Bendis Unpacks Miles Morales’ Life-Changing “Spider-Man” #2, Seeds “Civil War”

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Bendis Unpacks Miles Morales’ Life-Changing “Spider-Man” #2, Seeds “Civil War”

SPOILER WARNING: The following interview contains major spoilers for “Spider-Man” #2, on sale now.

The end of Marvel Comics’ line-wide “Secret Wars” event changed Miles Morales’ life forever. He and his family became part of the new “Earth Prime” Marvel Universe, a world where his mother was still alive and Miles and the original Web-Slinger, Peter Parker, both operate as Spider-Man. Unbeknownst to him, that big change was just the first domino in a string of changes that would climax in a tumultuous day. The day in question found him impressing his mentor and the Avengers; battling a demon; his skin color being outed to the public and discussed; and having his first encounter with a woman who could potentially be his greatest nemesis, his maternal grandmother.

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These comprised the first two issues of the new “Spider-Man” ongoing series by Miles’ co-creators, writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli, and are of course not the only hits coming his way. CBR News spoke with Bendis about the events of “Spider-Man” #2, Miles’ coming conflict with the new queenpin of crime, the Black Cat, and how everything thus far is all setting up the writer’s upcoming “Civil War II” event.

CBR News: Brian, one of the highlights of “Spider-Man” #2 is the interaction between Miles and Peter, but I was curious about this taking place after “Secret Wars.” Does Peter remember their adventures together during “Spider-Men” and “Spider-Verse?”

Brian Michael Bendis: They remember everything, but people wanted to know, “Well, where are they? What’s their deal?” There’s about 16 months that we haven’t seen with these characters. We skip eight months ahead for “Secret Wars.” Then we skip eight months ahead again after “Secret Wars.” That’s about a year and half we weren’t with the characters, which is interesting. So the number one question is what’s their deal? And this is where they left off.

Peter gave him the thumbs up to be Spider-Man, but now the world has gotten more complicated and they’re in each other’s businesses, and Peter has more complicated feelings about it.

So in this issue you gave us a flashback to the day Peter gave him his seal of approval?

Yeah, in “Spider-Men,” and I thought Sara did an excellent job of recreating the moment from what would be Miles’ more innocent point of view. She drew that scene very differently. In the scene Miles is more of anime style super cute character and more innocent.

Yeah, it reminded me of the sort of Japanese style super deformed caricatures that we often saw on the “Ultimate Spider-Man” animated series.

Yeah, and it’s funny because I don’t think Sara has seen that. In the script I did say, “If you have another style in you let’s do these flashbacks in a different style.” She did it in this cutesy style and as soon as I saw it I was like, “Oh, that looks like the cartoon!” I’m not sure if she ever saw the cartoon though.

It was so cool to see her do that because her usual style is really sort of detailed and realistic, and here she is doing sort of the opposite with this fun, animated, distorted style and she’s hitting it out of the park as well.

Even though I try desperately not to do those “30 Rock”-style cutaway gags, because everyone is doing them, it makes it very hard not to do them when you know they’re going to be that cute.

After the flashback, Blackheart comes back for round two and Miles takes him out in spectacular fashion. Can you talk more about what happened there? Is this the Blackheart we’re used to or is there something else going on?

It is the Blackheart we’re used to, but it’s not the Spider-Man he’s used to. I thought it showed Miles on pure instinct. I wanted a pure, instinctual win for him. I wanted him to be completely overwhelmed by what was going on and completely in the moment. He doesn’t let being overwhelmed get a hold of him. He has a genuine win. It just happens to be in front of his peers or soon to be peers. Then he goes home and freaks out.

In the moment he handled it, and I will flat out admit this happened to me more as a parent than it ever did as a young man, but I think we’ve all been in that situation where something dangerous happens, you get through it, you go home, you think about what happened, and then you start to cry, shake, or throw up. It will be something like my kid will tumble down the stairs, oh my god! I catch them. They’re fine. Everything is okay. Then I leave the room and pant from fear. In the moment you got to be strong though.

I feel that a lot in the world and I think for super heroes this would the case. You’re in the moment, and you’re having it. Then later you get to come home and go, “WOOOGHH!”

It looked like part of the reason Miles is able to take Blackheart out is his venom blast power.

Yeah, the venom blasts against a demon is something I wanted to explore. Do different kinds of organisms react differently to his venom blasts? That’s something we’re going to have some fun with and build with down the line.

