Entertainment

Every Spider-Hero in 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,' Explained

spider-man into the spider-verse
Miles Morales (far left), with his spider-pals | Sony PIctures Animation
Miles Morales (far left), with his spider-pals | Sony PIctures Animation

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is Sony's seventh stand-alone Spider-Man movie to date, a figure that doesn't even include the web slinger's scene-stealing appearances in Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War (or the upcoming MCU feature Spider-Man: Far From Home). Yet the latest entry feels completely original, and not only because it's the first one that's animated.

As the movie's title indicates, Into the Spider-Verse reveals that there are an infinite number of dimensions, each of which could have a version of Spider-Man. The protagonist here is Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore), a teenager with spider-infused superpowers who takes on the mantle of Spider-Man upon the death of his dimension's Peter Parker. Soon after, Miles begins encountering spider-heroes from other versions of Earth.

To anyone unfamiliar with the comic-book arcs that introduced the Spider-Verse concept and the heroes in the film, the surplus of Spideys might be confusing, so here's a helpful primer about the origins of the movie's many spider-characters.

MIles Morales Spider-Man
Sony Pictures Animation

Miles Morales, aka Spider-Man

The movie manages to stick pretty close to its main character's on-page origins, some needlessly complicated universe-merging from the comics notwithstanding. In 2000, Marvel launched its Ultimate Comics line, which re-imagined classic characters in a more contemporary setting and with a more serious tone. The first and most successful title in the line was writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Mark Bagley's Ultimate Spider-Man, which introduced a new Peter Parker and re-imagined many of the Marvel Universe's villains and heroes. As the series progressed, it became apparent that this new Peter Parker wasn't following the previous one's life exactly (even if he did also have to endure a "Clone Saga") -- and, in 2011, he died defending Aunt May from the Green Goblin. In the Ultimate Universe, Peter Parker is remembered as a hero and everyone feels a little guilty that they, as a community, let the teenager perish.

Which is where Miles Morales, a black Puerto Rican resident of Brooklyn, steps in. His uncle, Aaron Davis, who also happens to be the low-level Marvel villain the Prowler, steals some stuff from an Oscorp lab, including a spider engineered to endow the powers of Spider-Man. The spider later bites Aaron's 13-year old nephew Miles, giving him similar powers, such as increased strength and the ability to stick to walls, but also two powers unique to the character: a "camouflage" mode that can render him and his clothing invisible to the naked eye, and a "venom strike" which is some sort of delayed energy "sting" that looks very, very painful.

After Peter Parker's death, Miles toys with the idea of becoming the new Spider-Man, but gets discouraged when his uncle figures out his big secret and wants to use his nephew's new powers to increase the profile of the Prowler's hauls. Miles confronts his uncle, and his venom blast accidentally shorts out the Prowler's equipment, causing an explosion that kills him. Now, Miles can't tell his parents about his power or his true identity, and he's attracted the attention of the Ultimate Marvel Universe, as well. Aunt May and Mary Jane track him down and gift him Peter Parker's webshooters. Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. initially try to discourage Miles, but end up making a costume for him when Nick determines the kid has a good heart.

A lot of horrible stuff befalls Miles in the Ultimate Universe (e.g., his dad essentially disowns him after his mom is killed by Venom), until a 2015 publishing event called Secret Wars smashed Miles into the main Marvel universe with an adult Peter Parker. In the new storyline, his parents are both alive and he has a good relationship with them, because why be so hard on the littlest Spider-Man? Currently, Miles Morales is the Spider-Man who's most focused on New York City -- when he's not leading the teenage superhero team the Champions, that is.

Gwen Stacy Spider-Gwen
Sony Pictures Animation

Gwen Stacy, aka Spider-Woman, aka Spider-Gwen

In 2014, Dan Slott was writing The Amazing Spider-Man title for Marvel and had devised a publishing event called Spider-Verse. (In related news, Sony was set to release The Amazing Spider-Man 2 that same year, the movie that was supposed to launch the Spider-Man Cinematic Universe before it didn't.) The Spider-Verse event in the comic books would feature "every Spider-Man ever," as well as some newly created ones, in a battle with the Inheritors, a vampire-like super-species that hunted the various Spider-heroes throughout the multiverse.

Slott pitched the initial Spider-Verse idea along with "Gwen Stacy as Spider-Woman," a task he passed off to writer Jason Latour and artist Robbi Rodriguez. Latour didn't know much about the actual character of Gwen Stacy beyond her being "fridged" to provide emotional development for Peter Parker's Spider-Man, but flipping the story intrigued him. This Spider-Woman, designed by Rodriguez with a white mask, made her debut when Marvel previewed the cover of Edge of the Spider-Verse #2 that showed a masked and unmasked Gwen Stacy staring readers down. The character was immediately dubbed Spider-Gwen and it stuck; she eventually got her own spin-off series bearing her nickname.

