After six years of campaigning, the internet finally has its way (sort of). Donald Glover – actor, writer, comedian, rapper, co-host of a pretend morning talk show – is finally appearing in a Spider-Man movie. News broke yesterday that the actor is joining the cast of Spider-Man: Homecoming. But as who? Fire up the speculate-o-meter!
No, Donald Glover is not playing Spider-Man. At least, not yet. Back in 2010, when director Marc Webb was casting a new Peter Parker to appear in The Amazing Spider-Man, a fan campaign was launched to have Glover slip on the red-and-blue spandex. #Donald4SpiderMan trended on Twitter. Glover appeared on his sitcom Community in Spider-Man pyjamas. The man himself even threw his weight behind the campaign on Twitter, made occasional nods to it in his rapping, and referenced the extreme reactions to the campaign in his stand-up.
More importantly, he’s definitely not playing Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Homecoming, which is definitely starring Tom Holland as the web-slinger. (Holland already made a scene-stealing appearance in Captain America: Civil War.)
Most of the internet are assuming that this is the case. In the comics, Miles Morales is a teenager of Black and Hispanic parentage who finds himself bitten by a radioactive spider, similar to the one that bit Peter Parker. He first appeared in Marvel’s Ultimate imprint, which presented an alternate universe where Peter Parker died, and Morales assumed the Spider-Man mantle. (Morales has since joined the main Marvel universe in the comics.)
Donald Glover seems like a decent fit for the character – not least because, according to an interview with Ultimate Spider-Man writer Brian Michael Bendis, the character was actually created in response to the #Donald4SpiderMan campaign. In fact, he’s already played the character, at least in animated form, for an episode of Disney XD’s cartoon series Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors.
If you’re placing bets, this is probably the safest flutter at the bookies. But there’s one wrinkle: in the comics, Miles Morales is high-school age, said to be younger than Peter Parker (who in Homecoming is said to be around 15/16). Donald Glover is 32. That’s not to say it won’t happen – Marvel’s cinematic adaptations tend to play fast and loose with the source material, so the character could well be modified. It’s hard to say.
When J. Jonah Jameson moves upstairs at the Daily Bugle to become publisher, it is Robbie Robertson who assumes the editor’s chair. A stalwart of the fictional newspaper in the comics, Robertson is far more supportive of Spider-Man’s vigilante exploits than the spiky Jameson, and acts as a mentor to Parker during his employment at the Bugle.
Donald Glover is perhaps a smidge too young to play the classic grey-haired incarnation of the character (Bill Nunn was in his late 40s when he first played Robertson in the Sam Raimi trilogy), and perhaps slightly too old to play Robbie’s son, Randy, who attended high school at the same time as Peter Parker. But Glover’s jittery turn as a genius astrodynamicist in The Martian proved he could play thoughtful intellectuals, which would work for Robbie.
Hobie Brown is a fiercely intelligent but disillusioned African-American youth who decides to put his amateur pneumatic skills (all the kids love a bit of pneumatics, right?) for criminal intent. He creates an elaborate super-suit and attempts to rob the offices of the Daily Bugle – but when he’s foiled by Spidey himself, Brown changes his ways and becomes a superhero force for good.
As a fan favourite, The Prowler would certainly be a welcome addition to the MCU: he’s a key ally of Spidey, and could offer valiant support in his crimefighting. But for the first film in a reboot, it could prove a wee bit clumsy to create origin stories for another protagonist. Homecoming might not find room to adequately explain how Hobie Brown becomes The Prowler.
"Couldn't see me as Spider-Man but now I'm spittin Venom", reads a lyric from Not Going Back, a song by Childish Gambino (Donald Glover’s rap alter ego). It’s a neat slice of hip-hop wordplay, obviously, but could we see art imitating another medium of art?
Venom, for the uninitiated, is a nefarious ‘symbiote’: an alien form usually requiring a human host, which has at various points included Peter Parker himself, and most famously Eddie Brock.
Topher Grace played Brock in Sam Raimi’s ill-fated Spider-Man 3, and nobody particularly enjoyed that incarnation of the character. But as recently as March, Sony (who still share the cinematic Spidey rights) announced their intention to press ahead with a standalone Venom film. Could Glover be playing Eddie Brock, laying the groundwork for a spin-off? It’s possible.
An entirely new character
Despite the internet’s determination for Glover to become the Morales that the hashtags prophesied, there’s every chance Glover could be playing a character not previously seen in the comics. The MCU is not averse to inventing movie-only characters for its universe (see: Agent Coulson, Erik Selvig), and the fact that Homecoming is set at high school means there could be plenty of teachers to cast. Or maybe Glover plays a neighbour of Aunt May in their Queens apartment that Peter befriends. Or maybe he’s a HYDRA agent. Or not. Marvel have told us absolutely nothing about his character yet. This is all pure speculation.
Probability: Somewhere between 0% and 100% (seriously, we have nothing to go from)
Spider-Man: Homecoming is due in cinemas in July 2017.