First there was female Thor clobbering anti-feminist critics, then came Middle Eastern teenager Ms Marvel, Kamala Khan: Wednesday brings the first black Spider-Man, with Miles Morales spinning his web in a new reboot of the character, Spider-Man #1.
Created by five-time Eisner winner Brian Michael Bendis and comic-book artist Sara Pichelli, Marvel’s Miles Morales is black and Hispanic. The first mixed-race Spider-Man, his character is part of a wider effort from Marvel to include more diversity in comics, taking over from traditional Spider-Man Peter Parker to keep New York’s criminals in line, as well as being a fully fledged member of the Marvel superhero group the Avengers.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly ahead of the release, Bendis said that Morales would be “dealing with people’s response to [his race], both positive and negative”.
“I have children of colour and I see what they watch and I see what they read, and I see how difficult it is for them to find something that isn’t the sassy best friend on some Nickelodeon show or something,” Bendis said. “I made a determination to add positively into that part of our culture for little kids and adults and teenagers. There’s stuff that isn’t represented at all. I’m happy to be part of fixing that as much as I can, when the story allows.
“What Miles represents is: anyone can be Spider-Man. I’ve heard this so much from people – that they could be Spider-Man because anyone could be in that costume.”
Morales is a fan favourite, having previously appeared in Marvel Ultimate titles as Spider-Man after being bitten by a enhanced arachnid at the age of 13. He officially takes over from his predecessor Peter Parker as Marvel’s canonical Spider-Man in this issue – fighting crime while worrying about girls and getting good grades.
“Peter’s shadow does loom heavy over what he’s decided to do,” Bendis told EW. “But at the same time, he’s not sure who he is as a person yet. So how can he be everything everyone wants him to be? That’s a responsibility you either shy away from or try to step up to.”
He also teased coming developments in the Morales storyline, including appearances by villains Black Cat and Hammerhead, and other young superheroes, including Kamala Khan. “There are a lot of new team heroes that have a lot to offer each other in friendship and challenge. We are heading right towards Civil War II, and Miles is a very big part of that,” he said.
Bendis said writing Spider-Man “is not just a gig. It is something that profoundly affects people.
“There’s the misconception by some that this is just about diversity or just about African American Spider-Man. I hope that people who have heard about Miles in a positive way try this out because they’ll see that it is character first, book first, and these other things that we’re talking about that mean so much, they come out of that in their own,” said Bendis. He added that the new comic would be “taking the idea of Spider-Man into new areas as best we can”.
Meanwhile, comic book writer Kwanza Osajyefo launched a $30,000 Kickstarter campaign this week to fund the creation of the graphic novel Black, where only black people have superpowers “in a world that already fears and hates them”.
Osajyefo told the Washington Post that he found Morales and the black Captain America, Sam Wilson, to be “very Cosby Show, cookie-cutter, inoffensive blacks who don’t reflect contrasts within black culture itself”.
“The whole mantle-passing is an example that becomes pandering if you consider that Peter Parker is still Spider-Man and Steve Rogers has resumed his role [as Captain America],” Osajyefo said, clarifying that he still “enjoy[s] both characters”. At time of publication, Osajyefo and collaborators Tim Smith 3, Jamal Igle and Khary Randolph have raised $24,000 of their Kickstarter goal in two days.
Spider-Man #1 will arrive on February 3rd. Check out some delicious art.
Written by Sia Cain