Make Mine Miles Morales: The NEW Spider-Man
Announced in the late evening on Saturday June 20th 2015 was something that many comic fans had already anticipated to hear from Marvel Comics. In their forthcoming Fall “relaunch” Miles Morales, the current Ultimate Spider-Man of African American and Hispanic descent, would be getting his own series. In this announcement though, there was something that caught a few people off guard, with Marvel declaring that Miles Morales’ series will simply be titled “Spider-Man”. Not Ultimate, or Amazing, Specatcular, Web Of etc., just Spider-Man. Miles Morales is now set to permanently take up the mantle held by Peter Parker for decades as the primary Spider-Man of the main Marvel Universe. From a publisher that in the last two years alone has seen heroes like Nova become a young Hispanic teenager, Ms Marvel become a young Muslim teenager, Captain America be shifted into an African American lead and even have Thor become a female, this change really shouldn’t come as a surprise as Marvel’s current initiative is simply one word: DIVERSITY.
Spearheading this diverse change from Peter Parker to Miles Morales is the same creative team that arguably started Marvel’s entire push to become more diverse way back in 2011. Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli, the two creators who established Miles Morales as the new Ultimate Spider-Man back in 2011 are taking on this monumental task, helping the character bridge the gap over into the big leagues. It’s an interesting but simple decision on Marvel’s part but one that still resonates nonetheless, showing that they are serious about casting Miles Morales as the main Spider-Man following the current Secret Wars event. The plan seems to have Miles Morales take the lead whilst Peter Parker serves as a mentor, giving Peter Parker the chance to have yet another interesting element added to his never-ending character arc. But in light of this announcement, there are still people who are lashing out online in a Peter Parker vs. Miles Morales debate, unable to accept the forthcoming change. Today I’m writing this post as a way to maybe highlight some important facts that are slipping through the cracks in the midst of these debates, robbing Miles of a chance to win over these future readers.
Miles Morales Launches Diversity
As I pointed out in the previous paragraph, Miles Morales, in my mind, is a character who is single-handedly responsible for the rise of diversity in comics. Taking over as the Ultimate Spider-Man when Peter Parker perished back in 2011, Miles Morales was a wildly different type of character geared towards a whole new audience. He paved the way for some of the massive changes we’ve seen in comics today. Four years after the first appearance of Miles Morales we have teenage heroes who are of Muslim and Mexican descent. We have an African American taking on the role of Captain America, a character who is an important symbol to American culture. Thor is now a female, a thought that wouldn’t even seem possible back when Miles Morales first burst on to the scene. The comic world and market is consistently evolving and changing, becoming an ever-changing and unpredictable beast. But here’s the thing about this beast…with every passing day, week, or even month, this change is becoming more about being diverse.
Publishers want to draw in new readers from all walks of life, instead of just catering to middle-aged white men. These changes also stretch beyond these characters we know and love too. Now, especially on the DC side of things, we’re also seeing diversity amongst the different creators crafting these comics. Gone are the days where the creative teams on comics were a bunch of gangly looking white dudes. Now we’ve got people of all genders and races creating comics, opening up a whole new world for readers to experience. Whether you’re white, black, Asian, straight or gay, male, female, or even transgendered, it doesn’t matter anymore! Comics are for everyone whether you want to be a creator or reader. I would love to think that Miles Morales was an important stepping in the comic industry for getting creativity to get to this point. I’m not even saying that Miles is the most original character ever created. What I’m saying is he is the most well-timed character ever created, bringing forth a whole new era of comics with him.
Relating To Peter Parker Is Becoming Difficult
Here’s the truth. I came up on Peter Parker as MY Spider-Man. In the early 90’s, I fell in love with the character of Peter Parker because of the “Spider-Man” cartoon series, which is absolutely amazing and one of the best ever Superhero related cartoons. That Peter Parker was portrayed as a young adult going through his college years, beating up on bad guys, juggling a complicated love life and always trying to do the right thing. He was a perfect role model who showed a young fan that you don’t need to be perfect to do great things in life. As I got older I fell more in love with Spider-Man through comics but the further along they got, the more they lacked what I loved about the character. When I first started to read comics, gone was the relationship of Mary Jane and Peter that I’d become so heavily invested in. Gone were those school years where you watched him struggle to come into his own. This character was an adult and still a bit of a lovable doofus but it wasn’t the same. All credit has to go to Dan Slott and the “Spidey Brain Trust” from years gone by for still pumping out enjoyable Spider-Man stories but the fact remains that even a decade ago the elements of Peter’s life I most connected to were but a far cry away. Nonetheless, now at the ripe age of 23, there must be parts of Peter I can still relate to right? I’m a young white guy who is a little goofy and…I have brown hair and hazel eyes?? Peter Parker owns his own company now, has no true romantic partner and isn’t even nearly as “quippy” as he used to be. It shocked me to realize that nowadays I just can’t relate to Peter Parker like I used to. The character I once knew has matured in such a different way than I have that it makes it more difficult to relate to him now.
