[Marvel’s Spider-Man]’Marvel’s Voices’： Preeti Chhibber Talks About Her Love for Spider-Man and the People Behind the Mas
But, that is the power of the mantle of Spider-Man. It is both Peter and so much more. Spider-Man could literally be anyone and at times has been! Marvel has often recognized the importance of costumes as symbols, and when their heroes fall but the symbol needs to go on? Someone else takes up the mantle and it still matters. Or if there are other people in the multiverse who wear the mask? They’re still Spider-Man and it still matters. In 2011, what Miles Morales brought to the Ultimate universe was a gift we didn’t know we were waiting for – it was the implication made explicit. Miles put on the mask and became Spider-Man. This was, of course, lauded wonderfully in 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, where someone tells our burgeoning hero that “anyone can wear the mask.” Peter Parker’s even hired people to play Spider-Man to keep up the ruse of his own double-identity.?
So, why does all of this matter
What matters is that it is affirming. It’s not someone assimilating to become the hero, it’s the hero assimilating to the person. I grew up never?ever seeing someone who looked like me as a hero. I could be a sidekick, or a bit role in someone else’s story, but never the lead and certainly never the one who saved the day. Never the one who was centered. Spider-Man was aspirational, but never achievable. So, it’s affirming to know that it’s not just in theory that a Black or brown face can exist behind the mask, but practice. When a writer has the opportunity with a character like Spider-Man (as I have) — a character who has universally-beloved qualities you want to have and hold — it can help a reader feel seen. This was a step towards every Spidey-fan feeling seen.?
Let’s talk about Spider-Man: India AKA Pavitr Prabhaker. Created by Jeevan Kang, Suresh Seetharaman, and Sharad Devarajan in 2005, Pavitr was initially given an “Indianized” version of Peter Parker’s backstory. Whether it was his Uncle Bhim or Aunt Maya, or his friend Meera Jain — these resulted in them just being facsimiles of the Peter Parker story we already knew, transplanted out of Queens and into Mumbai. The result, Pavitr was hyphenated twice over, qualified by being “Indian-Spider-Man.”
It wasn’t until a decade later in 2015 that Pavitr started his journey as being his own version of Spider-Man, not Spider-Man: India. In the midst of the first SPIDER-VERSE run, by writer Dan Slott, Spider-people from all of the Marvel universes are pulled together to fight against their collective greatest threat. For Prabhakar, this meant the identity crisis of seeing his unique story played out by dozens of versions of himself. But Slott wrote a conversation that both recognized the absurdity of a copy, and that the character can exist as Spider-Man, period. No qualifier necessary. And as someone who consistently has that “necessary qualifier” set against her Americanness, her Indianness, her identity, this was a transformative moment. Pavitr is Indian and Spider-Man, and those two parts of his identity speak to each other and exist together authentically. But he doesn’t need a descriptor to separate him out. As a writer, the potential of bringing my own lived experience into a character who can embody all those different pieces of me and be a Super Hero is not something I’m used to. There just aren’t enough of us yet. (If anyone wants to do a solo Pavitr Prabhakar book, I am right here, keyboard ready.)?