Four years ago when Sony Pictures announced that its Spider-Man movie franchise would be rebooted following the exit of director Sam Raimi from the stalled development of a fourth feature starring Marvel Comics’ iconic wall-crawling superhero, actor, writer, and the rap star known as Childish Gambino, Donald Glover, threw his hat into the casting ring. The idea of the Community star assuming the role vacated by Tobey Maguire started out as the suggestion of a fan and eventually grew into a full-blown social media campaign with the hashtag “#donald4spiderman.” As far as we know, Glover didn’t even get an audition, and the role ultimately went to Andrew Garfield.
But now it looks as if Glover, who departed Community in the middle of its fifth season but has hinted at possibly returning to the show when it launches on Yahoo! later this year or next, will finally get his chance to play Spider-Man in an upcoming episode of the Disney XD animated series Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors. You can check out a newly-released image from the episode here below.
Glover will not be taking over the voice part of Peter Parker from Drake Bell but will in fact be playing Miles Morales. Miles was the creation of writer Brian Michael Bendis and introduced in the pages of the Ultimate Spider-Man comic book in 2011 as the first person to inherit the mantle of Spider-Man following the death of Peter Parker. He was also the first non-white person to don the powers and costume of Spidey, a black Hispanic teenager from Brooklyn who shared many character traits with his legendary predecessor.
Glover will provide the voice of the Morales Spider-Man in an episode that figures into a larger story arc where Peter Parker travels to different dimensions in order to prevent the Green Goblin from harvesting the DNA of other Spider-people from these alternate universes, including Iron Spider, Spider-Man 2099, and the Amazing Spider-Girl. Even Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham, will make an appearance. In Morales’ timeline Peter is dead, much as it is in the Ultimate Universe comics.
Stephen Wacker, Marvel Television’s vice president of current animation, said in an interview with USA Today:
“He meets someone who is his hero, and that comes across completely in Donald’s performance. He’s got a real warmth that suits the character really, really well. If you’ve read Miles Morales comics, Donald’s voice nails what you’ve been reading.”
Bendis had conceived of Miles Morales long before Glover voiced his desire to play the role on the big screen, but the social media campaign as well as the election of President Barack Obama both served as inspirations for his final conception of the character. The announcement that Spider-Man’s civilian identity would be a young black man was greeted with both praise and derision from comics fans, online journalists, and the conservative media, but Morales’ comic book reign as Spidey has received mostly positive notices. His animated incarnation will stick close to his counterpart in the comics, as he is presented as a 13-year-old kid still trying to acclimate himself to the responsibilities of being a superhero.
As Wacker put it:
“He’s a kid you can root for, who you want good things for, who suffered some loss of his own, and we’re seeing him come to terms with his new powers and how to use them.”
Glover, whose voice is naturally high-pitched, didn’t have to worry about changing the way he sounded too much to play the teenaged Morales, and as the actor himself said:
“That’s the great part about the Spider-Man costume: He can be anybody. Spider-Man could be a girl. Spider-Man could be an old man. You don’t know. So I just tried to be as me as possible, because you’re always just going to bring it back to yourself when you watch the show.”
The new season of Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors premieres this Sunday morning at 9 a.m. (ET/PT) and the “Spider-Verse” episode arc will air next year. You can watch a brief clip from Glover’s guest appearance here.