Today any observer of Marvel's multimedia empire would acknowledge Miles Morales as a key part of the larger ecosystem. The breakout star of 2018's Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse film and titular protagonist in the recently-released Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales game for PlayStation, this modern-day webslinger has made his mark.
However, when Miles first debuted in 2011's Ultimate Fallout #4, assuming the Spider-Man mantle of the Ultimate Universe in the wake of that imprint's Peter Parker making the supreme sacrifice, co-creator Brian Michael Bendis had more modest ambitions: "In the beginning it was just about trying to find truth in this new character and trying to see if we could do the impossible which is replace someone as beloved, and not commercially broken, as Peter Parker with someone else," explains the writer. "Someone who you hope will be a delightful surprise and not the opposite.
"The Marvel Universe is this living breathing organism and you can just tell [when] things are working and when things aren't. Miles [worked] and the audience really responded. I was delightfully surprised. I remain surprised."
For the first four years of his existence, Miles continued to occupy his own corner first in Ultimate Comics Spider-Man and then in Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man, both written by Bendis with art from the character's initial designer Sara Pichelli and later David Marquez. Morales met the mainline Marvel Universe's Peter Parker in Bendis and Pichelli's 2012 Spider-Men limited series, paving the way for a relationship fans would embrace on the page as well as in films and games. The reality-shifting Secret Wars event of 2015 included a sizable role for Miles and, with the collapsing of the Ultimate Universe, the integration of a second Spider-Man into a world that included the Avengers and company.
"When we decided that Secret Wars would be a good point to bring the Ultimate Universe to a close, we had a conversation about what unique elements of that world we might want to migrate over to the prime Marvel Universe, and Miles was always at the head of the list," verifies Marvel executive editor Tom Brevoort. "He was pretty much the most successful character in terms of audience engagement of any of the new characters created in the Ultimate U. So finding a way to maintain him even after putting the rest of that continuity to bed was a key objective."
"I was actually going to leave the book before that happened and had tendered notice," recounts Bendis of his plans prior to Miles' move. "Then I heard how important Miles was to Secret Wars and how the plan was to move him into the Marvel Universe proper as Spider-Man. That was never on the table before. That would be insane for me to even think of. Once I heard the plan I told Marvel that maybe I was reconsidering quitting and they said, 'Yeah, we weren't even thinking about you quitting.'
"I thought if there was ever going to be a blowback on Miles it was going to be then. That's when he was taking the more traditional role of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man in the Marvel Universe proper, while Peter Parker was taking a more Bruce Wayne/Tony Stark track. But all the pieces just moved in the right direction, Miles was ready to take the main stage, so was the audience. I think Miles' observations about the already existing Marvel Universe was part of his appeal. It was like Harry Potter discovering the world of magic. It was already there for him to discover. We are with him."
In addition to leading the simply-titled Spider-Man series from Bendis coming out of Secret Wars, Miles also made his way onto the Mark Waid-written All-New, All-Different Avengers, joining Earth's Mightiest Heroes alongside the new Ms. Marvel as well as the Sam Alexander incarnation of Nova.
"It was [series] editor Tom Brevoort's idea and I thought it was a good one," notes Waid. "Miles, in particular, was a lot of fun to work with. His relentlessly upbeat spirit paired well with Nova's sometimes-more-cynical attitudes, and it's always nice to have an Avenger whose sense of wide-eyed wonder at it all can serve as a reader's surrogate, exposed to the team's history, awe, and majesty."
"We really liked the idea of graduating our ‘Big Three' teen characters to Avengers status, making them significant players in the Marvel U—and it was really fun, honestly, to have a team of largely legacy characters navigating what it meant to be, genuinely, the All-New, All-Different Avengers," echoes editor Alanna Smith, who helped helm All-New, All-Different Avengers. "In a way, it put characters like Jane Foster as Thor and Sam Wilson as Cap on equal footing with Ms. Marvel, Nova, and Miles, despite their ages. They were all trying to live up to a towering legacy together, both as individuals and as a team."
"Our intention with that iteration of Avengers was to build a team that was a bridge between the old and the new," adds Brevoort. "In my mind, it was very much like the [Marv] Wolfman and [George] Perez New Teen Titans, where they kept a number of key older characters and matched them up with a bunch of interesting new characters. Miles, Kamala, and Nova were all young characters that had made an impact, and so bringing them into Avengers helped to make the statement that these kids represented the future of the Marvel U.
"I actually regret that we pivoted away from that Avengers line-up into Champions as quickly as we did—I think there was a whole lot more untapped potential there that we could have drilled down to but never quite got the chance to."
Indeed when Waid broke up his Avengers roster in the wake of Bendis' own Civil War II event, Miles migrated over to the new Champions series with his youthful compatriots. The new ongoing title provided a further spotlight for Marvel's youth movement and cemented the dynamic the new Spider-Man had with characters like Kamala Khan
"I love that Kamala and Miles kind of came out of the same Marvel and are seen in such lovely light," relates Bendis. "Both characters were created with a lot of love almost at the same time. We immediately started playing with what the relationship would be. I immediately thought that Miles would be gaga over her and [Ms. Marvel's co-creator] G. Willow [Wilson] made it clear that the affection would not be reciprocated and I thought that was fantastic. That was a high school scenario I could relate to."
"Characters leave teams all the time, but when Miles left the Avengers along with Ms. Marvel and Nova, there was no way they were going to just drift apart—they'd been through too much together, and their bonds and shared moral convictions led them to start the Champions," continues Smith, who would follow the trio to their new home as an editor.
"Even as we've shifted and expanded the roster over the years, in my mind it always comes down to Miles, Sam, and Kamala and the love and respect they have for one another. They've been through some rough stuff but I think they'll always find their way back to each other. And Miles has always been a good person to have in that trio—he's not afraid to lovingly tell his friends when they're wrong, which I think is one of his best qualities."
Still a linchpin of the recently relaunched Champions book written by Eve Ewing, Miles Morales has become a cornerstone of the Marvel Universe. Among the most recognized and beloved icons in a crowded scene of heroes, this Spider-Man has exceeded the expectations of even the man who conceived him as a concept nearly a decade ago.
"When I left Marvel [in 2017], I told anyone who cared or wanted the advice that I would really appreciate if they moved on from where I was with everything," reflects Bendis. "I didn't want them to spin the same wheels over and over as sometimes happens with characters that are well-liked. But I knew that Miles was different from other Marvel characters because he was growing and changing, actively, and I wanted the new creators to really try to embrace that.
"And I've been deeply spoiled. From books, film, video games, and on. Every single creator who has added to the Miles legacy has done so by bringing a lot of truth and sometimes painful truth from their lives into his. It all fits in beautifully and it feeds a character to such higher levels."