Why Miles Morales is Important (A lesson in the Opposite of Privilege)
At this point, anyone who follows me knows I work in a comic shop. Or, at the very least, you know that I’m a comic fanatic. I feel like sharing this anecdote that happened today, which took a very crappy day and made it one of the best days I’ve had in weeks. And it involves a customer, his son, and Miles Morales, the new mixed-race Spider-man.
It’s Thursday. We sold out of the new Ultimate Comics Fallout #4 yesterday. Some paper or channel reported on the new Spider-man. If you haven’t heard, he’s half-black, half-hispanic, and he’s dark-skinned. This is major, some people being elated, some people being furious. I’ve seen some really racist things being said, both intentionally and unintentionally. Also saying that with characters like Batwing, Mr. Terrific, and Luke Cage, we didn’t need this minority character.
But anyway, the father is asking if we have it, and I have to tell him, no, we don’t, but we’ll get it back in next week. They’re about to walk away, but for some reason I stop them. Let them know that it’s really good, and cute.
Then, for some reason- some sense of pride, maybe, at just the fact that Miles exists, I add something when I speak to the father. I tell him, ‘and no lie, Miles looks like a darker skinned version of your son’.
The man’s response was immediate. He smiled, pulled his son in close, in a one-armed hug, and told him ‘you hear that? The lady says Spider-man looks like you.’
The boy, maybe ten, lights up. He just smiles as his dad hugs him.
And it occurred to me in that moment- how many times hasn’t the boy had the opportunity to hear that? To be told he resembles a hero? A superhero, at that? It’s easy to find, in the myriad of heroes, lighter skinned heroes. In the past few years, I found a year that I identified with, physically and otherwise (See: anytime I talk about Renee Montoya).
But I wonder how it felt to hear as a child for the first time ever, that one of your heroes looked like you. And I thought about how many kids don’t necessarily need to hear that, because there are so many characters that could look like them that it goes without saying. And I thought about all the parents and kids who are going to pick up this comic and see Spidey look like they could be related to him.
And this is different than Luke Cage, or Cassandra (Batgirl). There’s no hyper violent past (thus far), there’s no ‘they were trained as assassins’ or ‘a bizarre pimp past’. This is a kid who wants to do the right thing, and has the power to do so.
And that’s why Miles Morales is important. Because it’s another step closer to kids seeing themselves in their heroes.