Silk: The Miles to Gwen’s Peter
With the support of readers and moviegoers, the comic book industry is finally moving towards showcasing a more diverse series of heroes. Last year, Marvel gave us Kamala Khan as the new Ms. Marvel, the first Muslim heroine to headline her own comic in the publisher’s history. In 2015, Marvel followed up the progressive move with its first Asian-American superheroine to helm her own series: Cindy Moon, a.k.a. Silk. First appearing in the Spider-Verse event and going solo as of February—with a post-Secret Wars series to come—Silk is a fresh take on the world of web-slinging, with clean writing and dynamic art that invites new comic readers as much as old pros.
Though Cindy’s entry into the Spider-family is a little obvious, as a means to introduce a new character (a never-before-mentioned classmate of Peter’s who was bitten by the same spider just before it died and has been in hiding in a bunker for ten years? Okay, sure), her solo series fleshes out the character that didn’t win as many hearts in the Spider-Verse. Before the bunker, she was a high school hockey player with an eidetic memory, who dated her teammate Hector in secret while balancing her mother’s pressure to excel in academics. Unable to control the powers she garnered from her radioactive spider bite, Cindy ends up the trainee of Ezekiel Sims, another Spider power-user, who seals her in a bunker to protect her from his nemesis Morlun, antagonist of the Spider-Verse event.
Post-Spider-Verse, Cindy is freed thanks to Peter and opts to stay out in the world and pick up her life again. Her family has disappeared without a trace, so she interns for Fact Channel, a news network, in search of them. Additionally, she teams up with S.H.I.E.L.D fighting crime. Cindy’s story is psychological, coming to terms with a world that marched on without her, and the crux of Silk is family, whether it’s seeking her parents who’ve disappeared without a trace or making new connections with the people she meets. For someone who has been alone for so long, Cindy’s reemergence into the world links superhero duties with self-discovery.
Not to say it’s all doom and gloom. She makes nerdy puns about her powers and superhero name—as well as those of her opponents—and struggles with what’s hip and happening after a decade sealed away (“Is Pokémon still a thing? Asking for a friend.”). With snark and style, Cindy is a clear counterpart to Spiderman, but taking on the name “Silk” instead of “Spider-Woman” gives her an identity all her own.
So why is it that the only Spider-heroine anyone seems to be talking about lately is Gwen?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a long-time Gwen Stacy fan, and an alternate timeline where she’s the superhero mourning Peter gives us a chance to see her character in a new light. Not to mention that she’s the drummer of an all-girl band and the daughter of a policeman who knows she’s the controversial web-slinger. Roll up all that tension into one character, and you’ve certainly got a story worth telling and a series worth collecting. Spider-Gwen was a last-minute addition to Marvel’s lineup after she proved incredibly popular in the Spider-Verse event. On the positive side, hooray, the breakout star is a superheroine! On the negative side, Silk got to be the exciting new Spider series for a grand total of one week before Spider-Gwen hit the shelves.
Marvel had to know Spider-Gwen was going to be a home run. Not only is Gwen Stacy one of the most iconic female characters in the history of comics books, she’s newly recognizable by superhero fans outside of the comic world, with her appearance in the rebooted Spider-Man films as played by superstar Emma Stone. Gwen’s Spider-Woman design is sharp enough to garner cosplay attention and fan gear that sold out in record time. Rumors are already flying that Spider-Gwen may even be in line to get her own film adaptation. Is all of this exciting news for women in comics? Absolutely.
Presumably, though, one of the goals of the Spider-Verse event was to launch Silk’s solo series, not Gwen’s. With Cindy’s prominence during the event and a statement from Silk’s creator Dan Slott that including more Asian characters in the Spider series was a goal of his, it’s safe to assume that Marvel wanted its new Asian-American heroine to be the talk of the town. They certainly put together a terrific team for the solo series, with writer Robbie Thompson, whose investment in the character speaks for itself, and artist Stacey Lee, whose fluid style breathes life, humor, and vulnerability into Cindy’s story. Having a female Asian-American artist portray Marvel’s first female Asian-American-led series lays such important groundwork for diversity in the comics industry. Cosmopolitan magazine even gave Silk a wink as one of their “fun” picks in February 2015’s “Fun, Fearless, Fail” feature.
Gwen is a staple of the Spider series, smart, interesting, and more than just a gal pal to be rescued. I have so many good things to say about her. However, bringing back an old fan fave, rebooted and ready for the spotlight, right after a groundbreaking move to make comics more diverse—well, it reminds me a little too much of how the new (white, straight, teenage) Peter Parker actor was announced almost immediately after we learned Miles Morales would become the new Amazing Spider-Man. It’s not that I don’t like Peter; quite the opposite; I’m a Spidey girl from way back and got more into superheroes and comics because of him. Still, the superheroes we read and see on the big screen should reflect the world around us, and Marvel has given us black Hispanic Spider-Man and Asian-American Silk. With great diversity comes great responsibility, right?
My fingers are crossed that as Miles takes over as primary Spider-Man, Silk will see more of the spotlight as well. She’s a fun, interesting, emotionally complex character ready to be Marvel’s next star, and I can’t wait to see where Thompson and Lee take her—and us readers—next.