The news broke days ago that Marvel was bringing Miles Morales over from the Ultimate Universe to the 616 Universe. That was of zero surprise to me. Miles was basically the only character worth saving from the creative cesspool known as the Ultimate Universe. Plus, Miles is Bendis’ baby so what Bendis wants Bendis gets. However, I thought Miles would change his code-name to something like Scarlet Spider or some other spider derivative codename. Well, that is not the case. Nope. Marvel is going to make Miles “Spider-Man” in the 616 Universe. Yeah, yeah. I know what you are thinking. Hey, isn’t there some little known minor D-list character named Peter Parker already using the codename “Spider-Man” in the 616 Universe?
First, let’s dispense of the stupid before taking an actual critical look at Marvel’s decision. Unfortunately, Bendis had to open his mouth and sound like an absolute idiot. This is another example of how comic book writers and artists are probably better served to just shut up and deliver great content rather than making societal comments. These people are not trained and skilled orators. And they always seem to come off sounding unintelligent. First, Bendis rolled out this statement:
“Our message has to be it’s not Spider-Man with an asterisk, it’s the real Spider-Man for kids of color, for adults of color and everybody else.”
Sorry, but if a person needed Spider-Man to be played by a minority character in order to enjoy the character of Spider-Man then that person is a racist. Pure and simple. Diversity is important. I want more Hispanic super heroes in the Marvel Universe. I do think it is important for my two sons to see characters of their ethnicity with a seat at the table in the world of comic books. However, stating that a character needs to be changed from white to another ethnicity in order for readers to like that character? That is racist. And offensive.
Oh, but Bendis was not done sounding like a moron. Bendis continued by saying:
“Many kids of color who when they were playing superheroes with their friends, their friends wouldn’t let them be Batman or Superman because they don’t look like those heroes but they could be Spider-Man because anyone could be under that mask.”
What?! You know what never happened to me when I was a kid? One of my friends telling me that because I was not the same ethnicity as a particular super hero that they would not let me pretend to be that particular super hero. Hey, Bendis, don’t assume that everyone else in America grew up with racist friends like you did.
This statement is stunning in its stupidity. For several reasons. First, Bendis takes his own personal experience and then extrapolates it and superimposes it on every single person across all of America. You know what the problem is with making blanket statements based on your own personal experiences? You always sound like an idiot. Second, the fact remains that there are tons of people who are huge fans of characters that are of different ethnicities than them. It isn’t 1960 anymore. People love popular characters regardless of their ethnicities.
My 11-year-old son is Hispanic. By, Bendis’ rationale, my son should be lost with no Spider-Man to identify with if not for Miles Morales. Guess who is my son’s absolute favorite character? Peter Parker. Huh. Imagine that. A Hispanic kid who loves and relates to Peter Parker. I guess it is because I am not raising my kid to be a raging racist who can only relate to people of his same ethnicity.
The point is that most people who are not blindly racist could care less about the race of certain popular super heroes. I see people of all ethnicities wearing Superman shirts, Batman shirts, Iron Man shirts, Captain America shirts and Spider-Man shirts. Why? Because these characters are cool! And because I firmly believe that the majority of Americans are not drooling racists who can only love a character based on their ethnicity.
And the proof is in the box office numbers that characters like Batman, Spider-Man and Iron Man rack up in the movie theaters. Those movie franchises are loved and supported by all types of fans both male and female and from all different ethnicities. The fact is that Bendis seems to be addressing a problem that does not exist outside of his own mind. Again, creating more diversity within the Marvel Universe is a great idea. But stating that Spider-Man is broken and must be fixed by replacing white Peter Parker with Miles Morales is racist and just flat-out wrong.
All right, now that we have dispensed with the dumb quotes given to us courtesy of Bendis, let’s look at this decision from a business perspective. After all, Marvel Comics exists to make money for Disney and to create and protect valuable IP for Disney.
Now, Miles Morales definitely gets plenty of attention from online media and from a select group of vocal internet comic fans. However, it is usually the case that the more popular a comic book is on Twitter the lower the sales numbers are for that title. That is why it is always dangerous to buy completely into what the vocal minority of online fans clamor about on Twitter as representing the prevailing view of comic book readers as a whole.
Let’s look at the sales numbers for Miles versus Peter. Miles Morales Ultimate Spider-Man #11 sold 29,101 units. Back when the comic book market was stronger Marvel would cancel titles that sold under 30K units. So, selling around 29K units makes Miles Morales’ title a below average selling title. Now, lets look at Peter’s sales numbers. Amazing Spider-Man #18 sold 88,338 units. Now that is a strong number in this current comic book market.
