A black Spiderman

I think that having a half-black half-Hispanic Spiderman is a great idea. I just wish they’d revamped the movies with the new Spidey rather than regurgitating the old plotline once again.

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the editor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.


  1. It all depends on the execution. Such characters, where the demographics are in the headline, can lead to weak tokenism. But if they do a good job with it, the character will stand on its own and it’ll fall under the category of “interesting attribute on the new Spiderman” rather than “The minority Spiderman.”

    Although you can also make the demographic central to the character and make the character very appealing, if done in a way that outsiders can understand and relate to. John Stewart would eventually fall into this category.

    The key is to make the character relatable to people outside of the demographic. Otherwise, the novelty of the differentness wears off. It’s tempting, sometimes, to accentuate the differentness at the expense of relatability. Those characters make find members of teams, but are rarely good flagship characters.

    • Regardless, can we all agree that if they went that direction FOX would have a field day?

      • Depends on which direction. If they go the token/preacher route, they’ll come after it pretty hard. And not undeservedly. Frankly, comics could use some negative reinforcement in this regard. They can get pretty lazy earmarking characters as “the black character” or whatnot.

        On the other hand, Bendis is a pretty talented writer. There’s reason to expect that he will do a good job. If he does, Fox will mostly just wait in the wings for the first plot involving racism and then accuse Marvel of using the fan-favorite to push their political agenda.

        • Fix that to, “Bendis is a pretty talented writer these days only when he’s writing Ultimate Spider-Man” and I’ll agree with you. 🙂

        • What was the general response to Idris Elba as a black Norse god? (Mine was “I’d watch him in anything.”)

          • I wish they’d cast Danny Glover as Peter Parker in the new spider man movie, but I’m not really feeling a new character, black, hispanic, or otherwise, for the Ultimate Book.

            See, Peter Parker is dead. And the “Death of Ultimate Spider Man” was a great story line–and I really hope that Peter Parker stays dead because of it.

            But there’s still so much about Parker’s corner of the Ultimate universe that I’d like to read about. There are so many established characters that could continue the spider-man legacy. Seeing this new guy completely out of nowhere means I’ll see a lot less of Mary Jane and Aunt May and Gwen Stacy and Johnny Storm and all the rest of the supporting characters that I’ve grown to love. That’s what I’m not happy about.

          • I assume you meant Donald Glover, not Danny Glover. 🙂

          • Overall, positive. Even among the small base of fanboys who hated Jon Stewart becoming a GL, Jamie Reyes becoming the new Blue Beetle, and an Asian guy becoming the new Atom.

            But, on the other hand, unfortunately, a large chunk of comics fans would go nuts if say, Donald Glover was cast as ‘Peter Parker’ in a new Spider-Man movie. Hell, even the casting as Michael Clarke Duncan as Kingpin for the Daredevil movie got a little pushback from some comic fans.

          • Isn’t the sentence “Samuel L. Jackson is ______” always cool?

            I can’t think of a movie character I wouldn’t pay to see him portray. If the casting is out of type, so much the better. (Samuel L. Jackson is Miss Daisy… how awesome would that be?)

          • I’d be intrigued to see Samuel L. Jackson’s take on the Woody Allen character in the next Woody Allen movie.

          • yeah, well fish comic book fans. The only way you can possibly make a good comic book movie is to piss off a good percentage of us.

            I’ve seen people complain that Tony Stark wasn’t enough of an unlikable dick in the movies.

          • It’s worth noting that comic book fans have a deleterious effect on comic books themselves, too. Especially when they become writers and chief editors.

          • I give you the example of Kevin Smith, who thought that the idea of Batman losing bladder control was so gut-bustingly hilarious that he strongarmed DC into making it part of the Batman canon.

            So, that’s now a thing that, in the DC Universe, actually happened. Batman, on his first mission against the criminals of Gotham City, got so scared that he pissed his pants. That’s Kevin Smith’s contribution to the Batman mythos. Given “Batman” and a blank check, that’s where he went.

