After the death of Peter Parker in Marvel Comic’s Ultimate line, a new hero has taken up the mantle of Spider-man to continue his wall crawling crusade on crime. Two weeks ago, Marvel leaked the identity of Parker’s web slinging successor: Miles Morales, a half-black/half-hispanic teen with similar spider powers and alliterative name. And the web’s reaction to this new biracial Spider-man has been mixed. No pun intended.
“SPIDER-MAN HAS ALWAYS BEEN WHITE!!” protesters on the Internet would cry out, their fists clenched in rage. “THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING! POLITICALLY CORRECT RACIST NONSENSE! SPIDEY IS RUINED FOREVER!”
Meanwhile, supporters of the new Spider-man are glad to see a kid that represents the diversity of the city he protects. Other supporters are proud to see a kid that represents THEM become the new Spider-man.
My reaction to my favorite superhero having a new secret identity that I can identify with?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m always proud to see a hero with some color under the costume for a change, but I’ve always identified with Peter Parker, regardless of the color of his skin. Born and raised in Queens, poor as dirt, uber-nerd, outcast at school, and nothing ever seems to go his way. Peter was the everyman, not just the every-white-man. Anyone who had a rough day after just trying to do the right thing could sympathize with this hero. As corny as it sounds, he stood for things that went beyond the color of your skin. “With great power comes great responsibility” is a message that all people, from every walk of life, can take to heart and appreciate. Except maybe Republicans.
When I hear that someone new will be Spider-man, race is the farthest thing from my mind. It’s the content of his character that matters. Is he the everyman that regular Joe’s like me can relate to? Or is he an elitist snob, born lucky and never had to struggle a day in his life? Is he a down-to-earth friendly neighborhood hero? Or is he a douche? Miles is off to a good start, using his mysteriously acquired arachnid abilities responsibly, but my approval of him will depend on more than the color of his skin.
One of my favorite comic book characters growing up was Todd McFarland’s Spawn. A black lead character, but you couldn’t tell just by taking off his mask since he had the complexion of ground beef. He also didn’t talk jive slang, dress in baggy clothing, or embrace any of the other stereotypical characteristics that most token minority characters employ constantly. Spawn being black wasn’t a marketing ploy or gimmick, it was just a fact. Underneath all the spikes and chains and that bad-ass red cape was a real human character who was far from perfect, but who loved his family so much that he made a deal with the devil to return to them.
Only time and Brian Michael Bendis will tell of Miles Morales will be a real human character that I can relate to, like Peter Parker was before him, or a cheap marketing stunt to rejuvenate sales in the Ultimate Marvel Universe (which, just in case it was unclear, is an alternate universe, making all the decent and approval of this move slightly more than moot). Until then, I’ll dream of a time when the color of our heroes doesn’t matter. Maybe 88 years from now, it won’t matter who wears the Spider-mantle, as long as they stand for something we can believe in.