Spider-Man (Miles Morales)
Miles Morales as Spider-Man. Art by Sara Pichelli.
|First appearance||Ultimate Fallout #4 (August 2011)|
|Created by||Brian Michael Bendis (writer)
Sara Pichelli (artist)
|Alter ego||Miles Morales|
|Team affiliations||The Ultimates|
Miles Morales is a fictional comic book superhero who appears in books published by Marvel Comics, in particular the monthly series Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man. The character was created by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli, though both Bendis and Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso were inspired by a number of ideas, such as the election of U.S. President Barack Obama and the appearance of black actor Donald Glover in Spider-Man pajamas in the second season premiere of the TV series Community.
Miles Morales first appeared in Ultimate Fallout #4 (August 2011), following the death of Peter Parker. A teenager of African American and Latino descent, Miles is the second Spider-Man in the Ultimate Marvel continuity. Although Morales features in the Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man comic book series, he is not the lead character in the Ultimate Spider-Man animated TV series that debuted in April 2012 on Disney XD. Reaction to the character varied, with some, including Spider-Man's creator, Stan Lee, approving the creation of a positive role model for non-white children, to displeasure at the replacement of Peter Parker, with some decrying it as a publicity stunt motivated by political correctness, a charge Alonso denied. Alexandra Petri of The Washington Post called for the character to be judged on the quality of its stories, which have garnered positive reviews.
The character possesses powers similar to those of the original Spider-Man, which were derived from the bite of a spider genetically engineered by Spider-Man's nemesis Norman Osborn in an attempt to duplicate those abilities.
Conception and publication history
The concept of an African American Spider-Man was first discussed a few months before the November 2008 election of Barack Obama as President of the United States. Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Axel Alonso said, "We realized that we were standing at the brink of America elected (sic) its first African American President and we acknowledged that maybe it was time to take a good look at one of our icons". This new Spider-Man was considered a possible part of the 2008-09 "Ultimatum" story arc that restructured much of the Ultimate Marvel universe, but those early thoughts were abandoned because the story for that character had not yet been developed. Bendis said thoughts about the character were further reinforced by African American actor Donald Glover's appearance wearing Spider-Man pajamas in "Anthropology 101", the second season premiere of the television comedy series Community. This was a reference to an unsuccessful online campaign that attempted to secure an audition for the lead role in the 2012 film The Amazing Spider-Man. Bendis said of Glover, "I saw him in the costume and thought, 'I would like to read that book.' So I was glad I was writing that book."
When the Marvel Comics staff decided that the Ultimate universe's Peter Parker would be killed in the 2011 storyline "Death of Spider-Man," the character Miles Morales was created. Although Morales is the first black Spider-Man, he marks the second time a Latino character has taken the Spider-Man identity. Miguel O'Hara, who is of half Mexican descent, was the title character in the series Spider-Man 2099. Morales has replaced Parker as Spider-Man only in Ultimate Marvel, a parallel universe that re-imagines the characters; Peter Parker remains alive as Spider-Man in the main Marvel Universe until the events of The Amazing Spider-Man #700.
Miles Morales was created by comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli. Morales was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York City, the son of an African American father and a Latina mother. Axel Alonso has described Miles as an intelligent nerd with an aptitude for science similar to his predecessor, Peter Parker. The character made his debut in the fourth issue of the Ultimate Fallout limited series, which was released on August 3, 2011. He later starred in the relaunched Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man series, written by Bendis and drawn by Pichelli, in September 2011.
In contrasting Miles with Peter Parker, Bendis has depicted different conflicts and anxieties for the character. Right after acquiring his superhuman abilities from a spider bite at the home of his uncle, Aaron, whom Miles admires but he does not initially know is a career criminal, Miles' father, Jefferson, explains to Miles that before Miles was born, Jefferson and Aaron were thieves who spent time in prison, and that while Jefferson reformed when he got older, Aaron, whom Miles admires, has not. According to Bendis, this gives Miles cause to wonder if the traits that lead to criminal behavior are hardwired DNA, leading him to question whether he is essentially a good person or not, and what his future holds for him. These issues further haunt Miles after he becomes disillusioned with Aaron, and Aaron dies from an accidental explosion triggered during a battle between the two of them, and says, "You are just like me" to Miles before dying.
