What’s Up Danger

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Sony Pictures Entertainment

The language of the camera is the language of our dreams.

—James Baldwin, The Devil Finds Work


In the opening narration of the Oscar-winning 2018 animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Peter Parker (Chris Pine) offers a reflective monologue about the origins and subsequent adventures of his superhero identity as the famed web-slinger. After declaring that he loves being Spider-Man, Parker concludes with the following: “There’s only one Spider-Man. And you’re looking at him.” By the film’s conclusion, Parker’s presumption is totally upended, as we learn that there may be an infinite number of Spider-persons existing in various parallel dimensions and timelines. 

Leaving aside the philosophical questions this premise elicits regarding quantum physics and ontology, Spider-Verse presents a robust and liberating corrective to the oppressive hegemonic narratives of white supremacy embedded in American society. Its fresh reimagining of popular cultural mythology through animation offers a radical mythopoetic account of Black liberation which interrogates and overturns white racial constructs.

It’s also a silly cartoon featuring a talking pig.

This perhaps demonstrates the genius of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: it’s SO much without ever being TOO much. It’s a great animated film, a great superhero film, a great coming-of-age film, a great family film, a great action film, a great comedy. It’s political without being preachy, innovative while honoring classical conventions in animation, and intellectually stimulating while also being wholly accessible to a wide audience. It deconstructs its source material (comic books and the superhero genre) even as it offers the very best example of its tradition. It’s the rare instance of an absolutely perfect film.

Which brings me to James Baldwin.


Baldwin’s The Devil Finds Work from 1976 is a brilliant book-length essay which blends personal memoir and film criticism in its interrogation of the white supremacist mythologies perpetuated in Hollywood films. For Baldwin, the significance of cinema lies in its affective, experiential, and imaginative power—film has the capacity to propagate and reinforce evil ideologies, but it also may affectively and effectively move audiences, thereby opening up the possibility for reimagining the world we live in. 

Though he doesn’t purport to be doing film theory, Baldwin’s way of thinking anticipates phenomenological and affective approaches to spectatorship in film studies, as well as ideological critiques of the dominant white gaze in popular cinema. He explicitly situates his film analysis within his own personal experience as a Black person living in America in the first half of the 20th century—it is the perfect synthesis of cultural criticism and autobiography. He opens The Devil Finds Work in the present tense, first describing a cinematic vision of Joan Crawford and Clark Gable—“I am about 7. I am with my mother, or my aunt. The movie is Dance, Fools, Dance.”—before talking about a beloved white schoolteacher, Miss Miller, who took him to see plays and films “to which no one else would have dreamed of taking a 10-year-old boy.” This technique of religious-autobiographical-Bildungsroman-meets-film-commentary situates cultural discourse not in abstractions or theories, but in concrete encounters and histories. 

Looking back on watching films as a youth, Baldwin shares that his own experiences as a Black man in America strongly differed from those portrayed in American film; the Black people in (white-directed) Hollywood movies did not seem to live in the same world as he did. Baldwin thus sees a rupture between reality and cinema at an ideological level: Hollywood films perpetuated the myth of whiteness, even in films which ostensibly seemed to interrogate the myth. As a key example, Baldwin describes the depiction of a Black police detective in the American South in the 1967 film In the Heat of the Night as “breathtaking, not to say vertiginous, in the speed with which it moves from one preposterous proposition to another…the film helplessly conveys—without confronting—the anguish of people trapped in a legend. They cannot live within this legend; neither can they step out of it.” Baldwin sees the film’s creators as being embedded within a mythology of whiteness which disallows their recognition of reality as it truly is, thus encouraging white Americans to “continue dreaming” while Black Americans have been “alerted to the necessity of waking up” in their recognition of the film’s delusions. For Baldwin, “the medium of film is crucial in so far as it can dramatize the tensions between mythic and real consciousness, providing glimpses of or enacting for the viewer the traumatic, abyssal encounter between selves.”

