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New Bi-racial Spider-Man Divides Fans and Non-fans, Engenders Flock of ‘I’m Not Racist, But’ Comments

Posted on the 04 August 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost
New bi-racial Spider-Man divides fans and non-fans, engenders flock of ‘I’m not racist, but’ comments

Meet Miles Morales, the new Spider-Man.

Spider-Man has a new alter ego – and he’s half-black, half-Hispanic, possibly gay and all kinds of controversial.

Earlier this year, Marvel made headlines when the comic powerhouse decided to kill off Peter Parker, the original arachnid super hero, in issue 160 of its Ultimate imprint – Parker died in the arms of his beloved, Mary Jane, after an epic battle with his nemesis, the Green Goblin. At the time, Marvel editors promised that Parker’s death wouldn’t be the end, but the “the start of one of the most ambitious stories you’ve ever read in comics”.

And now, just a few months later, the comic book is attempting to make good on that promise with the introduction of Spider-Man’s first-ever successor, Miles Morales. Morales, the half-black, half-Hispanic American teenager who pours himself and his shocking powers into the Spidey-suit, is, writer Brian Michael Bendis says, “coming from a completely different background, a completely different world view”. also suggested that Morales might be gay, as well, based on comments from Spider-Man artist Sarah Pichelli who suggested that “sooner or later, a black or gay or both character will be considered absolutely normal”, and a comment from Axel Alonso, Marvel’s editor-in-chief, indicating that “unrequited love” might be a Morales story-line. Marvel is denying the rumours.

Sexuality aside, Marvel was completely behind Bendis’s decision to render Morales bi-racial: “When the opportunity arose to create a new Spider-Man, we knew it had to be a character that represents the diversity—in background and experience—of the twenty-first century,” Alonso said in a Marvel press release. “Miles is a character who not only follows in the tradition of relatable characters like Peter Parker, but also shows why he’s a new, unique kind of Spider-Man—and worthy of that name.”

But the question is, are fans? Does it matter the colour of the skin under the Spidey-mask?

  • Colourblind casting works for some characters, not others. Eric Eisenberg and Josh Tyler, writing at, argued that colourblind casting works for some characters in the comicbook universe and not so much others. Morales, they claimed, works because he’s not a recreation of Peter Parker so much as has his own story; moreover, it’s about acknowledging the diversity already existent in American culture. “It’s not a matter of political correctness as much as it is a matter of progress.”
  • Peter Parker shouldn’t have had to die. But Scott Mendelson, writing at The Huffington Post, argued that the problem isn’t that Miles Morales is black and Hispanic, but rather that Peter Parker had to die at all. “In the real world, the one Ultimate Spider-Man was supposed to take place in, heroes don’t always have to die. Sometimes they do just fade away, to a life of normalcy and happiness. It was the very least Parker deserved.”
  • Glenn Beck not a fan. Right-wing pot-stirrer and Tea Party idol, Glenn Beck, managed to connect a comment Michelle Obama made in 2008 about America changing its traditions to the new Spider-Man, claiming too that the bi-racial super hero even looks like President Barack Obama. Though he claimed he didn’t care, since it’s just a “stupid” comic, he’s clearly still worried, Adam Serwer at The American Prospect pointed out: “It’s just that the story is irresistible, because it reinforces his grand narrative of the Obama administration, which is one in which black people keep taking white people’s hard-earned stuff. Now they’re even taking your superheroes! When are you going to wake up, America?”
  • “I am not racist but I am not pleased.” Website I’m not racist, but… pulled together some of Facebook’s best examples of not being racist. “A black Spiderman?!?! That’s preposterous!” wrote one poster, adding, “Wait… does he talk all ghetto? Lol.” Nope, not racist at all. One comment that could have appeared on the site came from Daily Caller columnist Jim Treacher, who tweeted, “I think it’s great that the new Spider-Man is black. I just hope he doesn’t blame all his problems on Peter Parker.” And there’s the just plain racist comment posted on USA Today’s article on the Spidey-switch: “Peter Parker could not be whiter. A black boy under the mask just don’t look right. This opens up a whole new story line with a whole new set of problems. Who is going to believe a black man in a mask is out for the good of man kind?”

“Black Spider-man… Yeah, right. Good luck with that Marvel,” responded cedric_diggory83 to Marvel’s announcement.

  • The happiest day of my comic-book life. David Betancourt, the half-Puerto Rican, half-black writer at The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs column who has written extensively about race in comic books, was more than pleased – it was, he said, the happiest day of his comic-book life. “My friendly neighborhood Spider-Man was … just like me? This is a moment I never thought I’d see.” This is a moment that will wake people up, that will change the status quo of white, pre-1960s civil rights superhero archetypes. But it’s also a moment tinged with some sadness, Betancourt noted – largely because of the hateful reaction from some quarters. “It is beyond disheartening to consider yourself a part of a generation that has really tried to just get along with everyone and not give a damn about skin color — a generation that helped put the son of an African man and a white woman in the White House — and then have to read the mean-spirited comments about a character who hasn’t even been given a chance to prove himself yet. Why the hate? Because Miles Morales doesn’t fit the standard template of what we think a hero is supposed to be? Those days are over.

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