Even before the days of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe or its equivalent in DC, the relationship between film, television, and comics was a pretty symbiotic one. Just as film and TV are now majorly informed by comics, comic artists have taken inspiration from film and TV — especially when it comes to the design for certain characters. “Batman: Year One” artist David Mazzucchelli famously modeled his Bruce Wayne on “Roman Holiday” star Gregory Peck. Another less-subtle reference to a famous face — and one of my personal favorites — came in 2016’s “Invincible Iron Man”: artist Mike Deodato Jr. modeled his Tony Stark off Santiago Cabrebra, of “The Musketeers” and “Star Trek: Picard” fame.
Sometimes, though, the inspiration is equal parts thematic as it is aesthetic. On occasion, an episode of television can even inspire a shift in a narrative arc, a fresh conflict, or even a brand new character. Such was the case for Brian Michael Bendis, the mind behind Ironheart, Jessica Jones, and a number of characters born into Marvel’s Ultimate universe. One of Bendis’ most beloved creations has to be Miles Morales, the first Black Spider-Man, and one of the few to take the mantle after Peter Parker.
The possibility a non-white Spider-Man first emerged as early as 2008, partly in response to Barack Obama’s inauguration in the U.S. The most concrete inspiration for Bendis, however, came two years later, with the season 2 premiere of “Community.”
Donald 4 Spider-Man
Spider-Man as a character has always felt evergreen, but back in 2010, he was a huge topic of discussion. Sony had just announced their plans to reboot the Spider-Man films — and with casting underway, many fans wondered whether this new Spider-Man could turn over a new leaf for the franchise. “Community” actor Donald Glover famously expressed interest in portraying Peter Parker in the new films, launching an impromptu Twitter campaign. Glover’s campaign began on Twitter — culminating in the infamous “#donald4spiderman” hashtag — and even bled into an episode of “Community.” In the season 2 premiere, “Anthropology 101,” Glover’s character Troy appeared in Spidey pajamas. Despite the brevity of the scene, it offered major fuel to the campaign … and to a fair bit of the “anti-woke” backlash. Still, it was clear that fans wanted a bit of diversity in the Spider-verse — if not with its original hero, then at least with a new character.
Though it was Andrew Garfield, not Glover, who played the famous webslinger in “The Amazing Spider-Man,” Glover’s efforts actually inspired bigger, more lasting change. Bendis spoke to USA Today about the inside joke in “Community,” and how it gave him the fuel to create the franchise’s first Black Spider-Man. “I saw [Glover] in the costume and thought, ‘I would like to read that book,'” Bendis recalled. “So I was glad I was writing that book.”
The Saga Continues
“That book” was “Ultimate Spider-Man” — more specifically, the “Death of Spider-Man” storyline published in 2011. With Peter Parker’s story coming to a close in the Ultimate Universe, Brian Michael Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli were able to create a more diverse character in earnest. “It’s certainly long overdue,” Bendis admitted. “Even though there’s some amazing African-American and minority characters bouncing around in all the superhero universes, it’s still crazy lopsided.”
Bendis gave “mucho credit” to Donald Glover for inspiring Miles Morales, who first debuted in “Ultimate Fallout” #4 and bore a subtle resemblance to the actor. Glover’s influence continued to inform the character: he voiced Miles in the 2014 series “Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors,” and when the Spider-Man films were rebooted a second time, he cameod in “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” In the latter, Glover was obviously much too old to play Miles, so he appeared as Aaron Davis, Miles’ uncle. Glover’s cameo may or may not have hinted at Miles’ existence in the MCU — and though we’ve yet to see those seeds bare fruit, it was apparently just the beginning of Glover’s creative relationship with Marvel. The actor and writer will team with Marvel and Sony Pictures to bring the D-list villain Hypno-Hustler to the big screen. It might be a weird choice, but it’s yet another connection to the Spidey-verse, so why shouldn’t it work?
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/Film – Donald Glover’s Community Character Inspired Spider-Man’s Miles Morales
Author: Lyvie Scott
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March 11, 2023