Baldwin addresses one particular dimension of the cinematic white mythology: the apparent impossibility of the Black hero. Baldwin argues that, in American film, “heroes, so far as I could then see, were white, and not merely because of the movies but because of the land in which I lived, of which movies were simply a reflection.” The 20th-century cinematic American hero was primarily white (as well as male) and always propagated whiteness. The Black actors or actresses Baldwin had seen on-screen “lied about the world I knew, and debased it, and certainly I did not know anybody like them.” Yet Baldwin goes on to confess that he could identify with a few significant white performers, such as Sylvia Sidney and Henry Fonda, in that they reminded him of himself and other Black people, not in their appearance, but in their posture and gravitas. He also sees racial subtexts in films which are not outwardly about “race” at all, such as Fritz Lang’s crime films M and You Only Live Once. In this way, Baldwin redefines “whiteness” as more than skin color—it is a social position within an implicit political structure where “white” is in power and “Black” is marginalized. 

Baldwin saw that the screened film world carried within it the potential for an alternative to structures of whiteness. Cinema as an art form could celebrate a Black ethos beyond the mere on-screen presence of Black actors or actresses if it addressed and critiqued the underlying American mythos. In this way, certain films may function as the imaginative catalyst for enacting a new sociopolitical imagination regarding Blackness and whiteness. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse does precisely this: it is cinematic excess and emancipation, breaking boundaries both aesthetically and ideologically as it offers us an alternative vision for what could/should be regarding superhero (as well as animated) films—as well as the very structures of American society.


Since 2008, which saw the major releases of both The Dark Knight for DC and Iron Man for Marvel, the popular, franchised “superhero film” genre has been established as a distinctly American cultural myth akin to the western film genre in the first half of the 20th century. As noted above, Baldwin’s film theory deconstructs such myths, drawing our attention to their internal inconsistencies and addressing the moral dimensions of propagated ideologies, especially for Black spectators. Directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman (the latter co-wrote the screenplay with Phil Lord) certainly know that American viewers are familiar with the Spider-Man mythology: the character was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in 1962, and Sony Pictures Entertainment produced two different Spider-Man film franchises—the Sam Raimi-directed trilogy (2002–2007) starring Tobey Maguire, followed by two films from Marc Webb in 2012 and 2014 starring Andrew Garfield—before Disney/Marvel Studios and Sony announced a deal to share the rights to the character in 2015, with Tom Holland portraying Spider-Man in five films and counting since 2016 within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). 

To return to the opening scene of Peter Parker’s monologue, Spider-Verse takes our familiarity with previous iterations of Spider-Man and uses it initially to reinforce a normative hegemonic mythology—we recognize the Spider-Man, the only one imaginable. Spider-Man, of course, is an archetypical white, educated, heteronormative, American male: Peter Parker. As Spider-Verse confirms, he is also a representative product of American capitalist consumerism: Spider-Man is a comic book, a cereal, a popsicle, a Christmas album, etc. In Rothman and Lord’s script, Peter Parker says that he is these things, not that he has them—his very ontology is a product informed by a neoliberal commodification rooted in whiteness.

So is it quite disorienting, even shocking, when this mythological Spider-Man is overcome and killed by Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin (Liev Schreiber), a powerful, wealthy white businessman/crime lord. In Spider-Verse, Fisk attempts to use a super collider made for him by scientist Olivia Octavius (Kathryn Hahn), aka Doc Ock, to create an interdimensional gateway in order to bring alternative versions of his deceased wife and son from their universe into his. Though this premise may elicit our sympathies—Fisk has lost his family and seems driven by a genuine, albeit distorted, motivation of love—Fisk is still a wealthy white man using power, money, and violence in order to obtain what he wants: a restoration of his heteronormative traditional family unit. That is, Fisk strives to make things The Way They Were (a decidedly conservative position) and is uncritically willing to destroy literally everything in existence in order to achieve this myopic goal. 

Thus, Peter Parker—an idealistic white consumer product—is killed early in the film by Kingpin—the white conservative and capitalist consumer ideology. Parker’s death signifies the self-de(con)struction of the dominant white mythology and sets Miles Morales on his vocational trajectory of becoming the new Spider-Man of his particular universe, a realm similar to but distinct from our own. Indeed, Miles is not merely a replacement for the white Peter Parker, but he is a truer and better Spider-Man, one imbued with greater powers and a sense of virtuous vocational commitment (as opposed to Parker’s guilt over the inability to prevent his Uncle Ben’s death).

