Spoilers for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse at the very bottom of this article. There will be a buffer image and a warning before you get there!
He’s a character whose comic book history stretches back more than half a century, even if he’s only appeared sparingly during all those years — but thanks to projects like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Across the Spider-Verse, the Prowler is arguably as hot right now as he’s ever been. Both of them, in fact. Keep reading to find out the comic book history of the Prowler(s), and why the Spider-Verse has been surprisingly good to at least two of them.
There are no Across The Spider-Verse spoilers in this article (as of now).
Who was the original Prowler?
In Marvel’s comic book canon, the Prowler has been an identity used by a number of different people, with two main suspects depending on the different realities inside Marvel’s mighty multiverse.
The original Prowler is Hobie Brown, a character created by Stan Lee, John Romita, and John Buscema for The Amazing Spider-Man #78 back in 1969. (Lee and Buscema were the writer and artist for the issue, but the character’s design and name came from Romita, according to those involved.) Hobie was, in many ways, Peter Parker without the outlet of being Spider-Man — a smart teenager who couldn’t catch a break, who decided to take what was his no matter what, just as Peter had before the death of Uncle Ben. Thankfully, he didn’t have to lose a loved one to learn the error of his ways; he simply had to come up with a costumed identity and run into Spider-Man, who’d set him straight.
As it happened, Hobie was set extremely straight — he didn’t just end his potential criminal career, but flipped entirely and became a part-time hero, showing up across multiple Marvel titles for a number of years as a quasi-superhero in places like Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu, The Defenders, and Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man. He also assumed a second costumed identity, becoming Spider-Man’s unofficial stand-in on occasions when there needs to be a Spidey but the real one is otherwise occupied, a position he irregularly filled for years.
Most recently, he’s forgone the Prowler identity — another character is using it, after all, as we’re about to cover — and taken up the costumed role of Hornet, because Marvel loves insect-themed heroes.
Who is the current Prowler?
In Marvel’s Ultimate continuity, the Prowler is Aaron Davis, Miles Morales’ uncle and shadowy figure of the criminal underworld… something that doubtlessly sounds familiar to anyone who’s seen Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. This version of the character was created by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli, and debuted in 2011’s Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #1, becoming a running plot thread that goes through the first year of that series. Importantly, Davis is responsible for breaking into the Oscorp lab that housed the genetically altered spider that would, ultimately (no pun intended), give Miles his powers… meaning that, if it wasn’t for Davis, Miles would never have become Spider-Man in the first place.
Davis ended up with the Prowler costume after stealing it from the Tinkerer — to be fair, he’d just killed the Tinkerer, so it’s not like the latter was going to be using it anytime soon — and ended up seemingly dying after confronting Miles about their dual identities. That death didn’t take, however, and when Miles and family shifted into the mainstream Marvel Universe after the events of 2015’s Secret Wars series, Davis was somehow resurrected and back to his villainous ways… although a second seeming death and subsequent resurrection would lead him towards something resembling redemption.
When last seen, Davis had returned from an alternate future where he’d proven his good intentions by teaming with Miles and others to lead a revolution against a dystopian ruler, as I’m sure many of us can also boast.
What about the other Prowlers?
Honestly, you don’t really need to worry about them: one didn’t even have a named secret identity and was killed by the Punisher, a second was a medical student who only used the costume for a handful of issues of The Sensational Spider-Man in the late 1990s before retiring — or, I guess, finishing his studies and getting into medicine, which is a far more lucrative field — while the third was a clone of Hobie Brown who didn’t even make it out of his first storyline in one piece. None of them stuck around long enough to make an impression, is my point.
So, is the Spider-Verse Prowler the only Prowler in the movies?
Not… exactly. While there’s no Prowler in any live-action Spider-Man or Marvel movies, there is a live action Aaron Davis in 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, as played by Donald Glover — he’s someone who gets mixed up with Adrian Toomes’ plans in order, he tells Peter Parker, to try to protect his nephew. Was this a way of introducing Miles Morales into the MCU? Perhaps; a deleted scene from the same movie reportedly featured Davis calling his nephew and apologizing for not being able to hang out as originally planned…
The MCU hasn’t seen that version of Aaron Davis since — Glover is busy with other projects, after all — but if there’s one thing we’ve learned from years of Marvel Studios’ projects, it’s to never assume we’ll never see them again…
Wait, wait, wait. What was the original comic book Prowler’s name again?
No, you weren’t imagining things. He’s Hobie Brown — full name Hobart Brown, which also happens to be the secret identity of Spider-Punk in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. Look, multiverses stuff can be weird… and it’s not as if the comic book Hobie hasn’t spent some time under the Spider-cowl, after all.
Warning! Spoilers for Across The Spider-Verse below
Is Miles Morales the Prowler?
The fun part of the multiverse is that we can have multiple answers to the very same questions. No, our Miles Morales, the hero of Into the Spider-Verse and Across the Spider-Verse is not the Prowler. But one Miles Morales is. At the very end of Across the Spider-Verse, Miles sneaks into the Go Home Machine and is sent, not to his universe, but the universe where his spider came from, numbered 42. It takes him a while to realize that he isn't home, and he is both shocked to find that his uncle Aaron (on his universe, the Prowler) is alive and that his father is dead in this universe. But both of those whammies are doubled again, when he finds out that the Prowler of this universe is none other than himself.
Does Donald Glover play the Prowler in Across the Spider-Verse?
Yes! Well, again, kind of. As Miles walks through the halls of the Spider-Society, he comes across imprisoned versions of well known Spidey villains including Doc Ock, the Rhino, and yes, Prowler. The Prowler that Miles comes face to face with in this scene is a live action Prowler played by Donald Glover. Is this the MCU Prowler? Well, it's not confirmed, but (as mentioned above) Danny Glover did appear in the MCU in Spider-Man: Homecoming, and he did play a man who bought high tech weaponry and happened to have a nephew named Miles, who he calls later, in a deleted scene. So maybe this is the MCU Prowler... or maybe the MCU doesn't have a Prowler and this is just one of the many variations of the Prowler in the wild wild west of the Spider-Verse. Who knows?
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is in theaters now. Buy tickets on Fandango or Atom Tickets.
We're certainly excited about Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. So much so that we've written about Miles swinging into Fortnite, covered the Spider-Verse Burger King takeover, looked into the new Spider-Jordans, and even eaten a Spider-Whopper.
If you want to get up to date on all Spider-movies before watching this one, check out our Spider-Man movies watch order. Or maybe you want to go a little more complex with our comprehensive Spider-Verse watch order (it has EVERYTHING). If that isn't enough Spider-writing for you, check out Five Spider-hero comics to read that aren’t about Peter Parker's Spider-Man.