Spider-Man is going back to his roots with Sony’s upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming, but he’s not doing so alone. Donald Glover is in talks to join the cast of the reboot of Marvel’s wall-crawling superhero, although his role remains under wraps.
Or … does it? In comic books, Spider-Man (like most superhero properties, sadly) has a particularly white cast. The possibility for race bending an existing comic book character for the screen is on the table, although given the furor that met Marvel’s attempt to do so in this fall’s Doctor Strange, the studio — which is co-producing the movie with Sony — could stay away from that option.
Glover’s age, too, would seemingly limit things: At 32, he’s got more than a decade on Tom Holland, the new cinematic Peter Parker, so it’s unlikely he’d play a contemporary or classmate of the schoolkid superhero. But that arguably makes him too young to play any of the authority figures who traditionally cause trouble for Spider-Man, even pushing race out of the equation; as fun as it would be, Glover is arguably underage when it comes to bringing J. Jonah Jameson back to the screen, never mind Norman Osborn.
The most obvious option for Glover’s character would be a villainous role, somewhere where Sony has previously shown a willingness to race bend — Electro, played by Jamie Foxx in 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2, is traditionally white in the comics. But that is potentially complicated by the fact that Michael Keaton has been circling the villain role for the movie. So where does that leave Glover …? Here are some possibilities:
Hobie Brown, who first appeared in 1969’s The Amazing Spider-Man No. 78, was an ersatz Spider-Man; a teen genius who adopted a costumed persona (the Prowler, a name that doesn’t necessarily have the best connotations these days) for legally dubious reasons before ending up on the straight and narrow. In recent years, Brown has become a confidant of Peter Parker, and even filled in for him as Spider-Man on a number of occasions.
While Glover might not seem like a J. Jonah Jameson, it’s easy to imagine him as Robbie Robertson, the easy-going editor of the Daily Bugle who tempers Jameson’s one-man crusade against Spider-Man while simultaneously acting as a mentor to Peter Parker in the ways of the world. Robertson first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man No. 52 (1967), and went on to become a regular presence in Spidey’s comic books and spinoffs — he showed up in the 1981, 1994 and 2008 animated TV series based on the comics.
(If Robbie is considered too old for Glover, there’s also Randy Robertson, Robbie’s son and occasional castmember of the comic books.)
Should Marvel and Sony decide to go the race-bending route, here’s a recent addition to the Spider-Man comic book supporting cast that might fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe easily: Max Modell, tech genius and founder of Horizon Labs, a start-up that wants to build off the ideas and innovations of its employees while also supporting and rewarding them fairly for their work. Debuting in 2011’s The Amazing Spider-Man No. 648, Modell is almost the anti-Tony Stark: kind, generous and willing to overlook his employees and friends’ strange habits — like running off in the middle of meetings to go fight crime — as he tries his hardest to make the lives better of everyone around him.
Another long-standing supporting character — he debuted in 1964’s The Amazing Spider-Man No. 18 — Ned Leeds is a reporter at the Daily Bugle who remained a thorn in Peter Parker’s side for a number of reasons, including a love triangle with a secretary who managed to be both too old for Peter and too young for Ned. Eventually, he met an unpleasant end, being brainwashed by a villain to be his fall guy, only to end up dead for his troubles … but that doesn’t mean Ned couldn’t live again on the big screen. (Hopefully with a better name, however.)
Glover playing Marvel’s other Spider-Man — he debuted in 2011’s Ultimate End No. 4, replacing the dead Peter Parker in the role in Marvel’s “Ultimate Universe” — has been mooted before; before Andrew Garfield was cast in what became 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man, fandom was abuzz with the idea that Glover would bring Miles Morales to the big screen. (While that didn’t happen, he did voice the character on Disney XD’s Ultimate Spider-Man animated series.) In current comic book lore, Morales is the teen Spider-Man being mentored by an adult Peter Parker, but what’s to stop that dynamic from being switched around for the cinematic reboot — especially as it would add another much-needed hero of color to the MCU?
Of course, it’s possible that Sony and Marvel could be planning ahead, and installing Glover as Morales’ dad, Jefferson, in order to set up the debut of a younger Miles in a future movie at some point.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is set to be released July 7, 2017. Whether or not Glover’s role remains a secret all the way to that point is unknown, if unlikely.