I haven’t done a video vs video “debate” since that video set on secret identities years ago, so I thought it would be fun to do another one.
When Miles Morales was introduced in the Ultimate Universe nobody really blinked an eye. The Ultimate universe had already been ruined by writers who weren’t Brian Michael Bendis (I’m only partly joking when I call that ironic) after the death of that universe’s Peter Parker. Ultimate Spider-Man was an attempt to do a modern take on Spider-Man’s early years and whatever adaptation errors came from it (Peter in the main universe didn’t meet, or really have, any friends until his college years) it was still successful…and the writers that followed in other Ultimate titles just saw an excuse to make crap versions of Marvel’s most famous heroes.
When that continuity and imprint was destroyed, elements came into the main Marvel universe. One of them was Miles Morales, supposedly because he was so popular. There’s some question about that, and we have two opposing opinions. Unlike the secret identity debate however these videos were made completely apart from each other, but why not pit a defender against a detractor and see what happens? Arguing in favor of Miles’ inclusion is Drake “ComicDrake” McWhorter and arguing against is Eric “YoungRippa59” July. Yes, it’s the black man arguing against “black Spider-Man” but both make points I agree and disagree with.
At least Nova is part of a group, the Nova Corp (in practice Marvel’s version of the Green Lantern Corp though the specifics are different), so using Nova as a superhero name isn’t so bad. The problem I have is when there is more than one but they all use the same superhero name. Yes, this includes the Flash over at DC.
One point I totally agree with Drake on is the idea that Miles can handle the “Teen Spidey” angle and allow Peter to be an adult…if the writers let him. They won’t. The Spider-Writers seem obsessed with Gwen to the point that she replaced MJ in the Matt Webb Spider-Man movies, introduced an alternate version of Gwen Stacy being the one to get the powers that has just caused problems later for using her in other media, and keep either cloning her or showing us alternate universe versions. It was the cartoons that gave “Spider-Gwen” a more utilizable name of “Ghost Spider”, based on both the actual type of spider and the shared initials G.S.
Peter going back to high school however is due to origin control. He who controls the origin has the power to shape further depictions, so they go back to high school even though Peter, again, didn’t meet most of his famous supporting cast until college, the exceptions being Flash Thompson, Aunt May, and the Daily Bugle staff. Even then I don’t think Robbie Robertson came in until after Peter went to Empire State University. The Ultimate universe also made their version of Mary Jane Watson as much of a science geek as Peter, which also happened to Gwen in both the Webb movies (we burned out that pun, right?) and in Spectacular Spider-Man because apparently believing a shy scientist can attract a beautiful woman who isn’t also a big geek is a hill those writing about a guy who sticks to wall to fight someone who turns to sand won’t die on. Plus, if Miles is so different from Peter they won’t see it as the same thing because they want to write about the bullied science nerd, not the street tagger.
I haven’t seen Into The Spider-Verse yet….because everything I try to record it or The Peanuts Movie the cable box glitches, something I hope doesn’t happen with the new TV provider we have…but I don’t think it or the Insomniac Games Spider-Man that I really want to play now that it managed to swing its way to a PC version should count here. If anything, the real debate is Miles as a COMIC BOOK character. The fact that other media do a better job with Miles doesn’t necessarily help his case being seen as a Spider-Replacement for Peter in the comics and other media. If anything that makes the comic writers look worse or prove the critics’ case. There are questions why it takes so long to make a diverse character seem good. What little I saw of the movie and few other animated versions shows what I’m going to start calling the “Batwoman Effect”. Not based on the CW show because I really don’t care, but how she was handled in the comics.
