You’ve likely seen the trailer for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse by now, and if you don’t actively follow the webslinger’s adventures, you might be wondering just who in the hell all the other Spider-people in the trailer are. As it happens, Peter Parker was just the beginning of a whole universe filled with radioactive spider-bitten heroes, and they’re all coming together for the first time on the big screen in the December release of the aforementioned film. Sounds confusing? It’s not. We’ll help break down the who’s who of the Spider-Verse. That way you only have a couple of questions when Spider-Ham shows up and not, you know… all of them.
For starters, the original webhead and patriarch of the comic book Spider-Verse…
Peter Parker, a.k.a. Spider-Man
It seems only fair that we kick things off with the OG. The original nerd-turned-superhero first swung into the world’s heart back in 1962. Like so many heroes, Pete was brought to life by the legendary creators Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. The two men would produce hundreds more beloved characters throughout their impressive careers, but if you ever asked Stan who his favorite creation was, his answer would always be Spider-Man. It then makes it even more fitting that Peter Parker would inspire a whole universe of other wall-crawlers, each one unique in their own way.
Peter Benjamin Parker taught us all that with great power comes great responsibility. Despite great tragedy in his life, Peter has always been one of the more earnest heroes in the comic book world (as well as one of its biggest motormouths). Losing his parents, his uncle, and many of his teenage years to heroics does little to quell the innate good in his heart, adding to the long list of reasons to love him. In film, television, or comic books, Peter always does his best to live up to his personal mantra. Whether via the narration in Amazing Fantasy #15, or from Uncle Ben during his tragic death, the phrase has been a cornerstone for the Spider-Verse, and a critical foundation for both Peter Parker and his heroic alter ego.
Miles Morales, a.k.a. Spider-Man
Sometimes a kid just wants to be a kid. That’s where Miles Morales comes in as a formerly normal kid in an alternate dimension of Earth k known as Earth-1610. The youth of Brooklyn have enough to worry about without adding power-granting radioactive spiders to the mix. Unfortunately for Miles Morales, comic book heroes don’t get to choose their fate. His misfortune is our gain, though. Created by Brian Michael Bendis and Pichelli in 2011, the half-black, half-Hispanic teenage protagonist immediately became one of Marvel’s most beloved characters. Miles solidified his place in the Spider-Verse because of his hesitance to be a hero, not in spite of it. There’s something real about a kid just trying to survive kid stuff, getting superpowers, and then leaning into the narrative that it’s hard enough to get through high school without also being expected to save the world.
All the same, save the world Miles does. After witnessing the death of Peter Parker in his world (and realizing that he could have helped prevent it), Miles finally gives in and lets himself become a hero, taking up the mantle that dropped when Peter died. Though the people aren’t ready for a new Spider-Man at first, the young hero eventually finds his feet with the help of Spider-Woman (the Jessica Drew one, this time), his best friend, Ganke, and S.H.I.E.L.D.
Since Peter’s still alive in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, at least in his version of Earth, it’s likely we’ll see Miles’ story altered just a touch to fit into the movie’s narrative. Even with that in mind, it still seems likely that they’ll keep to the heart of the character – and maybe this time, Miles won’t accidentally paralyze Peter the first time they meet.
Gwen Stacy, a.k.a. Spider-Gwen
Comic books have a way of illustrating devastating deaths (both literally and figuratively), but few stick with you like the death of Gwen Stacy, at that time the love of Peter Parker’s life. In an attempt to break Peter, the Green Goblin kidnaps Gwen and hurls her off the George Washington Bridge. Spider-Man attempts to save her, but the quick impact of the fall – or the whiplash from Peter’s webbing – inevitably kills her. Fans have debated for years as to whether it was the Green Goblin or Spider-Man that caused the young scientist’s death. Gwen Stacy’s murder was so shocking and caused such an impact that many view it as the end of the Silver Age of comics. In addition to ticking off a whole lot of comic book fans, it also caused a pretty serious ripple effect within the Spider-Man stories themselves. Mary Jane Watson went from a self-absorbed airhead to a genuinely compassionate person, ultimately rekindling the romance between her and Peter. Gwen’s death would also directly result in more supervillains being born and for some to lose their faith in heroes. In summation: it was big friggin’ deal.