Fourteen-year-old1 Afro-Latino Miles Morales is an intelligent and well-liked Brooklyn teen who is reluctantly enrolled in an elite charter boarding school, Visions Academy. Even as he is supported by his loving parents, “Jeff” Davis (Brian Tyree Henry) and Rio Morales (Luna Lauren Velez), Miles feels the pressure of living up to expectations placed on him by his father, his school, and society at large. Miles finds respite in creating graffiti street art, as well as a mentor figure in Jeff’s semi-estranged brother, Aaron (Mahershala Ali). Uncle Aaron takes Miles to an abandoned subway station to paint a graffiti mural, where Miles is bitten by a radioactive spider which gives him abilities similar to Spider-Man. However, his powers go beyond a “spider sense” and sticking to surfaces, as Miles discovers the capacity to emit a bio-electric “venom strike” as well as the power to turn invisible, abilities Peter Parker does not have. In struggling to understand his newfound faculties, Miles stumbles onto Kingpin’s collider test and witnesses the death of Peter Parker (I’ll return to this scene later). 

Later, when visiting Parker’s churchyard grave, he encounters Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), an older, worn-out “janky” version of Spider-Man from an alternate dimension accidentally brought to Miles’ world by a portal generated by the collider. Miles soon learns of other Spider-people from different dimensions: Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), a graceful balletic teenage Spider-Woman; Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn) and her robot “SP//dr” from the year 3145, drawn in Japanese anime style; Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), a dark-and-gritty monochrome private eye from 1933; and Peter Porker/Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), a humorous anthropomorphic Spider-pig from a cartoon universe featuring talking animals.2 As each alt-dimensional character experiences cellular decay in the form of “glitches” due to being outside of their original dimension, Miles feels the responsibility for getting them each back home safely through the collider, then destroying the machine before it destroys all of their various universes.


Before going any further, we have to consider an important point of criticism: are not the creators of Miles Morales and Spider-Verse primarily white, and thus not able to speak for the Black American experience advocated by Baldwin? Of Spider-Verse’s three film directors, only Ramsey is Black, while Persichetti and Rothman present as white, as does Rothman’s co-screenwriter, Phil Lord. Likewise, the creators of Miles Morales for Marvel comics—writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli, along with former Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso—are not Black. Thus, even with its potentially liberative qualities, Spider-Verse also requires de-colonization and liberation. 

In a persuasive article for the LA Review of Books exploring the comic book origins of Miles Morales, Vincent Haddad examines the tacit reasoning behind naming Miles’ father “Jefferson Davis” and making him a NYPD police officer, two notions which are “laden with racial connotations and potential minefields:”

Incredibly, the stories give much more attention to the fact that Miles is given his mother’s last name. The multiple explanations include that his father didn’t want to burden his son with his criminal past, or that it would just be plain silly to have his son share his name with the jazz musician Miles Davis. This is apparently less absurd than Jefferson Davis’ own namesake, now left up to posters on troubling message boards to sort out. Of course, it is relatively easy to speculate about why Miles’ father is named Jefferson Davis. Occam’s razor suggests that it is because at no point in the development of the character had anyone in the creative or editorial team considered it noteworthy. They either had not remembered Jefferson Davis from their US history class or did not care.

Haddad’s claims here are speculative but convincing—without clear reasoning offered by Bendis himself for why he gave Miles’ father the same name as the white supremacist president of the Confederate States, we are simply left to draw our own critical appraisals. Haddad focuses his analysis on writers Jason Reynolds and Saladin Ahmed, alongside artists Javier Garrón and David Curiel, who have done recent work to “de-colonize” these comic characters’ problematic undertones. Reynolds directly addresses anti-Black racism in his 2017 YA novel, Miles Morales: Spider-Man, as Miles learns about the historical Jefferson Davis from a villainous history teacher “who not only romanticizes slavery in class but turns out to be part of a network of Confederate zombies working to punish students of color and fuel the school-to-prison pipeline.” 

Similarly, in Ahmed’s comic series, Miles Morales: Straight Out of Brooklyn, Miles has to face “Snatcher,” a racist red-haired mind-controlling villain who abducts primarily immigrant children to turn them into robotic slaves. Haddad observes how these literary texts directly confront white supremacy and present-day political ideologies: “Snatcher’s dehumanizing exclamations bring together the anti-Black racism emphasized in Reynolds’ novel with the bigotry and oppression faced by immigrants of color, particularly Latinx immigrants. The way in which the Snatcher depicts his child abuse as a punitive measure against his victims’ parents evokes the racist logic that transparently motivates both President Trump and the ICE officers under his authority.” Reynolds and Ahmed’s reimagining of the character demonstrates how even the controversial racial insensitivities of a fictional character’s origins might be overcome through a more directly liberative ethic. 

