Posted by Wordsmith on 4 August, 2011 at 9:53 pm. 35 comments already!


What the frak are they doing to my superheroes?!

I was checking in over at the Washington Post and just discovered that the superhero closest to my childhood heart, Peter Parker, is dead:

Oh my God! They killed Spidey! It’s true. More than 10 years ago, writer Brian Michael Bendis brought Ultimate Spider-Man into the world, and today he’s taken him out. According to Bendis, this isn’t temporary, either. Is there a future for a Spider-Man without Peter Parker?

I have no idea what Ultimate Spider-Man and Bendis were about; the last I had paid attention to Spiderman was when Peter Parker and Mary Jane got married in 1987(and while doing some research for this post, I discover their marriage also had ended a few years ago! Egad!)

But in the WaPo article I read, it wasn’t the death of my favorite superhero that made my skin crawl. What really bugs me is that they have a new replacement Spiderman and are making much hoopla over his biracial ethnicity:

It’s not simply about publicity and stirring things up to get people talking (although Marvel surely welcomes those, too). It’s about a black kid in D.C., a Dominican kid in the Bronx or a young Mexicano from California being able to read a comic and come away from it saying, “I can be Spider-Man.” Generations of minority comic-book fans before this day, couldn’t say such a thing.

I call bullcrap:


Take a look at the photo at the top. Is there anything strikingly odd about the photo? What do you see? I see a “ridiculous” little Asian boy pretending to be a cowboy, and proud of wearing the get-up. I say “ridiculous”, because, of course, there weren’t really any Asian cowboys out in the Wild West. If anything, I should be playing the part of an Injun. But back then, at the time, I didn’t feel ridiculous. I thought I looked like Robert Conrad.

I didn’t see the movie version of Wild Wild West (starring Will Smith). But it certainly didn’t have to do with not being able to envision a black man in the role; or myself having a hero who is black (Tony Dorsett was my football hero I wanted to emulate). But I do associate Robert Conrad with being James West in the same way that William Shatner is the definitive Captain James T. Kirk.

Of course, if you’re going to ignore established character ethnicities and canon, does that mean when a reimagining of Star Trek sees fit to have Kanye West play Captain Kirk, that Matt Damon is up to play Sulu and Angelina Jolie gets to be Uhura? That Chekhov is cast as a Pakistani rather than a Russian? Or maybe they just kill off the entire crew and start afresh, yet still call the series “Star Trek” and reshuffle the diverse crew because they were never…um….diverse enough?

Wolverine isn’t Asian. He isn’t even American. Yet he’s another superhero I loved while growing up. It wasn’t his non-Asiatic ethnicity that made it difficult for me to see when I looked in the mirror: It was the hairstyle, my unconvincing scowl, and lack of chest hair. Minor physical details, though. It didn’t stop me from pretending. I could, however, identify with his short stature (he’s supposed to be 5′ 4″ – sorry bub, if you happen to be 6 ft tall and want to pretend you’re Wolverine).

When Jim Rhodes replaced Tony Stark as Iron Man before becoming War Machine, that wasn’t the same as what they’ve done to Spiderman, here.

What’s in “poor taste” is killing off an American pop icon and yet trying to keep the franchise alive by turning this into a teachable moment/selling point on the value and importance of ethnic diversity and multiculturalism. Blech!

After the death of Peter Parker, rumors started that a focus on ethnic diversity would play a part in the new casting of Spider-Man. It turns out rumors were right on the money. Miles Morales is half-black, half-Hispanic, and at least a few percent spider. It’s a bold move from writer Brian Michael Bendis, since cape-and-tights heroics still continue to be a mostly all-white affair.

Says Marvel editor in chief Axel Alonso, “What you have is a Spider-Man for the 21st century who’s reflective of our culture and diversity. We think that readers will fall in love with Miles Morales the same way they fell in love with Peter Parker.”

It really drives me nuts that in the 21st century, what this is really reflective of isn’t that we’ve moved beyond race, but that we are still fixated on making it into an issue. That we are still paying attention to the content of skin-color and identifying ourselves by ethnic pride/ties/loyalty/heritage.

Is it a bad thing to acknowledge where you came from and honoring ancestral heritage? To take pride in it? No. But when people whine about Generations of minority comic-book fans before this day, couldn’t say “I can be Spiderman”, I just can’t help but feel horribly bothered by such sentiments. Instead of just creating a whole new Marvel character, they essentially want to do to Peter Parker what they did to Nick Fury in the movies (which wasn’t so irksome as this whole line of thinking):

Axel Alonso, Marvel’s new editor-in-chief, says that Spider-Man’s newfound diversity was something that was considered the moment Marvel knew that their ultimate universe Peter Parker was headed to the grave.

“We knew that the death of the Ultimate Spider-Man/Peter Parker was coming,” Alonso told Comic Riffs by phone Wednesday. “The question quickly became: Who will be the person to fill those tights? We knew very quickly what had to be done. Having a character as iconic as Spider-Man, when he peels off that mask, having a new demographic be able to relate to him, we’re very excited about that.

The reason why I related to Peter Parker when I was very young was because I felt awkward and nerdy as a kid…just like him. I identified with him and his desire to do good in the world.

Alonso said a Marvel title accurately reflecting the society we live in is nothing new and that it’s been going on since Stan Lee was in charge, agreeing that X-Men in the ’60s was just as much about the civil-rights movement as it was the hatred of mutants.

Yup….and yet these new clowns at Marvel, like most Democrats and liberals, are still mired in fighting the good fights of the 60s and have not moved beyond it to the next level (like most Republicans and conservatives have): Transcending melanin count for content of character.

And here’s some moral condescension (yes, I realize I’m guilty of exercising this as well in my criticism) from David Betancourt (who identifies with the new Spidey based upon shared biracial makeup):

“For the small portion of the fan base who hates anything changing from their childhood, who say Peter Parker can crawl on a ceiling but Miles Morales can’t, they need this change the most.”

You want racism to disappear? As Morgan Freeman said on 60 Minutes, “Stop talking about it.” And what he meant by that (as I understood it) wasn’t to ignore the issue of racism and pretend that it doesn’t exist, but to quit obsessing over it, keeping it alive by making it into such a big issue.

Spiderman’s dead. Writers other than the original creators killed him off. Let him rest in peace. Call this other guy, Miles Morales, the Arachnid Kid or something else.

There’s only one Spiderman, and that was Peter Parker…

…and his white ethnicity didn’t matter.

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