“Spider-Man: Homecoming” was full of surprises, but perhaps none were bigger than the confirmation that Miles Morales, Marvel Comics’ Spider-Man of African American and Puerto Rican descent, does indeed exist in this new Spider-Man movie universe.
While not mentioned by name, Miles was confirmed by the presence of Donald Glover. Glover plays Aaron Davis, a character confronted by Spider-Man in “Homecoming” after attempting to purchase illegal high-tech weapons from the Vulture’s crew. Davis is known in the Spider-Man comics as a villain called the Prowler — and for being Miles’s uncle.
In his scene with Spider-Man, Glover’s Davis says the magic word when he mentions a family member he tries to look out for: “nephew.” And just like that, we know Miles is out there.
Sony is actually already working on an animated Miles Morales/Spider-Man film (due in theaters Dec. 21, 2018). While that might lead you to believe that a live-action Miles movie isn’t a priority or a possibility, if Lego Batman and Batfleck can exist at the same time, so can a cartoon and live-action Miles.
Tom Holland’s turn in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War,” plus “Homecoming” and its two planned spinoffs, as well as next year’s “Avengers: Infinity War,” means he would spend five movies as Spider-Man. He could be ready to move on to other projects at that point, and if that happens, Miles Morales is the perfect way to keep the Spider-Man movie franchise going without another reboot.
Here’s what Marvel Studios and Sony can do to make the perfect Miles movie.
The path to a live-action Miles Morales movie starts with the Prowler, Miles’s uncle who steals the radioactive spider that gives Miles his spider-powers. The conflict for the first movie could center on Glover initially going into battle against a new Spider-Man that is trying to take him down, not realizing that it’s his nephew. And if the Prowler eventually finds out Miles is Spider-Man, you’ve got instant, vintage family drama for the big screen.
Just like Tony Stark gives Peter Parker his advanced, high-tech Spider-Man suit in “Homecoming,” Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury can be the one to give Miles his black and red suit; it’s exactly how Miles got his super-duds in “Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man” No. 5. Fury is also the most high-profile black hero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Black Panther pending) and should be there to pass the torch to the next generation.
3. Get a talented black actor to play Miles’s father, who can go head-to-head against Glover’s Prowler.
The only bad part about Sterling K. Brown being cast in “Black Panther” is that he’s already in the MCU and can’t be in two places at once — he would’ve been perfect as Miles’s father, Jefferson Davis. But there are plenty of other great black actors who can come in and play the role of a father who pushes away his criminal past to give his son a better life — including trying to keep Miles away from his uncle. Glover has already put his swag all over the Prowler with just a tiny bit of screen time, so the role of Jefferson needs to be played by someone who can stare down that star power.
Miles’s mother is Puerto Rican. Get a Puerto Rican actress to play her. It seems simple enough, but Hollywood frequently overlooks cultural backgrounds in Latino roles, casting Puerto Ricans as Cubans (“One Day at a Time”), Venezuelans as Panamanians (“Hands of Stone”) and African Americans as Dominicans (“Shaft,” “21 Jump Street,” SNL). Call J-Lo. Call Rosie Perez. Or do a casting call for unknown Puerto Rican actresses in New York. But honor Miles’s heritage by casting a Puertorriqueña in the role of Rio Morales.
The MCU has done a better job of Afro-Latino representation than leading Spanish-speaking media networks, Univision and Telemundo. Zoe Saldana (“Guardians of the Galaxy”) and Tessa Thompson (“Thor: Ragnarok”) already have key MCU roles, which gives us hope that Marvel Studios can find the right Afro-Latino to play Miles. That being said: They shouldn’t cast a Dominican as Miles and think they’ve done a good job.
6. Find a real, half African American, half Puerto Rican kid to play Miles.
Believe it or not, kids from an African American/Puerto Rican mix do exist, from the person writing this story to countless others. (There may be as many African American/Puerto Rican kids in New York as there are places to eat pizza). It’s not a comic-book fantasy. Miles is out there. You just have to find him.
If he’s good enough to be Spider-Man, Miles should be able to answer the call when the Avengers assemble as well.