            Christ, at least “All-Star Batman” gave us a goddamn catchphrase!

          • Did anyone bitch about Men In Black?
            … anyone?
            That movie was awesome — so many homages to old sci-fi!

    • “Although you can also make the demographic central to the character and make the character very appealing…”

      I doubt that a bunch of white-bread doofs who’ve spent their entire lives in a Hollywood scriptwriter cocoon would be able to do that. I’m picturing their idea of “black culture” being something like M.C. Hammer.

  2. E.D.:

    Isn’t he suppose to be gay, left handed and dyslexic as well. Isn’t that great? What other attributes can we pile on to make as PC as possible?

    • Yes, the horror that the main character of a second-tier Spider-Man comic book isn’t a white American male. The horror.

      What’s your next complaint? That there isn’t a White Entertainment Television?

      • There is such a thing as laying it on a little thick, I think. And at least some irritation, particularly when it involves killing off white characters to make room, is pretty understandable. I’m not sure anyone particularly minded Miguel O’Hara.

        • The fact that main characters in comics are now 85% white instead of 95% white shouldn’t endanger the response it gets from some corners of comic book fandom.

          The truth is, most of the heroes were created when a minority couldn’t be the lead character. So, I have no problem with killing off some that aren’t coming through in the sales numbers and replacing them with a minority character. Nobody wants to turn Clark Kent or Bruce Wayne into a black guy.

          • Jesee:

            That is what we need, a racial quota for comic book heroes, brilliant. Barry should set up a special gov’t task force to deal with this pressing problem.

          • Did I say a racial quota? No. I said, if a character is going to be shelved or killed anyway, I see no harm in replacing that character with one that is a minority.

            I consider a comic universe that actually looks like the world of 2011 is better than one that continually look likes 1963, where the only heroes are white and the only time you see a person of color is either as a helpless bystander or as a gang member.

            I realize that probably makes me a fillthy commie who hates America in your mind, but happily, I don’t care much.

          • There was a reason that Brand New Day didn’t sell very well.

            Primarily: The Audience didn’t like the story they were being told. Joe Q had a vision that was not shared by the majority of the folks who plonked down 3 or 4 (!) dollars every month for each of their various titles.

            I like the idea of establishing a new Ultimate Spider-man who is an ethnic minority… but the first thing I think of is Milestone comics.

            Have you heard of Milestone comics, Jesse?

          • Well, we could get in a long argument whether BND did or didn’t actually sell well when you look at the numbers compared to other titles, but that’s something that might be too nerdy for even this site. 🙂

            But yeah, I’ve heard of Milestone. Some good stuff, some bad stuff. And I think it was important that it did give a platform for a lot of minority creators who might not have gotten a break otherwise.

            Now, unfortunately, it got a raw deal that magazines like Wizard ignored them and comic book stores of the time thought they were ‘comics for blacks’, but I don’t see how a new minority character within the Ultimate Marvel universe equals Milestone. As long as Bendis is writing the book and it doesn’t go off the rails, USM will continue to sell.

          • The biggest problem with Milestone was that folks didn’t buy it.

            And I’m not talking “didn’t buy it in Brand New Day numbers” either.

            My advice to all y’all who hope that the book succeeds is to buy it. Visit your local comic book store and open a hold file and tell them that you want to start collecting Ultimate Spider-Man.

            Then buy it. Every month. If you’re really crazy, you should also buy the collected volumes. (Of course, if you’re less crazy, you should just buy the collected volumes because, really, why buy storylines piecemeal when you have the option of buying the whole thing at once?)

            In any case: If you want this to succeed, do your part. Visit your local comic book store.

            Lemme know if you want any other recommendations while you’re there. There’s some sweet stuff on those shelves.

