Another Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, another post-credits scene — or in the case of Spider-Man: Far From Home, a mid-credits scene, too. Here’s where I warn you: spoilers ahead. If you’ve found yourself reading this article by mistake, turn back now, because I am about to reveal that, yes, the latest MCU bonus feature brings back a familiar face: J.K. Simmons, who, in a nostalgic twist, is once again playing J. Jonah Jameson of the Daily Bugle.
It’s been 12 years since Simmons last played the unethical editor of the paper in a very different Peter Parker universe, one in which Tobey Maguire is our web-slinging hero and Kirsten Dunst uses the initials M. and J. The Sam Raimi–directed version of Spider-Man debuted in 2002, back when Simmons was a young 47 years old and Tom Holland was a mere half a decade. So, why is Simmons back now? And what does this mean for the Marvel Cinematic Universe going forward? Are we in the multiverse now?
First, the mid-credits scene:
We first see J.K. Simmons about halfway through the credits of Far From Home, speaking under the familiar banner of the Daily Bugle. This time he’s bald and bellowing into a microphone in Alex Jones fashion, accusing Spider-Man of being a “menace” who pales in comparison to the “intergalactic hero” Mysterio. By this point, we know the truth about Jake Gyllenhaal’s Quentin Beck: He isn’t a hero (or even intergalactic); he’s a disgruntled former Stark Industries employee who manufactures a series of “Avengers-worthy” disaster scenarios in order to trick the public into believing he’s a superhero from an alternate world. But that’s not what nü Jameson is reporting. Because just before Beck died, our non-supervillain captured and manipulated footage that frames Peter Parker for the devastating drone attack Beck choreographed. Jameson gets ahold of the footage and runs with the fake news, which other outlets proceed to pick up. (It’s all a not-so-subtle dig at the speed with which false information spreads these days.)
Oh, and Mysterio’s footage comes with a bonus: Speaking directly to the camera, Beck spills Spider-Man’s real name.
Okay, what does that mean for the future of the Spider-Man movies?
The identity reveal is a surprising move in the world of Spider-Man, a masked avenger who usually just wants some semblance of a normal life when he’s not out bagging villains. But superheroes answering to their given name is fairly de rigueur in the MCU. This is the movie franchise that began with Tony Stark announcing “I am Iron Man” right before the credits rolled in 2008; secret identities aren’t much of a thing. So who better to aid in the spreading of Spider-Man’s real name than Jameson, a man known in both the comics and in Raimi’s films as someone who consistently uses his platform to manipulate audiences into thinking Spider-Man is a villain? (The way it all goes down in Jon Watts’s new film is a modification of the identity-reveal moment in the comics; in Civil War, Peter reveals his identity in a press conference on purpose, which shocks Jameson.)
The identity reveal is also a slight nod to the post-credits scene of Homecoming, in which we meet Mac “Scorpion” Gargan, who asks his fellow prisoner Adrian “Vulture” Toomes if he knows who’s behind the Spider-Man mask. Vulture lies and says he doesn’t, but who knows how his mind has changed since the Blip. In the comics and Marvel’s PS4 game, Jameson has ties to Scorpion, so it feels all but certain both players will appear in Spider-Man 3 to make Peter Parker’s life a little less bearable. Whether Scorpion or Vulture or even Doc Octopus will return to join the long-discussed Sinister Six, a group that historically includes Mysterio, is less known.
But what is the Daily Bugle now?
Far From Home marks the MCU debut of the fictional news organization, which up until this point has never been mentioned on-screen (though Disneyland did feature a few copies of a paper version of the Daily Bugle around the release of Endgame in 2018). Is the new version of the Daily Bugle a proper newspaper? Probably not. Based on the only scene we get in Far From Home, the Daily Bugle (dot-net) is more likely an InfoWars-type video platform that Jameson created specifically to spread conspiracy theories and fake news. (Another newscaster refers to the Bugle as “controversial.”) This would be a timely leap for the character evolution of Jameson — from mere tabloid peddler, who responds to accusations of slander with lines like, “I resent that! Slander is spoken. In print, it’s libel,” to an alt-right conspiracy theorist with bona fide social-media influence.
