Why Miles Morales is so much more than just “the black Spider-Man”.
Carl Anka looks at the reasons why Miles Morales is so much more than just “the black Spider-Man”
For the best part of a decade Ultimate Spider
Man was the bedrock for Marvel 1610. For some, Ultimate Peter Parker was the Ultimate Universe. So after Peter’s tragic demise at the hands of the Sinister Six in Ultimate Spider-Man #160, the question on many a comic book reader’s lips was “Who could be important enough to take on the mantle?”
Following the adventures of Ultimate Peter Parker would be no small task. Would Marvel take someone from Peter’s current cast and move them to take on the role? Would the Ultimate team introduce a new 1610-remixed version of a traditional Marvel mainstay to be the new SpiderMan? Or would the role of Spider-Man remain vacant, a constant homage to Peter, the boy wonder who carried the Ultimate Universe through the good times and bad?
The options were myriad, but in the end Marvel chose none of them. Rather than go with the expected SpiderFamily option, Brian Michael Bendis instead worked with new Marvel comic book artist Sara Pichelli to introduce Miles Morales, a half-black, half-latino Brooklyn teenager who got bitten by a genetically enhanced spider.
Similar origin story, very different result. Miles Morales has been a Marvel character for only just over six years, but in that time he has caused a tremendous amount of good, both within the world of Marvel and in the wider cultural milieu.
I don’t want to be the black SpiderMan. I want to be Spider-Man
Doing our bit to try to make our nation, and the world, colour blind is the right thing
To replace (a version of) one of the most instantly recognisable pop culture figures with an unknown teenager of colour was big. Capital-B Big. Galactus Big. As Stan Lee wrote upon Miles’ debut, despite initially implying regret at the loss of his creation Peter Parker, “Doing our bit to try to make our nation, and the world, colour blind is definitely the right thing.”
A new hero for a new age of comic books and a new world in which readers enjoy them – Miles is a lot more than just a black Spider-Man. The witty banter and tales of great power and great responsibility are there but, for Miles, his Spider-Man adventures are marked by his different family dynamics. It’s not the dreaded “Parker Luck” and tales of science run amok here: Miles is a Spider-Man, but facing his own adventures, his own stories and his own adversaries, all backed up by one of the most intriguing and entertaining supporting casts in recent Marvel history. His father hates superheroes, while his uncle The Prowler tried to blackmail him. His mother learns the truth about Miles’ powers only in the most tragic of circumstances. When Miles does get himself a girlfriend in Kate Bishop, her parents turn out to be Hydra agents. While Miles unfortunately didn’t make the jump to the MCU for Spider-Man: Homecoming,
Tom Holland’s new pal looks awfully like Miles’ BFF Ganke.
Miles is a hero with different powers from Peter Parker and a different makeup. It is the sight of a different kind of Spider-Man dealing with typically Spider-Man problems that makes Miles’ stories so thrilling. Where Peter would outsmart, Miles subverts. Where Peter would build, Miles sneaks and strikes with his venom blast. In Miles Morales, Bendis has created a truly new hero, so when everyone looks left, this new Spider-Man can turn right.
It hasn’t always been great and it hasn’t always been perfect for Miles’ creative run. In fact sometimes Mr Morales has been a victim of his own success, appearing in so many Marvel crossovers that his solo adventures have been regularly derailed. That one of Marvel’s most prominent black heroes is written by a white man does raise the occasional eyebrow, but at no point so far has Bendis written Miles as anything other than a genuine, authentic hero. More dubious corners of the comic book world may claim that Miles is diversity for diversity’s sake, but in six short years he has been arguably Marvel’s biggest quantifiable success alongside Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel – a hero taking the mantle and principles of the past and taking them forward into a bold new world for everyone.
Thank you, Miles. We salute you.
In Spider-Men, Bendis proved yet again that he can turn any concept into an engaging story. It wouldn’t be SpiderMan without a personal stake in the action.
It’s not just the costume but the person inside – that’s the Marvel way.
The new Spidey has been one of Marvel’s most successful reboots.