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Spider-Man: An Unexpected Cameo in Across the Spider-Verse Alters Marvel Canon Forever

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Spider-Man Across the Spider-Verse

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse defies the conventions of traditional superhero films, yet it conceals an Easter egg that holds significant implications for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Warning: The following article contains spoilers for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.

During my press screening of Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, an audible gasp filled the theater. As is customary for superhero movies, the entire audience remained in their seats, eagerly awaiting a post-credits scene after the lengthy rolling credits for producer Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s sequel to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018). However, to our surprise, the screen remained dark, with only a promise that the story would continue in next year’s highly anticipated Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse. This lack of post-credits scenes further emphasized that Lord, Miller, and directors Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson had little interest in adhering to the norms established by Marvel Studios and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There were no hints for future spinoff movies, and despite its comedic brilliance, the film’s third act carried a genuine sense of gravity and emotional depth.

Nevertheless, Across the Spider-Verse was filled with countless easter eggs, including one that had a surprising impact on the MCU’s continuity moving forward. Despite being an animated film, Donald Glover made a brief but memorable appearance in physical form, stealing the scene with his cameo. This moment occurred midway through the movie when Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) was brought by Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) to the Spider-HQ. In reality, this HQ existed as a futuristic dimension, ruled by Spider-Man 2099, also known as Miguel O’Hara (Oscar Isaac), resembling a Citadel of Ricks.

Prior to Glover’s arrival, the scene is reminiscent of a grand breakfast buffet in Las Vegas, filled with numerous hidden references and surprises. It includes appearances by the flamboyant Ben Reilly (played by Andy Samberg), who was a prominent character in ’90s comics, and the portrayal of The Spectacular Spider-Man’s version of the character (voiced by Josh Keaton). The abundance of surprises even extends to the inclusion of a T-Rex. However, the most unexpected revelation comes when popular actor and rapper Donald Glover, in physical form, appears among Miguel’s collection of outcasts, known as “anomalies.” These individuals violated the taboo of traversing through the multiverse without the permission of Spider-Man 2099. Glover’s role is particularly significant as he portrays Aaron Davis, also known as the Prowler.

This cameo represents an extraordinary payoff for a plot thread established by Marvel Studios as far back as 2017 in the first standalone Spider-Man film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Spider-Man: Homecoming. In that movie, Glover appeared as Uncle Aaron, who would eventually adopt the persona of the Prowler. Although he was merely a small-time criminal dealing with the film’s main antagonist, the Vulture (played by Michael Keaton), Glover’s Aaron character subtly praised Tom Holland’s Spider-Man for his efforts in improving the neighborhood, mentioning that he had a nephew growing up there.

At the time, this cameo served multiple purposes. Firstly, it was gratifying for Glover to appear in a Spider-Man movie, considering the online campaign led by his fans during his Community days to have him cast as Peter Parker in The Amazing Spider-Man (2012). Glover acknowledged and appreciated the support, but ultimately did not secure the role. Unfortunately, this sparked instances of online racism from certain individuals who argued against the possibility of a Black actor portraying Spider-Man. The harmful nature of such arguments not only affected Glover but also deeply disturbed Brian Michael Bendis, who was inspired by the situation to create the character of Miles Morales in the pages of Ultimate Spider-Man.

Glover’s appearance in Spider-Man: Homecoming served as a recognition of his unique connection to the character and hinted at the possibility of Miles Morales eventually joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

However, six years have passed, and this prospect remains unrealized. Surprisingly, Glover’s Uncle Aaron never made another appearance in an MCU film, whether as the Prowler or in any other capacity. Nevertheless, many fans argue that the animated Spider-Verse films featuring Miles have outshined the live-action Spideys in the MCU and other adaptations. In the 2018 film Into the Spider-Verse, Mahershala Ali voiced the fully developed Prowler, adding to the film’s success.

Now, after five years, we finally witness Glover donning the Prowler’s costume in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, while confined within Miguel O’Hara’s 2099 stronghold. It’s undeniably enjoyable to see Glover in the iconic suit (and it probably made things easier for the creator of Atlanta to wear it for only a day or two). However, this appearance potentially carries implications for the MCU’s established canon as well.

To begin with, Glover’s portrayal of the Prowler implies that his character has transitioned into a supervillain off-screen. This development raises curiosity because Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige typically prefers to maintain tight control over his characters, keeping them within the same interconnected universe. There was a noticeable tension between Marvel Studios and the now-defunct Marvel Television, which produced more mature-oriented shows for Netflix that were loosely tied to the MCU. However, these shows have been largely disregarded in terms of continuity, with only certain elements, like Charlie Cox’s Daredevil, carrying over.

The inclusion of Glover’s Prowler suggests that Marvel Studios may have lost interest in utilizing the character, or perhaps they never truly intended to do so in the first place. Additionally, this cameo could indicate that the introduction of Miles Morales in live-action, specifically within the MCU continuity, is still a distant prospect. However, the upcoming film Beyond the Spider-Verse, set to release next year, could render these speculations irrelevant. It’s worth considering that many fans have already contemplated the possibility of Moore and Steinfeld seamlessly transitioning into the roles of Miles and Gwen in a live-action adaptation.

Regardless of how the future unfolds, it is gratifying to witness Glover on the big screen, finally getting the chance to share screen time with Miles Morales, a character whose creation he inadvertently played a part in inspiring.

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