In 2011, Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli released the fourth issue of their miniseries Ultimate Fallout, detailing the aftermath of Spider-Man’s death –like, actual death, funeral and all– in the Ultimate Marvel universe after an extended battle with the Sinister Six. Of course, no Marvel universe can really exist without a Spider-Man, which is why it was incredibly surprising to see that the second Spider-Man of that world turn out to be an Afro-Latino teenager named Miles Morales, who wound up bitten by a radioactive spider just days before Peter’s demise.
Miles has been important since his inception just as a person of color in the world of superhero comics, and later as a figurehead of Marvel’s ever growing diversity focus, but now that importance has taken on a new layer. The beginning of August saw the release of the young adult novel, Miles Morales: Spider-Man, written by As Brave as You author Jason Reynolds. What’s most important about the book, aside from it being really good, is the fact that Reynolds is African-American, making him the first person of color to write for Miles.
Despite an increase of diverse characters in the past couple of years over at Marvel, those characters are by and large written by white men, such as Jane Foster’s Thor (Jason Aaron), Ironheart (Bendis), Laura Kinney’s Wolverine (Tom Taylor) and Sam Wilson’s Captain America (Nick Spencer). The same goes with Miles, as those who have previously written for Miles in a major capacity have been white men: Champions writer Mark Waid, Secret Wars’ Jonathan Hickman and Bendis, whose hold on his original characters is so strong that he continues to be the only person to write Jessica Jones on a consistent basis. He’s stated multiple times that he created Miles so that his adoptive children would have someone to look up to (a reasoning that also holds for Riri Williams, the black girl currently taking the mantle of Iron Man as Ironheart). This has created some problems, however, despite the sweet intentions. Issues with how he writes characters of color have cropped up often over the last couple of years, with Miles’ comic being the most notable for it. In the current series’ second issue, Miles and his friend Ganke watch a video by an avid Spider-Man fan over the moon to discover that he’s a person of color after a fight with Blackheart, and she even uses the actual phrase “def color,” a moment that was met with mocking and derision by some sectors of online fandom.