Let’s start with a confession: I don’t really care about Spider-Man.
I don’t hate Spider-Man or refuse to read his comics or watch his movies. I’ve read a few Peter Parker comics here and there. I’ve seen every Spider-Man movie except Spider-Man 3 (and from what I’ve heard, I didn’t miss anything), and reacted to all of them with varying degrees of “meh.” And with the recent casting announcement of Tom Holland as the new Spider-Man, I can’t say I’m super excited to see the character on screen again.
And that’s the crux of my problem with Peter Parker: I just don’t care. This indifference comes much more from my experience with the movies than with the comics, and even more so from the recent movie controversy, in which the first MCU movies starring a non-white person and a woman were postponed for a SIXTH Peter Parker movie.
But there is one Spider-Man related piece of news I am excited about, that, in fact, I’m ecstatic about: Miles Morales. Specifically, that Miles Morales will be the Spider-Man in the post-Secret Wars Marvel Universe.
Let’s break down what that sentence of nerddom means. Miles Morales is already Spider-Man; he’s a half-black, half-Latino kid who picked up the Spider-Man mantle after the death of Peter Parker in an alternate universe, called Earth-1610. (Our universe was called Earth-616, where Peter Parker still reigned as Spider-Man.) But now the universes are no more. They’re gone. There is just one universe left, and we’re still seeing how things are going to shake out with Secret Wars.
But one thing we do know, that Brian Michael Bendis revealed this week, is that it will be Miles Morales, and not Peter Parker, who is THE Spider-Man of this new universe. We’re not sure what form it’s going to take or what it’s exactly going to look like, but what we do know is that the person wearing the Spidey mask is going to be a PoC. A non-white person. And that matters.
It was easy to point to Miles and talk representation before this; he was the “other” Spider-Man, in an alternate universe. Peter Parker was still the “real” Spider-Man. But now, it’s different. Miles IS Spider-Man. He is THE Spider-Man. Peter Parker will still be around, but in a mentorship capacity. It’s Miles who is Spider-Man now. The only Spider-Man.
There’s still a lot that has to fall into place for this; no one knows what the post-Secret Wars universe will look like. And Miles, like any other character, is very much a product of his origin story. He is constantly struggling with Peter’s legacy in the comics; how will that change now that Peter is alive? It’s okay to wonder and to be a bit worried about taking Miles out of that environment, but I can tell you that this representation means a lot to people who hate that they’ll be seeing a third white Spider-Man on screen before they see a PoC or female lead in a Marvel movie.
“Our message has to be it’s not Spider-Man with an asterisk, it’s the real Spider-Man for kids of color, for adults of color and everybody else,” says Bendis.
Message received, with much excitement.
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