Slight spoilers for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse below:
I don’t know if Stan Lee was able to see Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse before his passing but I do know that Spider-Verse has the soul of a Stan Lee and Steve Ditko Spider-Man story more than any other Spider-Man movie before it.
I have a long history with Spider-Man. When I was six I was bitten by a brown recluse spider and for all intents and purposes, I could see Spider-powers any day now. The bite required me to get a skin graph on my back that has and will never heal properly. So when Spider-Man hit theaters in 2002 I convinced my parents I had to see it because I was just like him. I was also bitten by a spider. From then on, I saw myself in Peter Parker. While not traditionally the reason people love Spider-Man, the sentiment stands. Spider-Man, Peter Parker or otherwise, is relatable.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, follows a collective of spider-enhanced individuals (and one pig) but at its core, this is Miles Morales‘ story. Miles was created in 2011 by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli. The character first appeared in Ultimate Fallout #4 in August 2011, following the death of Peter Parker. Similar to the film, Miles took the mantle of Spider-Man from Peter following his death in his solo run Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man. Following the 2015 Marvel comic event Secret Wars, Miles left the Ultimate universe and joined Marvel’s Earth-Prime.
Throughout the movie, Miles is grappling with his identity; where he fits within his new school, his family, and now with fulfilling a promise that he made to his hero, Spider-Man. The character’s identity has been a theme of Spider-Man stories since Peter Parker first graced the pages in 1962. That theme is also one of the reasons why many fans gravitate toward the character. J. Michael Straczynski’s run on Amazing Spider-Man had Peter come clean to Aunt May about his superhero persona.
Being Spider-Man is part of what defines Peter Parker and also part of how he faces the struggles within his personal life, for better or for worse. Similarly, in Spider-Man No More!, Peter gives up the mantle after feeling the city doesn’t respect him. While trying to enjoy his life as Peter Parker, Kingpin is able to rise to power. Peter deals with his hardships in two drastically different way but learns both times accepting his responsibility and identity as Spider-Man is the best answer.
We all struggle with who we are and often have to decide how to face hardship. Both Peter and Miles within their comic history and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse have to do that. From the start, Peter must face this new responsibility he has as a hero and grapples with Uncle Ben’s death. While Miles is trying to differentiate himself from Peter while also struggling to live up to his legacy.
Stan Lee has once said, “What I like about the costume is that anybody reading Spider-Man in any part of the world can imagine that they themselves are under the costume. And that’s a good thing.” In Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Stan Lee’s cameo is that of a store owner. Miles buys a cheap Spider-Man costume to wear to Peter’s memorial service and after inquiring if he can return it if it doesn’t fit, Stan Lee’s character replies “It always fits, eventually.” Miles ends up wearing the make-shift suit until he acquires his own, proving that the suit did eventually fit.
Spider-Man or versions of Spider-Man all carry similar morals, do the right thing and always get back up when you fall down. Both of these are ever-present within the movie and each differing universe’s Spider-person. For example, Spider-Gwen after losing her best friend, while closed off to others, still feels it is her duty to save the world and ensure no one has to feel the pain she did. Similarly, Miles’ journey culminates with him knowing he will never be ready to be Spider-Ma and yet still taking a leap of faith while and facing all his fears and insecurities toward the mantle in order to save his new friends.
Sometimes I hear fans complain about how many “Spider-people” Marvel has but I don’t know if there will ever be enough. We all could wear the mask. Maybe not, in the same way, Peter or Miles. But similar to Peter and Miles, we all have responsibilities and each person takes them up differently. Despite these differences though, a true Spider-Man always strives to do what is right and always get back up when they fall. Like Miles, we can stand up to injustice and make a leap of faith even if we don’t feel ready to face the injustice in our lives.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse introduces audiences to characters that aren’t Peter Parker but carry on his legacy and morals with a few new twists. It is a testament that despite all our differences, we can all be a hero and if we try, the maks “always fits, eventually.”