Originally the characters Batwoman and Bat-Girl (hyphen intended) were to prove to readers that despite one or two paragraphs in Seduction Of The Innocent insisting Batman and Robin were gay (it’s not even mentioned until the last third of the book and gets less time than “Superman is a Nazi and Wonder Woman is turning girls gay”) by giving them female love interests. So when she was brought back post-Crisis someone thought it would be a funny middle finger to make her a lesbian for diversity points. It was only after a writer who was more interested in making her a character than a bird-flip that she became interesting to people, but she was still a lesbian. Funny how that works out. Make a good character and their skin color and bedmate preferences aren’t an issue. My point is the movie writers may have given us a better Miles, and it took bringing those elements into the comic to improve the character, but the movie should reflect the comic, not the other way around unless it’s a comic based on a movie. It’s the comic character that comic readers are debating so what movie, TV, and video game writers do to fix the character just shows the flaws in his creation, made to make Bendis’ adopted kids happy, and I only bring up the “adoption” to explain why making a non-white character would make a white guy’s kids happy. This is also what led to the creation of Riri Williams, a debate for another time perhaps.
The interesting thing to me is the areas where Drake and July agree while still having some big disagreements. I’ll let July handle that part though. Just note that July is a bit more passionate (the nice way of putting it) than Drake is but I feel he makes the negative points on Miles rather easily, but also notes some positives, so still the reverse of the other video.
I don’t think July is calling out legit fans like Drake for liking Miles. It seems more like he’s pointing out that some of the defenders, many of whom are not comic fans and just immediately support diversity without understanding its usage (or those who trash it the same way, let’s be honest) act like Miles is this great addition to comics…but are still the same media snobs that don’t buy comics and treat them as inferior to the movies and TV shows. Or like the She-Hulk writers who were openly hostile to comic fans for wanting the characters to be properly adapted instead of greenlighting whatever nonsense they wanted to make and using the popular “lesser media” names for cheap marketing, or if you’re Todd Phillips wanting to prove how “superior” his taste in movies is. They’ll praise new diverse characters but don’t care if they’re written well because they aren’t reading them anyway. Drake is a comic reader and came upon his love of the character honestly but it does feel like he and defenders like him are the exception more than the rule, like people who run around yelling “Wakanda Forever” and never bought a Black Panther comic in their lives or watched a cartoon he guested in.
This may seem an odd aside but it does factor into this conversation. DC in the 1990s was having an issue of lacking racial diversity. That led to race swapped replacements like Green Arrow and more prominence for the black Green Lantern created in the 1980s. You could make the case that John Stewart, who joined Green Lantern replacement team The Darkstars after the terrible way they got rid of Hal and the Corp, was also created for diversity points at a time when it wasn’t as big a cultural issue yet, but still as forced. He had his own brush with the Batwoman Effect stage of growth to go beyond being “the black Green Lantern”. Meanwhile, Static and the other Milestone universe characters weren’t “the black version” of anybody. Superman’s powers are practically the standard now so Icon is only the “black Superman” when it comes to his place in that universe and the whole crashing as a baby origin. That’s not really any different from Samaritan in Kurt Busiek’s Astro City universe or even the evil Homelander and Omni-Man in their respective comics. Steel was called the “black Superman” but that wasn’t really accurate once Superman returned and he stopped being Man Of Steel.
Steel however was inspired by Superman to become a superhero to atone for the sins he believed himself responsible for, the military weapons he invented being used on the streets by gangs. He was also the only one of the four “Supermen” during Kal-El’s temp death to not declare himself an actual Superman or even his replacement, but someone inspired by Superman to be a hero. Miles was also inspired by Spider-Man’s legacy and sacrifice in the Ultimate universe to be a hero but rather than take on a new identity like John Irons did he called himself Spider-Man, even wearing his costume for a brief time before being called out on it. At least when Wally West took over as The Flash after Barry Allen’s sacrifice he had already been Kid Flash. Robin exists with multiple people using the name due to circumstances that already tied him or her to Batman or the need to keep the legacy going for Batman’s sake. As Tim Drake notes, Batman needs a Robin to balance him out. The only connection Miles had to Peter really was the same power set, but Silk didn’t become another Spider-Girl and “Spider-Gwen” chose Ghost Spider. I don’t even think Jessica Drew knew of Spider-Man when she became Spider-Woman but it’s been a while since I’ve read her origin.
