Introducing the new Spider-Man

Recently, Marvel Comics made news when Peter Parker was killed off in Ultimate Spider-Man. Keep in mind that the Spidey in Ulitmate Spider-Man exists in a different universe than the original Spider-Man, so even though Peter Parker is dead, he’s only dead in one comic universe. Hopefully that makes sense, as I want to move forward.
There’s been much hype surrounding the identity of the new Spider-Man, and Marvel has finally announced the mantel of everyone’s favorite wall-crawler will be picked up by Miles Morales. This is pretty significant because Miles is half black and half Puerto Rican, and he is taking over the role of Marvel’s most popular character (at least in this particular universe). And already the Internet is buzzing with people who are opposed to the idea. Some think it is a marketing ploy to sell more books, others think it is some sort of sacrilege to have anyone other than Peter Parker be Spider-Man in any universe, and still others can’t understand why the Spider-man can’t just be a white kid like he’s always been.

Personally, I’m excited. One of my dream projects has always been to write Spider-Man, and to reimagine him, either as a black kid or perhaps Latino, so this move represents something I’ve wanted to do for many years. But that’s not the only reason I’m excited. My good friend Brian Bendis is writing this new version of Spider-Man (and has been writing Ultimate Spider-Man since it debuted in 2000), and if there is any writer currently working in comics, he’s the one who is going to make this character and this book really come to life.

Now, some of you may recall my complaints a while back about DC’s new character, Batwing, also known as “the Batman of Africa,” and may be wondering what the difference between this and the new Spider-Man is. Well, for one thing the new Spider-Man isn’t the “Spider-Man of Africa,” swinging around the dark continent fighting crime. No, he is simply Spider-Man, and he will be fighting crime alongside the other characters in Marvel’s Ultimate universe, not off in Africa or Puerto Rico, or wherever is convenient to have a non-white hero fighting crime, without him messing up the status quo of the established comics world. The other difference is Bendis, who again is a great writer, and who I have enough confidence in to believe he won’t write a character steeped in ethnic stereotypes and tired clichés.

The world of comics, much like the world of Young Adult literature (and other pop culture mediums), has long suffered from a lack of diversity. To make matters worse, many attempts at diversity end up as little more than tokenism and worn out stereotypes. I hope that Miles Morales as Spider-Man doesn’t turn out that way (and if he does, I’ll call Bendis on it). I think this move by Marvel, which I suspect was more Bendis’s idea than anyone else’s, is both important and significant. For one thing, it is a first step in bringing much-needed diversity to comics (although much more needs to be done). Some would counter that Marvel could’ve just as easily introduced an all-new superhero, but the impact would not be the same, nor would it be that successful, simply because the current market is not supporting the introduction of new characters in this way. There’s a reason why comic publishers keep reinventing old characters more often than introducing all-new ones, and it’s because the all-new, all-different characters are much harder to sell in an over-saturated market. For another thing, and this is most important, the new Ultimate Spider-Man is providing the comics’ audience a chance to prove themselves to be open-minded when it come to issues of race and ethnicity. If this comic is good—and I believe with Bendis as the writer it will be—then the success or failure of it will depend on readers being able to get past whatever racial hang-ups they may have.

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One Response to “Introducing the new Spider-Man”

  1. EGGmockradio Says:

    I am so excited for this! Ultimate Spider-man is one of my favorite books and Brian Bendis favorite authors. I think this will truly be an excellent risk he is taking, the potential of which is astounding. I think if anyone can rock an A-List comics icon such as Spider-man like this, it’s Bendis.

    David, you are right on. The potential opened up here is huge. So much of the proverbial ‘cape and cowl’ genre in comics is tired and is a diversity black hole. Not only do the story telling aspects vastly increase, it allows you to see new characters, from a variety of backgrounds, giving new life to longtime fan favorites. I say huzzah!

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