In creating the visual look for Miles, Pichelli followed her usual practice of approaching the design by giving thought to the character's personality, including the background that influenced it, and the distinctive traits that he would exhibit, such as the clothing he wears, his body language and expressions. Pichelli also designed Spider-Man's new costume, a mostly black outfit with red webbing and a red spider logo. Pichelli had worked on four issues of Ultimate Spider-Man before she was approached to work on the new title with Miles Morales. Pichelli, who works with a Cintiq 12wx graphic tablet, added more screentones to her illustrations to give what she called "a more 'pop' feeling to the book, because I think it would fit perfectly with the new series".
In June 2013, the character appeared in the climax of Age of Ultron #10 (also written by Brian Michael Bendis). In the storyline, which depicts major changes to the space-time continuum as a result of the time travel on the part of the original Marvel versions of Susan Richards and Wolverine, Miles witnesses the coming of the mainstream Marvel Galactus to Earth.
Despite its initial press and critical reception, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man was not a huge hit in the direct market. By August 2013, sales on the title had slipped, and sales for the other two Ultimate titles, Ultimate Comics X-Men and Ultimate Comics The Ultimates, had dropped to numbers at which mainstream Marvel titles are cancelled. That November, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man was cancelled with issue #28, and the other two titles cancelled along with it, to make way for a crossover miniseries Cataclysm: The Ultimates Last Stand, in which the heroes of the Ultimate universe face the threat of the Marvel 616 Galactus, and Miles is transported to the mainstream Marvel universe.
Fictional character biography
Miles Morales first appears in Ultimate Comics: Fallout #4, which was published in August 2011, in which he foils a murder by Kangaroo, a short time after Peter Parker's death. He wears a costume Spider-Man suit similar to Peter Parker's, but considers changing it when spectators tell him it is in "bad taste".
The opening story arc of Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man, which premiered in September 2011, is set prior to Ultimate Fallout #4, and details how Miles received his superhuman abilities. Oscorp scientist, Dr. Markus uses Parker's blood to recreate the Oz formula that created Spider-Man, the Prowler (Aaron Davis) steals the formula, and in the process, one of the spiders created by Markus crawls into the Prowler's duffel bag. Days later, the Prowler's nephew, gradeschooler Miles Morales, is bitten by the spider during a visit to Davis' apartment. Morales develops superhuman abilities similar to those Peter Parker has, but does not tell his parents, Jefferson and Rio, due to his father's distrust of superheroes, confiding only in his best friend, Ganke Lee.
Miles, who just wants a normal life, is unhappy about having these abilities, and initially nauseated at the idea of risking his life to engage in superheroics, a reaction that Bendis wrote to further contrast Miles with Parker. However, after witnessing Spider-Man's death at the hands of the Green Goblin, the guilt-ridden Miles realizes he could have helped. After Ganke suggests he assume the mantle of Spider-Man, and learns from Gwen Stacy why Parker did what he did, Miles is inspired to try his hand at costumed crimefighting. During his first foray into costumed superheroics, he is confronted not only by those who feel his use of the Spider-Man costume is in bad taste, but also by Spider-Woman, a member of the government superhuman team, the Ultimates, over his use of the Spider-Man identity.
Spider-Woman unmasks and arrests Miles and takes him to S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, where Nick Fury reveals that he knows all about Miles and his family, including his uncle's criminal activity. After he helps S.H.I.E.L.D. subdue the escaped supervillain Electro, S.H.I.E.L.D. releases Miles and gives him a modified black and red version of the Spider-Man costume, which Ganke feels makes Miles "officially" the new Spider-Man. He also receives the blessing of the Earth-616 Peter Parker during the 2012 Spider-Men miniseries, in which Parker briefly visits the Ultimate Marvel universe and meets Miles. After the newspapers begin reporting the emergence of a new Spider-Man, Aaron deduces that it is really Miles, and offers to train Miles and work with him. After Aaron uses Miles in his ongoing conflict with the Mexican crime lord Scorpion, Miles realizes he is being exploited, and refuses to assist his uncle further, despite Aaron's threat to inform Miles' father of his secret. This leads to an altercation between the uncle and nephew that results in the malfunction of Aaron's weapons, which explode, killing Aaron.