          • When a character you like is killed, and he is killed for the express purpose of his whiteness and a desire for more diversity, that is going to engender a negative response. Even if you take out the diversity angle, Hal Jordan fans ripped on Crabface for a long-arse time. When the creators say “We did this because we want more diversity. Yay us and our diversity!” it is they, and not the irate fans, that are putting the issue on the table, and inviting the response.

            To jump down to Milestone Media, that wasn’t something that Wizard and the like came up with. Milestone Media sold itself as comics of diversity. Comics created with the express purpose of portraying particular demographics to which I do not belong.

            That’s not a knock on their product. I thought Hardware was great. But it’s fortunate that I picked it up before I really saw the marketing, the interviews, and so on. Otherwise, I would have taken a pass.

          • Find me a character who was actually killed for his whiteness and I’ll get back to you. Outside of Internet conspiracy theories, I can’t think of a character killed just to replace him with a non-white character.

            Again, I’ve never said kill off successful characters and replace them with minority characters for no good reason. But, if you’re going to kill off b-list character x for reason y and replace him with a new version, why not replace him with a woman, a minority, or hell, even a foreigner. In a perfect world, even have it be a new character. But since this is comics, at least have a good story reason for it, because I see no reason in 2011, why any comics universe’s lineup of heroes has to look like 1961 Americana.

            Also, yes, Milestone Media was a company about diversity. I never said it wasn’t. My point was that Wizard Magazine _ignored_ it and that comic book shop owners just assumed it was comic books for black people instead of ya’ know, actually looking at the books.

          • When they killed off Ted Kord, I was sad about that, but I mostly attributed it to the way that comics work and the need to kill off a beloved character for the sake of the story. Then, when they killed off Vic Sage, I actually thought the same. The fact that one was replaced with a Hispanic teenager and the other with a lesbian latina didn’t fully register.

            But then I started running across interviews where Geoff Johns was saying that they were making a lot of changes to add diversity. Which made me wonder. I’ve nothing against Reyes and I liked Montoya well enough, but to the extent that they were put into place – and their predecessors dislodged – for the sake of their race, I am somewhat irritated.

            To reiterate: where do I get the idea that this is so? Because the folks at DC press the point. I don’t know the extent to which one had to do with the other, but I have reasons – other than some innate hostility towards minority characters – for my suspicions.

            Which brings me back to Kyle Rayner. I see the criticisms of DC here in the same angle that I see the cricisms of Rayner. Rayner started off white as white can be (until they got criticized for that, then added some Hispanic). But he was a part of a different push: replacing the old fuddy-duddies with younger, hipper variants with less backstory. DC said as much at the time.

            Even so, he became the object of great resentment. Not fair to the character, but for which the responsibility resides with DC and not with an anti-young-artistic-male bias.

            Race becomes an issue with the latest set of replacements because it is made an issue by the creative talent. And unlike with the advent of the latest Black Lightning series, or even the picking up a dormant character like Firestorm or many others, these inclusions appear to some to have come at a cost. And the diversity parade reinforces the point that there is something wrong with comics as we have enjoyed them all these years to be corrected*. It’s not just about adding minorities to the ranks, but apparently reducing the number of white characters.

            Now, if they are going to kill off Ted Kord and replace him with a young turk (which is my real complaint about the succession, Jaime’s age), I personally figure it’s just as well that they go with a Hispanic kid from El Paso rather than another swipple from a coastal city. But the bigger deal they make of it**, the more it starts to seem like a PC project. And as for Reyes, I’d prefer they made him some hero other than Blue Beetle.

            * – Which you believe there was. It seems to me that efforts have been made, but for a variety of reasons they never really took. We can debate the reasons as to why this is the case, but starting in around the 80’s, it wasn’t really for lack of effort.

            ** – Which was Milestone’s problem. Where did comic book stores get the idea that these were comics for black people? In part, from the marketing. A comic book imprint that takes place in Texas and makes the fact that it takes place in Texas central to its marketing is going to make comic book dealers in Connecticut think twice. The publicity from Wizard would likely have emphasized its Texas roots.

