August 9, 2019
Into the Spider-Verse’s Miles Morales as a Celebration of Diversity

“Marvel has always been and always will be a reflection of the world right outside our window. [Its] stories have room for everyone, regardless of their race, gender, religion, or color of their skin.”

Stan Lee, “A Message From Stan Lee

Miles Morales, the Spidey star of Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (the 2018 Academy Award Winner for Best Animated Feature Film) is the physical embodiment of the late Stan Lee’s inspiring quote. Created in 2011 when a radioactive spider bites Miles, he inherits a laundry list of superpowers. These can be recited by heart by any fan of the most famous Spider-Man of all–Peter Parker. So why is Miles, this newest Spidey addition, such a big deal?

Image Source: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Sony Pictures Animation, IMDb

  1. Spider-Man is often the first Marvel superhero kids “meet.”
  2. He’s the gateway superhero to the broad Marvel Universe.
  3. The web-slinging vigilante is just as popular and beloved as he was when he first swung into Marvel’s comics as Peter Parker in 1962.

Need some evidence? You’re about to find it below.

It’s a Spider-Men World

Before Miles’ film debut in 2018’s Into The Spider-Verse, there’ve been a jaw-dropping six live-action movies centered around Spider-Man in the 2000’s alone. In the late ’70s to early ’80s, there were four Spider-Man movies, bringing the total Spider-Man movie count up to 10. The Tom Holland led, Peter Parker starring Spider-Man film Far From Home also premiered in theatres worldwide in July. This creates a grand total of eleven Spider-Man live-action movies, all centered around Peter Parker.

Image Source: Pexels

On top of that, Spider-Man has had eleven TV shows exclusively centered around him and appeared in dozens of other live-action and animated TV shows. Additionally, in the 57 years Spider-Man has been in print, he’s starred in and appeared as a supporting character in literally hundreds of comics. Spidey’s superhero presence is second only to DC’s Dark Knight, Batman.

With all the Spider-Man enthusiasm out there, you may think you know Miles’ story. You might imagine the Brooklynite teen is just another Peter Parker with just his race and living parents to distinguish him from the OG Spidey.

Well, I plan on changing that. Into The Spider-Verse’s Miles Morales is no imitation Peter. He’s a modern-day Marvel hero and such a celebration of diversity that his entry into the MCU is enough to shake up the superhero game for good. But first, …let’s take a quick look at early Miles Morales.

Miles’ Problematic Past in Comics

Miles, Marvel’s first biracial superhero to have his own comic book series, was created in 2011 by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli in the Ultimate Spider-Man comic.

While well-intentioned and a genuine effort to bring diversity to Marvel, Ultimate had some noticeable flaws. Readers called Miles flat and boring, and he had very little to set him apart from Peter. The way Miles was written was also controversial. Bendis was walloped with backlash when he wrote:

Image Source: Ultimate Spider-Man Vol.2, Art by Sara Pichelli, Marvel, 2016

Then,

Image Source: Ultimate Spider-Man Vol.2, Art by Sara Pichelli, Marvel, 2016

At best, this can be interpreted (by a more forgiving reader) as being a bit, well, out of touch. At worst, Bendis (who’s white) is openly shrugging off Miles’ race. Why the heck is Miles trashing on a core part of his identity? This isn’t being “colorblind” or inoffensive.

It’s probably not Bendis’s intention, but it’s straight-up dismissive. (Also worth noting – Hispanic is an insulting, derogatory word that a majority of the Latinx community would never use to describe themselves.)

Ultimate may have given us Miles Morales, but it also gave us an unhappy, insecure, and mostly one-dimensional character. On the surface, Miles was a win. But in the pages of his story, he was less of a celebration of diversity and more of a stumbling attempt to be genuinely diverse in the first place. That is until Spider-Verse hit theatres.

How Into The Spider-Verse Saved Miles and Celebrated His Diversity

“You know, with great ability comes great accountability.”

