The Story Behind 9 Standout Easter Eggs in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Eric Goldman
Movies Comics
Movies Comics Marvel Animation

Warning if you haven’t seen the movie yet: MAJOR SPOILERS follow for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

I joked after seeing Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse that this movie would make any article or video saying it was listing “Every Easter Egg” from the film very difficult to be correct, since the movie is wall to wall Easter eggs.

Just the dozens, if not hundreds, of Spider-Man variants glimpsed in the movie – most of them pulled from actual previous Spidey stories — makes it virtually impossible to identify every single one of them prior to Across the Spider-Verse’s eventual home release, at which point freeze framing shots will no doubt be a popular pastime (which should be the case anyway, just for the film’s wall-to-wall gorgeous animation alone).

Still, there were a few moments that are particularly notable because they go beyond the fun of seeing so many versions of Spider-Man himself and operate on other levels, reaching into so many different facets of Spider-Man’s long history, across comics, animation, live-action, and video games. So while there are many, many more great Easter eggs in the film – including some I’m sure have yet to be ID’d – here are a few of the highlights.

Strange’s Way Home

Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Holland in Spider-Man: No Way Home (which Miguel seems to know all about)

This one was revealed in one of the trailers for Across the Spider-Verse, but still, it’s hard not to take notice when Miguel O’Hara, bemoaning his job trying to fix the multiverse, yells to Gwen Stacy, “Don’t even get me started on Doctor Strange and the little nerd back on Earth-199999!” in what is an obvious reference to Spider-Man: No Way Home.

The central Marvel comic book universe has always been referred to as the 616 universe, and Earth-199999 is the designation given to the MCU in the larger multiverse. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness complicated matters by having the MCU’s prime universe called 616 onscreen as well, but Miguel is arguably using the proper name here – just ask Ms. Marvel herself, Iman Vellani!

Marvel Studios and Kevin Feige had nothing to do with Across the Spider-Verse, so this can’t quite be considered an “official” link between the two films, and indeed, one of the film’s directors, Kemp Powers, told SFK Magazine, of the Doctor Strange mention, “The world of Miles Morales and Spider-Verse, it’s not tied into the Marvel Cinematic Universe or anything like that. But this is a Lord and Miller film. We like to have a little bit of fun, we like to be a little bit meta and to acknowledge the world in which we are creating these stories. This isn’t something where we did anything in conjunction with Marvel.”

Still, it’s worth noting No Way Home already connected the MCU Spider-Man to the previous Sony-produced Spider-Man movies, and Across the Universe also links to those earlier movies, in ways mentioned below. Given all that, it makes sense that Miguel is talking about exactly the events we think he is.

JKS is JJJ Forever

J.K. Simmons doesn't appear in live-action in Across the Universe, but if he did, he'd look like this!

When the MCU finally introduced its version of J. Jonah Jameson in Spider-Man: Far From Home, they took an understandable “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” approach, having the ever-great J.K. Simmons play the role. Simmons first portrayed Jonah in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy, but while this was an entirely different version of the character, in an entirely different universe, Simmons became the first onscreen actor from a pre-MCU project to simply be cast in the same role again in live-action, because who would argue with that?

Across the Spider-Verse takes this further, as we hear Simmons’ voice as J. Jonah Jameson early in the film in Gwen’s reality – and then go on to hear him at least three more times, as three different versions of Jonah, including in Miles’ universe, in the LEGO universe (more on that below) and on Earth-42, where Miles becomes trapped in the film’s conclusion.

It’s worth noting Simmons also voiced J. Jonah Jameson in previous animated projects, including The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and the interconnected series Ultimate Spider-Man, Avengers Assemble, and Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. It seems that across the multiverse, J. Jonah Jameson is  someone whose variants tend to often closely resemble (and sound like) one another, more than many other people.

The LEGO-Verse

Pictured: The actual, real life LEGO Spider-Man

As referenced above, a very funny early moment on in Across the Spider-Verse finds us glimpsing an animated LEGO universe where an adorable LEGO Peter Parker, working at a LEGO Daily Bugle, sneaks off from an ever-grumpy LEGO J. Jonah Jameson to contact Miguel O’Hara from a bathroom stall – revealing in the process he’s a trusted agent in Miguel’s Spider-Society.

Having a LEGO Spider-Man appear in the movie works on multiple levels, reference-wise. Obviously, there have been plenty of actual toy LEGO Spider-Man toy sets and Spider-Man has now been a part of several LEGO Marvel animated specials and video games. But on top of that, Phil Lord and Chirstopher Miller, who co-wrote and produced Across the Spider-Verse, wrote and directed 2014’s The LEGO Movie and wrote its sequel, and thus have plenty of experience with this type of realm. Those LEGO movies were produced by Warner Bros. and only included DC superheroes in them – including in the spinoff The Batman LEGO Movie – so Across the Spider-Verse provides the first-ever big screen version of Marvel LEGO characters.

We Are Chen-Om

Mrs. Chen (Peggy Lu) gets a visit from The Spot in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

When The Spot begins to discover his holes can lead to other dimensions across the multiverse, he begins popping into various universes to see what they’re like – and allowing us to learn in the process that live-action worlds are going to be included in this film. The first such example is a notable one too, as it’s a world we’ve seen a few times before now, represented by a familiar character.

Yes, that’s  Mrs. Chen from Venom and Venom: Let There Be Carnage, who runs the local convenience store in Eddie Brock’s neighborhood, with Peggy Lu reprising her role from those movies (in what actually appears to be repurposed footage from Let There Be Carnage). Spot is surprised that Chen seems so unphased by his bizarre appearance and that he’s appeared out of nowhere, speculating she must be used to strange things happening in her store, which of course is very correct.

The Mrs. Chen scene means Spot is also visiting the universe Morbius exists in, but best not to think about that too much.

Video Game Villains 

Videoman, in his first appearance in Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends (1981)

When Miles first arrives in Nueva York and the Spider-Society headquarters, he sees a large group of imprisoned villains labeled as anomalies, who have been captured after various multiverse-jumping incidents. Among funny sight gags like Mooseterio and “a boring Rhino” are multiple characters seen together in the same shot with video game connections. Standing in the center, between two of the cells, is none other than Insomniac Spider-Man, the Spidey from the acclaimed PlayStation Spider-Man game and its upcoming sequel, with Yuri Lowenthal again voicing him. But it’s the two villains he’s with – and perhaps captured himself? – that qualify as deep cuts, or at the least, references that go back decades.

One is Videoman, who was first introduced in a 1981 episode of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends as a video game character brought to life by Electro, who was able to trap Flash Thompson and Iceman within the very arcade game he’d sprung forth from. This Videoman would return to fight the Spider-Friends one more time, but then a third episode of Amazing Friends would strangely introduce a totally different, yet physically identical, version of Videoman via a human named Francis Byte who was transformed into a heroic Videoman and ultimately joined the X-Men. Videoman amusingly eventually became a canon 616 comic book character as well, having served as the villain in a 2006 team-up between Spider-Man, Iceman, and Firestar – one of several times the comics have done homages to Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.

In 1982, these were literally the best video game graphics anyone had ever seen featuring Spider-Man and Green Goblin

In the cell next to Videoman in Across the Spider-Verse is an even cruder looking character, who is notably boxy and green. This appears to be the Green Goblin, as he appeared in his very simplistic form in the 1982 Spider-Man video game made for Atari. Though the graphics and gameplay were notably lacking — yes, even by the standards of its era — this was not only the first ever Spider-Man video game, it was the first video game to feature any Marvel characters.

An MCU Payoff?

Donald Glover (seen here in Spider-Man: Homecoming) once more plays Aaron Davis/The Prowler in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. But is it the same version of Aaron? Hmm....

A big surprise cameo arrives in the prisoner scene when none other than a live-action Donald Glover is shown as one of the Spider-Society’s captives, and ID’d as The Prowler (and costumed accordingly). There are some major potential ramifications here because this is actually the second time Glover is playing this character, having been introduced as Prowler’s alter ego, Aaron Davis, in Spider-Man: Homecoming in a small role. The use of Aaron in that film is so far the only direct tie to Miles Morales we’ve seen in the MCU, or any live-action project, as he mentioned having a nephew comics readers (and now Spider-Verse movie fans) would be well aware is Miles.

