Meet Miles Morales, a skinny American teenager that fights crime and hurls spiderwebs, just like Peter Parker used to do.
He’s the latest creation by Marvel Comics and takes over as the new Spider-Man, appearing for the first time in “Ultimate Fallout” No. 4, a comic book from the “Ultimate Spider-Man” series that comes out today. In case you’re wondering what happened to Peter, he died back in June’s issue after a fight with Green Goblin. (If that last line alarmed you, really, it shouldn’t, as Peter is still flicking webs in the larger Marvel universe, and you’ll see him next summer in Marc Webb’s new film.)
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Miles, who is younger than Peter, also happens to be a mixed-race character of black and Latino descent, which offers a new racial twist for a storyline known for its Caucasian hero in tights.
Brian Michael Bendis, who has written every issue of “Ultimate Spider-Man,” told the Associated Press he wanted to create a new character that came from a completely different background and world view. The idea of a multi-ethnic Spidey has long been in the works, though the Marvel Comics writer gives some credit to African American actor Donald Glover, who last summer lobbied to audition for the star role in The Amazing Spider-Man. After the buzz around Glover playing the Queens-bred alter ego went viral, it became a top trend on Twitter and sparked debate about race, racial casting and whether or not Peter is indeed white.
Glover, a cast member on NBC’s Community, never did get the part (white actor Andrew Garfield of The Social Network did), but the entire episode convinced Bendis that his decision to change his protagonist’s race was a step in the right direction.
“It’s certainly long overdue,” Bendis told USA Today, adding that the racial representation of superheroes is still “crazy lopsided.”
Axel Alonso, Marvel’s editor-in-chief and fanboy of superheroes of color “Luke Cage” and “Shang Chi, Master of Kung Fu,” said that creating a non-white Spider-Man “was a conscious decision and that the company prides itself “on reflecting the real world in all its diversity.”
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Kai Ma is a TIME contributor. Find her on Twitter at @Kai_Ma or on Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.