There have been some pretty notable superhero firsts in recent years. Here’s another good one: In this weekend's animated sequel Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Issa Rae's Spider-Woman, aka Jessica Drew, is the first pregnant superhero to hit 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 film, a sequel to 2018's Oscar-winning hit Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Drew is one of the elite members of the multiverse-hopping Spider-Society. Alongside the team's leader, Miguel O'Hara (Oscar Isaac), she helps recruit Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) into their fold, with Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) eventually tagging along.
As voiced by Rae (Insecure), Drew was updated to be African American in the movie. But her pregnancy, like her trademark motorcycle, has comic book roots, drawing from a Spider-Woman storyline by Dennis Hopeless and Javier Rodriguez in 2015. (While it's not revealed in the film, Drew has to be at least seven or eight months into her pregnancy.)
With no big-screen precedent to rely on, Rae sought inspiration outside superhero realm.
"I was thinking about Fargo," the actress says, referring to Frances McDormand's Oscar-winning role of Marge Gunderson, the very pregnant Minnesota police chief investigating a triple homicide in the Coen brothers' 1996 favorite.
"She doesn't count as a superhero. But she was a crimefighter. And I remember just being deathly afraid 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 also was just like, 'This is kind of crazy that she's just out here kicking ass while pregnant.'"
Powers says he has been intrigued by the idea of a pregnant Spider-Woman since she was introduced in 2015. "Just the idea of Spider-Woman going through motherhood [was cool]," he says. "And while Spider-Man is so much about secrecy, and hiding your secret identity, there was something really exciting about the idea of a Spider-Woman who doesn't have a secret identity, who she is. She doesn't even wear a mask. She just has on glasses. Everyone knows she's Spider-Woman And it doesn't matter.
"This idea was that she could be a boss Spider-Woman who can serve as kind of like a mentor to Gwen, who was so confident in the first film, but here she's being cast into something new."
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse opens June 2.
Watch the trailer: