‘What If… Miles Morales no. 4’ sparks controversy

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Miles Morales debuted in in Marvel Comics’  “Ultimate Comics: Fallout no.4” in August 2011 and would don the mantle of Spider-Man after the death of Peter Parker in his universe, Earth-1610. Like Peter, Miles would be bitten by a radioactive spider that would grant him abilities.

Created by comic writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli, Miles, who is of African and Puerto Rican heritage, would become an instant fan-favorite and would be put in adventures with Peter, Spider-Gwen (a Gwen Stacy from an alternate universe) and other supporting characters.

However, the recent issue of “What If… Miles Morales no. 4” has been met with backlash from fans. 

In the latest issue, instead of becoming Spider-Man, Miles has taken on the mantle of Thor. Please understand that it is not so much of an issue with Miles taking on the mantle of Thor that has ignited the controversy but it is how the comic was written and who wrote it. 

The comic, which was written by Yehudi Mercado, a writer of Mexican heritage, was criticized for the issue’s use of stereotypical slang and jargon used. In the first pages of the comic Miles, as Thor, is shown putting on his version of Thor’s outfit. In that same page, the narrator says “from this vast multiverse comes this dope verse.”  

In the next page, which is a splash page,  Miles is shown being praised by the people of his version of Asgard. The narrator states that “Of all the five realms, Asgard is his hood.” From there, Mercado’s dialogue for the characters continues the cringeworthy use of slang. 

As a result, fans took toTwitter to express their disgust with the latest issue. 

“Miles Morales has always flipped between being a well written character and being a walking stereotype depending on the writer,” said user @NicoConlin. “This ‘What If’ comic is horrible in every way, but it’s nothing new.”

The Wednesday Pull List Podcast also shared criticism of the comic by tweeting that it is “just full of the exaggerated swagger of a Black teen.” 

Furthermore, a Twitter account under the name Bela Lugosi’s meds brought up that “What if… Miles Morales no.4” is the only comic in the series not written by a Black writer. 

While Miles’ creator Brian Michael Bendis is not Black, he had many outside influences that propelled him to create the character. 

According to an article from Inverse, the inception of Bendis’ creation of Miles began when America saw Barack Obama become the first African American President. Another influence was from actor and rapper Donald Glover wearing Spder-Man pajamas in the Season 2 premiere of the NBC sitcom “Community.” 

In that same Inverse article Bendis spoke about introducing Miles to the Spider-Man mythos, which he described as daunting. 

“It’s genuinely scary to put out something in the world that’s brand new,” Bendis said. “The extra added fear with Miles was that we were trying to be additive to Spider-Man. No one was asking for that. No one was going, ‘I wish Spider-Man was just a little bit something else.’ So changing something so drastic in the franchise is daunting. But we really believed in what we were doing. Anyone could wear the mask.”

Bendis did not write Miles or the narrator to utter stereotypical slang used by African Americans. Miles was a young teenager who, like Peter Parker, got bit by a radioactive spider and had to figure out how to use his powers. On top of that, he was a teenager who was figuring himself out while growing up in a mixed-race household. He did not utter slang words like “hood” or “dope.”

Fans have suggested that Mercado should have at least consulted with people who relate to Miles, or at least have lived in Brooklyn and are of African American and Puerto Rican descent prior to writing this issue.

I’m a huge Marvel fan but after reading this comic and seeing who wrote it, they need to be held accountable since they let it get published. If they are going to let a writer work on a character that is not of their heritage, they should have someone of that character’s culture serve as a creative and cultural check to balance how the character is portrayed and how the story and dialogue is written.

The “What if…Miles Morales” comic series has seen alternate versions of Miles in which he was never bitten by a radioactive spider. The first three issues saw the character become Captain America, Wolverine and the Hulk. At the end of the issue, the alternative versions of Miles met Thor Miles to notify him that his uncle Loki is wreaking havoc in the multiverse. Issue no.5 will show all of those versions, including Spider-Man united for a “climaric battle that’s been brewing since issue no. 1”

Brian Adigwu

Brian of Earth-16 is a podcaster for the Geek Talk with Brian of Earth-16 and a contributing writer/journalist for the Daily Planet. You can also hear Brian on the DC Comics Geeks Nation podcast. When not writing, Brian enjoys going to the world of comic books, TV shows, video games, and pro-wrestling. He also loves listening to other podcasts and having a philosophical conversation.

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