It is an untested power. How do you test it? Is it, “Okay, let’s line up five demons and see which one goes down?” No, only in the field will you figure this out.

He’s also got the camouflage. There’s things that he does that are different than Peter Parker and I kind of want to accentuate that. Now, I already got an e-mail tonight from somebody in England who gets their comics a day early bitching to me, and I was given this a little bit in the last volume too, that some people don’t like when Miles wins a fight with his venom blast. They think it’s bullshit.

That’s like saying you’re mad because Thor won a fight with his hammer. I don’t understand that criticism. He has a tool and he used it. It’s not like the readers didn’t know he could do it. We’ve known since the character’s first appearance. So I’m calling bullshit on people calling bullshit on this particular thing. It’s a very weird criticism.

Just because you’re not used to this Spider-Man doing something doesn’t mean that this Spider-Man can’t. He can. It’s legitimate. It’s something spiders do. Both these new things are researched things that spiders do and we’ll see how they work for Miles. There’s another power he has from the last volume, the super venom blast, that he’s only used once, and doesn’t even know how to conjure again. We’ll be getting to that too.

As you mentioned, Miles wins Peter back over by defeating Blackheart. He makes a pretty big impression on the Avengers as well. Is this the battle that won him his spot on the “All-New All-Different Avengers?”

Yeah, me and Mark Waid connected about where these beats were going to be, and Mark wanted to dive in head first with them all together. So I was like, “Great! I’ll do the beat where they go, ‘Oh! This kid is an up and comer! He could be a franchise player.'”

Bendis Says “Spider-Man” Will Explore Race and Media Issues

We already talked about Miles’ reaction to fighting a demon, but when he gets home he also has a reaction the video Ganke plays for him of a vlogger expressing her excitement over Miles’ ethnicity. It seems like Miles wants to be known more for his actions and not the color of his skin, while Ganke wonders why the attention is bothering him. Can you talk more about the perspectives in this scene?

Yes, there were two elements of race that were easily the most requested things to be addressed. No one asked me to address them in any particular way, just that they be addressed. Number one was: how will Miles’ race differentiate him from the other heroes and in particularly Spider-Man? Here we go with this.

It wasn’t based on something that happened in comics, but as I was putting it together I realized it was happening in the comics industry as well. There are certain creators who are of an ethnicity or a sexuality that wear it on their sleeves and they want you to know “I am this and a comics creator.” I’m just using the comics industry as an example, but you can literally do any business or walk of life. Let’s just talk about the comics industry though because I think most people reading this will have a small understanding of what I’m talking about.

For example, and a very broad example, There are some creators that go, “I’m a woman and I’m a creator. I’m Black and I’m a creator. I’m gay and I’m a creator. I want you to know that’s who I am.” There are other creators who just want to be creators, “I want my work to speak for who I am, and everything else is none of your business. I don’t want to be part of whatever agendas are floating out there. I don’t want to be co-opted by an agenda. I don’t want to be part of an agenda.”

As a Jewish man I have an interesting take on this because I wear my Judaism very strongly because as I’ve said in the past if anyone has a problem with Judaism I’d like to know now, and not later. [Laughs] So I’m not surprised later. I can see people making lists of Jewish comic creators or gay comic creators. That’s always weird. First of all, not to quote funny people but, don’t put Jews on lists. We don’t like it.

I work with a lot of creators though from many different walks of life. And all of them have a very different thing they want out of this part of their life. I work with female creators who want to fully empower the world because of this, and I work with female creators who absolutely don’t want any part of the story. They just want their work to speak for themselves, and they don’t want to do anything to alter the perception of the work with someone else’s agenda.

So here’s a young man, Miles, who is having other people discuss his skin color and he doesn’t know how he thinks about that. He’s like, “What does that matter?” And I was part of a conversation with some people of a generation younger than me where this conversation happened. It was like, “No, I want what I do to represent who I am. My skin is not your business.” It’s right there though you can’t help but see the skin. That just seemed like Miles to me. I said, “This is the road I’d like to go down with Miles.”

The first person to comment on his skin liked him more because his skin was brown and that’s kind of weirder than someone not liking him because his skin is brown. It’s like, “What’s that? Why do you like me more? I don’t understand what that is.” So it’s something to talk about for many issues to come.

His first reaction is “What is that?” And I live in a house where people are confronted with their race all the time and seeing different relationships to it with different people. It’s a very complicated subject. It’s something I would like to reflect, and thankfully with an ongoing comic you can reflect on it from many different angles. This will be the first one.