In subsequent storylines, Miles subsequently becomes acquainted with Peter Parker's loved ones, May Parker, Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson, who know of his secret identity, and give him Parker's web shooters. He also encounters Captain America, who reluctantly agrees to train Miles.
In a 2013 storyline, investigative reporter Betty Brant incorrectly concludes that Miles' father, Jefferson, is the new Spider-Man. However, publisher J. Jonah Jameson, in light of the death of Peter Parker, refuses to publish her theory, on the grounds that it will merely ruin a family's life and deprive the city of another hero. When Brant tries to publish her findings in a book, she is murdered by former Oscorp and then-Roxxon scientist Dr. Conrad Marcus, who has become the newest host to the Venom symbiote. In the subsequent "Venom War" storyline, Venom learns of Brant's findings, and confronts Jefferson at his home, where Spider-Man repels the creature. Jefferson is critically injured and hospitalized in this battle, and Miles is confronted by former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent turned New York Police detective Maria Hill, who has also deduced his secret. When Venom later appears at the hospital, Spider-Man again confronts him, during which Miles' mother, Rio, also learns that her son is Spider-Man. By the end of the brawl, Marcus is separated from the symbiote and killed by police gunfire, as is Rio, who tells Miles not to reveal his secret to his father before dying.
The storyline then jumps ahead one year. Miles has a girlfriend named Katie Bishop, and is planning on telling her about his former life as Spider-Man. Though he has not engaged in heroics in a year, he is pressured to return to that life, both by S.H.I.E.L.D. and by circumstance. He reluctantly does so, after Ganke and Spider-Woman convinces him that there needs to be a Spider-Man. Along with Spider-Woman, Bombshell and Cloak and Dagger, Miles helps arrest Donald Roxxon, the head of the Roxxon corporation, who reveals that he knows of Mile's identity, and that he was the one who hired Aaron to break into Oscorp the night that the spider who gave Miles his powers was accidentally brought to Aaron's home. He also reveals that he was responsible for the creation of Bombshell, Cloak and Dagger, which involved kidnapping underage people and experimenting on them using untested genetic technology. After Roxxon's arrest, Miles thanks Ganke for his support, and affirms in earnest that he is Spider-Man.
Powers and abilities
Bitten by a slightly different genetically engineered spider than the one that granted Peter Parker's powers, Miles possesses abilities similar to the original Spider-Man's, including enhanced strength and agility, the ability to adhere to walls and ceilings with his hands and feet, and a "spider sense" that warns him of danger, which manifests itself as a buzzing sensation in his head. Though his strength and agility are similar to those of the original Spider-Man, his spider-sense is not as strong, as it only warns him of immediate danger, and only an instant before the danger reveals itself. He also has two abilities that the original Spider-Man did not have, including the ability to camouflage himself so that his body, including his clothing, matches that of his surroundings, and an electrical "venom strike" that can render people paralyzed with a touch, including the electrically powered Electro. The venom strike can be conducted through Miles' gloves, and also affects non-ferrous materials, such as plastic Lego bricks. It can be used against an opponent at a distance by conducting it through a material in which both Miles and his opponent are in contact, such as the webbing of the Earth-616's Spider-Man, though it is not known what other materials will allow him to do this. The venom strike is powerful enough to render unconscious a person who has grown to giant size as a result of Hank Pym's Giant Man formula, and was sufficient to drive away Venom during Miles' first encounter with that creature, but by their second encounter, the Venom symbiote had developed such a tolerance to the strike that Miles had to be completely enveloped by the symbiote before use of the venom strike could substantially separate the symbiote from its host. The effect of the venom strike manifests itself two to four seconds after it is implemented, and is described by Bendis comparable to being kicked in the testicles. Miles' body also possesses a heightened degree of resistance to injury. During an altercation with the Roxxon mercenary Taskmaster, Miles is hurled toward the raised edge of a brick roof, shattering it, without any apparent serious injury, though the experience is painful for him.