In Spider-Verse, the filmmakers do not directly address Miles’ ethnicity or Jefferson’s name (Rio calls him “Jeff” throughout the film); they instead present an authentic, caring multiethnic family dynamic in the midst of a compelling story, allowing the narrative and characters to speak for themselves rather than become tokens or ciphers for a didactic message on race in America. By simply presenting Miles’ vibrant and healthy family interactions (such as Miles and Rio speaking in untranslated Spanish with one another, or Miles and Jeff painting a graffiti wall mural together) as normative rather than unusual, Spider-Verse implicitly deconstructs myths of white normality regarding what an American family “should” look and act like.

With regard to the white authorship of Spider-Verse, Black theologian James Cone offers a helpful perspective: in his analysis of Billie Holiday’s protest song against lynching, “Strange Fruit,” he notes that the lyrics were written by a white Jewish man, Abel Meeropol (aka “Lewis Allan”).3 Cone deems this “fitting” in that the historical Jewish experience has also been marked by marginalization and oppression, but that the song ultimately “belonged to Billie Holiday, who made the song her own and infused Blacks with a militant opposition to white supremacy.” I find it significant that Cone takes a positive stance towards Meeropol, celebrating that the song writer said what “white theologians and religious leaders should have said.” In this way, Cone suggests that artistic truth recognizes the artist’s and artwork’s concrete historical experiences, yet may also transcend them in a way which can speak beyond what the artist ever intended or imagined. 

In a similar way, Miles Morales as a fictional character created by a white Jewish comic artist takes on a subjective existence of his own beyond the intentions of either the comic book creators or the filmmakers—we should view Miles Morales and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse as having a type of subjectivity emancipated from authorial intent, a unique perspective which can inform or re-form our own. When we also recognize film as a collaborative medium, film criticism can move beyond strict auteurist interpretations, instead considering the performances of Black actors and actresses—such as Moore, Henry, and Ali—as well as Zoë Kravitz as Mary Jane Watson. Moreover, we can revel in the way Spider-Verse employs hip-hop music and visual language—particularly the graffiti-inspired street art that Miles creates—to signify Miles’ rootedness in Black artistic culture.

Following various escapades and battles—including the revelation of Aaron Davis as one of Kingpin’s henchmen, Prowler, and his subsequent death when Kingpin shoots him in the back4Spider-Verse’s most affecting sequence begins with Miles tied up and left in his dorm room by the cadre of Spider-People, deemed unable to contribute to the final battle due to his lack of command over his powers. Bound to his chair by Peter B. Parker, his mouth muffled by webbing, Miles hears a knock on the door but is unable to open it. On the other side is his father, Jeff, who has come to share the tragic news of Aaron’s death. In a powerful voice performance from Brian Tyree Henry, Jeff speaks heartfelt words of tenderness and encouragement to his son through the closed door:

Miles, I can see your shadow moving around. [Pause] Yeah. Okay, I get it. I get it. Still ignoring me. Look, can we talk for a minute? [Jeff chokes up] Something…something happened. Look, sometimes…people drift apart, Miles. And I don’t want that to happen to us, okay? Look, I know I don’t always do what you need me to do, or say what you need me to say, but I’m…I see this, this spark in you, it’s—it’s amazing, it’s why I push you, but…it’s yours. Whatever you choose to do with it, you’ll be great. [Pause] Look—call me when you can, okay? I love you. You don’t have to say it back, though.

After Miles silently receives the empowering verbal affirmation of his father, the film score begins to crescendo as the film cuts to a close-up of Miles’ now determined eyes. A blue “spark” of electricity—his unique “venom strike”—pulses through his body and down his arms into his hands before bursting the webbing and freeing the teen. With Miles now liberated and able to control the powerful “spark” inside of him, there follows an exhilarating montage sequence of Miles becoming Spider-Man atop a New York skyscraper. In the sequence, he goes to the deceased Parker’s underground lair where he is greeted by a waiting Aunt May (Lily Tomlin), who offers Miles custom-fitted web shooters and his pick of the array of Spider suits. He then travels by subway through New York, on his way to help his interdimensional Spider-friends stop Kingpin. One shot of Miles wearing a hoodie in a subway station carries semiotic significance as it evokes comparisons to the image of Trayvon Martin, the Black unarmed teen gunned down in 2012 while wearing a similar hooded sweatshirt.

