The new Spider-Man is going to be black. Well, half-black and half-Hispanic.
The comics blogosphere is in an uproar about this, because apparently some people are all like SPIDER-MAN IS NOT A BLACK GUY and everyone else is like HELLO, RACIST? (Although, I should note, the opinion of anyone blogging about “Spiderman” and not “Spider-Man” can be summarily discounted. True fans know.)
So there’s a lot of fury being thrown around right now. But I must be old, because I’m pre-furious about a situation that hasn’t even come to pass.
Here’s the deal: the quote-unquote “real” Spider-Man is going to remain caucasian. (And there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.) This is the Ultimate Spider-Man, the Spider-Man of a parallel Marvel universe, who died last month in what turned out to be a pretty heartbreaking comic. (The actual final face-off against the Green Goblin was underwhelming, but Brian Michael Bendis nailed Peter Parker’s last words so perfectly that it still brings tears to my eyes.) So the “official” Spider-Man remains as minty fresh as ever – alas, the only Spider-Man that’s getting the makeout is the out-of-standard-continuity one, the one designed for bold and crazy experiments such as this.
The good news is that this is the only Spider-Man that’s consistently written well these days, so it has a good shot at succeeding. And I absolutely adore that Brian Michael Bendis wanted to do a Spider-Man comic starring a non-white lead character after seeing Troy in Community dressed up in a Spider-Man outfit. (The actor, Donald Glover, is a huge Spider-Man fan and actively campaigned to get the role.) If Peter Parker must be dead, and the Ultimates universe must continue, then this isn’t a bad choice.
But I’m upset about what’s going to happen ten years down the line.
Here’s the deal: all this shit over the black Spider-Man? It’ll pass. Comic nerds are notoriously angry about changes to anything – remember the vast letter-writing campaign that erupted when Michael Keaton was cast as Batman? Remember the comics furor over the fact that the new movie Spider-Man had organic web-shooters instead of designing them? Remember Bootgate, the eruption of anger that spilled over when it turned out the new movie Superman had different boots?
I’m not saying there’s not racism in comics-land – there is – but you have to also account for the fact that comics fans are cranky old guys who get furious about any change. Some of that fury is because comics fans grew up on comics, and the primary urge is EVERYTHING SHOULD STAY EXACTLY THE WAY IT WAS WHEN I WAS THIRTEEN YEARS OLD AND JUST DISCOVERED COMICS AND EVERYTHING WAS COOL.
No, what’s going to happen is that the actual comic will come out, and because it’s written by one of the most consistently good writers in the industry it will probably be much better than the accusations of “stunt casting” would merit, and you know what will happen? We will fall, slowly, in love with this new Spider-Man. We’ll find that he has his own charms, and he’ll have adventures where we root for him – and in the beginning, yes, he’ll be heavily under the shadow of old Peter Parker, but over the course of years he’ll crawl out and make his own pathway. We’ll look back at this criticism and be amazed we made such a mountain out of a molehill.
This, if the comics field doesn’t collapse in the meantime, will last for about five to eight years.
Then someone at Marvel will get a great idea: What if Peter Parker comes back? That’s a stunning plot twist! And then they’ll arrange it so that Peter WHOOOO RISES FROM THE DEAD and then suddenly the character they’ve spent so much effort to get us to fall in love with will be a second banana for life.
Don’t believe me? Hey, ask James Rhodes. Ask Kyle Rayner. Ask Wally West.
And I’m outraged, because hey, years from now, a black Spider-Man can’t catch a break – he’ll be the hero as long as the white guy ain’t around, but the minute the white dude comes swinging back in, we’ll be all like, “HEY, PETER, HOW YOU DOING? OH, DON’T MIND HIM THERE, HE’S JUST NOT AS COOL AS YOU.” And the black guy will be forgotten, and what started out as an attempt to be hearteningly progressive will actually wind up a sort of unconsciously racist sort of thing as the minority character gets shoved aside. It’s not entirely racist, since both Kyle and Wally were white as well and the primogeniture of comics means that the “real” character eventually returns to center stage – but it’s gonna have some real uncomfortable overtones when it happens.
So yeah. Here I am, Old Bitter Comics Fan, not worried at all about the current scandal, looking forward to seeing this new take on Spider-Man, but actually angry now about what’s going to happen a decade down the line, assuming the comic is successful and comics don’t tumble into a black hole.
I need to get a life.
(Also, I find myself wandering around the house, singing an altered version of the Spider-Man theme song: “Spider-Man, Spider-Man, now he’s half black and mex-i-can…” I’m more excited about this casting change than I’d like to let on. [And yes, I know, Hispanic doesn't equal Mexican, but "Hispanic" just doesn't swing in the song, baby.])
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.