Miles Morales has been one of Marvel’s most popular, game-changing characters since he first debuted in August 2011. The Afro-Latinx Spider-Man from Marvel’s Ultimate Universe is an inspiration to millions of fans and he became even bigger with the success of the 2018 Oscar-winning animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. As Marvel plans a big rollout to celebrate Spidey’s 60th anniversary, one of its more interesting concepts has been a series of Miles Morales What If…? stories featuring the character as other heroes. Unfortunately, the book starring Miles as Thor has been the subject of criticism for including racist stereotypes.
According to Screen Rant, What If...Miles Morales Became Thor? #4, written by Yehudi Mercado and illustrated by Luigi Zagaria, shows Miles living on a version of Asgard that looks more like Brooklyn than the paradise we normally see. There’s graffiti on the buildings, shoes hanging from telephone lines and cars pulled by goats. Really!? So a Black Thor isn’t allowed to live in a gold-covered, gorgeously perfect Asgard?
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Miles’ dialogue is full of ridiculous and insensitive stereotypes that don’t sound anything like the character. His hammer, Mjolnir, is also covered in graffiti and when he uses it, he yells “Hammer Time!” Come on people, that’s just stupid. And during Miles’ opening narration, we get the line, “Of all the five realms, Asgard is his hood.” In case you’re not familiar with Miles Morales, he doesn’t talk like this.
The reason Miles was such an instant hit was that he was just a normal, awkward teenager who wanted to help people. Like every other Black person, he talks like a regular human being, not a weird Blaxploitation caricature.
While the stories featuring Miles as Captain America, Wolverine, and the Incredible Hulk were written by Black writers, this is the first book that wasn’t—and it shows.
Of course, this mess led the internet to do what it does best and take Marvel to task for its completely avoidable racism. One user commented, “EVERYTIME I REREAD THIS MILES MORALES COMIC, I FIND MORE FUCKED UP SHIT WHAT THE HELL. WHY DID ANYBODY APPROVE THIS. ARE THERE NO BLACKS AT MARVEL?”
It’s a valid question. Comic books go through several layers of editing, so the idea that this story went through all those departments and no one seemingly found anything wrong is extremely troubling.
Another tweet read, “Nah bro. That new WHAT IF Miles Morales as Thor is lowkey— no HIGHKEY RACIST AS HELL. Gross as stereotypes. ‘Asgard is the hood’ ‘By Odin’s Fade’ ‘Graffiti thor hammer.’”
Miles Morales is such an important character to fans, that this disrespect feels personal. The fact that these stereotypes are so outdated and over the top makes it obvious that there was no one with the power to speak up about how bad this all is. Now we’ll get apologies and statements about “diversity and inclusion,” as well as how Marvel will “do better” in the future. How about you just don’t do it in the first place. It’s really not that hard to not be racist.