Peter Parker is the crown jewel of the Marvel Universe.
This was, and still is my argument as to why the Peter Parker version of Spider-Man should've been introduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe first. As the most popular character not only from Marvel, but possibly in all of comics, to not have Parker in the MCU felt like an empty spot that needed to be filled. So when the infamous Sony Leaks from a couple years ago showed that the studio was working towards making a deal with Marvel to share the character, it was hard not to be excited at the very possibility.
There were those who felt that maybe we had too much Peter Parker and it was time to move onto something new. That new being Miles Morales.
Of course people who demanded purity in their characters scoffed at the notion, and to be honest, I was among that number. It wasn't that I disliked Morales as a character, quite the contrary, but what I didn't like was the idea that Peter Parker, the conscience of the Marvel Universe, was going to be thrown on a shelf in favor of a character with limited history.
So imagine my surprise that when the long-awaited trailer for the Marvel Studios-produced Spider-Man: Homecoming premiered last night, part of me was fairly horrified by what I saw. Why, you might ask?
The trailer, starring Tom Holland, who did one hell of a job in his brief (and possibly unnecessary) time in Captain America: Civil War, showed Peter Parker back in high school, which was the expectation, but what wasn't expected was that instead of the loner Peter Parker that we all grew accustomed to, we now had a Parker who was basically... Miles Morales.
Instead of a young black and Puerto Rican boy struggling to deal with his new-found powers with only the aid of his Asian friend Ganke Lee, and help from Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. (who supply him with a new costume), we have young Peter Parker, struggling to deal with his new-found powers with only the aid of his Asian friend... Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon), and help from Tony Stark—son of one of the founders of S.H.I.E.L.D.—who supplies him with a new costume.
See the problem?
This isn't an issue where somehow there's a problem because characters are being portrayed by actors of different races, that's not it. What's extremely troubling and problematic is that instead of making the choice where maybe you do something that changes the status quo, regardless of who may or may not be on board, what you've done is essentially taken everything that made a new and ethnically diverse character who he was and usurped it for a storyline for Peter Parker.
While it's been reported that the Spider-Man animated film that Sony is also producing will actually feature the Morales Spider-Man, it's hard to reconcile how that project can be as different as it needs to be when the live-action film is pretty much his story in everything but name.
Although he's only been around since 2011, Miles Morales, to the surprise of many, has become a rather beloved character, largely because great care was taken to make his story something completely unique to the Peter Parker mythos, providing a character that was more than just a simple race swap in the name of diversity.
Introduced in the Marvel Ultimate Universe following the "death" of that universe's Parker, Morales was everything Parker wasn't. For him, the idea of "Great Power Means Great Responsibility" didn't resonate for him. He wasn't a product of some great tragedy, when he received his powers, he had a stable home and good friends. Unlike Parker, Morales wasn't an outcast, he was mildly popular. When he received his powers, he didn't want them, and the idea of even being a superhero bothered him.
Sure, in time he came around, especially after witnessing the death of Parker at the hands of the Green Goblin, but his path, his journey, and his friends were the thing that made him unique, and now, in the MCU, that belongs to Peter Parker; and I believe—at first glance—that this only hurts both characters.
I understand wanting to update Parker's story, even if his story, on the whole is relatively timeless. What he faced as a kid, particularly as it pertained to bullying, is even more a hot topic today. In the comics, Parker's story was one defined by struggle and loss. In Spider-Man: Homecoming, he has a fairy godfather in Tony Stark that seems to mitigate all of that.
By usurping Miles Morales' story, it feels like a whitewashing of one character and a complete miscalculation of another.
It doesn't matter that Ned Leeds' is Peter Parker's best friend, even though they never met until they were friendly rivals at the Daily Bugle (which also seems to be missing from this iteration of Spider-Man), it absolutely matters that Ned Leeds is basically Ganke Lee, because this is the sort of appropriation that says, "Hey, we like the story, we like the ideas... but we don't really need the character."
In essence, Miles Morales is being put on the shelf in the same way that I feared Peter Parker would be.
Granted, this may all be irrational, largely because this piece, and others like it only focus a few minutes of a much larger film, but when there's this much that's familiar, it's hard not to look at the result and draw the sort of conclusions that unfortunately become so true.
I haven't given up hope on Spider-Man: Homecoming, I just fear that the sum just isn't going to be larger than the parts stolen from other stories and characters. Only time will tell.