Once more, we have to take into account that Marvel Studios didn’t produce this movie, even as Sony having control of the Spider-Man movie rights means they can still use all these characters as they wish. But we haven’t seen the MCU Aaron since Homecoming, much less seen him become the Prowler, so unless Kevin Feige argues otherwise, could we take this to be that exact same character who has now taken on his costumed persona? Or is this a completely different universe’s Aaron, who also happens to look like Glover? It’s a great cameo regardless, but when I asked Lord & Miller the “Is this the MCU Aaron?” question at the Across the Spider-Verse junket, Christopher Miller replied, with a grin, “That is for you to decide. You know, all things are possible in the multiverse.”

Phil Lord added, regarding the Glover cameo, “We were also trying to give nods to the people that have fallen in love with these characters in other mediums,” referencing Donald Glover’s campaign to play Peter Parker/Spider-Man years ago, which had an influence on the eventual creation of Miles Morales in the comics and then led to Glover’s Homecoming appearance as well.

The Comics Onscreen 

Captain George Stacy's (first) death in 1970's Amazing Spider-Man #90

The last three listings here all come from the same sequence, which essentially rapid fires some very attention-getting moments at the audience.

When Miguel explains to Miles what it means to disrupt a canon event, his first example is showing the death of a police captain during a battle between Spider-Man and an enemy. The images shown are actually very specific, taken from 1970’s Amazing Spider-Man #90, in which George Stacy died saving a child during a battle between Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus. In fact, Miguel calls this event “ASM90.”

The use of actual comic book panels seems to solidify that the original source material – though “616” is never said – is a part of the movie Spider-Verse, along with a few other moments during this sequence depicting real life comic book panels as part of the many fragments we see of Spider-Man history.

A Spectacular Return

This is where we point out just how great The Spectacular Spider-Man is. Seriously, watch it on Disney+ if you've never seen the show.

One of the teaser posters for Across the Spider-Verse revealed that the version of Spidey from the 2008-2009 animated series The Spectacular Spider-Man would be part of the film, much to the excitement of those of us who adore that sadly short-lived, yet truly terrific, series. What wasn’t clear though was how big a role Spectacular Spider-Man would have in the film and whether he’d even speak, given how many of the Spideys glimpsed in the film are silent.

As it turns out, Spectacular’s role is a very small one, but not without its own cool touchstones. After Miguel explains that the death of a George Stacy-type authority figure is a canon event for pretty much all the Spider-Men, he shows Miles a different, animated Spider-Man mourning over a different George Stacy. This is in fact Spectacular Spider-Man and the George Stacy from that series, essentially showing us a scene we never reached due to the show’s premature conclusion.

Lord explained that when they looked at different ways they wanted to honor Spider-Man’s past in Across the Spider-Verse, “One of them was getting Spectacular Spider-Man to be part of it. And as part of an imagined extra season, in which Captain Stacy dies. That was like another little wishlist thing that we got to do.”

Cementing this tie to the past, the animated show’s lead, Josh Keaton, once more voices the Spectacular Spider-Man, first heard speaking to Captain Stacy as he dies, telling him he’s sorry, and then again shortly after, when he approaches Miles as the Spider-Society tries to explain the situation to him and why he has to let his father, Jeff, die.

Live-Action Spideys

Footage of Andrew Garfield and Denis Leary from The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) is seen in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

There’d been reports that a cameo of some sort was considered in 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse for live-action movie Spideys Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and Tom Holland and while that didn’t come to be, all three actors would then team-up in crowd-pleasing fashion in live-action in Spider-Man: No Way Home. Following that, there had been some speculation that perhaps this trio might now appear in Across the Spider-Verse, which isn’t exactly the case… but almost is?

Which is to say, Maguire, Garfield, and Holland filmed no new material for the movie, nor did they record any voice over. But Maguire and Garfield are directly shown via archival footage from their earlier films during Miguel’s multiverse/canon lesson.

Archival footage of Tobey Maguire in 2002's Spider-Man also is used in Across the Spider-Verse

Maguire’s Spidey and Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane are briefly seen during the iconic upside down kiss, and then Garfield gets a big close-up when we see his version of Peter Parker mourning the death of his universe’s George Stacy (Denis Leary) in The Amazing Spider-Man. Finally, both Maguire and Garfield are seen reacting to the death of their respective Uncle Bens, in a shot that also includes the animated Spectacular Spider-Man’s version of this pivotal moment in Peter Parker’s origin.

Eric Goldman
Eric Goldman is Managing Editor for Fandom. He's a bit obsessed with Star Wars, Marvel, Disney, theme parks, and horror movies... and a few other things. Too many, TBH.