But I’m a White guy, should I be writing about this stuff? I am Jewish and part of an empowered multi-racial household and I have been called names my entire life. people think because I’m “White” that I haven’t had racism in my life but that’s pretty misinformed. I’m White, but I’m Jewish. And to racists, Jewish is a race. As the Ku Klux Klan often say, “African-Americans are animals but the Jews are the Devil.” So even among hate groups us Jews always shoot to number one. Yay us!

In issue #2, Miles asks a question, a question many of us have asked. He’s young and he is trying to figure it out. In my opinion, it is story and character appropriate. I knew some would read into it. I knew it would be interpreted by others because it’s a good question with no easy answer.

Miles also brought up the fact that he’s not just African-American, he’s Hispanic as well.

Yes! Nice segue way there, buddy! [Laughs] Because here comes the second part where he’ll see his Latino side start to pour into his life, and lo and behold here comes what will be his greatest nemesis, his Doc Ock, his grandmother — who is a hurricane of attitude and fully based on someone in my life. I cannot wait to explore this further.

So this was a character you’ve been planning for a while?

Absolutely. I’ve literally had her in my pocket for years. It was just a question of when will I be able to get to her? It was just that there was always these other stories to tell, and it seemed that right here was the perfect time, especially with Miles’ mother frustrated with him for the first time. We get a sense that Miles has always been a good kid. So as soon as the good kid goes off the rails even a little bit, and even though it’s not a disaster in comparison to some other kids his age get into, it’s a disaster for Rio. So Rio would call in the experts; that would be tough love Grandma.

It’s interesting to see the sort of family dynamic here because you’d almost expect Miles dad, Jefferson, to be the disciplinarian, but here Rio is bringing in another family member to play that role.

It’s almost not fair to the mom because the son and the father have a secret that they’re, as of right now, keeping from the mother. So it’s not like he’s not been a disciplinarian. He just has wider understanding of what Miles is going through, which in the great tradition of comics super powers are a metaphor for. There are some families where one parent knows a little more about what their kid is going through than the other does for what ever reason. The mother may know a little bit more of what the son or daughter is going through. “Please don’t tell dad.” Or dad knows. “Don’t tell mom. I’m not ready yet.”

The super powers are the secret that Miles and his father share. So he understands why Miles isn’t, at face value, at his best right now. So he’s going to help him the best way he can. I don’t want to spoil anything, but Miles’ father hates his mother-in-law. Not in the traditional sitcom way, but in a real holy crap way. So we’ll get to see that all next issue.

What I did promise you last time when we talked is that every issue will be opening up Miles’ world and his world view more and more. In the third issue, coming very soon, Bombshell will be appearing. Ms. Marvel will be appearing. We’ll get a better sense of Miles’ place with his whole family.

While we’re on the topic of characters that will be appearing, I wanted to go back to the vlogger, Danika Hart. Will we see more of her? And do you have any interest in using J. Jonah Jameson in “Spider-Man?”

Yes, you’ll absolutely see Danika again. And as far as Jameson, I’m interested in using everything. One of the biggest struggles you have as a writer is you want to touch all the toys. From the day you get here to the day you leave you’ll want to touch everything, but you have to be judicious and you have to be thoughtful. You also have to make sure you’re not just touching things to touch them. You want them to fit organically into a story. Now Miles’ world would be more involved with Youtube, blogs, and media associated with his peer group than Peter’s would be. So I think that’s a better way to go.

I also think as much stuff as we can create that is purely Miles makes things better for Miles. There is going to be crossover. “Spider-Man” is a legacy book and that’s an important part of Miles’ life. We should be careful though. So if I wake up tomorrow and go, “Oh my god I know what to do with Jonah and Miles!” I would absolutely do it.

“Spider-Man” #2 also gave us a hint that Miles has caught the attention of one of New York’s newest and most powerful crime bosses, the Black Cat

Yes! And again, it’s very funny because I had raised my hand for the Black Cat in her new status quo early on; before “Secret Wars” was even announced.

I know what’s going on with her right now is controversial with some Spider-Fans so we’ll see what people think of what we do with her.

What do you find most interesting about Felicia Hardy’s new status quo as a crime boss?