Miles wears a costume given to him by S.H.I.E.L.D., and initially uses Peter Parker's web shooters, which were given to him by May Parker. He is eventually given a new set of webshooters by S.H.I.E.L.D. as well.
The character Miles Morales was first reported by USA Today on August 2, 2011, shortly before the character officially debuted in Ultimate Fallout #4. The announcement received international coverage in the mainstream media and was met with mixed reactions by audiences. Chris Huntington of The New York Times lauded the creation of Mile Morales, relating that it gave his adopted Ethiopian son Dagim a superhero who looks like him. Some fans and commentators felt the decision was an attempt by Marvel Comics to be politically correct and that the introduction of a minority Spider-Man was simply a publicity stunt to attract more readers, while others felt that a person of color as Spider-Man would set a positive example for minority readers, particularly children. Many Spider-Man fans were disappointed that Peter Parker was killed, regardless of who replaced him. The wide-ranging critical reception prompted The Washington Post to run an article called, "Sorry, Peter Parker. The response to the black Spider-Man shows why we need one", in which writer Alexandra Petri wrote that the character should be judged on the quality of its stories rather than on his appearance or ethnicity.
Radio host and conservative pundit Lou Dobbs expressed outrage over the original Spider-Man being replaced by the new biracial hero. Political comedian Jon Stewart subsequently mocked Dobbs' reaction on The Daily Show, while also pointing out that Morales replaced Spider-Man only in the Ultimate universe, and that the original Peter Parker would still be appearing in several titles. Similarly, conservative talkshow host Glenn Beck, claiming that Miles resembled President Barack Obama, complained that the new Spider-Man was a result of a comment from Michelle Obama about changing traditions. However, unlike Dobbs, Beck said he did not care about Miles' race, and also acknowledged out that this was not the mainstream Spider-Man. Axel Alonso denied the character was created out of political correctness, stating "Simple fact is Marvel comics reflect the world in all its shapes, sizes and colors. We believe there's an audience of people out there who is thirsty for a character like Miles Morales." Original Spider-Man creator Stan Lee approved of Miles, stating that "Doing our bit to try to make our nation, and the world, color blind is definitely the right thing."
In a review for the first issue, David Pepose of Newsarama wrote, "The biggest victory that Bendis scores with Miles Morales is that he makes us care about him, and care about him quickly. Even though we're still scratching the surface of what makes him tick, we're seeing the world through his eyes, and it's similar to Peter Parker's but a whole lot tougher. But that kind of Parker-style guilt — that neurotic, nearly masochistic tendency for self-sacrifice that comes with great power and greater responsibility — is still intact." Jesse Schedeen of IGN wrote that "Miles still feels like a bit of an outsider in his own book. Bendis never quite paints a complete picture of Miles - his thoughts, motivations, personality quirks, and so forth. Miles is largely a reactionary figure throughout the book as he confronts struggles like registering for a charter school or dealing with family squabbles." Schedeen also opined that "Miles occupies a more urban, racially diverse, and tense landscape. All the story doesn't pander or lean too heavily on elements like racial and economic tension to move forward. Miles is simply a character who speaks to a slightly different teen experience, and one not nearly as well represented in superhero comics as Peter's". James Hunt of Comic Book Resources rated the issue #1 four and a half out of five stars, lauding Bendis for emphasizing Morales' character and his supporting cast instead of rushing him into costume.
At the conclusion of the 2012 miniseries Spider-Men, in which the mainstream Marvel Universe Peter Parker briefly visits the Ultimate Marvel universe and meets Miles Morales, Parker returns to his home universe, and uses a Google search to see if his universe has a version of Miles Morales. He is shocked and discomforted by what he finds, but the exact nature of what he finds is left unrevealed to the reader.
In other media
In the animated Ultimate Spider-Man TV series, Miles Morales' name and picture appears in the episode "I Am Spider-Man" on a list of understudies for the part of Spider-Man in a high school play. He is the second to last choice, with Peter Parker being the last choice.
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- Spider-Man (Miles Morales) at the Marvel Universe wiki
- Spider-Man (Miles Morales) at the Comic Book DB
- World of Black Heroes: Miles Morales Biography