Warning: This post contains spoilers for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
Think there’s only one Spider-Man? Think again. The acclaimed animated feature Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse assembles a veritable army of wall-crawlers, all hailing from different backgrounds, dimensions and even time periods. In case you’re worried that all these Spider-people will confuse your Spidey sense, don’t worry. Into the Spider-Verse does a great job of explaining their different powers and responsibilities. But there’s nothing wrong with doing a little homework ahead of time. Here’s our handy guide to the many and varied citizens of the Spider-Verse.
The flagship Spider-Verse Spidey hails from the now-defunct Ultimate Universe, where he replaced Peter Parker beneath the mask in 2011. Comic book maestro and Ultimate Spider-Man creator Brian Michael Bendis created the biracial hero to reflect 21st century America … and in direct response to those retrograde fanboys who lost their damn minds when Donald Glover announced on Twitter that he’d love to be Spider-Man. (In a nice touch, Spider-Verse incorporates footage of the Atlanta star, who also appeared in Spider-Man: Homecoming as Miles’s uncle, Aaron Davis, aka the Prowler.) Miles was such a hit in his own comic book timeline that he made the leap to the main Marvel continuity, where he has his own solo title to complement his new feature film franchise. Make no mistake: Into the Spider-Verse is first and foremost Miles’s story, depicting how a chance encounter with a genetically tweaked arachnid imbues him with Spider-Man’s usual assortment of powers — wall crawling, enhanced speed and strength — plus some new abilities.
Peter Parker has been a mainstay in the Marvel universe since 1962 — but there’s never been just one version of Peter. The Queens-born everyman has gone through multiple makeovers in multiple mediums; on the big screen alone, he’s evolved from Tobey Maguire’s affable dork to Andrew Garfield’s brooding loner to Tom Holland’s eager-to-please amateur. Appropriately enough, there are two different versions of Peter in Spider-Verse: The first one we meet is voiced by Chris Pine and carries various DNA strands from his feature film predecessors. (He also sports Pine’s blond hair, which doubles as a reference to infamous Spider-clone Ben Reilly.) After Peter dies at the fists of the Kingpin, Jake Johnson’s overweight, overexhausted and overly cynical Parker arrives in Miles’s timeline and learns how to be a hero again while also teaching his pupil how to be a hero for the first time.
Unceremoniously dropped from a bridge by the Green Goblin in 1973, Gwen Stacy is the first victim of a comic book fridging: the colloquial term for the death of the male hero’s girlfriend in service of his own growth. (See also: Deadpool 2.) Over on Earth-65, though, not only is Gwen still alive — she’s also swinging around with the spider powers that went to her boyfriend, Peter. Spider-Gwen made her comic book debut in 2015 and quickly became a fan favorite. She’s the breakout star of Into the Spider-Verse as well, so much so that Spider-Gwen (voiced by Hailee Steinfeld) is going to be a major presence in the anticipated sequel and will also headline a planned spinoff with the rest of the women from the larger Spider-Verse.
A one-off joke that turned into a running gag, Spider-Ham thrust his snout onto the Spider-scene in 1983, right around the time that Marvel launched its short-lived kids’ line, Star Comics. In a reverse of the usual spider-bites-human origin story, Peter Porker began his existence as an eight-legged creepy-crawly critter and only acquired a porcine appearance after being bit by May Porker. Thanks to his arachnid origins, Spider-Ham comes equipped with the organic webbing that proved so controversial in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man film trilogy. He’s also got a powerful sense of humor, which is deployed with deadly accuracy in Into the Spider-Verse. It helps, of course, that he’s voiced by noted comic assassin John Mulaney.
You can’t call yourself a Spider-Man completist if you haven’t watched the 1978 Japanese TV series, starring a Spidey who fights giant intergalactic creatures and pilots a spaceship that can transform into an oversized robot. In a tip of the hat to that wild bit of Spider-lore, Into the Spider-Verse’s ensemble includes another robot, this one belonging to Peni Parker. Introduced in 2015, this citizen of an extremely high-tech alternate Manhattan catches thieves just like flies with the assistance of a radioactive-spider-powered biomechanical suit. Just because her closest companion is a robot doesn’t mean they can’t share a real human friendship! Peni and her Spider-bot share the strongest bond of any of Spider-Verse‘s spider folks.
Long, long ago — in 2009, to be exact — Marvel Comics decided to create a version of Spider-Man who hailed from an even-longer-ago time period. And thus, this ’30s-era webhead was born. Sporting an appropriately grim and gritty ensemble, with a sour attitude to match, Spider-Man Noir isn’t above using a gun, rather than webs, to stop bad guys in their tracks. Those firearms stay in the past when he makes the leap to Miles’s timeline in Into the Spider-Verse, though. Thankfully, his florid way with language is still very much intact. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Spider-Verse co-star Nicolas Cage talking like Humphrey Bogart in the body of a Spider-Man.
Make sure to stay through the closing credits of Into the Spider-Verse, because you’ll be rewarded with a blast from the future. Oscar Isaac makes a vocal cameo as super-geneticist Miguel O’Hara, the original 21st century Spider-Man. Introduced in 1992 as part of Marvel’s Marvel 2099 line of comics, Miguel tweaked his own genes to give himself powers that include wall-crawling, punch-enhancing talons and a manufactured venom that induces temporary paralysis. The movie version of O’Hara — who lives in dystopian Nueva York — also has a dimension-hopping device that allows him to check in on different universes at will. His first stop is Earth-67, where we get our last — and maybe best? — Spider-cameo.
Maybe it’s the jazzy theme song. Maybe it’s the stiff animation. Maybe it’s the endless memes. All we know is that the popularity of the 1967 Spider-Man cartoon will endure until 2099 … and beyond. Too bad Miguel isn’t a fan. Once he’s on Earth-67, the Spider-Man of tomorrow is flummoxed by life in a 2D world and points his finger accusingly at his Spider-counterpart, re-creating the best of all the Spider-Man ’67 memes.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is playing in theaters now.
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