          • I’d rather bitch about the “diversity” inherent in making Republican superheroes. It just made Tony Stark (and company) into bloody assholes.

            “I just saved your life (without being asked), now you have to work to pay that back”

            Isn’t that guy just really a fucking jerk?

            I have some confidence that people will write Hispanic/black guys well. They really sucked writing republicans.

  3. The last time I picked up a Spiderman comic was somewhere ’bouts issue 290 or so of the original Amazing Spiderman.

    My X-men fandom started to die with the issues right after Secret Wars, and was dead before 200.

    • The Batman story No Man’s Land was the end for me. Out of inertia, I kept buying comics after that until my shop closed, but I stopped reading them. Then in one fell swoop, they brought back Hal Jordan, reintroduced the multiverse, and killed Ted Kord (though not in that order), and at that point I became pretty sure that I was not going to become a collector again. Flashpoint is making me moreso.

      It wasn’t just the above. I could write a post on the betrayal of the Huntress (in fact, I did!). Vic Sage’s death also stung. And Round Robin. Then the idiotic “death of Bruce Wayne.”

      It’s hard to say how many of these criticisms are truly valid, and how many are objections to the fact that comics changed a great deal from the 90’s, when I started.

  4. I am both sad and disappointed, yet retain a sliver of hope. I feel a loss at the death of Ultimate Peter Parker. I know people say that at least you have 616 Peter, but that is as reassuring when someone says, sorry your cat died, but at least you have your dog—very hollow. The original Peter is a great character, but I fell in love with this character, his Aunt, Mary Jane and the twists from the original series that were offered. I know it is just a story, but I’ve invested myself into the Ultimate Spider-man stories for the last 11 years, specifically into Peter Parker. Not necessarily what he looked like. I don’t care if he were white, black, or poke-a-dot, it was his personality, his passions and beliefs that drew me into his world. I think it is great that there are more diverse characters in the comic book world, but why must I be labeled a bigot for having an affinity and nostolgia for this character? Why must I be criticized for expecting a better transition/story line to introduce a new hero? This is not about race or ethnicity. This is like when people were labeled unpatriotic when they did not support Bush, when our country was founded on holding leaders accountable. There are guidelines to making a good story and for avoiding such backlash. The ultimate reality was made so that creative license could be used in telling new stories with classic characters, but it is more than just a portal of new stories, like all good works of fantasy, it has taken on a life of its own and embeded itself into the hearts of its fans. Fans would be just as upset if Reed Richards were killed to make a new Mr. Fantastic, or Bruce Banner were killed to create a new Hulk no matter what their ethnic background. These characters are more than just a costume. Superman is superman because he is Clark Kent , not because he has superpowers. The same can be said for Spider-man There have been many attempts, but only one real thing.

    Having said that, if Miles is to be a successful character, he must not focus on what makes him different from others, but what allows for universal understanding. Peter was a success mainly because his race, ethnicity, even religion, did not come into play as to how he developed nor how he made his descisions. Let us hope that this creative team takes that very same recipe for success to allow Miles a chance to give a new perspective that everyone can relate to and appreciate. Marvel has attempted to clobber the fans with his diversity, but it has never been the focussed differences that have allowed any character to enter our hearts but in seeing that we are all are all one brotherhood of man that can aspire to anything we put our minds to.

    • I think the authors ought to take views like this into account. There’s no bloody reason you can’t have some of the side-characters intruding on the new Spiderman’s life. “you need help” — or merely as people that the new Spiderman uses to help form his own life.

    • Go read the Internet. Yes, I’m sure there are people upset because they really liked Ulitmate Peter Parker. But, the vast majority of the backlash out there is racial, especially from people who’ve never read an issue of Ultimate Spidey.

      Also, it’s comics. Characters die. Characters come back. Hell, Peter Parker retired approximately 45,375 times in the 616 universe.

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