Jefferson Davis (Miles Morales’s father), Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

Spider-Verse’s directors and film crew wanted Miles from the very beginning for their fresh take on the Spider-Man story. They took Miles’ underdeveloped comic character and made him an inspirational and empowering character that reflects the diversity in modern-day America for the next generation superhero fans.

Image Source: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Sony Pictures Animation, IMDb

Before Spider-Verse, T’Challa/Black Panther was the only Black superhero to have his own Marvel movie! Considering at the moment, there are less than 20 Black superheroes in Marvel, Miles’ debut in the MCU is a history-making triumph.

Miles’ Spider-Man shows fans, especially the ones who look like him, that they don’t have to be the King of a fictional Afro-Futurist nation (Wakanda Forever!) gifted with superhuman powers from a god to be a hero. They can be a city-dwelling, geeky boy next door and still be seen and be powerful. They can come from Brooklyn and still matter.

Image Source: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Sony Pictures Animation, IMDb

Visually, Miles’s Afro-Latino roots are part of his identity. Spider-Verse’s filmmakers honor his background with the design of his physical appearance– he has full lips, brown skin, and curly textured hair. He’s visibly Black, but his Latino background is celebrated too.

He carries his mom Rio’s last name (Morales) in keeping with Latinx culture, and he’s bilingual. He speaks to his mom in a blend of Spanish and English in every scene they share, and he regularly chats in Spanish with his friends and neighbors.

Unlike in Bendis’s comics, Spider-Verse’s Miles is proud of, confident, and secure in his racial identity. He isn’t hung up on being “Black Spider-Man,” and he never doubts his value or competence as a superhero because of his biracial identity. Miles focuses on learning about his powers instead of putting himself down.

Image Source: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Sony Pictures Animation, IMDb

Living in Brooklyn with his Black dad and Puerto Rican mom, Miles is one of the rare supers to grow up with both of his parents. Furthermore, he has a loving and open relationship with them!

He also has the fortune of growing up in one of the most diverse boroughs in New York City today. Miles is proud of his neighborhood and his roots. His love for his community in Spider-Verse shows in the scenes when he cruises through his vibrant, thriving, urban neighborhood with a spring in his step and a smile on his face. These feel-good scenes challenge assumptions that Brooklyn is ghetto, grimy, and unsafe.

Image Source: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Sony Pictures Animation, IMDb

Miles’s diversity as both a Spider-Man and a superhero extends to his hobbies and abilities too. He loves music and hip hop, and he’s an insanely talented artist. He loves creating sticker-sized graffiti tags to paste around the city and spray painting jaw-droppingly massive and colorful murals on abandoned walls.

His Spidey suit design reflects Miles’s knack for creating and his vibrant spirit. Black and crimson with a graffitied spider symbol on the chest, Miles’s suit is an edgy, eye-catching, and bold look. It sets him apart from the tiredly overdone, red and blue web-patterned onesies donned by all the Peter Parkers.

Conclusion

Miles Morales isn’t a brown Peter Parker. His aptitude for the sciences and academic braininess doesn’t define him like they do Peter. He’s not nerdy, socially awkward, or an outsider. Miles is creative, charming, spirited, and well-liked.

He’s an individual, a Spider-Man the MCU has never seen before. A Spider-Man that celebrates diversity and pushes the envelope for more representation. He’s a Spider-Man that’s made history, a Spider-Man that wouldn’t have existed 50 years ago.

Furthermore, one that we couldn’t have even imagined being possible. He’s not “The New Spider-Man.” Take it from Miles himself:

“I’m Spider-Man. And I’m not the only one. Not by a long shot.”

Miles Morales, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

Victoria Tomis

Contributor

Hiya, my name is Vicky and I’m your friendly neighborhood Marvel-loving, Studio Ghibli-obsessed, Queer Potterhead.

I may be in my mid-twenties but I’ve been an enthusiastic Potterhead for over a decade. I can’t go a day without firing off at least half a dozen Harry Potter references and have a small museum of Potter and Wizarding World merch… one with FAR too many Funkos.

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