And why is J.K. Simmons playing Jameson again?
To put this in perspective, having J.K. Simmons (sans hair) back as Jameson is kind of like if a mustacheless Gary Oldman returned to play Commissioner Gordon in the forthcoming Robert Pattinson Batman movie. A contemporary example of this sort of casting move is the appearances of Mark Hamill and John Wesley Shipp on the CW show The Flash, reprising their roles as the Trickster and the Flash, respectively. However, on that show, there’s a lot multiverse explaining to account for their returns. (Note: That’s a DC TV show, not a Marvel movie.) Sure, Leonard Nimoy played “future Spock” in the 2009 Star Trek reboot alongside Zachary Quinto, but that was explained in excruciating detail to be the result of an alternate universe. (Which reminds me: Remember when Spider-Man: Homecoming featured Kirk Thatcher playing a punk on a bus, an homage to his role in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home? Anyway …)
Far From Home gives us no such explanation. At the beginning of the movie, Mysterio has us believing that we’re finally getting a taste of the multiverse — not just time travel but a glimpse into the alternate realities we’ve long heard about. But by the end of the film, we come to learn that we’re as far from visiting an alternate Earth, or having an alternate-Earth inhabitant visit us, as ever.
So was the return of J.K. Simmons as Jameson just an inconsequential cameo?
Now that Far From Home has at least uttered the word “multiverse” in the MCU, it opens up a blurry realm of possibilities. If Simmons can play Jameson in both the old Sony Spider-Man movies from the early aughts and the current Sony-Disney collaboration, is Marvel Studios implying that the elder superhero movies are actually just alternate universes within the MCU? Maybe.
Which brings us to X-Men. Since the merging of 21st Century Fox and Disney, the X-Men are in a much better position to ease into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Fans are basically champing at the bit for a meeting between mutants and Avengers, and now it seems likely — or, at least, plausible — that such a meeting could be explained away by multiverse reasoning. Today it’s Simmons in Far From Home. But tomorrow? Could we get Patrick Stewart returning as Professor X as an instrument of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the next proper Avengers movie, by way of an alternate-reality plot?
All right, but what do we know for sure?
At the end of the day, when we talk about the return of J. Jonah Jameson, it’s impossible not to talk about the late Stan Lee. In 2010, Stan Lee told NPR that he wrote Jameson as a dark reflection of himself. “I thought, if I were a grumpy, irritable man, which I am sometimes, how would I act?” Lee said. “And that was it.” In a way, you could argue that the return of Simmons as the ruthless media figure is a fitting inclusion; Lee can no longer make cameos in the MCU, but his proxy characters can.
What about that other post-credits scene?
So, now that we’ve exhausted J.K. Simmons’s cameo, let’s talk briefly about Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders). In the final post-credits scene, it turns out that the Nick and Maria we met in this movie were not really Nick and Maria and instead were shape-shifting Skrull aliens, the kind we last saw in Captain Marvel. This is mostly played for laughs, as we quickly learn the “real” Nick Fury has been chilling on a Skrull spaceship the whole time, barefoot and cocktail in hand. He’d dispatched the Skrulls to do his work for him.
But, logistically, this raises a new question: How long has Nick Fury been ordering Talos (or other Skrulls) to impersonate him on Earth? Some fans thought Maria Hill was a Skrull in Infinity War, and if Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. have been teaming up with the the Skrulls since the ’90s, then, retroactively, some of the appearances of Nick Fury and Maria Hill in the MCU might not really be Nick and Maria.
Then again. What if J. Jonah Jameson’s a Skrull, too? Eh, we’ve gone off the deep end now, and we’ll probably remain there until Spider-Man 3 arrives at a yet-to-be-disclosed date. (Doctor Strange 2, Black Panther 2, Captain Marvel 2, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Black Widow, The Eternals, and Shang-Chi are also on their way in the near MCU future.)