Then I stopped and really thought about how I can relate to Miles Morales. He’s a black teenager who just so happens to have taken up the mantle of one of my all-time favourite heroes for the sake of “diversity”. There’s no way I can even find one way I relate to a young black teenager right? We’re a totally different race and I’ve got almost a decade on the kid at this point. But then I really stopped and thought about things. Miles is a young man coming into his own learning about responsibility and love for basically the first time, a position I was definitely in just a few years ago. There are so many major and subtle parallels I see the character’s life going through that I’ve experienced and are still fresh in my mind. To an even further point, and without getting too deeply into the details, I can relate to a personal and traumatic loss Miles experienced, having lost a similar person in my life at around the same time as Miles. The loss of this character in Miles’ life actually resonated more deeply with me than that of Uncle Ben’s death and how it effected Peter Parker. Miles has managed to be more easy to relate to in his young age than Peter has in his older age. In the coming years, with the prospect of growing older alongside of Miles Morales, new younger readers have a perfect Spider-Man who is similar yet wildly different from the beloved Peter that we’ve already invested in. Who knows? Maybe five years from now, when I’m 28, I’ll find I relate more easily to a middle-aged Peter again than to Miles who will be in his (hopefully) early 20’s.
Miles Morales doesn’t “sell well”
Here’s an interesting fact that no one seems to be talking about: Miles Morales does not sell “well”. Historically Miles Morales has really only ever had one finish in the top ten in terms of bestselling comics for a month. The character’s first appearance in August 2011’s “Ultimate Comics Fallout #4” registered just under 74,000 sales. The first issue of his new series, “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1”, from September 2011 sold just over 87,000 copies before sharply dropping to 52,000 with its second issue later that month. It went from the ninth bestselling comic of that month down to the thirty-second bestseller in the span of just a few weeks. To be fair, this is the same month where DC launched its New 52 initiative so the data is a little unfair in a month teeming with as many new series as that one. But upon further examination you’ll quickly realize that these numbers aren’t flukes. This first run of Miles Morales stories under the “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man” title wrapped up in October 2013 having sold roughly 31,000 copies with its 28th issue. Marvel then attempted to relaunch with a new series for Miles under the moniker of “Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man” in May 2014, selling just under 46,000 copies of the first issue.
To compare how that first issue sold versus the relaunch of Amazing Spider-Man that happened just a month before it hardly seems fair, as it marked the return of Peter Parker after being absent from the role of Spider-Man for well over a year. Instead, let’s look at the sales on “Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man #12” and “Amazing Spider-Man #18”, both of which wrapped up this past April. Miles clocked in with sales in the range of 29,000 for this series finale whilst Spider-Man was just shy of the 100,000 mark. It goes without saying at this point but I’ll say it anyways, Peter Parker sells better than Miles Morales. People are more convinced of Peter as the primary Spider-Man than they are interested with Miles as the Spidey on the side. Since returning to the role of Spider-Man last spring, Peter Parker has helped propel the Amazing Spider-Man title consistently into a top ten bestseller whilst Miles meanders in the bottom half of the top 100. It’s a stark truth but a truth nonetheless, if Marvel elects to publish just one Spider-Man book a month with Miles as the lead, will Peter Parker fans make the jump so that they can keep reading something with Peter in it or will they wash their hands because they believe Peter to be the one and only Spider-Man? An important thing to keep in mind here as well is that I’m basing all my numbers off sales data to retailers. This doesn’t necessarily reflect how well Miles or Peter sells to the general consumer as not every single copy sold to a retailer equates to a sale to a customer.
Sara Pichelli: An artist due to “break out”
Sara Pichelli really got her big break when she was chosen as the artist for the “Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man” relaunch that introduced Miles Morales to the world. That was right around the time I fell in love with Sara Pichelli and everything she does. Since breaking out on that book a few years ago she has worked with Brian Michael Bendis on a few other projects, namely Guardians Of The Galaxy and All-New X-Men. It’s a match made in heaven to have Pichelli working with Miles again, taking the same artist who first introduced us to the character and using her to help introduce the character to the new Marvel Universe later this year. To me, Sara Pichelli is one of the best female artists in the entire industry and it feels like she just doesn’t get enough love. I can only hope that with this relaunch a great amount of attention is brought to not only the character of Miles Morales but more specifically Sara Pichelli and her artwork. The lady is legitimately talented and one of the most promising artists in the industry today. There is plenty of exposure to be gained from being one of the primary artists to usher in the era of Miles Morales so it seems like a no-brainer that this would open up other doors for the artist and afford her even more opportunities with not only Marvel but the larger comic industry as well.
When all is said and done, people vote with their wallets in this industry. This new direction for Peter Parker, Miles Morales and Marvel readers overall is one of exciting prospects. We’re given an opportunity to see legacy get added to the character of Spider-Man, in a similar vein to that of the mantle of Flash. Peter Parker will become the Barry Allen of the Marvel Universe, with Miles Morales being your Wally West. It’s a near perfect comparison and one that rings true the more times you say it. In having Peter pass down the mantle of Spider-Man to Miles Morales we have an opportunity to see the true prestige behind the idea of Spider-Man, having the proverbial “passing of the torch” kick both character’s lives into a completely new direction. Will I be sad if there isn’t a monthly comic for me to buy that just stars Peter Parker as Spider-Man? Absolutely but that’s because it’s what I’ve been used to for the last however many years its been. There’s only one other character I love more in the Marvel Universe than Peter Parker but we’re not talking about him today (or probably ever because he’s dead and Marvel doesn’t ever want to give me what I want…boo hoo). At the same time, I love the idea of seeing one of my favourite characters transition into a new period of his life. It’s exciting to believe that we might see Peter Parker take on new responsibilities, even if that means he’s going to holster his powers. But it’s even more exciting to know that we have a great new hero to take on those responsibilities in Miles Morales, the All-New Spider-Man. The right Spider-Man for the world right now.