Spinning a different web – J.W. Ward on the new Spider-Man

I’m about to show you something.

To some folks, it’s really scary.  Life-altering, even.  It shakes the mind like dropping LSD for the first time.

Are you ready?

You sure?

OK.  Here it is.

Yes, kid…it apparently is in bad taste.  At least to some.

If you’re not sure who that is underneath the all-too-familiar mask, that’s Miles Morales, the half-black, half-Hispanic, all-new Ultimate Spider-Man introduced yesterday in the pages of Ultimate Fallout #4. 

All-new face, same great alliteration.

You may have already heard about this, as USA Today broke the story on Tuesday.  What you might not be aware of is the backlash.

“Why does everything have to be politically correct?” said ‘disnykng’ on the USA Today comments on the story.

Someone called ‘yak-n-fish’ posted, “Wow ! …..The Obama press corps is in action!”

How about poster ‘Sunny returns?’ “Dude NO.  Marvel can go fly a kite with this chitt.  Stupid stupid stupid. “

As you can see, some people just aren’t a fan of Spider-Man being anybody but Peter Parker.

Oh, and being of blended minority heritage.  That seems to be the bigger issue.

Ultimate Spider-Man creator Brian Michael Bendis said he was inspired to make the change after seeing actor Donald Glover wearing Spider-Man pajamas on the second season premiere of Community on NBC.

“He looked fantastic!” Bendis told USA Today. “I saw him in the costume and thought, ‘I would like to read that book.’ So I was glad I was writing that book.”

Over a year ago, Glover began a Twitter campaign to become the new Peter Parker in next summer’s reboot film Amazing Spider-Man.  Despite Glover being endorsed by original Spider-Man creator Stan Lee, the role eventually went to actor Andrew Garfield.

For the sake of argument, it’s important to keep in mind that in the normal Marvel Universe comics, Spider-Man is still Peter Parker and still Caucasian.  Same for the movies.  Only in Marvel’s “Ultimate” universe, where some of the iconic characters have been re-imagined for a contemporary environment, is Spider-Man now black.

And is this really a bad thing?  A half-black, half-Hispanic Spider-Man could have certain advantages over the more vanilla variety, and if people are going to worry about stereotypes, why not celebrate the good ones instead of focusing on the negative?  Here’s a few:

1)     A half-black, half-Hispanic Spidey is likely an incredible dancer.  Salsa?  Hip-hop?  Ballroom?  He’ll have rhythm to spare;
2)     When Ultimate Nick Fury, whose appearance is based on Samuel L. Jackson, starts swearing at the all-new Ultimate Spider-Man, Miles Morales will be able to pull coarse language from TWO heritages in reply;

3)     If all-new Ultimate Spidey comes across Tea Party terrorists from Arizona, the irony of a beatdown will be delicious indeed, and;

4)     He’ll be cooler.  Black and Hispanic action heroes always are.  Don’t believe me?  Click here and here for NSFW proof.
All kidding aside, a new face under Spidey’s mask, in the wake of the “death” of Peter Parker, leaves the door open to great story potential.  It shakes things up, keeps thing s fresh and means that anything could happen.  Especially when it comes to comics, that’s a rare treat of discovery we don’t get to enjoy so often as readers.  Comic books are a form of art, and we should be challenged by the art we enjoy once in a while and be grateful if it makes us think.
And if you think Spider-Man’s greatest legacy is the colour of his fictional skin, then I dare say you’ve missed the point.
The all-new Ultimate Spider-Man.  Good?  Bad?  What do you think?
JW Ward is a Toronto-based writer, media personality and professional cynic. Follow him on Twitter at @jasonwardDOTca, through his website at www.jasonward.ca and every Thursday here at Biff Bam Pop! 

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