There have been some pretty notable superhero premieres in recent years. Here’s another good one: in this weekend’s animated sequel Spider-Man: Through the Spider-VerseIssa Rae’s Spider-Woman, aka Jessica Drew, is the first pregnant superhero to appear on the big screen in a major comic book movie.
“She’s her own unique thing that exists in our world,” says co-director Kemp Powers (One night in Miami, Soul).
In the movie, a sequel to the 2018 Oscar-winning hit Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Drew is one of the elite members of the multiverse Spider-Society. Alongside the team’s leader, Miguel O’Hara (Oscar Isaac), she helps recruit Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) into their fold, followed by Miles Morales (Shameik Moore).
As voiced by Rae (Insecure), Drew was updated to be African American in the film. But her pregnancy, like her trademark motorcycle, has comic book roots, drawing inspiration from a spider woman screenplay by Dennis Hopeless and Javier Rodriguez in 2015. (Although not revealed in the film, Drew must be at least seven or eight months pregnant.)
With no big-screen precedent to draw upon, Rae sought inspiration outside of the realm of superheroes.
“I thought about Fargo“, says the actress, referring to the Oscar-winning role of Frances McDormand in Marge Gunderson, the heavily pregnant Minnesota police chief investigating a triple homicide in the Coen brothers’ favorite in 1996.
“She doesn’t count as a superhero. But she was a crime fighter. And I just remember being deathly scared that something was going to happen to her and not having the same worry in this movie. She’s a superhuman. So I felt less concerned for her well-being, but I was also like, ‘It’s kind of crazy that she’s here kicking ass during her pregnancy.'”
Powers says he’s been intrigued by the idea of a pregnant Spider-Woman since it was introduced in 2015. “Just the idea of Spider-Woman going through motherhood [was cool]”, he said. “And although Spider-Man talks so much about secrecy and concealing your secret identity, there was something really exciting about the idea of a Spider-Woman who has no secret identity, who she is. She doesn’t even wear a mask. She just has glasses. Everyone knows she’s Spider-Woman And it doesn’t matter.
“That idea was that she could be a Spider-Woman boss who could mentor Gwen, who was so confident in the first movie, but here she’s thrown into something new.”
Spider-Man: Through the Spider-Verse opens June 2.
Watch the trailer: