Miles Morales as Ultimate Spider-Man
Here's why using Miles Morales in a Spider-Man movie is not ridiculous. Yesterday, it was announced that Spider-Man is joining the Marvel CinematicUniverse and many suggested that Marvel use Miles Morales, the Marvel "Ultimate" comics version of Spider-Man. Some on the Internet responded with anger and vitriol at the idea. We know Marvel isn't going to do it because, while they are taking the character "on a new creative direction" they've said that it will be Peter Parker that continues the journey. But, that doesn't mean the idea is worthless.

Interestingly enough, the most common arguments against a Black Spider-Man are the very reasons why Marvel should do it.

1. "No One Knows Black Spider-Man! He's a New Character!"

Spider-Man was created by Marvel’s Stan Lee and Steve Ditko and debuted in Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962. Miles Morales was created by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli and first appeared in Ultimate Fallout #4 in August 2011. In the Ultimate Universe, Peter Parker died and Oscorp scientist Dr. Markus uses his blood to recreate the formula that created Spider-Man. One of the spiders created by Markus bites Miles and he gets similar powers as Spider-Man with the addition of the ability to camouflage himself to match his surroundings, and an electrical "venom strike" that can paralyze anyone with a touch. He's not a new character since he's been around for years. Mile's is beloved by millions of fans including co-creator Stan Lee who said, "Doing our bit to try to make our nation, and the world, color blind is definitely the right thing." Besides which, he's still Spider-Man and everyone knows him.

2. "Peter Parker IS Spider-Man!"

The reality is there's more than one superhero named Spider-Man. Miguel O'Hara, who is half Mexican, was the title character in the series Spider-Man 2099 in 1992. In 2004, Spider-Man: India introduced Pavitr Prabhakar as a Middle-Eastern version of Spider-Man. There's more than one Spider-Man and there's room in the comic book movie universe for one more interpretation of Spider-Man.

3. "A Black Spider-Man is Just Tokenism!"

"Tokenism" is the practice of including a minority for the sole purpose of appeasing the minority group. It's usually forced and always results in a stressful situation for the majority and the minority. Martin Luther King was against tokenism since it created a climate of false pride without true gains saying, "The Negro wanted to feel pride in his race? With tokenism, the solution was simple. If all twenty million Negroes would keep looking at Ralph Bunche, the one man in so exalted a post would generate such a volume of pride that it could be cut into portions and served to everyone." Malcolm X was also against it and said, "What gains? All you have gotten is tokenism — one or two Negroes in a job, or at a lunch counter, so the rest of you will be quiet." But including a minority character in a movie is not an automatic sign of tokenism.

Was it tokenism that Jackie Robinson became the first player since 1880 to openly break the major league baseball color line? Was it tokenism that Dr. James McCune Smith became the first formally trained African-American doctor? Was it tokenism to have Josephine Baker be the first African American to star in an international motion picture? Just because a minority is in a position doesn't mean it's a token gesture. The fact that Black superheroes are so rare is why it's so important to make it happen.

4. "Having a Black Spider-Man Would Be Too Confusing for the Audience!"

The idea that the audience's heads would explode at the concept of a Black Spider-Man is ridiculous. It would be a change for the audience to accept, but not impossible. You could say the same thing about any movie. Why is there a woman with green skin in Wizard of Oz? Why is Nick Fury Black in Avengers? Why is Superman balding in Man of Steel? The answer to these questions is "who cares"? But, if someone really wanted an explanation, there's a little-known movie device called "exposition." It's commonly used to explain things that the movie audience needs to understand.

Does it have to take an hour and a half? No. Just like all the Spider-Man stories, it can be told as an origin. It doesn't have to be long and involved. This isn't Different Strokeswhere Mr. Drummond was constantly explaining why he had two Black sons. If an hour long movie isn't enough to explain who the character is and why he's there it's probably not a good movie anyway. But, if it can seamlessly explain who the man is and what he wants it's a good movie regardless of color. But, let's say it is confusing. That just means more people will head to the theater for the explanation. It's why directors like Christopher Nolan will hide what his movies are about and why J.J. Abrams is keeping Luke Skywalker's role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens under wraps. It's sends people to the theaters. That's good for everyone since the more comic book movies make money the more movies we'll have.

