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Hispanic Heritage Month: A Look Under Spider-Man’s Mask: Miles Morales

Hispanic Heritage Month: A Look Under Spider-Man’s Mask: Miles Morales

Miles Morales was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York.

Created by prominent comics writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli, the thirteen-year-old hero is a legacy character who took on the mantle of Spider-Man on Earth 1610. The son of a black man and a Puerto Rican woman, Morales was an obvious and much-needed attempt to bring diversity in the Marvel Universe in a way that intricately tied him to another hero, giving him the step up he would need to succeed as his own character. Bendis and his EIC Axel Alonso drew their inspiration for the character from President Barack Obama and Donald Glover.

A few months before Peter Parker dies, leaving Miles to don the name and his version of the spandex, a thief broke into Oscorp, and unbeknownst to him, had a genetically-enhanced spider crawl into his bag. This thief was Miles’ uncle, whom he wasn’t meant to see because his parents feared his uncle’s bad influence. During a sneak visit, the spider bit Miles on the hand, causing him to foam at the mouth and pass out. When he comes to, his father is confronting his uncle and Miles runs away.

It didn’t take long before Miles discovered his new, strange abilities, and he went to a friend for help, fearing the reaction of his mutant-hating father. With his uncle vanished, Miles had no one to turn to for guidance, and after an unpleasant experience in an alley, decided that the hero gig was better left up to the actual Spider-Man. But when he witnesses the death of Spider-Man Miles feels responsible and feels the burden of not doing more with his powers. From then on, he takes up the legacy himself, determined to continue the work Peter Parker began.

Miles Morales was met with mixed emotions from the fans and fellow creators, but Bendis paved the way for what Stan Lee called ‘a positive role model for children of color’ and never looked back. Though he hasn’t been heavily used throughout the years, the Ultimate universe made Miles a beloved hero for a lot of people. There was some pushback about Spider-Man not being Peter Parker, or at the very least white and heterosexual, but Bendis is a voice for diversity and maintained that we must “clear that this is not Spider-Man with an asterisk.” Miles Morales is a legitimate hero and an icon for PoC in the Marvel universe.

Miles is often narrated as the first black hero to wear the Spider-Man mask, which is true but often doesn’t go further to highlight that he’s the second Latinx character. This subtle erasure is damaging. Latinx people are 18% of the US population, the second largest racial group in the country, but only makes up 7-8% of media representation today. Taking into account how often Latinx rep is done in harmful, appropriating ways, a positive role model for Latinx kids, like Miles, is a necessary commodity and needs to be treated with respect.

There’s also the bonus perk of a canon relationship between Miles Morales and Gwen Stacey, also known as Spider-Gwen, and it does amazing things for my fangirl heart.

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With the comics industry actively trying to branch out in ways that allow the companies to have more inclusive and diverse stories, Miles is beginning a resurgence in popularity. In December, he’ll star in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which is an animated film that follows Miles journey into the hero role and the mentorship he gets from Peter Parker along the way. He also has a solo run titled Miles Morales: Spider-Man that will be released around the same time. With Javier Garron on art and Eisner-Winning writer Saladin Ahmed on the book, I have high hopes that Miles Morales is going to take his rightful place in the industry and get the respect due to him upon creation.

With another take on the nerdy, science-loving arachnid hero, Miles Morales is the perfect combination of everything we love about Spider-Man in a different package: intelligent, brave, loyal and caring.

Miles Morales has everything it takes to be the legacy hero that changes the way comics fans view legacy characters forever.


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