Yes, when July mentions Peter’s “ultimate” origin he uses the classic origin (with that terrible looking updated coloring) rather than showing the actual Ultimate universe origin, and that was a goof, possibly editing. I’m sure he knows better. NOW, with Miles from an alternate universe, the main 616 universe (somebody needs to tell the MCU they aren’t 616–the Marvel fan wiki lists it as Earth-199999) it could feel original, unless you saw the Ultimate comics or the Sam Rami film that also used Peter’s wrestling out fit from the Ultimate universe–which one was he adapting?
I do agree with July about reusing the same speech from Norman with each spider powered guy, but I disagree on the “Spider-Man No More” reference given how often that’s been homaged by other comics, including ones not by Marvel. Jessica Drew had a similar colored costume as Spider-Woman but already had her own signature look from the start. Even the symbiote’s costume form Peter noted matched second Spider-Woman Julia Carpenter. Both gained their power in a way that was completely different from either version of Peter’s. Jessica was given a serum, that if memory serves had ties to Wundergore, to save her from a deadly spider-bite out of her father’s love for his daughter. Meanwhile Julia was the victim of mad scientists who injected her with their own formula. Spider-Gwen was originally a “what if” style story where she got bit by the spider instead of Peter, though that meant the whole meeting earlier than in the comics bit again while Silk was bit by the same spider as Peter (leading to that crap about them being hot for each other for no reasonable reason) but went through a whole other catastrophe. Miles’ origin is only different based on personality and where they were raised up.
What both July and Drake bring up is the problem of Miles being “black Spider-Man”, with July also going off on the shared origin. (I’m guessing the camouflage thing was the anti-symbiote suit from Spider-Man Unlimited because it’s not an ability the symbiote ever really used, and the venom blasts are similar to Jessica Drew’s powers.) So here’s my question: does Miles have to be called Spider-Man? Disney Junior’s Spidey & His Amazing Friends kind of proves he doesn’t.
Knowing that kids would be as confused by two characters named Spider-Man as the computer was (remember that Disney Junior caters to preschool and elementary school aged kids) they were given nicknames. Spider-Man was called Spidey, which has been Peter’s nickname from the earliest years. For Miles they came up with Spin because he likes to do spins. (He also spins webs and spins through the city but all the Spider-Heroes do that.) This is the name he’s given throughout the series, the only evidence of being called Spider-Man really coming from the suit-up sequence where we see “Spider-Man” in his web’s colors. That means here he isn’t just “black Spider-Man”.
Spin isn’t exactly a good superhero name. I was thinking “Shadow Spinner”, due to his costume color and invisibility while also playing on the “Spin” name here, but there is a book from the late 1990s in the 1001 Arabian Nights mold with that name and it’s a bit long. “Shadow Spider” is a creature from Forgotten Realms so that’s out as well. If he were more of a trickster you could have gone with Anansi, based on African folklore. You may remember the name if you saw the character in an episode of Static Shock where Static goes to Africa and they end up joining forces to protect Static’s sister. There’s over 45,000 species of spider, including an actual ghost spider, so don’t tell me anyone who actually wants to help Miles get out of Peter’s…sorry, “shadow” couldn’t find a unique name for him going forward. Let him be his own character or you’re proving right something else that July has said, that you only see legitimacy in white characters and the only way you can get a black character noticed is to replace a white character with one. It wasn’t true for DC in the 1990s and it isn’t true today with the race and gender swaps and the sudden closet openings that have been going on. Have some faith in your character, or why should I?
Miles Morales does have potential. The story of a teenage learning his powers and trying to follow in the footsteps of an established hero has some great possibilities. The way it’s being done with Miles isn’t living up to those possibilities and listening to activists who don’t even read comics and may even turn their nose at reading one of “those things” isn’t the solution to making him into a good character. Diversity is a good thing, and does allow for other races and cultures to see themselves in practice and respected. You don’t do that by being the also-ran, you do that by standing out among the established and earning your place just as they did. Miles could be a great character, but he needs to stop being someone else and be his own superhero. This is where he keeps failing with readers and with critics. The ones most begging for him aren’t the ones slapping down the money while the rest of us wait to see something good done with the character. Miles has potential, so let him find and live up to it, or you’re just proving the haters right.