Author donates profits to charity after “What If…Miles Morales” backlash

This is embarrassing for Marvel.

words by: Alee Kwong
Aug 11, 2022

Since his creation in 2011, Miles Morales has quickly become one of Marvel Comics‘ most popular iterations of Spider-Man. Fans have been delighted by his presence in the comics and have been amazed beyond comparison with his embodiment on-screen in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. While they love to see him in his storylines as Spider-Man, it’s been equally entertaining to see him take space in the imaginative universe of the What If…? comic book run.


However, the most recent issue detailing Morales’ experience in the Marvel Comics multiverse took a sharp left turn when author Yehudi Mercado decided to ink backwards with Black stereotypes on our favorite Afro-Latino superhero.


As you may know, the first Marvel Studios animated series What If…? was a concept taken straight from the pages of Marvel Comics. It is a series of one-shot ideas that explore the alternate storyline possibilities that our Marvel superheroes could have been a part of.


In What If…Miles Morales #4, we follow Miles Morales’ path as he takes on the identity of Thor Odinson. Cool, right? Well, its potential wasn’t met when Mercado penned the corniest lines in this issue, such as “By Odin’s fade…” and “Asgard is his ‘hood.” Instead of initiating the unique combination of Morales’ cultural identity with the Nordic lore of Thor Odinson, Mercado created a racially tone-deaf version of this beloved character and turned him into a caricature of Black Americans, like this panel:


yikes-miles-morales copy


Fans took to Twitter to discuss the blatant problems surrounding this What If…? issue. Mercado doubled-down on his creative decision by reminding everyone that Miles Morales was created by white authors — Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli — in an attempt to highlight the inaccuracy of Morales’ background and culture from his inception.


Now, this is both an underhanded move and a valid point. Bendis was responsible for writing Miles Morales from 2011-2018, and since then, there has not been a single Morales Spider-Man issue that has been written by a Black or Afro-Latino author. However, while this is still a glaring problem to be dealt with, it doesn’t immediately absolve Mercado from his mistakes.


Mercado, who is both Mexican and Jewish, has since apologized for the misrepresentation of Morales. In an effort to do better by the community that was affected by the racial stereotypes he presented, he’s taken direct action and donated his entire payment for the What If…? issue to the Brooklyn Book Bodega — a charity that provides access to and ownership of books, builds community, and creates a passion for learning through free events and literacy-based community programming.


“I’ve taken the last few days to step back and listen, and I acknowledge your criticism for my recent issue of What If…Miles Morales was Thor. While I’ve lived a different experience through my Jewish and Mexican background, I still know inauthenticity hurts, and I’m sorry I failed on that front. I’ve appreciated hearing and learning from my Black and Puerto Rican comic peers and hope to use this moment to help promote better authenticity. I’m also going to donate what Marvel paid me to the Brooklyn Book Bodega, which works to build literacy and get more books to kids in NYC.”


Hopefully, this is a step in the right direction for Mercado and Marvel. Because we know Marvel has had diversity problems before. If you want to become a comic book illustrator, here’s how.


Photos via Marvel Comics, Sony Pictures Animation