The off-screen origin stories for nearly every Spider-Person in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse are mesmerizing in their unpredictability, creativity, or both. Sun-Spider, who uses crutches to help swing around her city, was designed as an original character by a comics fan. Lego Spider-Man was animated by a 14-year-old fan, who won the job after perfectly remaking the Spider-Verse trailer shot-for-shot with Lego. Even the briefly seen Spider-Therapist has a surprisingly rich place in the canon. (The credits reveal he’s actually Ezekiel Sims, a Spider-Man with a uniquely tragic story of his own.)
It’s fun to pick a favorite bit-part Spidey, but the more prominent ones are unsurprisingly the consensus favorites. Spider-Gwen is a queer icon. Spider-Man India, known as Pavitr Prabhakar, is a goofy South Asian gentleman who’s instantly lovable. But no one is cooler than Hobie Brown, a.k.a. Spider-Punk, an anti-fascist (but anti-label) guitarist with the thickest accent you’ll hear. He is arguably the film’s coolest new character, the one who has inspired both the most vibrant fan art and immediate obsession from all kinds of viewers dying to know how this character’s unique, kinetic movement was crafted on-screen.
As voiced by Daniel Kaluuya (in his natural, very heavy accent), Hobie Brown is a superhero completely unconcerned with playing the superhero game. With a wit so casually quick, you’ll only catch every third joke, Hobie is the brooding guitarist that everyone’s got a crush on. Better (or worse) yet: He’s either unaware of it or completely unconcerned by it. Hobie is, as his friend/possible brief love interest Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) knows well, the coolest guy you’ll ever know.
And yet, this cool guy—with an almost illegible accent to our American ears, an admirable Afro hidden under that spiked mask, and several inches of height on our guy Miles Morales (Shameik Moore)—is also Spider-Man. Which means we see Hobie’s Spider-Punk slinging webs and keeping up with the other members of the Spider Society, the cabal composed of countless Spider-People from throughout the multiverse. The action heroics come off almost like an obligation to this British anti-establishmentarian, who looks more comfortable in a studded collar than a super suit. (Although, of course, Hobie is very good at the Spider-Man stuff too.)
The result is a character that no one can get enough of. Since Spider-Verse’s June 2 release, more and more viewers have raved about Hobie to everyone they know, creating Spider-Punk stans in kind.
There are several factors as to what’s made Hobie so particularly appreciated by viewers. The first is that he left an amazing first impression: Hobie’s introduction to the film is a stunning feat of animation. It’s a marathon runner-paced assemblage of stylistic references to the 1970s English punk rock scene, frantically darting between electric blues and pinks and crude pencil drawings. Most excitingly is how Spider-Punk’s animation makes literal his commitment to thumbing his nose to authority, as Spider-Verse supervising animator Chelsea Gordon-Ratzlaff tells The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, is a clear part of the fervent appeal.
“The thing I’ve noticed people most blown away by is that [Hobie’s] animation rules (of not following the same frame rate as the other characters) go hand-in-hand with not just his look of picture style, but also with his anarchist personality,” Gordon-Ratzlaff says, when asked about her take on Hobie’s post-premiere popularity.
Once Kaluuya’s line readings were in, the team’s confidence in leaning into making the animation match Hobie’s personality grew. “He brought really cool takes to the character and that helped us narrow down what we needed to do animation-wise to help showcase that,” she said. And while she was initially worried that “the lower frame rates and offsets would be jarring,” Gordon-Ratzlaff is proud that Hobie’s unique animation not only won people over, but that it was one of the reasons fans have cited as why they loved the character so much.
As much as we regular ol’ viewers watching dug Hobie, and how well-communicated his personality is through his animation, no one is more hyped about Hobie Brown than other artists. Many amateur and professional creators alike have gotten to work creating Spider-Punk artwork inspired by the film in the two weeks since its release. Twitter is currently full of fan art featuring Hobie—by himself or, commonly, with his fellow newcomer Pavitr—with many pieces receiving tens of thousands of likes.
With such a vibrant design that contains so many small details—buttons, patches, spikes—Hobie’s an instantly appealing candidate for original, transformative fan work. But there are more story-based reasons that have inspired artists to take a stab at re-imagining Hobie themselves.
“I think Hobie resonates especially hard with the younger left-leaning generation, who are very openly queer and oftentimes hold at least a few anarchist political ideals,” says Lindi, a comics artist whose Hobie drawings have received a lot of Twitter traction. (There’s also a popular reading of the film that both Hobie and Spider-Gwen, his closest Spider-Person pal, are queer.)
“Younger generations hold these beliefs in a way that isn’t purposefully comedic, but there’s a certain blitheness to how they carry themselves,” she adds. “This sort of personality actually hasn’t been effectively represented in mainstream media at all.” That is, until Hobie, whose ironic relationship to his own politics—his chill embrace of protecting and policing the multiverse, vs. his stated disinterest in “the system”—may resemble that of many younger viewers.
Hobie’s Blackness is a key contribution to his reception as well. Spider-Verse is likely the most diverse superhero film ever created, with an Afro-Latino lead flanked by friends of myriad ethnic backgrounds. (The only thing they do all have in common, in fact, is that they were bitten by a radioactive spider.) Hobie is a Black man with natural hair who performs in a genre (of both music and movie) that often shines the spotlight on white people instead.
“It’s rare to see black characters depicted in such a fun way,” says Lindi, “and [movies] often rush to politicize that part of their existence. Although Hobie’s skin color definitely grants a specific type of credence to his anarchist ideals, he’s also just allowed to be an attractive, independent, young man.” That’s another rarity in mainstream representations of Blackness.
As fun as it is to intellectualize Hobie’s appeal, however—and there are many different parts to it, clearly—the most fun thing is to just watch him in motion. Across the Spider-Verse is still in theaters; we can’t wait for the home release, meanwhile, so we can slow down on every tiny detail the animators threw in to make this one-of-a-kind character really sing. Or, rather, strum.
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