Just shortly after midnight this Tuesday, Marvel let loose the big secret behind the identity of the new Ultimate Spiderman. Almost immediately the media, and fans alike, were spreading the news around the internet like wild fire. As a result, people started to voice their opinion about the new hero, and I have to say I’ve never been more disappointed in not only the human species, but some members of the comic book community, ever. In fact, the entire month of June just seemed to be one giant step backwards from segregation/sexism – from the backlash of Ultimate Spiderman, to the all but openly sexist remarks made by Dan DiDio during San Diego Comic Con on women in the DCU. It truly does seem like race/gender issues in comics have, in essence, tripped up. This is a rant, but hopefully it’ll be a good one, something to add perspective to where we are as a society. So you have been warned, read – but only if care about my opinion. Also, there will be spoilers for the identity of the new Ultimate Spiderman, so don’t even click to see the rest of the article unless you want to know.
It pains me to even feel the need to write this down. You would think that after all the progress we’ve made, not only in the fictional universes created in our written entertainment, but the real world changes occurring everyday, this would be a non-issue. However, that simply doesn’t seem to be the case. Comics tend to follow a similar pattern. One of those patterns is that it’s very common for someone to replace a big named hero when they either pass on or step down. When Barry Allen perished, Wally West took up the Flash title. When Bruce was killed, Dick Grayson became the new Batman. Ted Kord, the former Blue Beetle, was killed off during DCU’s run of Infinite Crisis. Later, a new character named Jaime Reyes became Blue Beetle. This was one of the instances where the two characters were quite different, yet they held the same name and were linked by the same object. This is important because when Ted Kord perished there was hardly any backlash towards his replacement being a Latino.
Disliking the replacement of a superhero is not uncommon, and it’s actually quite understandable. I could totally understand someone not wanting Peter Parker to die, simply because they like him. I like him, too. His death, however, was by far one of the best story arcs in Ultimate Spiderman to date. Seriously, I was in tears throughout the last 4 issues. Sadly, it seems some fans are more focused on Miles’ multi-cultural ethnicity then the fact that Peter has gone to Valhalla. One Facebook user had this to say about the change, “Not to be racist but it’s cool for a white guy to run around in a mask fightin crime. When a black guy does it though, that shit is scary.”
There are countless other comments that are just as equally racist. Thankfully however, that particular objection seems to be in the minority. The real issue we have here is a much more subtle semi-racism. Chances are the people who state it don’t even realize what they’re doing, which is pretty bad in and of itself. What are they saying? That this move is nothing more then an attempt by Marvel to be politically correct? Why is this a form of segregation? Simply because this single statement, in essence, says that the only reason a half Black, half hispanic could ever take over for one of the big super heroes, is to be politically correct. Do you see why this is an issue?
The claim is almost ridiculous, as this isn’t the first time a hero has been replaced by someone of ethnicity. Everyone should know who Barbara Gordon is, the original Batgirl. When she could no longer perform her duties as Batgirl, the title was eventually handed down to a girl of Asian decent named Cassandra Cain. In Marvels Ultimate Universe, Nick Fury is an African American man and more specifically, he’s based off of Samuel L Jackson. John Stewart, one of the four Green Lanterns of sector 2814, is also an African American man, and came into existence because Guy Gardner’s inablity to perform his duties. There are several other situations where this has occurred, and after all the progress that has been made you would think we would have reached a point where the introduction of an ethnic character is just normal. Hell, this isn’t even the first ethnic Spiderman. Miguel O’Hara, the Spiderman of the year 2099, is a mix of Latino and Irish decent! Caucasians aren’t the only race on this planet, and it’s refreshing to see new people that don’t fit the old “comic book stereotype” showing up in comics.
Hopefully the next time this happens, race will not be the focus. Hopefully, we as a community will be able to say, “Oh, look at the new guy/girl they picked to be *named hero here*” instead of the most recent, “Wow, they got a black guy…?” What are your opinions on this change, readers? I’m very interested to know.