Spider-Man: The Case for Miles Morales in The Marvel Cinematic Universe

Marvel and Sony have agreed to share Spider-Man movies, and a new era in the franchise is about to begin. So why not take a chance?

It’s official, Spider-Man is joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The question is, which Spider-Man will it be? One of the biggest points that fans have brought up repeatedly, almost from the moment Sony’s Amazing Spider-Man franchise began to falter, is that another reboot isn’t the answer…it’s another Spidey.

And no, we’re not talking about actors this time. We’re talking about Spider-Man himself. I don’t doubt that Marvel and Sony will play it safe, and the Spidey of their newly-shared franchise is almost certainly going to be Peter Parker (although probably not Andrew Garfield). But there’s just enough out there to keep hope alive that we’ll see Miles Morales on the big screen before this is all done.

Miles Morales, for those who aren’t already familiar with him, was introduced in 2011 in Marvel’s parallel “Ultimate” line of comics. The Ultimate Comics line was initially conceived back in 2000 as a way to make Spider-Man and X-Men comics more accessible to moviegoers who were enjoying the films of Sam Raimi and Bryan Singer, but who didn’t want to deal with decades of convoluted continuity.

Over time, that mission statement fell by the wayside, and the Ultimate line evolved into just another alternate comic book universe, subject to the usual bouts of character deaths and resurrections one would find anywhere else, and soon they weren’t the easy entry point they once were (look for a detailed unpacking of this from our own Gavin Jasper in the next couple of days). For much of the early run of Ultimate Spider-Man, readers were treated to updated versions of characters and storylines from Spidey’s early days. But when Peter Parker died of a bullet wound, his successor was young Miles Morales, who took on the Spider-Man identity with a slightly different power set and a spiffy new costume.

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Miles connected with readers at a time when the rest of the books under the Ultimate banner were losing them. Even now, as Marvel Comics is setting the stage to bring the Ultimate era to a close with the Secret Wars event, it looks like Miles Morales will live on, taking his place in the “main” Marvel Universe. Secret Wars is intended to merge the Ultimate and “regular” Marvel Universe continuities, and Miles Morales is far too popular a character to zap out of existence. This essentially makes him open for business when it comes to Marvel’s big and small-screen ventures, as well.

[related article: Where Does Spider-Man Fit in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?]

It’s a small step, but Marvel has been so obsessed with creating synergy between their publishing line and their movies that they’ve been foregrounding the Inhumans as potential X-Men replacements to make way for their big screen debut, and they’ve changed the matter of Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver’s parentage to avoid any Magneto connections as they prepare for their appearance in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Placing Miles Morales in the “regular” Marvel Universe bodes well for his future in other media.

In fact, Miles Morales has already appeared on the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon series. That show often plays like a wish list of how Marvel Studios would handle Spider-Man concepts within their cinematic playground if given the chance (Spidey is monitored and trained by SHIELD, for example). The animated Miles was voiced by Donald Glover, who at the time still sounded very open to the idea of playing Miles on the screen. Of course, in the wake of the latest Spider-Man announcement and the immediate turn towards Miles Morales, he’s currently the subject of an intense fan-casting campaign.

It’s also worth noting that Marvel have bumped Black Panther and Captain Marvel well off their original planned release dates to make room for their new Spider-Man film. Fans hoping to see a Marvel superhero movie headlined by someone other than another white male may have to wait a little longer. But if it’s Miles Morales wearing the webs instead, it can only help matters and keep Marvel on track for a more diverse lineup of big screen heroes. 

There is also a certain practical benefit to considering Miles Morales. Introducing an entirely new version of Spider-Man on the big screen saves Marvel and Sony the awkwardness of another recasting, and saves fans the “trauma” of adjusting to another incarnation of their hero. Whatever the problems of The Amazing Spider-Man movies, Andrew Garfield really wasn’t one of them. Audiences might be more willing to accept an entirely new Spider-Man character just as readily as they would a new actor as Peter Parker.

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During promotion for The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Andrew Garfield expressed a desire to see Miles Morales appear on screen. “It’s something I’m really interested in figuring out; an eloquent way of coexisting, or passing on the torch. I don’t have an answer, but I think it’s actually a really important move.”

That was promptly shot down by Sony Spider-Man producers Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach. Although, Matt Tolmach’s words now almost sound prophetic. When asked by IndieWire if Peter Parker will always be Spider-Man in their minds, Tolmach responded, “As far as we’re concerned. The guys who take it over after us… Who knows…”

Who knows, indeed?