I’ve loved Spider-Man ever since I can remember. I watched the first Sam Raimi movie when I was 10-years-old and woke up each Saturday morning to catch the animated series on Fox Kids. Even before I picked up a comic book, Peter Parker had a profound impact on my life. He was a geek, just like me. He was more relatable since he wasn’t a paragon of virtue like Superman or a dark tortured avenger like Batman.
Peter was a teenager trying to figure out his life, just like me. His message of power and responsibility struck another chord, as I had to keep up my grades, take care of my younger brothers, and practice music. For a good chunk of my life, I wanted to be Peter Parker. Then Miles Morales came along.
Miles Morales was created by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli. He debuted in Ultimate Fallout #4, taking up the mantle of Spider-Man after Peter Parker’s untimely death at the hands of the Green Goblin. His origin even hewed close to Peter’s: bitten by a genetically altered spider, gained superpowers, takes it upon himself to protect others with said powers. However, the two could not be further apart.
Miles is relatively younger than Peter-he was 13 when the spider bit him, and Peter was around 15-16. While Peter’s Uncle Ben was a source of inspiration in his life; Miles’ Uncle Aaron was a thief and a murderer who tried to coerce his own nephew into doing his dirty work.
The biggest difference between the two though is their ethnicity. Peter is a skinny white kid who lived in Queens whiles Miles is an African American/Puerto Rican teenager from Brooklyn. Those differences are what drew me to him. Miles was the first time I could see myself reflected in the hero I loved. Here was a Spider-Man who looked like me, who had family troubles like me, who was always trying to do the right thing just like me.
I didn’t care about the naysayers. I didn’t care if it was in an alternate universe. I was beyond happy to see a new take on Spider-Man that felt fresh. I’ve followed Miles’ adventures in the comics ever since, especially now that he has crossed over to the mainstream Marvel universe and joined his fellow teenage heroes in the Champions. (I highly recommend Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man as a starting point.) He even has his own young adult novel.
Miles’ popularity has grown to the point where he has started to appear in other media adaptations. He made his animated debut on the Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors cartoon, voiced by none other than Donald Glover (who Bendis has said was one of the initial inspirations for Miles) and currently appears in the 2017 Spider-Man show on Disney XD as one of Peter Parker’s classmates at Horizon High. Miles will also have a major focus in the upcoming Spider-Man game for PS4, as he helps Peter in the fight against Mister Negative.
However, he is set to make his biggest impact yet this year with Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse. The animated film, which releases on December 14, follows Miles as he encounters other Spider-Men across the multiverse. It has drawn praise for its gorgeous visuals and focus on other Spider-Men; I am very excited because not only do I feel that this movie will do Miles justice, it will also introduce him to a larger audience.
It warms my heart to know that somewhere, a kid will look at Miles the same way I did and say to himself, “I can be Spider-Man.” And if you ask me, everybody needs something like that. No matter the race, gender, sexuality, or personal belief, everyone needs a hero they can look up to and who connects to them in a profound, life-changing way. Peter Parker was that hero for me. Miles Morales can be that hero for so many more.
Collier “CJ” Jennings is a freelance reporter and film critic living in Seattle. He uses his love of comics and film/TV to craft reviews and essays on genre projects. He is also a host on Into the Spider-Cast.