A few evenings ago, charged to pick up some groceries but awake beyond the closing time of the supermarket across the street, I strolled to a store about a twenty-minute walk from my home in West Harlem. My return walk through unfamiliar New York streets, heavy bags slowing my stride, made my wind mander to thoughts of—what else?—Spider-Man.

First, I remembered a tweet someone had made earlier in the pandemic, noting the bizarre ease with which they’d come to think of slipping on a mask before heading out as something normal. “Who do I think I am, Spider-Man?”

Then I recalled that I had built on that person’s work with a tweet of my own, reframing the observation as a personal timeline. I just now dug it up, and I am sorry to report that I didn’t offer any attribution to the original tweet, so I can’t link to that. But here’s mine anyway:

I meant what I wrote, though, and the recollection during my walk made me once again think warmly about how the Spider-Man mythos has grown and diversified since my own prime comics-reading time. This is most obvious in the introduction of Miles Morales, who—like most people, I imagine—I know mainly from Into the Spider-Verse, as well as the latest Spider-Man video game.

I haven’t played the games, but Amy has, ridding New York of one super-powered menace after another on our living-room TV. Spider Man: Miles Morales is well-written enough that I followed along with the major plot beats over the few calendar-days it took for Amy-as-Miles to vanquish its villains.

I especially enjoyed the fun way it frames a particular facet of career growth in this vision of Miles. The game’s first few missions feature a running gag where New Yorkers in trouble express relief at seeing Spidey swoop in, then disappointment that it’s “Spidey #2”, Peter Parker’s scrawny protege in his off-brand super-suit. A cranky bodega owner, upset about his lost cat, doesn’t think anything of asking poor Miles where the “real” Spider-Man is. (He’s on vacation.)

But, of course, Miles does good, and the game ends with that same bodega guy proudly telling a news crew “That’s our Spider-Man!”—by which he means, Harlem’s, the neighborhood where Miles lives and where most of the game’s story unfolds.

Thinking about this during my walk brought me to a very satisfying realization, tying something in from deep Spidey lore. From the very start of the character’s history, reaching all the way back to his introduction in the early 1960s, Peter Parker liked to call himself “Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man”—a casual absurdity to deflect his own freakishness with a smile, referring to himself as a a local public figure as comforting and commonplace as a mail carrier.

But Miles’s debut meant that New York now has two Spider-Mans (at least in the video game’s continuity), and that meant that Miles can turn Peter’s offhand joke into a Spider-Man vision statement, something he can make literally true—at least for one neighborhood!

What a marvelously subtle new twist on a sixty-year-old superhero’s catchphrase, made apparent to me only as I wound through real-life uptown streets on my way home from Food Town. I love it.

Share or reply to this post on Twitter, or elsewhere.

Next post: I got a job

Previous post: What needs to happen now

Loading responses...

Share a response

To share a response that links to this page from somewhere else on the web, paste its URL here.