Comic book fans in the audience perk up during Spider-Man: Homecoming when Donald Glover’s character comes on screen, although his performance will not carry as much significance to those who have not read the source material. So for those unfamiliar, what is so significant about Donald Glover’s Spider-Man: Homecoming character, Aaron Davis?
Aaron Davis in the comics is a cat burglar known as The Prowler, and he is the uncle of Miles Morales. In 2011, Marvel had a new character, Miles Morales, take over as Spider-Man following the death of Peter Parker. Morales was the first black Spider-Man.
It’s explained in the comics that Aaron Davis and Jefferson Davis both committed crimes when they were younger, but while Jefferson grew up, married Rio Morales, and had a son named Miles, Aaron Davis continued his life of crime, stealing things and becoming known as The Prowler.
One day, Aaron Davis steals from Oscorp, and while he’s there, a genetically-modified spider crawls into his duffel bag. Later, Miles Morales visits his uncle, and this spider gets out and bites him. This is how he becomes Spider-Man.
Eventually, Aaron Davis finds out that his nephew is Spider-Man, and he uses this as blackmail, threatening to tell Miles Morales’ parents about him unless he helps defeat Scorpion. Morales and Davis get into a fight which ends with one of Davis’ gauntlets exploding, and this ultimately kills him. In their final conversation, Aaron Davis tells Spider-Man that they are a lot alike.
The Prowler is a character who has had a number of incarnations throughout the comics, and Aaron Davis was not the first of them. In The Prowler’s original appearance, he was a guy named Hobie Brown, who became a villain after losing his job. After attempting to steal from The Daily Bugle and having a confrontation with Spider-Man, Hobie Brown turns good and is no longer a villainous character. Another incarnation of The Prowler was Rick Lawson, an intern who steals the costume from Hobie Brown.
In Spider-Man: Homecoming, Glover plays The Prowler, and as a fun Easter Egg, his license plate is UCS-M01. This is a reference to Ultimate Comics Spider-Man 01, the issue when Miles Morales first appears.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is the first time the character of The Prowler has been portrayed in live action. He will also appear in Sony’s upcoming animated Spider-Man movie, portrayed by Mahershala Ali, according to The Tracking Board.
Back in 2010, when Sony was getting ready to reboot Spider-Man, fans of Donald Glover organized an online campaign to get him cast as Peter Parker. This campaign became so huge that it was even referenced in an episode of Community, in which Donald Glover’s character, Troy, wears Spider-Man pajamas. Ultimately, Andrew Garfield was cast instead. But only a year later, Marvel introduced a black Spider-Man in the comics, and they said that Miles Morales was partially inspired by Donald Glover. Glover would later voice Miles Morales on the animated Disney XD series Ultimate Spider-Man.
Glover was not in contention to play Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as Marvel wanted a real teenager for the part and Donald Glover is now 33 years old. Still, Marvel gave fans their wish of seeing Glover in a Spider-Man movie by casting him as Aaron Davis in Spider-Man: Homecoming, with a brief line thrown in hinting at Miles Morales.