I hope this letter finds you well, especially in light of Marvel’s recent announcement that they would be merging your Ultimate universe with the standard 616 universe into something called Battleworld, which sounds more like a post-apocalyptic movie from the 1980s. Of course, this announcement brings with it questions about your existence. What happens to you in Battleworld? Unfortunately, I doubt the outcome will be good. And, for that, I am sorry.
I was talking with my friend, Rhys, about the announcement shortly after it was made, and I mentioned that I had severe doubts that you would survive the experience. He asked if your death had been confirmed, and I replied that it hadn’t. Maybe it’s the cynic in me, though, because I do believe wholeheartedly that it’s coming. Peter Parker is one of Marvel’s golden boys, and he always has been, and there is no way they’re going to give him up, or let him down, or turn around and desert him. He has a longer history, and he’s much more well-known to Spider-Man fans, and because of that, it makes more business sense to keep him around and let you go. And, I for one, think that’s a dang shame.
For starters, you are necessary. It isn’t that Peter Parker isn’t necessary, but he’s old and overcooked. We’ve followed Peter Parker’s crappy life for over fifty years now, and he’s tired, and done. You, however, present new stories to tell, as you learn and grow and deal with your own past, present, and future. I think it’s a shame that we’ll never get to see those stories. Because, you ultimately represent a stronger voice, and one that is sorely needed in comics. There have been some amazing black and latino characters in comic book history, but we need more. Diversity is always a good thing in any medium, because your experience, your world, your life, your truth is so much different than mine. And that is why you are so important, because you speak to those with similar experiences in a way that Peter Parker will never be able to.
The idea of a universal story is a myth, and when we lose the opportunity to tell different truths through our different stories, the medium as a whole suffers greatly.
Of course, you had your haters for this very reason. You were different, and people said that you were the result of the United States electing a black president, or political correctness gone awry. I have my own opinions on the subject of intentional diversity, and maybe someday I’ll write a bit about it. but let me respond to those accusations concerning you specifically. Don’t ever imagine for one second that you weren’t Spider-Man. At his essence, Spider-Man is an allegory for growing up, and black or white or Asian or Indian or whatever, Spider-Man stories need to explore these ideas. And you did that in your stories. Maybe it was a different coming of age story than we were used to, and some of us couldn’t necessarily identify with all of your experiences, but your stories as Spider-Man fed this requirement, and it fed it well. You grew up into the mask of Spider-Man, and discovered, in your own way, why great power brings great responsibility.
And, ultimately, that is why the return to the status quo of Peter Parker is so sad. Because, Peter is an adult, and he learned long ago that with great power comes great responsibility, and continuing to beat that dead horse feels as stale as stale can be. Eventually, Peter stops feeling like a kid trying to balance real life and superheroics, and more like the guy that sits down the aisle from me at work and spends all day complaining about how much he hates his 40-hour-a-week job, but he can’t leave, because his dad got him this job, and he needs to pay his massive credit card bill that he ran up eating all-y0u-can-eat tacos every Tuesday night for four years in college.
During our conversation, Rhys asked me why both you and Peter couldn’t exist together in the same universe, and ultimately, that would most likely be a happy medium. But, I sincerely doubt that as well. Because the last time Marvel tried to make two Spider-Mans (Spider-Men?) exist in the same universe, we got the Clone Saga, and the less said about that, the better. I still have major doubts that your fate is anything other than bleak.
Ultimately, I’m sure this letter makes me sound like a grumpy old man, or a social justice warrior, or a weird combination of the two, but I don’t really care. Miles, you were the best thing to come out of the Ultimate universe, and the freshest thing to come to Spider-Man in years, and your presence and voice will be greatly missed.
Christopher David Lawton