So, given that Peter crushes Miles in terms of sales numbers I am unsure why, from a purely business standpoint, it makes any sense for Marvel to replace Peter with Miles as the Spider-Man in the 616 Universe. Marvel also runs the risk of incurring a backlash if they shove Miles down the throats of regular comic book reader. Miles already sells a low number of units. Irritating a large number of your potential fan base will not help increase sales numbers for a Miles Spider-Man comic book.
Now, it is unclear if Peter will even have a prominent role in the 616 Universe post Secret Wars. That is also a risky move. Taking Peter off the table will certainly guarantee a backlash by a large percentage of comic book readers. And given how weak Miles’ sales numbers are I am not sure that is a wise move by Marvel.
There is always the chance that Marvel will have multiple Spider-Man titles. Peter starring in Amazing Spider-Man and Miles starring in adjective-less Spider-Man. The problem with this is that it dilutes the Spider-Man brand name and it makes things unnecessarily confusing for readers. I always thought DC was foolish to have several different Batgirls or Robins running around at the same time.
However, even during the height of DC’s New 52 silliness when they were blindly running around trying change as much about the DCU as humanly possible you will take notice of how DC handled their core iconic franchises. There was one Batman. One Superman. One Wonder Woman. One Aquaman. One Flash.
And even though DCU was making a massive push for increased diversity, by retconning certain characters and introducing new ones, take note of how DC handled their iconic tent pole characters. Bruce Wayne as Batman. Clark Kent as Superman. Diana Prince as Wonder Woman. Barry Allen as Flash. Arthur Curry as Aquaman. Hal Jordan as Green Lantern.
That is no mistake. Even in blowing up their entire continuity. Even amid massive retconning of characters and introducing new versions of characters and impressively increasing diversity among the DCU, DC was wise enough to know that the main pillars of the DCU were not to be unnecessarily changed.
Marvel is experiencing their own New 52 moment with their MarvelNOW push post Secret Wars. The increased push for diversity is a smart move. However, messing with their tent pole franchises is unwise. For Marvel, Spider-Man, Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America and Wolverine are the pillars of the Marvel Universe. They have invested heavily in those franchises both in the world of comics, in the world of television and in the world of movies. Those five characters have become iconic Marvel characters.
Even people who have never read a single comic book in their entire lives know that Peter Parker is Spider-Man. Tony Stark is Iron Man. Steve Rogers is Captain America. Bruce Banner is Hulk. Logan is Wolverine. Those characters are ingrained into the consciousness of society. That type of brand recognition is extremely powerful and quite rare. That is something that you simply do not mess with.
Peter Parker is a 53-year-old character. He is an absolute icon. He is known worldwide even by people who have never even seen a comic book or know anything at all about Marvel Comics. Hell, my parents who know absolutely nothing about comics, or popular culture in general, both know that Peter Parker is Spider-Man.
Peter Parker has had a newspaper strip from 1977 up to the present, has had one live action TV show, three live action TV movies, eight TV cartoon shows and six blockbuster movies between 2002 to the present. It is hard to find another character outside of Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent that has a larger presence in popular culture than Peter Parker. Beyond that, the only super hero character that has had more success in television and in movies than Peter Parker would be Batman.
On top of all of this, we had the massive news that Sony and Marvel Studios are finally joining forces to bring the first Marvel Studios branded Spider-Man movie and allowing Marvel Studios to bring Peter Parker into the Marvel Movie Universe. In fact, the news just broke that the new Spider-Man movie will star Tom Holland in the role of Peter Parker. Disney and Marvel Studios are investing heavily in Peter Parker with their film efforts. Disney has invested heavily in Peter Parker with their television cartoon efforts. It makes zero business sense to do anything other than push Peter Parker as heavily as possible in the area of Marvel’s comic books.
From a business standpoint, it makes no sense for Marvel to cast aside their biggest and most successful character in their entire history in Peter Parker in favor of Miles Morales. Nor does it make any business sense to dilute their #1 franchise by having two different characters running around with the same “Spider-Man” codename. Marvel would be better served by protecting the Spider-Man franchise by not diluting the brand name. Marvel should be protecting Peter Parker and the Spider-Man franchise the way DC fiercely protects Bruce Wayne and the Batman franchise. Is there a role for Miles Morales in the 616 Universe? Absolutely. But, it is not under the codename Spider-Man. And it also is not as a replacement for Peter Parker.