I wrote a lot of Felicia in “Ultimate Spider-Man,” but that Ultimate version was a character we almost created from scratch. It was the best parts of the classic Black Cat. I did enjoy writing her, and probably my favorite joke of “Ultimate Spider-Man” was when Peter finally in what could only be described as hormonal dizziness pulls off his mask to make out with the Black Cat and she pukes on him because he’s particularly sweaty and pimply that day. So not only is he a teenager — he’s really teenagery! It’s not pretty, and I believe she barfs right on his crotch if I’m not mistaken. So I was very proud of that. [Laughs]

Now Sara did a great Black Cat in “Ultimate Spider-Man” — the first storyline I did with her was the Black Cat. It just fit everything she does well: character acting, costume design, and everything like that.

That was one of the reasons why I wanted her. Then there was that extra added bonus that Dan Slott gave her with her new status quo. It relieves me of creating a kingpin character for Miles, which is my soft spot. I’ll even admit that it’s one of my weak spots as a writer that I always need a kingpin. Gangster kingpins are just something I like and can relate to. So having her gifted to me in the kingpin role was a relief, but their relationship is going to be very different. As a writer, I tasked myself to not repeat any of the kingpin beats I’ve done in the past in “Daredevil” or “Ultimate Spider-Man.” This will be a very different scenario and relationship.

Also, as we’ll discover in the next issue the Black Cat literally says these words out loud, “I’m going to run this differently than Wilson Fisk did because it never actually worked out that well for him. Let’s try some new things.” So she’s trying a new playbook as I, the writer, am trying a new playbook for this scenario.

Felicia’s organization is growing larger and larger, but Spidey readers know there’s another Spider character undercover in it, Silk. Is there any chance we’ll see her and Miles cross paths?

Not right away. Down the road. Not to spoil anything that hasn’t been brought up, but some stuff has to happen in that book first. There have been a lot of conversations among different Spider writers about certain team-ups and certain get togethers — and maybe even hook ups.” From “Silk” all the way to “Spider-Gwen” there have been all kinds of conversations back and forth and we’ll see in the monthly books and the events going forward how things shake out. Because you really want a romantic hook up or a team-up to happen organically.

So we’ve had preliminary conversations about who’s open to what and which writers are open to having whatever kind of fun we can have with this. We’ll see what clicks. So no promises.

Marvel Says Death of High-Profile Hero Ignites “Civil War II”

Finally, is “Spider-Man” #2 another issue where once “Civil War II” breaks out readers will be able to go back and see the clues that led to the event and Miles’ role in the story?

100 percent! I was fully aware of “Civil War II” and Miles’ relationship to it before I started this book. So I was able to in this, “Iron Man,” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” seed well. Some things were seeded very subtly, and there are some things where you’ll go, “Oh! It was right there in front of me!”

The real benefit of being exclusive and knowing you got the gig is that you can really dig in a little deeper than other writers can do. You can plant seeds and have bigger pay offs. “Secret Invasion” was a rare occasion where I knew I had the job and I could plan for years and uncover all my cards when the time was right. So although there are no secret Skrulls floating around this storyline there are elements, story, and motivations that will carry through to the bigger “Civil War.”

When the War starts obviously Iron Man and Captain Marvel are going to be fighting front and center. So we’ll be paying attention to Tony and Carol, but as the story opens up Miles and some of the younger heroes become a big part of it and when we see what their place is you’re going to go, “Oh Man!” I do promise that Miles is a big part of it in a very unique way.

One of the frequently asked questions on my Tumblr is, “Are you going to reveal Miles’ identity like they did with Peter in the first one?” I’m very proud that we’re not doing any of the beats from the first one. It’s very exciting and big stuff happens. There are life and death situations, but it’s not just a sequel that repeats a bunch of beats that literally any one can do. We’ve gone out of our way to create a new situation. So there will be a big Spider-Man element in “Civil War II,” but what happens to Miles and what happened to Peter are going to be two different things.

I think what people are getting a sense of at the end of “Spider-Man” #2 is that #1 and #2 were kind of like a double-sized first issue. A lot happened, and in that we get to find out what Miles starting place in the Marvel Universe is. What his relationship to almost everyone in his life is including his family, Peter Parker, school, and Ganke. Now we’re off to the races. Now Miles’ point of view is different than Peters’ and his relationship to the world is different than Peter’s. The racial component of his life is included both at home and publicly and we are off and running. I’m curious to see what people think of it.

“Spider-Man” #3 is scheduled for release April 6; “Civil War II” #1 debuts June 1 from Marvel Comics.