Brian Michael Bendis previews the new 'Spider-Man' series, where diversity is at the forefront.
Brian Michal Bendis and Sara Pichelli are not new to Spider-Man, in the same way that Miles Morales is not new to being a superhero. But with the release of this week’s Spider-Man #1, Miles finds himself in the middle of the action following the aftermath of Secret Wars, as a full-fledged member of the Avengers — and New York’s resident webslinger.
“We have a character who just went through their first big Marvel events, and these events rattled the audience so much because they know it can change the character and change the way the characters relate to each other,” Bendis explains to EW. “And Miles just went through something huge. And even though time has passed, we can see that he’s struggling to be Miles.”
It’s a story arc that’s been a long time coming, and as readers, we’re about to see how Miles fights alongside the likes of Captain America and Iron Man. Oh, yeah, and there’s also those other teenage things he has to worry about…like keeping his grades up and finding romance.
“Because he’s now 16, the only thing he thinks about more than Spider-Man is girls,” says Bendis with a laugh. “In the grand tradition of Spider-Mans, it ain’t gonna be easy.”
Below, Bendis explains what’s in store for Spider-Man and previews exclusive pages from Spider-Man #1, out Wednesday from Marvel Comics.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The opening page of the issue really stuck out from a visual perspective because it’s the first time we see Spider-Man’ skin color.
BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS: This is the first time the public will have known that this new Spider-Man has brown skin. And the reaction to that will be something that Miles deals with. People have been asking if this is the debut of the character, and will race play more of into it? Two of my kids are African American — one’s African, one’s African-American — and it’s interesting how often it gets brought up from other people. He’s going to dealing with people’s response to that, both positive and negative. One of the great genius moves of the creation of Spider-Man is Peter Parker’s problem are real life problems, some as simple as he doesn’t have enough money to clean his costume. It’s now everywhere in our culture, that extra level of real worldness, and we kind of take it for granted. At the time Stan Lee and Jack Kirby came up with it, it was a real clash of genius. Our audience is so connected to each other via social media that everyone is aware of everyone else’s point of view and everyone else’s worldview. The whole story doesn’t have to be about that, but the parts of it are going to be about that and we just waited for a moment to do that. I think this chapter of his life was the best time to do it.
When you started writing this title in 2000, the book really became responsible for bringing in a new generation of readers. I feel like you’re going to elicit the same response with bringing Miles into the 616 Marvel Universe.
Writing Spider-Man is truly a responsibility. It’s not just a gig. It is something that profoundly affects people. I learned it right away back in 2000. Then all of a sudden, you realize the job you are doing and the theme of the job you are doing go hand-in-hand: the theme being with great power comes great responsibility. I can’t think of another job like this where the book has transformed so much over the years and still had its place. One of the great joys of my life on levels I never thought would happen are people’s responses to this book to this character. It’s every day on Tumblr, these beautiful notes, in a million years you’d never think you’d get a response from people like that.
That change goes for Miles, as well — he’s older, he’s seen more things, and he’s changed over the years in the same way the book has.
What you’ll read is Sara Pichelli coming back to the book after having invented it with me. And when she invented it, Miles was about 13 and all his friends were about 13 and here they’re about 15 or 16 years old. That time in your life between 13 and 16 is literally the difference between man and boy, child and adult. So on top of the dialogue, we’ve evolved the character. And she’s said to me how interesting it is to come back to the character, and it’s not just drawing the same character. You’re actually drawing new characters and keeping the differences between Miles and Peter — which are substantial but at the same time, subtle, visually and in dialogue and more importantly, in choices that they make. Miles makes different choices than Peter. What I love about teenage superheroes is he’s desperate to do the right thing. And also, Peter’s shadow does loom heavy over what he’s decided to do. But at the same time, he’s not sure who he is as a person yet. So how can he be everything everyone wants him to be? That’s a responsibility you either shy away from or try to step up to. And that’s part of the reason we’re doing the book at all. In general, what Miles represents is anyone can be Spider-Man. I’ve heard this so much from people: that they could be Spider-Man because anyone could be in that costume. That was a big reason for us to go down this road and invent Miles in the first place.
Can you walk us through what we can expect from Miles in this new chapter and this new series — sans spoilers, of course.
We have a character who now is part of the proper Marvel Universe, and there are all kinds of things going on in his world that he’s not related to yet, so we’re going to get to introduce those. There are Spider-Man villains that can’t get their hands on Peter Parker anymore because he’s out being an international globe-trotting superhero, so Miles is there being the traditional Spider-Man in the New York area. And that means people like Black Cat and Hammerhead are going to come at him. But they may not be ready for Miles, because he’s a completely different superhero. And he’s not going to be the only superhero in his class. We have a nice surprise coming in issue three of someone debuting that we’re not even going to hint at. All of this, plus his time as an Avenger, plus his time with younger heroes on the Avengers like Kamala and Sam — there are a lot of new team heroes that have a lot to offer each other in friendship and challenge. We are heading right towards Civil War II, and Miles is a very big part of that.
It’s really a testament to how much the industry has evolved that you can look at a superhero line-up like the newest Avengers and find such a diverse group of people, from Sam to Kamala to Miles.
I have children of color and I see what they watch and I see what they read and I see how difficult it is for them to find something that isn’t the sassy best friend on some Nick show or something. I made a determination to add positively into that part of our culture for little kids and adults and teenagers. There’s stuff that isn’t represented at all. I’m happy to be part of fixing that as much as I can, when the story allows.
Give readers a tease for Spider-Man #1 — what should they look forward to when they pick up the issue, whether they’re a first-time or long-time reader?
There’s the misconception by some that this is just about diversity or just about African-American Spider-Man. I hope that people who have heard about Miles in a positive way try this out because they’ll see that it is character first, book first and these other things that we’re talking about that mean so much they come out of that in their own — but this is all about as good a comic as we can and taking the idea of Spider-Man into new areas as best we can.