Atop a skyscraper in his new custom-colored black Spider suit—the inverse of Parker’s iconic costume—while also still wearing his red hoodie, shorts, and Nike Air Jordan 1 sneakers, Miles is inspired by the voices of his family; through voiceover, we hear Jeff (“I see this, this spark in you, it’s—it’s amazing”), Rio (“Our family doesn’t run from things.”), Aaron (“You’re the best of all of us, Miles. You’re on your way. Keep going.”), and Peter B. Parker (“That’s all it is, Miles. A leap of faith.”) each reminding him of who he is and who he is called to be. When Miles finally leaps, his arms are outstretched in a Christ-like cruciform posture. We have seen Christ-figure imagery in previous Spider-Man films, but Miles is a different messiah. As he takes this leap of faith, there is a brief inverted slow-motion shot; the upside-down framing makes it so that his fall is seen as his rising or, better, his ascension. In his kenotic self-lowering of humble faith, Miles is ultimately exalted as the savior of New York and a new and better Spider-Man, one who inaugurates a disruptive upside-down ethic which will bring down the powerful and lift up the lowly.

Upon his leap of faith, Miles confidently flies through the city of New York, swinging through traffic and bounding across rooftops as the new Spider-Man. The first time we witnessed Miles practice leaping from a building, he plummeted, with comic letters following him downwards: “AAAAAAA.” In this climactic moment, Miles flies upwards with the letters “WOOOOOO” rising with him in his ascent. It is a great reversal, the conquering of both gravity and fear as Miles embraces and incarnates his identity as a new Black savior, Spider-Man.5 The affective power of this scene is not only in its visuals but in the use of music: the song “What’s Up Danger” by rap artists Blackway and Black Caviar pounds on the soundtrack throughout the sequence as an inspirational anthem, a hip-hop hymn of climactic hope. The song’s sonic presence as Miles leaps is profoundly moving as the chorus line drops out, then slowly crescendos while Miles plummets upwards; the driving backbeat kicks in fully upon his first use of his web-shooters to defy gravity’s pull. The repeated lyrics, “Can’t stop me now/What’s up danger?” are a musical extra-diegetic affirmation of Miles’ powerful newfound selfhood—as James Cone might say, his somebodiness—and vocation, as well as a direct challenge to any and all who might question or oppose that identity.

To echo Baldwin’s example of personal reflection mixed with film criticism, I must admit that every time I watch this sequence—from Jeff’s “spark” monologue to the climactic “leap of faith” scene—it never fails to bring tears to my eyes. The immense affectivity does not seem to wane upon repeat viewings, and I am always left both shaken and invigorated. Even now, typing these words and recalling the scene of Miles’ ascent in my mind’s eye, I feel a frisson of emotion, a powerful feeling of hope for the future in spite of any present challenges or suffering, as if I could face anything and overcome it. What’s up danger.


In the final battle sequence, cinema’s awe-inspiring aesthetic power is pushed beyond the limits of conventional animated films. As the fight sequence in and around the super collider involves interdimensional splicing, the visuals on display are a vivid smorgasbord of color and movement which threaten to overwhelm the viewer in their complexity and abstraction. The sequence parallels the earlier collider battle which brought the various Spider-persons to this dimension and culminated in the death of this-world’s Peter Parker at the ruthless hands of Kingpin. Now, in this climactic confrontation, upon safely sending his friends back through the collider’s portal to their various dimensions, Miles comes face to face with Kingpin. 

The battle is brutal, as the immense mass of Kingpin looms large over Miles’ relatively diminutive body. Kingpin initially pulls a gun on Miles—the same gun he used to murder Uncle Aaron—but is quickly disarmed by Miles’ web-shooter. As the fight turns to physical blows, the duelists battle on a spiraling subway train, then atop an interdimensional Brooklyn Bridge, all while Jeff Davis helplessly watches from the collider’s control room. Though Miles is courageous, Kingpin ultimately physically overpowers Miles, slamming the teen’s body with his fists in the exact same way he killed Peter Parker. The environmental colors in this sequence are a deep black and red, a hellish and overwhelming landscape emphasizing Miles’ isolation and apparently imminent destruction.

