For a certain subset of Marvel Comics fans, Miles Morales just is Spider-Man. The Afro-Latino kid from Brooklyn, created by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli in 2011, has proven so popular in the years since his debut that he's already starred in an Oscar-winning film, is about to get his own video game, and has crossed over from the Ultimate Marvel Universe into the main Marvel Universe, where he headlines his own solo book. Miles is the very model of a successful legacy character in a comic book universe, but there was a time when Marvel Comics considered stripping him of his legacy superhero name altogether.
According to a new report from Business Insider — which outlines concerns over a lack of editorial diversity at Marvel Comics as the publisher promises a greater focus on inclusion — there was a point amid some editorial reshuffling three years ago that Marvel considered giving Miles a new superhero code name. In 2017, amid concerns over lagging sales, Marvel editorial reportedly launched an initiative that explored "phas[ing] out" more common, legacy superhero names for its younger, more diverse characters, and replacing them with new code names. Marvel confirmed to Business Insider that this initiative did, at one point, include discussions of removing the title "Spider-Man" from Miles Morales and giving him a different superhero name.
"It would have made him less important," Charles Beacham, a former assistant editor at Marvel who addressed the diversity concerns in the story, said. "He becomes Spider-Man with an asterisk. It takes away the power for kids who relate to this character."
Marvel, of course, did not change Miles' code name. He remains Spider-Man to this day, and along with Ms. Marvel Kamala Khan remains one of the most popular characters to emerge from the new push for diversity that swept through Marvel Comics in the early and mid-2010s. Business Insider's report notes that the discussions of name changes came after Marvel Senior Vice President of Sales David Gabriel gave an interview in the spring of 2017 in which he claimed the company's dip in sales meant "people didn't want any more diversity."
"That's what we heard, whether we believe that or not," Gabriel said at the time. "I don't know that that's really true, but that's what we saw in sales. We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against. That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.”
That same year, editor-in-chief Axel Alonso — who'd overseen much of the diversity push — left the company and was replaced by new EIC C.B. Cebulski. Though many major changes from the Alonso era — including Jane Foster as Thor and Sam Wilson as Captain America — have since faded from the forefront, they leave a lasting impact on fans, particularly on the film and television side. Sam Wilson is set to pick up the shield in the Disney+ series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, while Jane Foster will be The Mighty Thor in Taika Waititi's upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder. For some fans, it's natural that these changes would eventually be somehow reversed in Marvel Comics continuity, but some things were built to last. Thankfully, Miles Morales as Spider-Man seems to be one of those things.