Miles Morales: A Mindless Diversions Extra!
A question for comic-book fans, especially those of Spider-Man:
As many know, the Ultimate Universe is almost certainly going to be shut down with Miles Morales definitely being sent over to the 616 universe. Further, 616 Peter Parker is currently dead with Doc Ock occupying his body. We all know, no matter how much you may like Superior Spider-Man, that Doc. Ock is not going to stay as Spider-Man. In fact, I would argue that they’re already setting him up for the fall.
To me, all of this suggests that Miles Morales is going to be taking over as Spider-Man. After all, you don’t just bring a character over if you aren’t going to use him. While it is conceivable that they might go the Scarlet Spider route with him, it is unlikely as two Spider-Men in the same space doesn’t seem to do well. Further, Miles Morales (being the last character from the Ultimates Universe that has any broad appeal at all) has been pushed a lot by Marvel. Axel Alonzo loves him and Marvel has been trying to broaden their appeal to women and minorities.
Personally, even as a white guy who fears change, I think I’d be okay with this. Peter Parker, as a character, hasn’t been interesting in years. If Superior Spider-Man has proven anything, it is possible to refresh sales by changing the person under the mask. If Bendis keeps writing Miles, we know it won’t just be a palette swap.
So my question to the general comic-reading populace is: If Miles Morales takes over and the creative team does a good job with him, would you be okay if Miles became the new Spider-Man and Peter Parker was left dead?
My friend Parker and I got into a discussion about Miles back when it was announced. We discussed things that we thought would work and things we feared they might attempt.
The first thing that I thought that they would do is just come out and tell more or less Peter Parker stories with darker ink. Parker winced a little at that, then laughed, and said “or worse, the same stories with fried chicken on the table!”
And then… well, then we got into the weeds. If you were going to make the new Spider-Man Czech, you probably would want to show his family eating borscht and perhaps have the elder sister have a room with posters of Jagr Jaromir everywhere. We started hemming and hawing over what, exactly, it’d mean to have a Spider-Man with an African-American protagonist.
Would it be inappropriate for him to be in a project of some kind? Well… we figured out that that might actually work. There could be an entire host of people who know Miles, know he’s a good kid, and want the best for him. If his schoolwork started slipping from doing all of the Spider-Man stuff, they’d be all over him for letting his grades slip. They’d ride him and be another source of potential stress and drama.
What about his parents? Would he be raised by them? If so, would they be together? If not, who would he be raised by? (Could we get away with another Uncle Ben/Aunt May?)
When it came to Spider-Man proper, we discussed, it was a lot more straightforward. The Scorpion is The Vulture is The Green Goblin is The Tarantula is The Sandman. Beating someone up and making quick quips translates pretty easily. For this one, you *COULD* do it the way Peter Parker would have done it and it wouldn’t be a problem… if there would be problems, it’d be with such things as purse snatchers and drug dealers and various hoodlums. How to deal with that? Would Miles know these guys? Would Miles *NOT* know these guys?
The general consensus that we reached was that it was probably best for everybody involved if there were People Of Color working on the book.
Well, that was two years ago. Since then, a handful of TPB collections have come out (Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3) and we’ve got enough information to see what they’ve done, what they’ve avoided, and how things are playing out in general.
Again, my take: They haven’t messed things up. The character of Miles Morales is strong, he is *NOT* Peter Parker in blackface, and he is a member of a racial and ethnic minority. At the same time, it’s not over the top (with the equivalent of Jagr posters everywhere). He lives with both parents, he lives in a rough part of town, and his parents are hoping that he will be accepted into a local charter school.
In a nice piece of ironic symmetry, his uncle is why he becomes Spider-Man and (spoiler!) his uncle’s death and his uncle’s last words are what inspire him to use his great power with great responsibility… but to give more details than that would spoil a rather interesting story arc.
As much time as they spend on Miles, they do a good job balancing him with Spider-Man and the Spider-Man portions of the stories don’t disappoint either. Miles doesn’t have *EXACTLY* the same powers as Peter Parker (though he can climb walls)… he can turn invisible and has a shock ability that can paralyze his opponents (he uses it against Electro early in his career… it’s pretty awesome).
All in all, while I can sort of understand the initial response to the announcement of Miles Morales as caving into the PC Police, I can say that what they’re doing with the story *FITS*. Spider-Man works.