Fast-forward to 2015 (and hop on over to Earth-65). The Gwen Stacy of this Earth never died because in that reality, Peter Parker is never bitten by a radioactive spider. Instead, it’s Gwen who’s bitten. Her life flips upside-down much like Peter’s did on Earth-616 (that’s our Earth), but she’s met with a whole different set of challenges. Just like in our world, however, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Depressed, bullied, and obsessed with Spider-Woman (Spider-Gwen this time, not Jessica Drew – multiverses are complicated), Peter Parker turns himself into a giant lizard while subsequently driving himself insane. The inexperienced Spider-Gwen gets a little too rough and accidentally kills the creature, not realizing it’s Peter until too late. After holding her dying friend in her arms, Stacy flees the scene, directly resulting in the public blaming Spider-Woman for Peter Parker’s death and kicking off the Spider-Gwen comic series.
The role reversal of Peter and Gwen’s deaths worked out pretty well for the series. Spider-Gwen has maintained a solid popularity with readers due to her rocker persona and engaging stories. Spider-Gwen is an incredibly exciting addition to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
Peter Porker, a.k.a. Spider-Ham
Welcome, boys and girls, to the weird corner of the comic book world. Peter Porker might not be the oddest thing that’s materialized out the minds of the mad geniuses behind the pages, but you’re right to raise an eyebrow at the character. In case the on-the-nose name didn’t give it away, Peter Porker is, indeed, a pig. Like his counterparts, Mr. Porker begins his story without powers, but the experiments of his owner May Porker would result in his heightened spider-piggy abilities. As you’d imagine, he was a bit disoriented after being a pig one second and a super spider-pig the next. If you’re wondering if he was as confused as you are about whether or not he’s a super pig with spider powers or a super spider with pig powers, please know that they cover that in the comics and he is for sure just as lost as you are!
Spider-Ham’s stories are mostly riffs on established Marvel villains. Peter Porker has to use the smarts he gained from his not-quite-mad-scientist creator, May, and the spider abilities she granted him through her experiments to defeat them. During his misadventures, he also teams up with animal version of some of Marvel’s popular heroes as well. If you want to see the Incredible Hulk as a bunny, Spider-Ham is definitely the story for you.
1933 Peter Parker, a.k.a. Spider-Man Noir
Despite his tragic backstory and the loss in his life, Spider-Man has never been known as a dark character – Batman, he isn’t. But the Marvel Noir universe changed all that. This alternate timeline gave us a version of Peter Parker set in the midst of the Great Depression in 1933, with the comic book run having a heavy noir vibe.
This version of Earth (Earth-90214 to be exact) has a Peter Parker who is training as the apprentice of a veteran reporter, Ben Urich. The soon-to-be-noir version of Spider-Man receives his powers when he’s investigating a ring of ancient artifact smugglers and is bitten by an illegally imported spider. When Norman Osborn has Ben Urich murdered due to what the dogged journalist uncovers in the criminal underworld, Peter takes up the Spider-Man mantle to avenge his mentor’s death, becoming a feared vigilante in the process.
This version of Spider-Man is grimmer than our modern day Earth counterpart. The noir version of Peter Parker is an excellent marksman, using revolvers and even a Tommy gun to take out the bad guys, and he normally carries a pistol with him at all times. He uses his webbing a little differently, too, preferring to parkour his way across the rooftops and using his webbing like a net to catch criminals. With his unique-looking costume and noir vibe, Spider-Man Noir has popped up in various other mediums, including cartoons and games. It will be interesting to see how he fits into the bright, eye-popping world of Into the Spider-Verse – especially as he’s voiced by Nicolas Cage.
Peni Parker, a.k.a. SP//dr
There’s one character in Into the Spider-Verse who might even weirder than Spider-Ham, and that’s saying something. Weird, but awesome. That would be Peni Parker, a.k.a. SP//dr. If you watched the trailer, you’ll know her as the tiny girl with the giant robot-thing. Peni is a Japanese-American middle school student in Earth-14512 who was adopted by May and Ben Parker. Instead of having crazy spider powers, she instead inherited her dad’s SP//dr mech suit (based on Neon Genesis Evangelion), which is piloted by sharing a psychic link with a radioactive spider. Because everyone in this world has crazy gadgets and tech and mech suits. Along with the giant mech she pilots, Peni also has wrist-mounted webshooters, because it just wouldn’t be a Spider-person without them.
Otherwise, the tl;dr version is tiny girl + big mech suit = awesome badass.
All of these unique characters coming together for the first time will be anything but boring. There’s a whole host of reasons to be excited for this strange, multiverse team-up, but none so much as seeing Miles Morales on the big screen for the first time. And there’s always the added fun of watching Peter Parker as an exhausted father-figure trying to keep his fellow spider chums together and, you know, alive. Let’s hope they don’t make any visits to the George Washington Bridge while Gwen’s with them!
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