So one of the best things about Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and really about Miles Morales in general, is that he’s an extremely relatable kid. That was true of his personality and exploits, sure, but it even went as far as his shoes.
In Spider-Verse, one of the things that most grounds Miles is the fact that, even when swinging from rooftops, he’s rocking a pair of Air Jordan 1s. And not just any pair of AJ1s, a pair of “Chicagos”, one of the most classic and popular colourways of what’s probably the most iconic sneaker on the planet.
It’s a seemingly minor detail, but one so fundamental to his character that the shoe’s appearance in the movie didn’t even come from Nike; Miles was drawn like that from his earliest sketches on, and it was Sony who approached the Jordan brand for the licensing, not the other way around.
The Spider-Verse team thought the sneakers “connected to a recognizable culture that kids from Brooklyn today would understand,” production designer Justin K. Thompson told Quartz. Nike was instantly sold on the idea, and went so far as to produce their own sneaker tie-in for the movie, the Air Jordan 1 “Origin Story”, which took the Chicago colourway and added some spidery details along the upper.
The success of that movie, and even of the Origin Story AJ1s, quickly made the sneaker a cornerstone of his character. It’s a massive bummer, then, that when some new footage and screenshots were released for the upcoming Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales yesterday, we got to see that Miles’ now-trademark AJ1s had been replaced by a pair of what look like high-top Adidas Superstars.
Like Mustafa says, this is more than just a branding swap, this does take away a lot from the character! A pair of Chicagos really speaks to who Miles is and where he came from. A pair of Superstars...says nothing, especially when they’re Superstar highs, which have absolutely no cultural cache whatsoever (you could at least argue that Superstar lows have some vintage NYC+ Run DMC-type appeal).
Some folks have argued that this is just one skin, and that you can see his AJ1s in other images, like this concept art on the cover of the game’s art book:
But a) that’s just concept art, not a final in-game outfit (indeed, the outfit he’s wearing in the screenshots above appears to be the same one, only now with Adidas sneakers), and b) those aren’t Jordans. Those are unbranded knock-offs, which completely changes their context.
I asked Insomniac for comment yesterday and didn’t get a reply, so we can only guess what’s up with this. It’s more than likely a marketing and licensing thing, with Nike’s deal only covering that one specific movie, while Adidas have a much wider and long-term arrangement with Marvel that has seen them release everything from adult sneakers to kid’s soccer jerseys.
Understandable from a business sense, then, but it still sucks!
Note: former Kotaku writer Evan Narcisse was one of the writers on this game.