Miles Morales debuted in Marvel Comics in 2011 and has since established himself as one of the most popular young superheroes in the universe and earned his right to carry the mantle of Spider-Man. Of course, his origins story is incredibly interesting, with his diversity and uniqueness, but his closeness to his parents makes him such a compelling character. Rio Morales is Miles’ mother, a Puerto Rican nurse, while his father, Jefferson, is an officer of NYPD. However, despite being happy and stable in marriage, his surname isn’t the same as his family’s, so we will discuss why Jefferson carries the surname “Davis.”
Miles Morales’ father, Jefferson, carried the surname Davis because that was simply the creative decision of his creators, Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli. However, the meaning behind the name Miles Morales caused controversy among fans and critics, who realized that a character of color shares the name of the Confederate States president, Jefferson Davis. He was a controversial American historical person who was known to be a supporter of slavery and racism in the 19th century USA. Thankfully, in the Miles Morales: Spider-Man comic book run from 2019, we see Jefferson changing his surname from Davis to Morales, acknowledging his name’s meaning in the U.S.
Jefferson Davis is no more, and now we have Jefferson Morales, a father and husband of Miles and Rio Morales. We finally have a family that shares the same name, and the Marvel creators subtly change the controversial name of a person of color in the comics. We will discuss this topic further, and if you’re interested, stay with us until the end.
Why is Miles’ surname Morales and not Davis?
As we know, Miles Morales was originally from the alternate universe, more specifically from Earth-1610, or the so-called Ultimate Marvel Universe.
Of course, Miles’ beginnings as the Spider-Man were marked by his universe Spider-Man dying at the hands of Green Goblin, being bitten by the genetically-enhanced spider, which gave him superhuman powers, and eventually, taking over from Peter Parker the mantle of Spider-Man.
Earth-1610 Spider-Man was “born,” and from the very beginning, Miles Morales was vastly different from his Earth-616 counterpart, a young man who has a fairly stable family life. His mother, Rio Morales, is a Puerto Rican woman working as a nurse in New York who met her husband, Jefferson, during physical therapy.
Rio is a great and interesting character, but Jefferson’s story is much darker and relates to why Miles holds his mother’s surname over his father’s.
Jefferson Davis grew up with his brother Aaron Davis in Brooklyn, New York, who was prone to be involved in illegal activities in the deepest slums of New York. Jefferson didn’t like his brother being a criminal, but he got involved when the Davis brothers met Turk Barrett, a small mob boss from New York. The meeting escalated with the brothers being attacked by Turk’s henchmen, which led to Jefferson being arrested by police.
However, Nick Fury pays the bail for young Jefferson and offers him to become S.H.I.E.L.D.’s “eye” in the criminal underworld of New York. Jefferson then joins Turk Barrett’s mob to be his muscle and eventually joins the upcoming kingpin of New York, Wilson Fisk.
Jefferson becomes one of Fisk’s Enforces and reluctantly does criminal activities for the mob boss until the attempt in human trafficking makes him leave the criminal life and Wilson Fisk. Nick Fury offers Jefferson to become the agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., but the man refuses, wanting to move on from his life.
He eventually meets his future wife, Rio, at the hospital and becomes an officer of NYPD. The couple eventually has Miles but decides their son will carry his mother’s surname, Morales, since Jefferson and his brother Aaron tarnished Davis with their criminal activity in their youth.
This is confirmed in Miles Morales: Spider-Man novel by Jason Reynolds, published in 2017; we know why Miles carries his mother’s name and not his father’s.
However, what is the controversy around Jefferson Davis’s name? Let’s find out.
Who is Jefferson Davis, and why is the name controversial?
We explained why Miles is Morales and not Davis, but let’s dive into the reasoning behind the Jefferson Davis controversy. Of course, with every new character, we get some sort of pushback or controversy, and it seems that some kind of negativity around something new is inevitable these days.
But Jefferson Davis being Miles Morales’ father is controversial, especially if we put it in the context of American History. Like any country in the world, the United States of America had a rough start to its existence. With the Declaration of Independence being signed on the 4th of July, 1776, the Founding Fathers established a new country, but the country’s future and the time it was “created” pointed to difficult and extremely violent times.
Hundred years after establishing the country, the war between North and South established the union of pro-slavery states that formed the Confederate States of America. The first and only president of the Confederate States was no other than Jefferson Davis. He was a racist, pro-slavery politician who had over a hundred slaves at his disposal.
Naming a character of color after the controversial slave owner is extremely strange and ignorant if we look at the reaction online after Miles Morales’ origin story was established more than ten years ago. Brian Michael Bendis named Miles Morales’ dad Jefferson Davis because his friend’s father had the same name, and he forgot the controversial historical figure of the United States of America.
However, other versions of the character saw Jefferson renamed Jeff Davis, like in the PlayStation’s Marvel’s Spider-Man game, but despite the less outcry, Miles Morales’ name was still leaving a sour taste in people’s mouths.
Some people called the creator racist, but I wouldn’t go that far and speculate since nothing was confirmed or denied by Marvel Comics. I can only say that Marvel fixed that mistake by changing Jefferson’s name in the Miles Morales: Spider-Man comic book run in 2019.
What is Jefferson’s surname now?
In the Miles Morales: Spider-Man comic book, run from 2019, we see Jefferson and his son Miles rebuilding their home when we first see Jefferson discussing his name change. The writer Saladin Ahmed decided to change Jefferson’s surname because the character himself thought his name had too much baggage that stems from his criminal past.
However, this is the Earth-616 universe, where Jefferson Davis is actually a former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who wanted to leave his past life and dedicate himself to his family. Jefferson also mentions that he doesn’t understand why his parents would name him like that, indicating that writers recognized the connotations of the slave owner in American History.
Jefferson Davis is no more, and Miles’ father finally shares the surname as his son Miles and his wife Rio, whose surname he took as his own – Morales.