It took only took two issues into his new Marvel series for Miles Morales to take a stand on a serious issue.
Miles is now officially a part of Marvel’s singular post-Secret Wars universe, and a member of the Avengers. And the move to the big time has put Miles under a bigger public microscope.
After Miles helps the Avengers take down a bad guy, his black-and-red Spidey suit (which original Spider-Man Peter Parker has declared much cooler than his) is left ripped up. That allows onlookers the chance to announce on social media that the new, young Spider-Man has brown skin.
In the comics, a young Spider-Man fan of colour posts video of this online, excited that this confirms that the new Spider-Man is not white. And though this fan admits that Spider-Man could be a number of races, she concludes with excitement in her voice that Spider-Man is/could be black. “Spider-Man represent!” she says.
When Miles’s best friend shows the video to him, Miles doesn’t seem too pleased. He says he wants to just be Spider-Man, not the “black Spider-Man” — and that’s where things get tricky.
Some interpret this as a decision by Brian Michael Bendis (Miles’s co-creator and writer) to take the liberty to have Miles declare he didn’t want to be labeled a black Spider-Man. In other words: Those critics see Bendis as having overstepped the bounds of his own creation. Bendis isn’t black, and therefore shouldn’t be going there, some say.
But in all that hubbub, one panel was overlooked that explained Miles’s position:
“First of all, I am half Hispanic,” Miles says.
Miles isn’t denying his blackness — he’s defending his biracial identity. In his mind, he’s just as Puerto Rican as he is black. You don’t just push that to the side, as any biracial Puerto Rican will tell you. Your family would never let you get away with it. (Myself, I’m the son of a Puerto Rican man and a black woman).
This issue of Spider-Man isn’t about Miles’s not wanting a “black” label to his superhero identity — it’s about his instantly wanting recognition for his two cultures.
When I first read this panel, it was the first time since I began reading Miles (I’ve read all his comics) that I got a little emotional and really connected to him since the hype of his introduction as a biracial Spider-Man.
Since that beginning, Miles has had little to no “Puerto Rican moments.” No “yo soy boricua,” no rice and beans, no mentions of J-Lo or pride in Puerto Rican baseball players in the bigs. No clarifying moments of someone mistaking a half black, half Puerto Rican kid for a Dominican (happens all the time, trust me). No speaking in Spanish. But then again, there were no moments of “blackness,” either. Miles was just Miles. And this is a superhero comic, after all. It’s about him being Spider-Man more than anything.
But the moment of Miles’s stating that he is half Hispanic is groundbreaking within his short comic-book life.
Am I happy that Miles, within the pages of his Spider-Man comic, is finally getting I touch with his Puerto Rican side? (Something that becomes apparent when, on the last page of issue No. 2, he has to deal with the wrath of his Spanish-speaking abuela. An abuela who is so mad that Miles’s grades are suffering that she drops the c-word in Spanish? (Let’s just say Pitbull uses this word a lot in his unedited Spanish songs, but you won’t see it in print here.) Of course I am. Miles’s not addressing his Puerto Rican side much has been one of my few qualms with him. I’m just as happy that Miles’s black father not only remains his closest confidant, but also shares Miles’s Spider-Man secret with him.
This moment has been a long time coming for Miles. But let’s see it for what it is. He’s not denying one side. He’s just demanding that both be seen. And that’s a decision only he has a right to make.
And Miles’s taking a stand on who he is is the most heroic thing he’s done to date.