Fans Condemn Marvel After Racist Spider-Man, Thor Project Is Released

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Miles morales

Credit: Sony Pictures

In the latest installment of Marvel’s “What If…? Miles Morales” series, “What If…Miles Morales Became Thor? #4″ has sparked major controversy and backlash online, with fans calling out the comic-book giant for racist depictions of Black people and communities.

The new ‘Asgardian’ edition of Miles Morales sees the young, Afro-Latino Spider-Man take up the helm of Thor Odinson in an edition celebrating 60 years of the friendly neighborhood web-slinger.

What If Miles Morales Became Thor saying By Odin's Fade
Credit: Marvel

Inspired by Norse mythology, Thor Odinson is the (noticeably white) Asgardian God of Thunder.

Thor is most known for his role as an Avenger in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), where he is famously portrayed by Australian Chris Hemsworth. Hemsworth is set to reprise the role of the lightning-wielding superhero in the fourth solo Marvel Studios Thor movie, Thor: Love and Thunder (2022), premiering this July 8th. The film stars Natalie Portman as Jane Foster (and now, as the Mighty Thor), alongside Tessa Thompson, the recently-crowned King of New Asgard, Valkyrie, and Chris Pratt as Star-Lord from the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Thor: Love and Thunder, Natalie Portman as Jane Foster (left), Chris Hemsworth as Thor (right) and Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie and Korg in the background
Credit: Marvel Studios

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The character of Miles Morales, however, is probably most recognized from Sony’s animated family adventure film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) which won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. It starred Shameik Moore as Morales, alongside Jake Johnson (Peter B. Parker), Hailee Steinfeld (Gwen Stacy), Mahershala Ali (Aaron Davis/Prowler), John Mulaney (Peter Porker), and Nicolas Cage (Spider-Man Noir).

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Credit: Sony Pictures

Miles Morales was created in 2011 by writer Brian Michael Bendis and Italian artist Sara Pichellis. He was conceptualized to eventually take over the helm of Spider-Man in the Ultimate comics following the death of that universe’s Peter Parker.

Famously born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and the son of an African American father and a Puerto Rican mother, Morales shares similar powers to Peter Parker’s version of the web-shooting, wall-climbing Spider-Man.

Peter B. Parker (left) and Miles Morales (right)
Credit: Sony Pictures

Recently, the release of this new comic melding the two superheroes’ backstories has stirred up a fair amount of controversy and critique online. “What If… Miles Morales Became Thor?” is written by Yehudi Mercado and has art by Luigi Zagaria and Paco Medina — none of whom are Black themselves.

Marvel What If Promo Banner
Credit: Marvel Studios

The project in question is part of the “What If…?” series of comics, where Marvel reimagines its heroes with alternative origins, backstories, and outcomes — each volume asking a different question of the world (and the reader), adding to the ever-expanding Marvel Multiverse. This series of comics is also eponymous to Marvel Studios’ MCU Disney+ Original, animated Phase Four anthology series What If…? (2021), which featured Chadwick Boseman’s last performance as the superhero Black Panther, and Wakandan King, T’Challa — reimagined as a version of the galaxy-traveling Star-Lord.

This time, fans are particularly upset with certain choices made by the creators of the What If…? comic.

What If Miles Morales Became Thor Talking to Crow and saying Straight Fire
Credit: Marvel

**Warning: Some of the following language may not be suitable for younger readers**

The decision by writer Mercado to use the phrases “By Odin’s Fade” and “Asgard is his hood” has been called out as a bad imitation of Black/African-American Vernacular English (AAVE). Similarly, the artists’ choices to show romanticized-yet-stereotypical depictions of minority cultures, communities, and graffitied “urban living”, have been said to perpetuate racist archetypes.

Responding to this controversy, Twitter user @borgposting heavily criticized the writer saying:

miles morales as urban™ thor makes me want comics etc to go back to being outwardly racist

@borgposting continues:

apparently the writer is doubling down against criticisms, saying that miles morales was invented by a white guy. which then i guess makes gross stereotypes & caricatures of black & brown people & their communities okay because a white dude says so

While criticizing the writer, @borgposting also commented on the idea of “wokeness”:

ultimately there is a lot to be said about inclusivity & “wokeness” in the workplace & media, & i have my criticisms when both are applied performatively — especially the latter — but diversity is unequivocally good if it means not putting the words “by odins fade” to ink & paper

User @EvanReadsComics also added to the conversation:

My issue with that Miles Morales-Thor What If story is that it really needed a Black writer. Creating a new Asgard/mythology for a Thor/Miles is a really cool concept that could really honor all aspects of Miles’ afro-latino culture but it stumbles and feels… awkward sometimes.

Miles Morales as Thor walks through Brooklyn Asgard
Credit: Marvel

The page showing the contentious Miles-as-Thor walking around his “hood” of Asgard, arms spread wide to welcome praise from his adoring “urban” public, has received quite a few critiques — particularly in the way “living in the ghetto” is portrayed and romanticized by the creators at Marvel.

Jean G. (@JeanGen09181213) on Twitter criticized this portrayal, saying:

The more I see that image of Thor Miles Morales welcoming “hood Asgard” the angrier I get, because of how tone deaf it is. Living in the ghetto isn’t fun, graffiti isn’t “street art” or murals. It’s dark, dangerous, violent urban decay, and Marvel thinks blk people like that.

It’s a testament to how deeply out-of-touch Marvel is showing themselves to be — that another Twitter user, Megan D. (@MeganDanversOG), noticed the unfortunate rhyme scheme:

IS THAT SUPPOSED TO BE A F-ING RAP?!?!?!

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Yes, Miles Morales is likely rapping, “For all the Five Realms, / Asgard is his hood / For Miles you can see / He’s just that good,” and “But he is low-key / When he wants to be / Name on marquees / Like his Uncle Loki”.

Yes, they rhymed “low-key” with “Loki”.

@OctoY1 pointed out:

I know everyone is talking about “Asgard is his hood” and “By Odin’s Fade” in the Miles Morales Thor comic but let’s not ignore that the writer has him say All Eyes on Me because it’s also the name of a rap album

The fact that this comic passed through multiple eyes at Marvel, with no questions raised — from conception, design, research, and production, all the way through to publication — is frankly quite baffling.

With how beloved and popular the two superhero franchises of Spider-Man and Thor are, it seems like Marvel has missed quite the mark on attempting to merge these two properties.

What If Miles Morales Became Thor holding Graffiti Mjolnir
Credit: Marvel

Marvel in 2022 has genuinely decided to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Spider-Man property — with a questionable rendition of the first-ever Black Spider-Man.

What do you think of this controversy? Do you agree with the fans? Share your thoughts below!

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