Perhaps one of the most interesting things about super heroic fiction is watching how the exploits of some costumed champions impact others. In 2011, Marvel Comics fans got a chance to see how the legacy of the company’s flagship hero, Spider-Man, inspired a Brooklyn-based teenager with special abilities of his own. In the pages of Ultimate Spider-Man, Brian Michael Bendis and Sarah Pichelli introduced the world to Miles Morales, an adolescent with spider-powers who takes up the mantle of Spidey after his world’s version of Peter Parker perishes. In the aftermath of 2015’s multiverse altering Secret Wars event, Miles was brought to the Marvel Universe-proper, where he continues his adventures as Spider-Man with the blessing of the still-living Peter Parker.
With his place in the Marvel Universe now firmly established, the time is right to bring Miles into other worlds and mediums like animation and prose. TAn animated film starring Miles is currently in development, while the recently released YA novel Miles Morales Spider-Man by award winning author Jason Reynolds, brings the hero to the world of prose. CBR spoke with Reynolds about writing the young character, the problems his protagonist faces in the book, and the new villain Miles confronts.
CBR: When did you first discover Miles Morales? What was your immediate reaction to him?
Jason Reynolds: Miles had been sort of in my periphery for a while. I’m definitely a Marvel fan, but I wouldn’t consider myself a hardcore comic fan, though I grew up with an absolute fanatic. My older brother had been talking to me about him, and I remember the rumblings of the whole Donald Glover thing, but I hadn’t really gotten beneath the surface until I signed on to this project. Of course, the deeper I got into the character, the more excited I became, not just because of who Miles already was, but also because of the creative opportunities I saw in him.
What was it like delving into the character of Miles via the medium of prose? Which aspects of his character were you especially interested in exploring?
It was awesome! I mean, that’s my medium. It’s what I’m used to. So to write a Spider-Man novel was super cool because it gave me the space to really layer Miles culturally, and to explore the nuances of his interior self.
Miles lives in a part of New York you know very well, having written about it in several of your novels. His Brooklyn, though, is part of the Marvel Universe. What’s it like writing against that backdrop?
Miles is part of the Marvel Universe, but Brooklyn is Brooklyn. It’s a universe unto itself, as far as I’m concerned. As far as adding other familiar characters… I thought about it. I really did. But I also wanted to distill the story and zoom in as close as possible to who Miles is, without the distraction of any other names. I felt like he deserved that.
What’s your sense of Miles friends and immediate family? Which members of his established supporting cast do you find especially intriguing?
His friends and immediate family basically do what my friends and family do — they’re a grounding mechanism. It’s them that keep Miles, Miles. He’s from a tight-knit family that has expectations of him, as a teenager first. He has a best friend, Ganke, who sees the greatness in him that he sometimes can’t see in himself. So his inner circle serves almost as a satellite superpower.
I’d love to explore Ganke more. There’s just something about him that I really love, and I honestly don’t think he has to have any special power or anything. I just want more of him. Maybe his goofy regularity is what makes him great in this context.
One of the most interesting aspects of Spider-Man as a character is, he’s someone who’s forced to balance both the responsibilities of superheroics and everyday life. Can you talk about how that manifests in your novel? What sorts of obstacles and antagonists will Miles will confront as your story unfolds?
Miles is a junior in high school — that alone presents issues. I mean, he has to navigate insecurity, ideas around masculinity, accountability, first love, familial and community expectation, and on top of all that, education in an elite institution. From the very beginning we see him struggling with trying to figure out how to save people while not getting in trouble in school, because the salvation of an endangered stranger won’t go over well with his parents if he gets expelled. And, of course (teaser), there’s a teacher who likes to make Miles’s life even more difficult than it has to be. That’s all I’ll say.
We talked about established characters from Miles’ comics, but what about new ones? Do you introduce any new characters into Miles’ world with this story? And if so what can you tell us about them?
I don’t want to spoil too much, but I did create my own villain. All I’ll say is, I tried to take a huge issue in America and personify it as an old man. Yes, an old…very old man. And this dude is…wild.
Finally, one of the great things about comic book superheroes is there’s always room for more adventures. So do you have any interest in doing more novels featuring Miles? And do you have any interest in telling stories in the medium Miles originated in? Would you like to write a Marvel comic or perhaps an original graphic novel someday?
Of course. Definitely. And absolutely. But for each of these situations, the pieces to the puzzle have to be right.
I wish I had Miles when I was a kid. And I’m honored and grateful to be part of this new legacy. I still can’t believe it!
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