Black comic book fans all over the world have been beaming since news broke that the new (official) Spider-Man will be Miles Morales, an Afro-Latino teen. This fall, he will replace Peter Parker, the original Spider-Man, in the popular comic books.
This isn’t the first time fans are seeing Morales. The character has been around since 2011 when writer and co-creator Brian Bendis and artist Sarah Pichelli introduced him as an alternate version of the comic book hero. He also isn’t the first Latino Spider-Man since Miguel O’Hara, a biracial Mexican geneticist, appeared in a 1993 comic book set in the future. But, he is definitely the first Black Spider-Man, a fact that Bendis is very proud of.
Speaking to NY Daily News, Bendis said “Many kids of color who when they were playing superheroes with their friends, their friends wouldn’t let them be Batman or Superman because they don’t look like those heroes but they could be Spider-Man because anyone could be under that mask…But now it’s true. It’s meant a great deal to a great many people.”
Given that Peter Parker was murdered and replaced by Morales in the “Ultimate” version of the comic, many had hoped to see the Afro-Latino teen on the big screen in the next film but recent casting rumors suggest that Parker will still be headlining the film due out in 2017. Not only that, recently leaked emails from Marvel and Sony declared that Spider-Man could never be Black or gay in the movies. This seems odd since the Marvel franchise has introduced a Black Captain America and a female Thor. In all likelihood, Peter Parker will still be around even when Morales takes centerstage in the films. But, the hope is that he will be phased out as the “true” Spider-Man altogether.
The movement toward a more diverse, more representative Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is one we have all been waiting for. Bendis realized this when his Black daughter, one of two adopted Black children of his, put on a Spider-Man mask in a department store and said “Look Daddy, I’m Spider-Man!”
“I started crying in the middle of the aisle,” says Bendis. “I realized my kids are going to grow up in a world that has a multi-racial Spider-Man, and an African American Captain America and a female Thor.”
Hopefully, Morales’ presence in the MCU will change the way comic book writers, artists, and fans design heroes going forward. If nothing else, this means that the diverse children who consume this media have a chance to see themselves in the iconic characters we all grew up with. That little change could have drastic impacts on the genre in the future.
Jenn M. Jackson is the Editorial Assistant for The Black Youth Project. She is also the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Water Cooler Convos, a politics, news, and culture webmag for bourgie Black nerds. For more about her, tweet her at @JennMJack or visit her website at jennmjackson.com.