Boosted by the box-office smash Into the Spider-Verse, Miles Morales is the current star of the Marvel universe. In many ways it's fitting because, alongside characters like Kamala Kahn (Ms. Marvel), Spider-Gwen, Sam Alexander (Nova), and Laura Kinney (Wolverine), Miles represents the new generation of Marvel. Saladin Ahmed, hot on the heels of his work on Exiles and the critically acclaimed Black Bolt, has been charged with giving voice to that generation with Miles Morales: Spider-Man, now on its second issue, and the Magnificent Ms. Marvel, which is set to debut in March.
On both books, Ahmed is taking over for two longstanding writers and creators, Brian Michael Bendis and G. Willow Wilson, who co-created Miles Morales and Kamala Khan, respectively. A science fiction and fantasy writer, Ahmed penned several short stories and the award-winning book Throne of the Crescent Moon before making the jump to comics with the series Black Bolt in 2017. The Eisner Award-winning book showcased Ahmed's talent for writing interpersonal relationships, creating menacing villains and provided an inspired look into a character who has been around for more than half a century.
As Ahmed takes over on Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel, he says he's hoping to bring both characters back to basics, providing an entry point for a new generation of Marvel readers while keeping fans interested with old foes, new challenges, and a few darker surprises. This week, Ahmed told SYFY WIRE about his plans for Miles Morales, how reality fits into his scripts, and how comic books helped him learn to read.
Can you talk about how you got into comics as a kid?
I essentially learned how to read from comic books and Dungeons and Dragons. I was kind of a working-class kid in a factory town, growing up in an immigrant community and didn't have a ton of great formal schooling around me. But, I read comics religiously. It was Marvel, in particular, that was my wheelhouse. I had DC guys that I liked but I was a pretty hardcore Marvel fanboy as a kid.
I went on to do a lot of different things that involved the written word. Teaching, writing fiction, writing poetry, publishing essays in fancy places and I eventually wrote a fantasy novel. That was the basis for Marvel approaching me and when they came to me about Black Bolt, it felt full circle and was an instant "yes" for me. When I started writing comics, I took to the form quickly. I had stalled in my fiction writing and comics kind of opened the floodgates again and I started busting out scripts. It's been surprising to people who think its brand new to me but it's because I have decades of loving this medium, thinking about this medium and connecting with this medium. Now I'm finally creating in it and it feels great.
You saw Into the Spider-Verse. What did you think?
I did see it. I thought it was a blast. I deliberately avoided any access to early materials while I was writing the first few issues because I just wanted to do my own thing. I also wanted to see it fresh with my kids. They did an early release here in Detroit a week before it came out and I went with my kids. It was amazing and intimidating. I walked out of there being like 'Well I guess this is the bar for Miles. It was a bit stressful but ultimately invigorating.
The first issue of Spider-Man is very current, with its use of immigration issues as a plot device. Can you talk about that?
To me, the challenge of writing for Marvel in general — I think Spider-Man is the epitome of this, especially Miles as a 21st century Spider-Man — is that Marvel has always been a place where there's been a productive tension between telling entertaining pop stories that are escapist and fun and addressing the reality around us. For me, the genius of Marvel for decades has been combining those things and looking at how they work together and not being afraid to do that.
Miles is going to tangle with some issues that today's teenagers tangle with. It would be a disservice to write a 21st-century teenager who wasn't wrangling with all of this stuff. Immigration and deportation and detention are things that are happening to people, especially in Brooklyn where there are large immigrant communities.
It would sort of being sticking one's head in the sand to have Miles not deal with that. That said, it will always be in a way that's is kind of Marvel bombastic and exciting and still fun. It's a tension but I think people will see in these first couple issues the blueprint we're doing. Cap will become involved and it's going to be fun.
What did you want to do with Miles after taking over from Bendis?
Of course, Bendis is a tremendous writer and casts a long shadow. What [artist] Javier Garron and I are trying to do with the look, themes and orientation of the book is sort of put Miles back to basics and start to tell a fresh new story with this character. We want to give readers a new access point and at the same time hopefully satisfy those folks who have been with him.
Now, he's getting more and more exposure. Those folks will be excited by the first issue but it's also important to make these characters bigger than one creator. We love Peter Parker's story and Batman's stories because lots of different people have been able to bring different perspectives to these characters and reinterpret the archetypes. That's what I see my job as.
Please talk about your work with artist Javier Garron on the new Spider-Man book.
He's amazing. When he was floated as a possible artist — I dug his superhero stuff, the Ant-Manand the Wasp stuff — I didn't know how good he'd be at capturing the teenage part of this book. I didn't know how good he was at capturing the human acting side, which is the thing about Spider-Man. One issue you could have a big slap down fight for pages and pages and the next issue you'd have someone getting yelled at by a relative or someone screwing up a date. You have to be able to tell all of those stories in the art and Javier is on top of it. He also understands clothes more than me, which is super important when you're writing a teenage book. We've got a lot of love for the fashion already and it's made me very happy.
Where does Miles Morales fit into the Marvel Universe?
Miles is sort of, along with Kamala Khan, (Ms. Marvel) the face of the new generation of Marvel, to my mind. He's a classic Spider-Man in a lot of ways. A lot of the things we've found compelling about Peter Parker's story are true of Miles' story. But, he's a new updating of the Spider-Man story with a different face and name. Brooklyn rather than Queens, and he's sort of a 21st century Marvel superhero par excellence.
Without spoiling anything, can you tease a bit of what's in store for Miles?
Issue two just came out. So, we have a big guest star in that Captain America will be around for issue two and three. It's been a joy writing Steve and Miles as these different generations of superheroes, examining their responsibility and decency, and interacting.
After the first arc, we have a lot of different flavors coming at you. We wanted to have some issues feel very different but also feel like a cohesive whole. Issue #4, Miles' day off, skipping school and trying to stay a step ahead of the vice principal. After that though, we get into a darker arc. There will be some familiar Spidey villains but also some fresh new folks that will be Miles' alone.