Miles Morales: Our Afro-Latino Spider-Man

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By now, I think it’s safe to say that everyone is at the very least familiar with the adventures of Spider-Man and his alter ego, Peter Parker. Over the course of 50 years, we have experienced Spider-Man across all forms of media. From live-action films and animated television shows to video games and of course in comics. Steve Ditko and Stan Lee’s arguably most iconic character is one of those creations that has transcended his humble comic book roots. Everyone knows Spider-Man, but soon the masses will learn that there is an entire universe out there full of Spider-Men, Spider-Pigs, and Spider-Gwens. I’m sure everyone has a version or iteration of this hero across the vast Marvel multiverse that resonates with them. There’s one in particular who I am very excited to see get his time to shine on the silver screen later this year. His name is Miles Morales.

In 2011, writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli introduced Marvel comic fans to Miles Morales, a teenage Afro-Latino Nuyorican who took up the Spider-Man mantle in the wake of Peter Parker’s temporary comic book death in the publisher’s Ultimate imprint. The abridged version of his origin being he was bitten by a spider that was genetically-altered in the interest of replicating Peter Parker’s original run-in that ended up changing him into Spider-Man.

Now, characters die in comics all the time and iconic alter egos have been replaced off and on for decades, but I knew Miles was special the moment I saw him. He looked like so many people I grew up around whether its friends or family. His Puerto Rican heritage and culture bled into who he is and his interactions with those around him. He existed and represented a subset of people that are so rarely given visibility. He was African American and Puerto Rican.

In popular culture, Afro-Latinos are a very often underrepresented group of people. To have an Afro-Latino take on the mantle of one of the most recognizable characters in comics was a huge deal for many people for many different reasons. In Miles, people of all ages could see themselves and ultimately that’s what representation is all about. There’s something powerful about seeing yourself or someone similar to you in the media that you love and consume.

While I am not an Afro-Latino myself, as a Puerto Rican it meant a lot to me to see Miles front and center in one of Marvel’s flagship titles. Seeing a character as high profile as Spider-Man with someone under the mask that I could relate to in different ways than those who came before him was special. I may not be Afro-Latino, but I have friends and family who could now see someone who resembled them in their favorite role. I saw the excitement in the eyes of kids and adults alike who felt seen in ways they rarely have in the past. I can tell you from personal experience that feeling seen represented is a very unreal feeling that makes you feel like you can be a hero yourself.

Keeping true to Spider-Man’s perpetual presence in media, Sony is giving us a beautifully animated feature film this Christmas called Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and will center around Miles Morales trying to balance his home life and his life as his universe’s resident Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man while also learning that there’s a whole universe, or Spider-Verse, out there with a whole myriad of other Wall Crawlers. While Miles has had appearances in a few animated television series, this will be his first time on the big screen and will be the first introduction for many people to this character.

As many of you know, New York Comic Con was this past weekend and with that came the expected amount of trailers and announcements and the veritable smorgasbord of geeky goodness. One of the most exciting bits that came out of this weekend was the footage that was shown of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Unfortunately, I did not get to attend this year, but the buzz from what was shown is very exciting to hear. Sony brought 35-minutes of footage from the film that I’m told mesmerized everyone, but there’s one tiny detail that stuck out to me from the shown footage.

Miles and his mother, Rio Morales, speak Spanish to each other and they live in a bilingual home. It’s such a small detail and one that may not even register with some people and that’s totally fine. For me though, and I’m sure to many others as well, seeing this will be just one more aspect that we can see ourselves in and another way that this character can represent us. Little touches like that make this character and the world he lives in feel more real and relatable.

We’re still a few months away from being able to see a portion of Miles Morales’ journey on the big screen. I have high hopes for this film just from my already present love of this character based off of my history with him in the comics. As I’m sure this will undoubtedly be a lot of people’s first time seeing Miles, I know that many Spider-Man fans of all ages will potentially see themselves represented in ways they haven’t been in the past by this beloved character.

My hope is that young Afro-Latino kids will see this and see themselves in Miles. And then see that he’s not so different from them. I’m sure a few adults will also feel this way as well. Regardless of age or even ethnicity, there are aspects of this character that can resonate with anybody. The way I see it is that fans come in all shapes and colors, but it’s always special when one shape or color that isn’t always given the spotlight is given a chance to shine. Or in this case, a chance to be Spider-Man.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse hits theaters December 14th.  Check out the latest trailer right here.

2 Comments on “Miles Morales: Our Afro-Latino Spider-Man”

  1. Miles as spider-man is important for many reasons. One, being spider-man is not race specific, one becomes spider-man by exterior forces (a spider bite), so anyone can be spider-man. Lee was a visionary and understood that acknowledging the world population is important.

    Introducing an Afro-Latino character is revolutionary because even in Latino entertainment, black people….Afro-Latinos lack representation. If they are shown, their presence supports racist views that mestizos reinforce due to colonial thinking and standards.

    Also, an Afro-latino is not simply someone who has a black American parent and a Latin@ parent. Afro-Latinos are people who can be mixed-raced or all black from any Spanish-speaking country. Afro-latinos live and are part of the history of Colombia, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Uruguay and other countries.

    It is great they presented Miles’ parents as African-American and Puerto Rican to make sure both groups felt represented, but he could have easily had to Puerto Rican parents who still looked like the parents in the movie and it would have been fine.

    Great movie for all audiences!

    1. Agreed with Cafe Con Poco Leche.

      Puerto Rican history is indivisible from Puerto Rico’s black history.

      https://www.pushblack.us/news/what-you-need-know-about-puerto-ricos-black-history

      https://face2faceafrica.com/article/libertos-fascinating-history-origin-afro-puerto-ricans

      https://blog.nationalgeographic.org/2014/07/25/genographic-project-dna-results-reveals-details-of-puerto-rican-history/
      20% on average.
      It’s a 2014 article, i couldnt find anything more recent.

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