Marvel’s Next Cinematic Spider-Man Should Be A Black Guy

Marvel’s Next Cinematic Spider-Man Should Be A Black Guy

Here’s how Marvel should introduce Peter Parker to the Marvel Cinematic Universe: by killing him off.

They have done it in the comics. And that development in Marvel’s Ultimate Universe resulted in one of the freshest narrative branches of its Spider-Man mythos, the introduction of Miles Morales, a Black and Latino teenager who becomes an all-new wall-crawler. His turn as Spidey has felt surprising and modern. Shake your head if you want. But using the Miles Morales storyline to herald the arrival of Spider-Man to Marvel’s on-screen universe makes a whole lot of sense.

First, an explanation for those who aren’t up to speed: Marvel has multiple realities in its superhero ecosystem, with two dimensions that are more important than the rest. The mainline universe is known as Earth-616, where the longest-running versions of the Hulk, Thor and Iron Man reside. This is the one older fans grew up reading. The Ultimate Universe, which debuted in 2000, is filled with updated takes of superheroes where the origins of the Avengers and various other characters are slightly different.

In one of the Ultimate imprint’s major storylines, Peter Parker died in 2011 while protecting his loved ones from archenemy Norman Osborn, who also goes by the Green Goblin. Inspired by Parker’s superheroic career — and given similar powers by another Osborn-prduced genetically altered spider — Black and Latino teenager Miles Morales eventually takes up the mantle of Spider-Man. He first wears a suit that looks just like Peter’s but later gets an all-new version that symbolises his acceptance into the larger superhero community. He’s still a freshman superhero but one who’s proven he has the heart to run with the big boys.

Marvel’s Next Cinematic Spider-Man Should Be A Black Guy

If the powers-that-be actually bring Miles into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they get a Spider-Man who feels unsure and untested, a perfect viewpoint character to invigorate the wonder of the superhero spectacles they have been staging on a yearly basis. Killing off Peter Parker is a way to make a symbolic break with the previous Spidey movies that Marvel didn’t have a hand in producing. It lets them say that a wall-crawler was around, one who already faced Doc Ock, two different Green Goblins, Venom, Sandman, Rhino and Electro — and then wipe the slate clean for a new iteration. And that new iteration should be Miles Morales. His origin hits the same ‘power & responsibility’ beats as Peter’s, with maybe a smidge less guilt. Moving to Miles also gives Marvel the opportunity to use different villains, one of whom has a natural — and not retconned — connection to the newest Spider-Man.

We’ve already seen two iterations of Peter Parker’s origins on movie screens, after all, preceded by live-action TV and cartoon versions. We don’t need a third. And using Miles as the new movie version of Spider-Man gives Marvel the chance to make an incredibly bold move. If the very existence of the Miles Morales Spider-Man represents a commitment to diversifying their superhero population — which, it needs to be said, isn’t quite as good as giving more work to creators of different backgrounds or creating all-new characters instead of successors — then Marvel should follow that commitment through to the highest possible level. Don’t leave him gated off in the comics (yes, I know he’s appeared in the current cartoon, voiced by Donald Glover) where the number of people who can see him are exponentially less than the audience for a major movie.

Changing the face of the on-screen Spider-Man from white to brown probably won’t happen, thanks in larger part to good old-fashioned Hollywood cowardice. Given the million-dollar risk and outsized egos involved, the pact that finally reunites Spider-Man with his fellow heroes onscreen will likely be too fragile to withstand the kind of vitriol that came with Miles’ comic-book debut. “He’s not our Spider-Man,” haters shouted four years ago, similar to the racist nonsense that flared up around a fan campaign to get Glover to star in the rebooted Spider-Man film franchise. (That campaign has started up again since last night.) In the years since, Marvel’s responded by saying that Miles is in fact their Spider-Man, as real and valid as Peter Parker. There doesn’t need to be just one Spider-Man. It’d be great to see their commitment to Miles — and the fans who look like him — extend to an even bigger stage.

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