Joe Quesada, the Marvel Comics Chief Creative Officer, says that the creation of Miles Morales, the new mixed-race Ultimate Universe Spider-Man, was informed by debates over education reform:
Miles was starting to take shape. We discussed his family and upbringing at length and slowly you could see how he was becoming his own person and not just a copy of Peter. Now while I don’t want to give too much away, over the years I’ve been really intrigued by the revolutionary work being done by educator Geoffrey Canada, and as we looked deeper into Miles’ character, I suggested to Brian that he watch the documentary, “Waiting For Superman” (ironic, I know!). Bri loved it, and the wheels started turning. Pretty soon he was building a world and cast that would support Miles in some fantastically intriguing ways that were relatable but also different from Peter Parker’s world. I have a sneaky suspicion that Brian is going to make people fall in love with Miles very quickly.
Obviously I can’t pass judgment on how those themes play out until I see it happen, though it would be pretty weird to see a comic book where Morales fights a teachers’ union that’s secretly entirely made up of Skrulls or something. But no matter how it turns out, I’m glad to see this kind of thinking be part of the comic book process. Assuming that getting bitten by radioactive spiders doesn’t induce amnesia, there are factors in Spider-Man’s past other than Uncle Ben’s dying words that influenced him. And while many superhero stories propel newly-made supermen and women into larger worlds, whether it’s from a gated mansion into the slums of Gotham, or from Westchester County to the Blue Area of the Moon, there’s something to be said for superhero stories that take on problems closer to home. It may take a single bug bite from a very special arachnid to make a hero, but it takes a village to raise all the kids who are only lucky enough to get nipped by mosquitoes.