5. "It's All About Money!"

The reality is that making the main character in a movie Black is the worst way to make money. In a list of the top 25 highest-grossingactors only four of them - Samuel L. Jackson, Morgan Freeman, Eddie Murphy and Will Smith - are minority and only two of them are the leads in the film. Samuel L. Jackson made a ton of money for The Avengers, but you could argue that it had less to do with Nick Fury and more to do with Iron Man and Captain America.

Chances are if you're looking to make Spider-Man popular you'd want to hire Tom Cruise for Spider-Man since he's the biggest box office draw. Not that it makes sense to hire a middle-aged Peter Parker, but that's Hollywood for you.

So, it definitely wouldn't be a financial coup to make Spider-Man Black, but that would be the point. It would show that Hollywood isn't just about money.

6. "If You're Going to Do That, Then Why Not Change [Insert Black Character] White?"

There's a big difference between changing Spider-Man Black than changing Luke Cage White. It's an Apples-to-Oranges argument. In the first case, we're changing a majority race character to an under-represented minority character. In the second case, we're changing an under-represented minority character to a majority race. Of course it's wrong, and if Captain America: Civil War introduced a White Falcon I'd be the first to cry foul.

But, when you have a movie like the Avengers which has six superheroes and all of them are Caucasian, it's not unfair to ask why there isn't any minority representation in the team.

7. "It'll Change the Whole Story to Make Spider-Man Black!"

Miles Morales would be more faithful as Spider-Man than Peter Parker. Why? The Spider-Man that was created back in the 1960s is very different from the Spider-Man today. Peter Parker started out as a teenager in high school who's an outcast. He gets bitten by a spider and becomes a superhero, but still  But the core concept of an outsider who has to deal with the everyday challenges of being a kid while dealing with fighting crime has been lost. The Parker most people know from the movies is a grown-up and deals with grown-up issues like college, holding a job and paying rent. Marvel has said the character is going back to High School for his next appearance, but won't that be confusing too?

Miles is a teenager and deals with the issues of being a young person in the age of Millennials. He still lives at home, goes to school and deals with things like asking girls out and the prom. It would be easier for people to accept a teenage Spider-Man if they start fresh.

Besides, does changing the race of a character really change them? Only if you believe in stereotypes. Otherwise his skin color shouldn't change anything.

What do you think of having Miles Morales be the next Spider-Man? Do you think the arguments against it make sense?

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Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Well let's hope they don't do it just for tokenism.

Pat Dilloway said...

There have been 5 Parker movies. Miles would give audiences a fresh start.

Jessica Brown said...

I'm voting for Robert Catalano.

MPax said...

I think it'd be interesting to have a black Spidey. But I'm not 'average'. Color doesn't bother me or influence my decisions. It's actually more likely to interest me in a story.

NinjinSteve said...

Starting off with Miles Morales as Spider-Man is like starting with Bucky as Captain America. You're skipping everything.

Chill the F out internet. Miles' origin story is completely reliant on Peter Parker coming first. Marvel has proven they would rather do things the right way then rush the story because some dummies on the internet made lists. Miles will come eventually.

ALSO Marvel JUST made a huge deal about the first black superhero coming to the big screen... BLACK PANTHER. You think they are going to let an alternate universe Spider-Man come in and steal his thunder?? Black Panther has history behind him.

Gil Brooks said...

I'd say forget Miles, and just cast Parker as black. There's nothing about PP that requires him to be any race, so it makes no difference to me. Nor should it to anyone else.

Maurice Mitchell said...

You're right about the origin and its reliance on Parker NinjinSteve. They could change the origin or put him in a later film. But would having one more Black superhero really "steal his thunder?" Can't there be more than one?

Maurice Mitchell said...

Great compromise Gil!

Toinette Thomas said...

Why is this a never ending battle? Miles Morales is a great Spider-Man who knows and respects Peter Parker's Spider-Man and vs versa. If people would stop to actually read his story and stop trippin over the color of his skin, this wouldn't be a debate.

Andrew Littler said...

It makes as much sense for their to be a black Spidey on the silver screen as there is in the comic books.


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