Four Years Ago: The Debut of Miles Morales Proved Anyone Can Be Spider-Man
Spider-Man stands at the pinnacle of Marvel's heroes. The story of Peter Parker is a universal narrative, one that encapsulates teenage woes and the burdens of responsibility and heroism. Readers have come to know Peter Parker very well, but one of the interesting distinctions about Spider-Man is that it could be anyone under that mask. That's the fact that allowed for the debut of biracial, Brooklyn raised, Miles Morales on this day in 2011 in Ultimate Comics: Fallout #4; a young man who would later become the Ultimate Universe's --- and the Marvel Universe's --- Spider-Man.
Created by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli, Miles Morales offered an innovative take on a familiar mantle, one that broke barriers and proved that superheroes belong to everyone. Born and raised in Brooklyn to a Puerto Rican mother and black father, with a circle of friends that includes Korean American Ganke Lee, Miles resembles Peter in a many ways, including his innate genius and heroism, but he also occupies a more diverse world than the suspiciously white version of Queens that Peter Parker grew up in.
Miles Morales owes his origins in part to pop culture. Comedian and rap star Donald Glover had campaigned to become the next webslinger for the film franchise, and though the role ultimately went to Andrew Garfield, the campaign generated enough buzz to convince Marvel to try something new.
What does it truly mean to have a Spider-Man of non-white origin? Growing up black, I often had difficulties picking a superhero to pretend to be when it came time to reenact fight scenes at recess. I didn’t identify with the blue-eyed savior from Krypton, and I didn't relate to the wealth and privilege of Bruce Wayne. So I deferred to Storm of the X-Men, the best black superhero I knew, despite the difference of gender.
But when Storm wouldn’t do, Spider-Man was my next choice. When you’re a person of color, your skin is distinctive, but Spider-Man's head-to-toe costume offered total anonymity. The mask of Spider-Man means anyone can bear his mantle.
Thanks to the creation of Miles Morales, we now know that Spider-Man can be someone else even without the mask, and a diverse fandom has a greater chance to relate to one of Marvel’s top-tier heroes. A child of Hispanic or black origin can proudly say, “I am Spider-Man,” and believe it. That makes Miles a monumental addition to the Marvel pantheon. It’s important for kids of color to know that they are just as capable of saving the world.
Miles marked the start of a new frontier for Marvel, one that would later expand with characters like Kamala Khan, the female Thor, and Sam Wilson as the new Captain America --- and one that hopefully will keep expanding. Comics should echo the diversity of the their readership, and Miles is one of many crucial additions that allow more fans to identify with their heroes.