This image of a monstrous white businessman physically beating a Black teenage boy lying prone on the ground brings with it numerous disturbing real-life connotations—this appears to be the murder of Miles Morales at the hands of an unjust white oppressor while a police officer bears witness. So when Miles’ eyes finally flutter open and Jeff calls out “get up, Spider-Man!” it’s a powerful image of rejuvenation, even resurrection. As Miles rises, he turns to face his stunned tormentor before applying the “shoulder touch” he learned from Uncle Aaron with a witty quip of “hey,” blasting Kingpin with a bio-electric charge and swinging the incapacitated criminal into the collider’s control panel to destroy it, thus fulfilling his original promise to Peter Parker and saving the world from implosive interdimensional destruction. What the original white Spider-Man could not accomplish, the liberated Black Spider-Man achieves. 

The film concludes with Miles’ voiceover narration as he confidently swings and leaps across New York, a contrasting bookend to Parker’s opening monologue montage: “And when I feel alone, like no one understands what I’m going through, I remember my friends who get it. I never thought I’d be able to do any of this stuff. But I can. Anyone can wear the mask. You can wear the mask. If you didn’t know that before, I hope you do now. Cuz I’m Spider-Man. And I’m not the only one. Not by a long shot.” 

In contrast to Peter Parker’s boastful “there’s only one Spider-Man,” Miles Morales presents a humbler message of collaboration, empowerment, and solidarity. Where Parker promoted self-admiration, Morales offers us an invitation: we can wear the mask.

Spider-Verse creatively affirms that there are alternative realities, other possible ways of being beyond the myth of whiteness. Recall the aforementioned notion of the impossibility of the Black hero in cinema, then imagine James Baldwin as a child in a movie theater witnessing the animated Black body of Miles Morales swinging above New York with grace and freedom while his voice tells Baldwin that “you can wear the mask” of a superhero. How might the young Baldwin feel and respond? Would he be skeptical or convinced? Would seeing such an idealistic dream world ring false, or would it inspire fresh ways of thinking and being in the world? Though we can only speculate as to how this liberating on-screen vision of a Black superhero might spark Baldwin’s imagination, Spider-Verse nevertheless provokes us to envision a world where white supremacy is overcome and where young people of color are viewed and valued as heroes, as somebodies. Through the fantastical medium of cinematic animation, Spider-Verse generates an upending dream world which can indirectly—yet provocatively—reorient our imaginations if we are willing to take a leap of faith and embrace the dream.

  1. This age is admittedly speculative, but I’ve put a lot of thought into this. Miles is 13-years-old in the comics when bitten by the spider, whereas in Spider-Verse his age is never explicitly mentioned. Narrative evidence suggests he is 14: he says that he would prefer to attend “Brooklyn Middle” than Brooklyn Visions Academy, making him likely in eighth grade, or ages 13 to 14. In the comics, Gwen Stacy gains her powers in high school; in the film, she is a teenager, she states she has been Spider-Woman for “two years,” and she says she is “15 months older” than Miles. This suggests that she is at least 16, if not older, making Miles 14 or 15. As 15 is too old for middle school, 14 seems most likely. If Miles is 14, I find it thematically significant that the cinematic Black Spider-Man may be the same age as Emmett Till when he was tragically lynched in Mississippi in 1955.
  2. All of these characters originated from actual Marvel comic book series adaptations of the Spider-Man character.
  3. An important tangent and bit of trivia: Abel Meeropol taught English at DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx for 17 years, 1927–1944. Two notable DeWitt Clinton alumni who graduated during Meeropol’s tenure are James Baldwin (class of 1942) and Stan Lee (class of 1939), meaning Baldwin and Lee briefly attended the same high school at the same time, and perhaps were both taught by the writer of “Strange Fruit.”
  4. The cinematic portrayal of a Black man with his hands up being shot in the back by a white man calls to mind the tragic shootings of Michael Brown (2014) and Walter Scott (2015).
  5. The incarnational aspect is furthered by the film’s temporal setting at Christmastime in December 2018. Spider-Verse may thus be viewed as an unconventional “Christmas” or “Advent” film.