The following story contains spoilers for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.

ONE OF the most exciting things about the Spider-Verse animated films is that the world in which they exist is so big, and so expansive, that it's been easily established that just about anything could happen. After all, 2018's Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse featured direct references to 2007's infamous Spider-Man 3 dance sequence early on in its run before introducing alternate versions of the titular character that included a noir-style detective, an anime-style girl and her mech, and a Looney Tunes-style pig. It's a lot.

One place that Into the Spider-Verse didn't go, though, that its 2023 sequel, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, does go, is into the realm of live-action. The villainous Spot (Jason Schwartzman) finds his way into the convenience store featured in the Venom movies early on, but the more substantial live-action cross-over moment comes later in the movie, when Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) and Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) visit Miguel O'Hara/Spider-Man 2099 (Oscar Isaac) in his expansive Spider-People world.

Here, we learn, explicitly, that every Spider-Man movie, show, game, and other piece of media we've ever seen all exist in different dimensions of the larger Spider-Verse. We see archive footage of the Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield Spider-Man movies, among others, on the screen.

But in one of the most surprising moments in the movie, we see a totally unexpected face—featured in a previous Spider-Man movie—make a grand return. And it's one that makes total sense.

Here's why Donald Glover showed up in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse as Aaron Davis/The Prowler.

Donald Glover's Prowler cameo in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse connects to his appearance in 2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming.

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For just a few brief moments in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, we see Donald Glover (in all of his live-action glory) on screen as one of many versions of The Prowler. Of course, one of the most dramatic reveals in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) is that Miles Morales' beloved Uncle Aaron (played in that film by Mahershala Ali) is actually The Prowler, the supervillain muscle to the film's main villain, the Kingpin (Liev Schreiber). Eventually, Aaron is killed by the Kingpin after refusing to kill Miles; this, in essence, is Miles' version of the famed Uncle Ben death at the center of every Peter Parker Spider-Man story.

Glover's appearance as a live-action Prowler, appearing in full costume, is not quite as random as it may initially seem.

If you remember the Atlanta star and creator's small role in 2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming, he played a small-time criminal named Aaron Davis who figured into the story when he was trying to buy a gun from Vulture/Adrian Toomes' (Michael Keaton) crew, only to be offered high-tech alien weaponry instead. Peter Parker eventually tracks Aaron down (who has an alias of "The Prowler" shown on Peter's display) for answers; Aaron is willing to help, because, he says, he has a nephew, and he doesn't want these kinds of weapons in the neighborhood.

So while we can't explicitly confirm that Donald Glover's characters in Across The Spider-Verse and Spider-Man: Homecoming are exactly the same person (these movies have all sorts of variants and alternate versions these days), it's at the very least a strong, strong nod to his previous turn as the character.

Amy Pascal, who produces the Spider-Man films, recently said that work on a live-action Miles Morales movie is in the works. Could this mark a third turn for Donald Glover as Uncle Aaron/The Prowler? Only time will tell.

How did Donald Glover end up in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse?

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Chris Lord and Donald Glover at the 2023 Vanity Fair Oscar Party
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Shameik Moore, who voices Miles Morales, ran into Glover at the 2023 Writers Guild Awards, back in March. There, the Atlanta and Community star told Moore that he was going to be doing a cameo in Across the Spider-Verse. "When I saw him, he was like, Oh, yeah. I think I need to do something for Spider-Verse, actually. I think I'm going to do it," Moore explained in an interview with Men's Health. "And then I told the directors, and they were hyped."

Spider-Verse producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who cast Glover as Lando in Solo: A Star Wars Story before they were removed from the project, have remained close with him in the years since—and brought him into this movie with a simple ask. "We reached out and were like, We thought of something. It will be so easy. And you commit to nothing. And he was really excited to be part of it," Lord said in an interview with Rolling Stone. "He loved the first movie. He has kids that he wanted to surprise by having dad in the movie."

And about that Prowler suit? Costumer designer Trayce Gigi Field, who worked with Miller on the first season of his excellent Apple TV+ series The Afterparty, created it in only a couple of weeks. "These things often take months or years to build and she really did an amazing job designing and building something really quickly so we could all come together and get him into the film," Miller told RS.

Donald Glover has strong ties to Spider-Man and Miles Morales in particular.

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For more than a decade, Glover has been connected to the character of Spider-Man. Back in 2010, when work on The Amazing Spider-Man (which would eventually star Andrew Garfield) began, an online campaign began to cast him as Spider-Man; Glover himself encouraged his Twitter followers to share the hashtag #donald4spiderman, which went viral, and eventually even got Stan Lee's support. At the time, Glover was starring on NBC's Community.




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Glover never was contacted by Sony for the Spider-Man role, but he did ultimately have an impact on the future of the franchise. While Miles Morales' creator, writer Brian Michael Bendis, has said that he had already conceived Miles prior to Glover's viral campaign, he said that when Glover appeared in Spider-Man pajamas in a Community episode (a nod to the online movement), he was reassured that the character would be a success. "He looked fantastic!" Bendis told USA Today, adding that Glover inspired Morales' appearance in his very first issue. "I saw him in the costume and thought, 'I would like to read that book.' So I was glad I was writing that book."

This wouldn't be the end of Glover's relationship of Spider-Man, of course—he eventually voiced Miles in the animated Ultimate Spider-Man show, landed the role in Spider-Man: Homecoming, and the cameo in Across The Spider-Verse. And now with a live-action Miles Morales movie on the way, who knows what could be next?

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Evan Romano

Evan is the culture editor for Men’s Health, with bylines in The New York Times, MTV News, Brooklyn Magazine, and VICE. He loves weird movies, watches too much TV, and listens to music more often than he doesn’t.