Spider-Man’s new alter ego: biracial teen Miles Morales

When the first issue of the relaunched “Spider-Man” series hits comic book stores this fall, the face behind the mask will no longer be Peter Parker’s. The superhero’s alter ego will be Miles Morales, a biracial teenager.

Morales was a popular character in Marvel Comic’s “Ultimate” line of comics. In that series, he donned the mask after the death of Peter Parker.

The “Ultimate” Marvel series launched in 2000 and reimagined other notable superheroes, such as the X-Men, the Avengers and the Fantastic Four. Now, however, Morales will replace Parker in the main Spider-Man series.

The half-African-American and half-Latino character sliding into the “Spider-Man” suit signals a change in comic book culture. It is a chance for the industry to resonate with a more diverse group of readers, said Brian Bendis, co-creator and writer of the new series.

“Our message has to be ‘it’s not Spider-Man with an asterisk; it’s the real Spider-Man for kids of color, for adults of color and everybody else,’ ” Bendis told the New York Daily News.

He said he began crying with joy in a store aisle when his 4-year-old adopted African-American daughter picked up a Spider-Man mask and proclaimed that she was the comic book hero.

“I realized my kids are going to grow up in a world that has a multiracial Spider-Man and an African-American Captain America and a female Thor.”

Spider-Man fans had called for Morales to be the identity of the web-slinger in the latest reboot of the Spidey movie series. Instead, Marvel Studios and Sony announced Tuesday that Tom Holland, a 19-year-old English actor, will play Peter Parker in the July 2017 film.

Yet, the change in the comic book for one of the publisher’s most-popular superheroes matches a trend among crime-fighters. Marvel announced a female version of Thor in 2014. The same year, African-American superhero the Falcon took over as Captain America.

These developments are inspiring to some comic book fans, though others want their heroes to keep their identity.

“Cool. All kids should be able to see themselves as among the superheros #MilesMorales,” Courtney Tanenbaum tweeted.

“Hey marvel! Create new characters and leave the original icons alone. First Thor now this?” commenter “Supershad20” wrote on Marvel’s story about the switch.

Gerry Canavan, an assistant English professor at Marquette University who teaches courses on 20th- and 21st-century comic books, called the announcement an exciting development.

“It’s really interesting to see the way Miles Morales has taken root and become popular,” he said. “There’s a hunger for these things.”

However, Canavan noted that popular comic book series often transform characters to introduce them to new audiences. This allows new readers to pick up a comic book without having to know decades of history.

He said it is disappointing that, after a period of time, comics often return to the original version. Given the popularity of Morales, however, he does not think the character will disappear entirely.

“I think the character will remain around,” he said. “But, at one point, Peter Parker will return.”

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