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Why Miles Morales Needs to be in a Marvel Movie

Over the weekend, The Amazing Spider-Man 2′s $92 million opening — despite a middling reception from critics and comics fans, alike — has all but guaranteed that the powers-that-be at Sony Pictures have got the green light to launch their own foray into superhero mega-franchise-dom and build their Spidey-verse over the course of several movies. What isn’t certain, though, is how many of those coming movies will continue to star Andrew Garfield. Of Sony’s slate of yet-to-come Spidey themed flicks — Sinister Six, Amazing 3, and Venom — Garfield is only contracted to appear in the threequel, and that’s it. So what is Sony Pictures going to do without their lead?

In a recent interview with Comic Book Resources, Garfield himself had some ideas:

I have given that thought. I think one of the amazing things about Spider-Man is that you don’t see skin color when he’s in the suit. You don’t see any religious beliefs. You don’t see any denominations. Everyone can project themselves into that suit. It’s incredibly powerful in that way. So of course I think it’s important that the openness, the casting, in terms of who could be Spider-Man, could be absolutely anyone. A hero is a hero, whether you’re a man, woman, gay, lesbian, straight, black, white or red all over — it doesn’t matter.

Miles Morales was a huge moment in this character’s comic book life. And I do believe that we can do that. 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. I think it’s a really beautiful and important move.

Awesome, right? Well, not so fast. When asked about the possibility of bringing Miles Morales into Sony’s Cinematic Universe, the architects of that universe — Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach — responded with a pretty emphatic “NO.” Which is ironic considering that one of the initial concepts for the retweaked Spidey suit bore a pretty unmistakable likeness to the Ultimate costume.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Before we move on, let’s take a step back. If you are unfamiliar, Miles Morales refers to a character in Marvel Comics’ alternate “Ultimate Universe” line of titles. Created by Brian Michael Bendis in 2011, Morales — a mixed race African American/Latino teenager — assumes the mantle of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man after Peter Parker is killed by his archenemy, the Green Goblin. At the time, Morales’ debut in the comics was met with equal parts celebration and consternation in the fanboy community. In the three years since his debut, it’s safe to say that Morales has become a deeply ingrained part of the comics landscape, inspiring legions of cosplayers and Nerds of Color alike.

What’s even cooler? Morales was created, in part, as a response to the Donald-Glover-for-Spider-Man movement of 2010. You may recall that year, when Sony was in the process of rebooting their Spider-Man movie franchise after the critical failure of the Sam Raimi-directed/Tobey Maguire-starring Spider-Man 3, writer Marc Bernardin famously penned an opinion piece in io9 that questioned why Peter Parker had to be a white dude in the first place. That article, in turn, inspired Community star Donald Glover to — half-jokingly and half-seriously — openly campaign for the role.

In a nod to the campaign, Dan Harmon even opened the second season of Community with a shot of Troy, Glover’s character, wearing Spidey pajamas. Needless to say, the mere idea of Don Glover as Spider-Man enraged many internet-dwelling fans. Surely, if the NOC had existed back then, we would’ve likely joined in on that debate — as the Adam WarRock lyric goes, “when they said ‘Don Glover for Spider-Man,’ they didn’t mind.”

Despite the considerable amount of attention Glover’s internet campaign received, Arad and company ultimately went with Andrew Garfield, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Even though Glover ultimately didn’t get the role in the movie, it was this campaign that inspired Bendis to create a person of color to fill Peter Parker’s shoes when the time came in the Ultimate comics. In an interview with USA Today prior to the launch of Ultimate Spider-Man (Volume 2) #1 in 2011, Bendis confirmed Glover’s implicit involvement in the creation of Miles Morales. After watching the second season premiere of Community, Bendis saw what Glover looked like in Spider-Man’s duds:

“He looked fantastic!” Bendis recalls. “I saw him in the costume and thought, ‘I would like to read that book.’ So I was glad I was writing that book.”

The writer gives Glover “mucho credit” for the way Miles Morales looks in Ultimate Fallout issue 4.

Three years later, the character has grown into one of Marvel’s signature heroes. More than that, Miles Morales has also become one of their most successful heroes in recent memory. Despite the controversial nature of his arrival, the character’s likability and popularity has led to a clamoring from fans — egged on by some strong hints from the publisher — to bring Miles into Marvel’s mainline (aka 616) universe of comics. Meanwhile, Ultimate Spider-Man books are consistent sellers and just last month, and to much fanfare, All-New Ultimates #1 launched with Morales at its center. To put into context how big a deal this is, the Ultimates are the Ultimate Universe’s version of the Avengers. You might have heard of them.

Alex Abad-Santos of recently called the All-New Ultimates possibly “the most diverse group of heroes in the Marvel universe.” Could you imagine an Avengers-like movie with these heroes front and center?

That brings me back to Avi Arad and Sony’s apparent refusal to ever use Miles Morales in their Spider-Man franchise. Which is cool. I mean, those guys clearly have an agenda for their movies, and I’m sure Spidey has plenty of rogues to fashion even more films around. (Hey, who’s up for a Big Wheel or Styx & Stone movie?!) Even though Andrew Garfield has all but said he won’t be back for any more movies beyond part 3, I’m sure the suits at Sony have got contingency plans. Sure, Garfield and Stone are the only redeeming things about this new crop of movies, but who needs them?

But if Arad has no plans to ever use Ultimate Spider-Man in his franchise, what’s to keep Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios from using the character? Now, I’m no expert on the legalities and intellectual property rights involved in such a scenario, but when Marvel licensed Spider-Man and all related characters to Sony, did that deal include characters that had yet to be created? I mean, if we can have multiple Quicksilvers across studios, why not Spidey? Either way, I think Miles Morales could fit pretty well into any phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The MCU movies are more aligned to the Ultimate Universe after all.

It’s a pretty safe bet that Sony will never give up the proper Spider-Man license or even entertain the thought about merging their movies with the Disney/Marvel ones, at least not on purpose. But if Feige and company could somehow get access to Miles Morales, maybe we could finally kill two birds with one stone.

Not only would we give Miles Morales the big screen recognition he deserves, but we could finally have Spider-Man — or, I guess it’d be The Spiderman without the hyphen, you know, for the lawyers — cross over with the Avengers. Everybody wins.

I’m sure the lawyers could navigate this better than I can, but it’s definitely worth thinking about.

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