Spider-Man: Homecoming is a fresh start for everyone’s favorite wall-crawler. But though the new film has nothing to do with the five live-action Spider-Man adaptations that preceded it, it still draws on decades of Spider-comics. Viewers don’t need to be familiar with that history in order to have fun with the new movie, but there are a few fun Easter eggs and callbacks scattered throughout for eagle-eyed fans.
Here’s a roundup of our five favorites — from low-key name-drops to echoes of past events. (Warning: Spider-Man: Homecoming spoilers ahead)
The Miles Morales connection
A few years back, before Andrew Garfield was cast in The Amazing Spider-Man, there was a viral fan campaign to get Community star Donald Glover the title role. That effort may have failed, but it partially inspired the creation of Miles Morales, a new Afro-Latino Spider-Man for the 21st century who currently fights crime alongside Peter Parker in modern Marvel comics. When Sony got ready to relaunch Spider-Man yet again in the wake of the Amazing franchise’s end, there was renewed hope that they would go with Miles this time – preferably played by Glover. That didn’t happen, but Glover does make a cameo in Homecoming. In his most memorable scene, he explains to Tom Holland’s Spider-Man that he’s worried about the Vulture gang’s growing threat to Queens because he has a young nephew in the area. It requires some piecing-together and reading-between-the-lines, but earlier Spidey’s high-tech suit identifies Glover’s low-level criminal as none other than Aaron Davis – a.k.a. the Prowler, and even more importantly, Miles Morales’ uncle. That’s right, Miles now exists in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Hopefully we get a look at him sooner rather than later.
From Ganke to Ned
His low-key shoutout isn’t Miles Morales’ only contribution to Spider-Man: Homecoming. There’s also Ned (Jacob Batalon), Peter’s equally dorky best friend. In the comics, Peter Parker has no friends. As Spider-Man, he becomes best friends with the Fantastic Four’s Johnny Storm, but Peter never could relate to his fellow high school students. Ned is thus much closer to Miles’ friend Ganke, who also first appears with a gigantic LEGO set and eventually agrees to protect his best friend’s secret.
Spot the Villain
After stumbling on some powerful alien technology, Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) transforms his old clean-up crew into a miniature supervillain outfit. Homecoming isn’t big on code-names, but if you pay attention you’ll spot several storied Spider-foes among his squad. Toomes refers to one of his comrades, who spends the whole movie in their lair designing ever-more-intricate gadgets, as “Mason” – that would be Phineas Mason, a.k.a. the Tinkerer (Michael Chernus). At another point, while Spider-Man is observing Toomes’ crew ahead of an important arms deal, his suit helpfully informs him that one of them is named Mac Gargan – a.k.a. the Scorpion (Michael Mando). Then there’s the case of the two Shockers. The second person to wield the Shocker weapon, Herman Schultz (Bokeem Woodbine) is the real Shocker. The first guy to have a go at it is referred to as “Jackson Brice” (Logan Marshall-Green) – that would make him Montana, an old Spider-Man supervillain with a cowboy gimmick. He probably should’ve stuck to the lassos after all.
Towards the end of the movie, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) takes a break from babysitting Spider-Man in order to help his boss Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) officially move Avengers headquarters from the city to an upstate facility. Such a setup practically cries out for Easter eggs, and Happy does drop a funny one. Though he can’t quite pronounce it, Happy references Thor’s belt, the legendary Megingjörð that can double its user’s strength. Along with his hammer, Mjolnir, this belt is one of the artifacts that enhances and channels Thor’s power. In the Ultimate Marvel universe, it was even more important. There, it was portrayed as the very source of his powers, and his one-time comrades in the Ultimates were only able to defeat him by tearing it off. Another sign, along with the Miles shoutouts above, that Spider-Man: Homecoming draws more on Ultimate Marvel than anything else.
Gwen Stacy echoes
By now, most Spidey fans are probably familiar with the tragic fate of his first love, Gwen Stacy. In one of the most heartbreaking deaths in all of comics, Spider-Man’s attempt to catch his falling girlfriend with webbing backfires when the sudden stop breaks her neck (more or less played out by Emma Stone in The Amazing Spider-Man 2). Luckily there’s nothing quite so heavy in Spider-Man: Homecoming, but the sight of Spidey shooting web to save his falling crush Liz (Laura Harrier) should be enough to make any longtime fan catch their breath.