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Across the Spider-Verse’s big cameo connects it to the MCU

Call it Earth-199999

The Prowler, in his purple costume with clawed hand raised, in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Image: Sony Pictures Animation
Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

In Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’s multiverse extravaganza, any Spider-Man ever made is fair game. We know as much from the movie’s trailers, which have made direct (jokey) reference to Tom Holland’s Spider-Man: No Way Home and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But as the full movie reveals, Spider-Man villains are fair game, too.

And that gives Across the Spider-Verse its biggest celebrity cameo, a combination of cinematic wizardry, brand connection flexing, and a tribute to the origins of Miles Morales himself.

[Ed. note: This piece contains spoilers for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.]

If you’ve already headed out to see the movie, then you know: Miguel O’Hara, the Spider-Man from the future, has gathered a coalition of Spider-Persons to repair the multiverse. One of their big jobs is to capture displaced supervillains and send them back to the universe from which they came, treating us to a great series of blink-or-you’ll-miss-it cameos from an array of traditional Spider-Man villains in nontraditional getups. But one of these cameos is not like the others.

One of these cameos is in live action and features Donald Glover as the Prowler.

Why is Donald Glover the Prowler?

Donald Glover as Aaron Davis in Spider-Man: Homecoming. He’s got one hand webbed to the top of a car’s trunk; Spider-Man appears blurrily in the foreground. Image: Sony Pictures

2017 feels like a million years ago, but that’s when actor and musician Donald Glover made his debut in Marvel and Sony’s first joint Spider-Man production, Spider-Man: Homecoming. Glover didn’t have a huge role in the film — he’s a potential buyer of alien technology that’s been reengineered into weapons. Spider-Man runs into him and he gives the kid some good advice. But it was all very deliberate.

Homecoming director and writer Jon Watts petitioned for Glover’s inclusion in the film as a hat tip to the future inclusion of Miles Morales in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It wasn’t definitive, but Glover’s character made reference to his nephew in dialogue, and was listed in the credits as Aaron Davis, the same name of Miles’ uncle — the implication being that Miles was out there somewhere in the MCU’s New York City, even if the MCU hasn’t yet introduced him.

Across the Spider-Verse takes this one big step further, showing Glover in the purple and black super-suit of the Prowler, implying that his Uncle Aaron has likewise undergone a supervillain transition.

Glover’s connection to Spider-Man dates back over a decade, to the time when Sony Pictures was in the process of casting a new actor as Peter Parker for the studio’s third Spider-Man franchise. Glover (somewhat accidentally, according to him) became the center of a fan campaign. And while the excitement of (and blowback to) those fans didn’t directly inspire the creation of Miles Morales, co-creator Brian Michael Bendis has said that he gave the Marvel Comics creative team a certain amount of resolve to follow through on their ideas. (Glover eventually voiced Miles Morales in two episodes of the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon series.)

So Glover’s Across the Spider-Verse cameo isn’t just a way to link the animated franchise up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s also another way for the Spider-Verse franchise to nod back at the comics, cartoons, and cultural presence of Spider-Man from which everything in it springs.

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