This might be old news.
Internet debates rise and fall in the blink of an eye nowadays. Firestorms that pass while half the world sleeps. But what I know is that, since the ‘net’s creation, the sort of feverish fan debates that once took place between five impassioned guys in front of the counter at their comic book store is now global. Everyone has a voice, a point and a passion that they will literally force a meme into your brain in case of confusion.
The latest is over Miles Morales, Marvel’s ethnically diverse youth Spider-Man who took the reins from Peter Parker in their side (soon to be collided with 616) Ultimate universe. All at the behest, let’s not forget, of Community cult hero Donald Glover campaigning for a black Spidey.
As we now know the movie Ultimate Spider-man role would eventually go to Andrew Garfield under the banner amazing Spider-man and the debate over a half black half Hispanic Spider-man has already done the rounds, with some fans denouncing it, hating on it, and generally stepping away in a blunt refusal to accept a Spidey for a new, more diverse, generation. Miles on his debut was lauded by many as a marketing ploy which, in fairness, is absolutely true. When a comics company wants to get new readers they hit up other demographics that aren’t reading. It’s simple marketing.
Some years in and Miles has found a new fan base. This is relevant because, with the Marvel/Sony character sharing deal recently announced, speculation has already begun as to whether it’ll be Miles or Pete wearing the Webs when the character eventually debuts onscreen at Marvel. The debate has begun afresh, and this time it’s movie related. The stakes, as they say, are higher. One writer has already made an excellent point as to why a new breed of Spidey is a necessary move, not just a sales grab. Joe Hill shared his post on Twitter, and I feel compelled to share again here. Read it and then come back to me.
Now, in case you missed the point of that article, let me summarise; Marvel’s core characters are mostly white science guys from the 60s. Diversity is happening ever so slowly and, while that’s fine, these 60s characters have all the potential in the world to be legacy characters. Creating new, more modern characters is fine, and is happening (Ms Marvel, The Young Avengers etc.), but creating characters as popular as their 60s legacy counterparts is difficult. And so utilising pre-existing character mantles like Spidey and Captain America to bring in new characters makes sense for any marketer to reach a new audience with the best and most popular characters.
With me so far? Cool.
As readers know, writers don’t even need to kill off the older versions of our much loved characters. Steve Rogers can co-exist with Sam Wilson, the same way Miles can co-exist with Pete. There have been various incarnations of Iron Man, Hulk, Wolverine etc. all while the progenitor existed alongside them. Over at DC you have entire families of characters like the multiple earth serving Green Lanterns, the extensive Bat and Super-families. In comics less isn’t always more, especially when you’re catering to multiple demographics.
Which is where it seems clear that fans get lost on the issue.
As fans, we often feel compelled to root for our favourite characters. We want our version, and that version only, to hog the spotlight. In some cases we cling to sixty-year-old characters because, simply put, we hate the idea of someone else trying to fill their shoes. As a comic nerd of some years I know this, because I am as guilty as the next guy. For example; I love Peter Parker and was horrified when Doc Ock brain switched with him. Horrified! How could they?! It was blasphemy and the pic of Stan Lee dumping issue #600 in the trash seemed to validate all of my fan boy rage.
As it turns out, Superior Spider-Man was one of the most inventive things Marvel had done with Spidey in years, and was one of my favourite arcs EVER! But the fan or ,should I say, human gut reaction is to rail against any harm, underrepresentation or disposal of our favourite characters.
For a lot of fans Peter Parker will always be Spidey. They don’t hate Miles, just the idea that he’ll replace what they collectively love. Now I don’t believe that anyone who reads from one of the most diverse mediums -comics – is at all racist or backwards. We are, and I say we because I’m in there too, we are very protective. And we don’t want to see characters we have loved and grown up with for generations swept to the side for the new guy on the block.
But as fans we should appreciate that new generations of kids and readers who might not idolise a white Spidey as much as they might a black one, should have the chance to love and enjoy something as much as we have. I, and we as fans, will always have Peter Parker, but I’m coming to love Miles. What I love more is that a readership who may never have felt represented in comics, or even read them, are getting on board with Miles too.
To quote Dan Slott; “there’s nothing inherently white about Spidey.”
So why don’t we, as fans, give the new guy a shot in whatever movie he’s soon to debut in at Marvel? We’ve had Tobey and Andrew as Peter and they were great. So let’s give Miles some screen time and give some new fans a hero who speaks to them as much as Peter does the guys who grew up reading him…