prowlin' around

Across the Spider-Verse’s Goofiest Cameo Was 13 Years in the Making

Photo: Sony Pictures Animation

Spoilers ahead for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.

As promised, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse traverses a beautifully animated multiverse chock-full of Spider-People and fun Easter eggs. One of the cheekiest is a cameo from No. 1 Spider-Man fan himself, Donald Glover, as the Prowler, a.k.a. Miles Morales’s uncle Aaron — though not the animated version we saw in the last movie. While being escorted around Miguel O’Hara’s Spider-Society in Nueva York, Miles sees an imprisoned, live-action Prowler in an uncanny moment à la Who Framed Roger Rabbit. “It’s rude to stare,” Glover says to a stunned Miles while Hobie, a.k.a. Spider-Punk, and Gwen Stacy bicker over who captured this multiverse anomaly. It’s a clever wink to Glover’s oft-documented Spider-Man fandom, which landed him a role as Aaron in 2017’s Tom Holland–starring Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Around the time of Homecoming’s release, director Jon Watts told the L.A. Times, “One of the very first things I said to Kevin [Feige] when I got the job was, ‘We’ve got to put Donald Glover in this movie. I don’t know who he’s going to be, or what he’s going to do, but we have to figure out a way.’” By then, it had been seven years since fans launched a viral internet campaign (#Donald4Spiderman) to cast Glover as the star web-slinger in director Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man. Even Stan Lee voiced his support. Of course, Andrew Garfield ended up landing the coveted role as Peter-3, with Glover’s thumbs-up: He told Vulture at the time that Garfield’s Peter Parker was “kinda dope.” And Glover did end up voicing a version of Spider-Man, Miles Morales, in Disney XD’s Ultimate Spider-Man in 2014, three years after the character was introduced in Marvel Comics by writer Brian Michael Bendis. (In an even twistier full-circle moment, Bendis has credited the Community moment when Glover’s character Troy wears Spider-Man pajamas as an inspiration for creating Miles.) While doing press for the show, Glover told USA Today that he still hoped to play Spider-Man in a live-action film, and that “I don’t look at this as second place. Spider-Man, he’s such an icon.”

All that history is packed into a winking moment in Across the Spider-Verse, where it’s not specified that Glover is continuing his role as the Uncle Aaron of Holland’s Spidey universe. Hobie and Gwen don’t have time to explain where he comes from — it’s just played as a fun, gaggy homage to Glover’s impact on Miles. Plus, Glover’s Aaron is decked out in a purple Prowler suit, far from his look in Holland’s MCU movie. Maybe he’s still working with Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes/Vulture, last seen in Morbius (remember her? I do not), gathering alien tech that could’ve led him to becoming the Prowler later on in that universe. Sony producer Amy Pascal did recently confirm a Miles Morales live-action movie is in the works, so maybe Glover’s Prowler will see the light of day outside the Spider-Society sometime soon.

Across the Spider-Verse’s Goofiest Cameo, Explained