This version of Gwen Stacy plays in a band and -- like Peter Parker before her -- gets bitten by a radioactive spider while on a field trip. In this universe, Peter Parker goes mad because of over-bullying and uses science to turn himself into the Lizard. Spider-Gwen fights the Lizard and Peter dies, leaving Gwen wracked with guilt (just like her main universe counterpart left Peter) and also wanted for murder. Her father, Captain Stacy, eventually realizes his daughter is Spider-Woman and that Peter actually died from the chemicals he used. We only got that much story in Edge of the Spider-Verse before Spider-Gwen was pulled into the multiversal conflict with the Inheritors and became aware of alternate Spider-Men, many of which found her very appearance to be traumatizing.

Unlike most of the comic book Spider-Verse's spiders, Spider-Gwen has been a consistent presence in the Marvel Universe since her debut because of her popularity with fans and awesome look. She got a self-titled Spider-Gwen spinoff series as well as appearing in the Spider-Verse spin-off Web Warriors. She's made her animated debut several times, most recently as part of the series of shorts Marvel Rising, where she's referred to as Ghost Spider, which is, you know, a much better name for secret identities.

Spider-Man Noir
Sony Pictures Animation

Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man Noir

The seedy, black-and-white universe of Spider-Man Noir was actually devised by Marvel Comics as a publishing stunt where six limited-series comics would re-imagine the Marvel Universe in a "noir" setting. Besides just cranking the clock back to the 1930s, the superpowers that had become ubiquitous by 2009 had been scaled back to mysticism or hearsay. The first six Noir books were Daredevil Noir, Luke Cage Noir, Punisher Noir, Spider-ManNoir, X-Men Noir, and Wolverine Noir. Most of those characters had street-level powers that involved guns or the appearance of invulnerability. In X-Men Noir, the titular team didn't have superpowers but were a group of sociopaths gathered together by discredited psychiatrist Charles Xavier.

The Peter Parker of Spider-Man Noir was raised by his Aunt May and Uncle Ben who were workers rights activists. His uncle was murdered in retaliation for organizing a strike on a Manhattan sweatshop. When May and Peter are trapped in another protest that gets swarmed by enforcers, they are saved by Daily Bugle reporter Ben Urich, who takes Peter on as his protege. Peter follows a tip to find a mob boss called "The Goblin" has his goons unloading a shipment of stolen antiques at the docks. An antique statue of a spider breaks when the henchmen drop it, and hundreds of actual spiders pour out. One bites Peter, and he passes out, dreaming of a "spider god." When Peter awakes, he has the traditional Spider-Man powers, except he's like Tobey Maguire Spider-Man in the sense he can organically produce webbing from his wrists (so as to not have to explain how this Depression Era reporter is also a scientist).

Spider-Man Noir models his costume off his Uncle Ben's World War I-era flyboy uniform, which explains the goggles and the leather hood. The rest of his costume is made up from exaggerated noir clothing of the period -- jacket, gloves, and guns. Yeah, this Spider-Man isn't afraid to use pistols and/or a tommy-gun to get the job done.

Peni Parker Sp//dr
Sony Pictures Animation

Peni Parker, aka SP//dr

Peni Parker is the newest Spider-Person by just a few months, making her debut in Edge of the Spider-Verse #5 in December 2014. Peni is the creation of writer Gerard Way and artist Jake Wyatt. Way, the lead singer of My Chemical Romance, had previously written a well-regarded comic called The Umbrella Academy (now a Netflix series), but Edge of the Spider-Verse #5 marked his Marvel Comics debut.

Peni is a Japanese schoolgirl whose special bond with a radioactive spider allows her to control a mech suit called SP//dr. The very first page of her debut issue shows the death of her father in the suit. Peni is told by her Aunt May and Uncle Ben (both scientists working on the SP//dr suit and defending their city) that she is genetically unique and must take on the task of piloting the SP//dr armor. The radioactive spider is allowed to bite her and together they form something like a psychic CPU used to control the battle armor.

We don't know where the SP//dr armor and the radioactive/psychic spider come from, but it has been implied in the recent Edge of Spider-Geddon series that the mech and spider were invented or discovered during and experiment between her father, Aunt May, and Uncle Ben. In Edge of Spider-Geddon #2, Peni's Aunt May was consumed by a prototype mech suit her Uncle Ben had created for another teenage pilot, Addy Brock: the Ven#m suit.

There wasn't a lot for SP//dr to do in the original Spider-Verse comic book crossover event because she was the last character designed and conceptualized, keeping her outside the window for finished scripts on the crossover. Thus, unlike Spider-Ham and Spider-Gwen, who also appeared, Peni and SP//dr didn't play a key role in the comic-book plot. The animated version of Peni that pops up in Into the Spider-Verse is much more light-hearted than the moody teenager of the Edge comics series, and the SP//dr mech is much more expressive with its digital display head.

Peter Porker Spider-Ham
Sony Pictures Animation

Peter Porker, aka Spider-Ham

It may be surprising, but of the core group of Into the Spider-Verse's spider-people, the cartoon pig is the oldest Spider-Man variant. Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham, first appeared in a 1982 novelty one-shot comic called Marvel Tails Starring Peter Porker the Spectacular Spider-Ham #1. As the punny title alludes to, furry critters take over the population of the Marvel Universe with the first story featuring Spider-Ham, Captain Americat, and Bunny Hulk. Spider-Ham would get his own spin-off comic book series published under Marvel's Star Comics label, reserved for printing comics for younger audiences, like Heathcliff and the Star Wars Ewoks stories.

Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham ran bi-monthy for 17 issues before it was cancelled, and for the first 15 of those, the origins of Spider-Ham were glossed over in favor of animal-villains like Ducktor Doom. It was weird: Peter Porker is an adopted name of a spider that was bitten by a pig, May Porker, who had created the world's first atomic hairdryer. In an experiment gone wrong, May irradiates herself, freaks out, bites the spider that was hanging around and that spider turns into a pig with spider powers. When Spider-Ham appeared in the animated series Ultimate Spider-Man's "Spider-Verse" arc in 2015, they toned down Spider-Ham's origin so a normal animated pig ate cereal with an irradiated spider in it, just to avoid the extra weirdness of a spider turning into a pig.

Because of Marvel's sense of humor as a comic book company, Peter Porker has a longer publishing history than any other alternate Spider-Man on this list, popping up in parody stories in Marvel Tales, What The--?, Wha...Huh? (these are titles of real comic book lines), and in the Ultimate Civil War Spider-Ham one-shot.

Miguel O'Hara, aka Spider-Man 2099

Miguel O'Hara, who's known as Spider-Man 2099, and voiced in the movie by Oscar Isaac, pops up in the post-credits scene. Apparently, he had taken some time off and entirely missed the events of Spider-Verse, which threatened all reality. That woman talking to him is his holographic assistant Lyla, voiced by actress Greta Lee, an AI that monitors Miguel's life and exploits as Spider-Man.

Miguel O'Hara was a brilliant geneticist of Irish and Latin heritage living in New York City 2099 (re-dubbed "Nueva York"). He works for an evil mega-corporation called Alchemex (yes, the same one that appears in Into the Spider-Verse as an arm of the Kingpin's empire), which is experimenting with grafting DNA onto humans. The experiments aren't working out and Miguel starts to have a crisis of conscience, but when he tries to quit, Alchemex CEO Tyler Stone doses Miguel with an addictive hallucinogen, with plans to blackmail him into continuing to work for his next fix. Desperate, Miguel tries the DNA grafting treatment on himself to kick the habit at the molecular level, but the experiment goes wrong, mixing his DNA with that of a spider. Cured of his drug addiction, but infused with new spider-powers, Miguel dons an old Day of the Dead costume he has lying around to fight Alchemex as the new Spider-Man 2099.

The Marvel 2099 imprint, like the Marvel Noir sub-series above, was an attempt in 1992 to diversify Marvel's core heroes into new and exciting storylines. Spider-Man 2099, written by Peter David, was the flagship book. When it debuted, the 2099 world was intended to be the "official" future of the Marvel Comic Book Universe. With a dystopian/cyber-punk look, the 2099 comics depicted a future after the "Heroic Age" of Marvel heroes. When Miguel takes on the name Spider-Man, he becomes part of the legacy of Spider-Man, whose history is well-known in his time.

The watch Lyla gives Miguel in the post-credits scene, the one that she says will make him the first person to travel interdimensionally solo (without the need of a collider), is technology developed during the 2014 Marvel crossover event Into the Spider-Verse. All dimensions, and their respective Spider-People, are tied together by the "Web of Life," and the wrist watches bestowed upon Spiders allow them to travel to and communicate across dimensions. When Into the Spider-Verse's sequel comes along, let's hope the watch and Spider-Man 2099 both make it into the pre-credits part of the film.

1967 Animated Spider-Man

Where does Miguel O'Hara decide to start his search for other Spider-People? Way back at the beginning of Spider-Man's foray into animation, circa 1967 -- and soon he comes across the Spider-Man of the Spider-Man cartoon. This was the first animated television program to feature Spider-Man, and was made on a relatively low budget, leading to some cost-cutting measures. The 1967 animated Spider-Man does not have black webbing over all the red parts of his costume to cut down on animation costs. The show also frequently reused footage so they didn't have to animate new assets, and they even copied over settings and blocking from other shows, replacing the protagonist with Spider-Man.

In the Spider-Man series' 19th episode, titled "Double Identity," Spider-Man faces a "chameleon-like criminal" who pretends to be Spider-Man! Not only does that plot save money on animation (always a plus!), but it gave us one of the most enduring Spider-Man meme images, one that Into the Spider-Verse riffs on.

As far as the internet can tell, this screenshot debuted in meme-form in early 2011, spreading to Twitter in early 2017 and exploding from there into one of the more recognizable images from the animated Spider-Man series. The show only lasted three seasons, and due to its poor quality compared with many subsequent Spider-Man series to follow, isn't remembered for much beyond its boring, paint-by-numbers plotting. Although the animated Spider-Man did pop up in the 2014 Spider-Verse comics event in Spider-Verse Team-Up #2, when Disney XD's Ultimate Spider-Man swung by Miles Morales's universe to pick him up, and there's a joke that he might be... racist?

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Dave Gonzales is a contributor to Thrillist.