fell into place after that moment.
Donald Glover stood up and said, "I want to be Spider-Man." I was like, "I would like him to be Spider-Man. Very much." I said so publicly at the time, and that came and went. We got closer and closer and closer to working on it, and then they did that hilarious bit on Community at the beginning of last season where he got out of bed and was wearing Spider-Man pajamas, and he looked fantastic! I had already written my first issue, and I was like, "Oh, I would so like to read that book!" then I was like, "I am writing that book. That's awesome!"
Now, Miles is a completely different character than Donald. He's much younger, and coming from a much different place, and is a completely different voice. But just the aspect of someone else being Spider-Man, and having a different place where they're coming from, to analyze what it means to be Spider-Man, and what it means in this world, versus the world that Spider-Man was originally created in — even the world Ultimate Spider-Man was created in was different.
Having Glover play Davis and refer to Morales, the character he had a role in helping become a reality, brings everything full circle. Of course, Glover also went on to voice Morales in the Ultimate Spider-Man TV series, but there’s something special about giving Glover a chance to pay homage to an important character in his life in Homecoming, too.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is currently playing in theaters.