Miles Morales, who took up the mantle of Spider-Man in the comics seven years ago, gets his onscreen debut in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. The movie outlines his origin story, from when he’s bit by a radioactive spider to the moment he dons his own black-and-red version of the Spidey uniform.
But Morales (Shameik Moore) is far from the only Spider-Person in the film. After a villain named Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) rips a hole in the space-time continuum, the film is flooded with heroes from parallel universes. Miles learns the tricks of the trade from a 40-year-old version of Peter Parker (Jake Johnson), Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn), Spider-Man Noir (Nicholas Cage) and Peter Porker (John Mulaney). There’s also another Spider-person in the end-credits.
Each character briefly references his or her own origin story in the film. But for those who are only familiar with Peter Parker, here’s a brief summary of the comic book tales behind each person and animal who was bit by a radioactive arachnid.
Though Into the Spider-Verse, outlines Morales’ origin story, the movie version diverges a bit from the comics. Comic fans first met Morales, a half-black, half-Hispanic teenager living in Brooklyn, in 2011. Morales excels at physics and admires Spider-Man (a.k.a. Peter Parker), despite his policeman father’s protestations about the superhero’s vigilante methods.
In a run of comics called the Ultimate Marvel Universe, an Oscorp scientist uses Peter Parker’s blood in order to create another radioactive spider. A thief named Aaron (a.k.a. the Prowler) sneaks into Oscorp and accidentally brings home a radioactive spider.
Aaron’s nephew, Miles Morales—a half-black, half-Puerto Rican teen living in Brooklyn—visits Aaron’s apartment and is bit by the spider. Morales gains all of Parker’s abilities plus the power to camouflage himself and a “venom strike” that manifests as an electric shock. Morales is initially resistant to using his powers for good, but is overcome by guilt after he watches the Green Goblin kill Parker and does nothing about it.
Morales takes over as Spider-Man. His uncle Aaron eventually pieces together Morales’ secret identity and tries to blackmail him into helping him commit crimes. The two fight, and Aaron’s weapons malfunction. Aaron dies and Morales survives.
In the early Spider-Man comics, Gwen Stacy appears as Parker’s love interest who meets a tragic end: The Green Goblin throws her off the Brooklyn Bridge, and when Parker tries to catch her with his web, her neck snaps. Emma Stone played the character in the Amazing Spider-Man movies.
But in an another run of the comics, a radioactive spider bites Stacy instead of Parker. Stacy uses her newfound power to defends the nerdy Parker from bullies. But Parker, who clearly can’t deal with strong women, creates a serum to give himself superhuman abilities. He turns into the Lizard, and Stacy fights and accidentally kills him. She mourns her best friend and swears to never kill again. She goes by the name Spider-Woman or Spider-Gwen or Ghost Spider, depending on the comic.
Many of Stacy’s storylines focus on her relationship with her father, the police chief, who knows her identity but disapproves of her vigilantism. In her free time, Stacy plays in a band called the Mary Janes with, yes, Mary-Jane Watson. In one comic book run, Morales travels to Stacy’s universe, and the two become romantically involved.
Peni is an anime-inspired version of the hero. When she was nine, her father died while piloting a robot suit called SP//dr. It’s unclear how the suit came to be, but presumably Peni’s father built it.
Peni moves in with her Uncle Ben and Aunt May, and they tell her that she must become the new pilot of the suit. Peni then allows a radioactive spider to bite her. She and the Spider share a psychic connection that allows them to control the CPU of the suit together.
Though Peni doesn’t have superhuman abilities herself, her suit is formidable. At one point in the comics defeats a Venom suit piloted by her friend-turned-foe Addie Parker.
The black-and-white Spdier-Man Noir is born straight from a dark version of the comics set in the 1930s during the Great Depression. In this iteration, Uncle Ben and Aunt May are social activists who come into the crosshairs of crime boss Norman Osborn. Osborn orders Vulture, a freak in a circus, to eat Ben alive.
Peter, a journalist, follows Obsorn’s men to a warehouse where they are smuggling antiques, including a creepy old spider statue that contains—you guessed it—radioactive spiders. One of the spiders bites Parker, and he hallucinates a Spider god who gives him “the curse of power.” This Parker creates a costume based on Uncle Ben’s World War I uniform and—unlike most other Spider-People—arms himself with a gun.
Peter Porker, a.k.a. Spider-Ham, hails from a parallel universe full of anthropomorphic animals. He actually began life as a spider but was bitten by a radioactive pig.
He then joined forces with heroes like Captain Americat and the Fantastic Fur to battle Ducktor Doom and other baddies in a series of humor comics.
Yet another Spider-Man appears in the end-credits scene of the film: Miguel O’Hara (voiced by Oscar Isaac). This version of Spider-Man is a geneticist who hails from the year 2099. He lives in a dystopian version of New York, known as “Nueva York,” where a handful or corporations control everything and everyone. He works for the company Alchemax (the same one run by Kingpin in Spider-verse) but comes to realize they have nefarious intentions. After he comes into physical peril, he changes his own genetic code to make his DNA part-spider and fights criminals, including the heads of Alxhemax and their cronies.
Miguel was the first Latinx superhero in the comic books when he debuted in 1992. He fights villains with the help of a hologram named Lyla. Instead of sticking to walls, he has talons at the ends of his hands and feet that will allow him to cut into surfaces and hold onto them. He also can paralyze villains with venom by biting them with his incisors, kind of like a vampire.
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