Despite the critical and box office success surrounding Spider-Man: Homecoming, many have expressed dissatisfaction at being presented another Peter Parker outing. Origin story or not, there isn’t much that can be done with Parker’s story that we haven’t already seen. We’ve experienced the trauma of losing Uncle Ben and the burden of the mask. So, whichever way any future Peter Parker Spider-Man films are packaged, it’s likely going to tread on familiar tropes and themes. This is to be expected from a character that’s consistently spent time slinging from screen to screen since 2002.
But what if there was another Spider-Man? Someone who flaunts the same powers, the same mask, but dons a contrasting chip on his shoulder and an entirely different identity? Since 2011, we’ve been blessed with the existence of Miles Morales in the comic book universe.
Influenced by Barack Obama’s rise to presidency and the rise of star actor Donald Glover, Miles has inspired a generation of non-white children to believe in themselves and strive for greatness through everything his character represents: someone who transcends their situation in life and rises to a position of great power.
Although not the first Latino to don the mask (that privilege belongs to Spider-Man 2099’s half-Mexican Miguel O’Hara), Miles is the first black character to assume the identity of Spider-Man. The beauty of this is that he is Afro-Latino, which essentially represents an incredibly unrepresented culture of people in both the comic-book universe and our community. Because of the existence of Miles, children can now grow up seeing themselves reflected in a fictional character–one that is cool, wears his identity on his sleeve, and slings around New York. If the small percentage of children consuming comic books can feel inspired, imagine if Miles were to appear on screen as a titular character? When he’s on paper, there can be a sense of disconnection, a barrier between reality. Even with Marvel’s newly-announced animated film surrounding the character, it’s still that: animated–which means intangible to some. While it’s awesome and inspiring to even have that, what would really be the icing on the cake is seeing a real Afro-Latino play the role on screen. That could inspire an entire generation. We all saw those images of children dressed as Wonder Woman, their smiles reaching ear-to-ear. We even saw children dressed as Black Panther after his small-ish cameo in Captain America: Civil War. Just imagine what will happen when Ryan Coogler’s film releases next year. That’s something all Latinx’s are hoping for. We want to have something similar. We want to see our children inspired and reflected in pop culture in ways that we were not. Marvel holds this card in their deck of stories, but how long will it take until they draw it? The animated film feels like a move that pleases a small crowd but, essentially, ensures that the big money is still going on Parker’s story, something we’ve seen three complete reboots and renditions of. The bigger, more impactful move would be to shift the focus to a newer identity.
Miles is a product of Parker’s legacy. He can either exist in the same universe as Parker, with a student/master relationship being crafted, or he can be an heir to Parker. Either way, Miles’ existence remains powered by Parker. It’s important to make this obvious, especially since many feel an innate connection to Parker. Miles doesn’t erase his history, rather existing as a beacon of Parker’s good and a product of the lessons he passed down. Think of it in this way: when Dick Grayson was Batman, did the identity of the costume change? Did Bruce Wayne’s legacy vanish? The answer to both: a resounding no. The same applies here.
One thing that needs to be made painfully obvious is that Miles isn’t an Afro-Latino reboot of Peter Parker. Parker’s story and origin is built around guilt. He’s thrust forth into the role of Spider-Man. Miles, on the other hand, assumes the role. His origin and story revolves around acquiring the bravery to find closure in regards to losing a loved one. It’s about not using great power as a means of rebellion, but channeling the power instead, to find a means of healing. While Parker has an air of nervousness about him, something which makes his rendition of Spider-Man so damn appealing, Miles has an innate fear of failure that drives him to find bravery within himself. In a period where Latinx’s are being marginalised and threatened with physical barriers, particularly in the U.S., Miles’ story has the power to influence children to find that bravery within themselves. Rather than allowing fear to consume them, they can learn to use that fear to power their goodness.
Sadly, in our own culture, we can be quite exclusionary of the Afro-Latinx voice. A gargantuan studio like Marvel creating discussion within our own community could lead to a lot of healing and understanding. Afro-Latinx’s are a necessity to the Hispanic voice, as much as a small section of the culture aims to alienate them. Miles has always felt like a middle-finger to that. Now imagine this on screen. It could completely empower those who have felt powerless in the past due to their identity.
The mere existence of Miles on a cinema screen could blow the door wide open to more Latinx characters. After all, Miles is a dude, baiting our culture’s over-reliance on the male voice and loudness of it in comparison to the female. A successful Miles-led Spidey flick could eventually bring Araña (Spider-Girl) and America Chavez to the big screen. This would widen the scope for representation.
The MCU’s level of Hispanic representation has been woeful to say the least. Their most obvious blunder was Michael Peña’s Luis in Ant-Man. Luis existed to be the butt of the joke and a living, breathing stereotype. From the gags about his big family and cousins, to the jabs at his culture, it felt regressive but, sadly, a product of comic book culture. Thankfully, though, inclusivity is starting to force its way into the industry. The MCU has a chance to implement that on the big screen. If anything, it’d be positive course-correction.
Miles’ Spider-Man is darker and grimier, focusing on the underbelly of the setting more than Parker’s. This is important, as it could add a new aesthetic to Marvel’s cinematic canon (a lack for which they are regularly derided). In fact, the mere existence of Miles could address many of the frequent criticisms of the MCU. For one, how about eventually killing off a character indefinitely? It’s been rumoured to happen with Chris Evans’ Captain America, which would silence critics’ doubts over how cutthroat the world of the MCU is. Now imagine if it, one day, happened with Parker? One of the longest serving on-screen superhero characters killed off. We saw how successful it was with Logan and how excited we now are about the future of that X-universe. If Parker were to be killed off, much like in the comics, it would be a real tear-jerker and place more of an emphasis on the character of Miles. He could be at the forefront of his own movie, adding a new layer to Spider-Man without having a constant Peter Parker breathing over his shoulder. It’d be a ballsy move that would completely speak of a trust in the character of Miles and silencing of past criticisms. How about that for stakes?
A strong Miles Morales live action movie could inspire a generation. Superhero movies have the power to heal and connect humanity–much like comic books have done for generations past. Giving a voice to Hispanic culture, especially Afro-Latinx’s, would completely change the bleak outlook on life that is currently reverberating in our communities. If just one Hispanic child saw a Miles Morales movie and smiled, it would be an almighty success for all involved. This is a necessity.
Featured Image: Marvel Comics