Sometimes a movie doesn’t need a villain; an idiot is enough. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse has one of each.
For the former, there’s Spot (Jason Schwartzman), one of the weirder villains in Spider-Man canon, a guy who can spawn portals and wreak all sorts of spatial chaos at will. As for the jerk, that’s Miguel O’Hara (Oscar Isaac), aka Spider-Man 2099, leader of an elite cross-reality task force of parallel-world Spider-Mans. In contrast to the spot, whose whole thing is explained in detail in Across the spider verseMiguel is mostly a mystery in this film – we get it some Backstory for him, but it’s mostly vague clues. These clues suggest that he is somehow different, perhaps even disturbing. And probably because Across the spider verse is just the first part of a two-part story, the film doesn’t follow up on the clues it provides.
[Ed. note: Mild spoilers for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse follow.]
For a film so full of exposure Across the spider verseThe questionable characterization of this particular Spider-Man alternate universe can be frustrating. As the film progresses, we learn that he’s some sort of vampire (which is never explained), that he secretly takes a drug (also unexplained), and most importantly, that he’s the only Spider-Man who never did is funny. (Actually an insult to all other spider people.)
how many things in Across the spider verse, it’s easier to appreciate Miguel knowing his full story from the Marvel Comics in which he first appeared. However, there is a caveat here: while the Spider-Verse films draw affectionately on Spidey comics and their many adaptations, most of the films’ characterizations are original to them. In fact, the backstory is Miguel does
So before you dive in here, take this information with a pinch of salt. Because while Miguel is among the weirder versions of Spider-Man that Marvel has released a lot from comics over, he might ultimately be a lot Stranger in the Spider-Verse movies.
First of all: 2099 is a year
The name “Spider-Man 2099” isn’t strictly speaking Miguel O’Hara’s battle name. He’s just Spider-Man from the year 2099. Like many weird comic book ideas, this one was born in the 90’s.
In 1992, Marvel released a series of comics set in the future of the Marvel Universe in 2099. In the 2099 comics, everything in the main Marvel Comics series was canonically referred to as a legendary “hero age.” Many well-known superheroes, like Spider-Man and the Punisher, have been reimagined for the new-era cyberpunk dystopia, as new characters take on classic alter egos. A few others, such as Doctor Doom and the Fantastic Four, visited this future from the existing Marvel Universe.
Spider-Man 2099 was by far the most popular and enduring character from the 2099 series. While the series concluded in 1998, Miguel continued to appear in Marvel Comics for the years that followed, until 2014, bringing him into the mainstream universe in a new Marvel Universe Spider-Man 2099 Series.
Recent comics took Miguel back in time, but he’s remained a staple ever since.
Who is Miguel O’Hara?
Created by Peter David and Rick Leonardi, Spider-Man 2099 put a cyberpunk vibe on the favorite comic book webhead, reimagining him in a techno thriller set in futuristic Nueva York.
In 44 issues, David, Leonardi and a group of other artists invented a new story about Miguel O’Hara, a half-Irish, half-Mexican-American geneticist who works for the Alchemax mega-corporation. Miguel is working on a project that would bring Alchemax genetically enhanced super soldiers, but after a crisis of conscience he decides to give up. Too bad his superiors don’t let him.
In one of the wildest origins of a beloved Marvel comics character to date, Miguel’s boss slips him a highly addictive designer drug called Rapture, leaving him addicted to Rapture’s only legal distributor: Alchemax. In a desperate attempt to get clean, Miguel becomes Spider-Man and uses the machine he created for his super-soldier experiments to restore his genome to its pre-rapture state. Unfortunately, a rival sabotages this process and sets the machine to rewrite his genetics as being 50% spider.
The big twist here is that Miguel’s transformation is more monstrous than Peter Parker’s, adding a bit of body horror to the character. Most of their powers are comparable, but Miguel’s work is slightly more terrifying. He will cling to walls, but with claws sticking out of his hands and feet. Instead of a spider sense, he has enhanced eyesight and hearing, causing his pupils to disappear and making daylight unbearable for him. Long before Sam Raimi gave Peter Parker organic web shooters, Miguel O’Hara found spinnerets on his forearms. And most notable are the fangs that he develops and cannot retract, fangs that secrete a potent venom, forcing Miguel to adopt a mumbling tone when speaking so they are not obvious.
(One of Across the spider verseThe more worrying throwaway lines are when Gwen notes that Miguel is a “ninja vampire.” In the comics he’s not a blood drinker or an undead or anything – vampirism isn’t really an issue for him. Gwen’s lyrics might just be a flippant reference to his creepy fangs. Unless…)
From there, Miguel adopts a costume he bought for a Day of the Dead festival in Mexico as his new uniform and tries to heal his condition while also getting revenge on those who ruined his life. He gets help from Lyla, the AI assistant voiced by Greta Lee in the films. She’s not really part of his crime-fighting package; She’s essentially just a more sophisticated Siri running Miguel’s apartment in the comics. Ultimately, Miguel learns to become a hero. it reigns.
2099 is just a state of mind
Knowing all this, it’s very likely that the Miguel O’Hara of Across the spider verse is in fact completely faithful to the comics, save for a few details. He seems much more dependent on him very Firstly, a high-tech costume.
It’s also possible that the filmmakers want to pay tribute to the character’s comic book origins before doing something radically different with him – something they’ve already begun with the character given his multiversal spider-cop status in the film .
Most notably, Miguel is useful as one of the most iconic Spider-People in Marvel history who is no variation on Peter Parker. Unlike Peter or Miles, Miguel becomes Spider-Man as an adult, specifically a Spider-Man who initially embraces and becomes complicit with a corporate surveillance state. Miguel has to reckon with a world he helped create, and when you compare his story to Miles’ or Peter’s mantra about power and responsibility, he makes more sense than someone who would take a tougher stance on actualizing it.
That said, yeah – he’s quite the idiot. But will Beyond the Spider-Verse prove he’s ultimately an idiot for the greater good? Or will he stay the way he is? Across the spider verse, an idiot blinded by his own rigid moral calculus? We’ll find out