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Why a Spider-Man of Color is a Good Thing

August 3, 2011

Quick! Name the most popular black or Hispanic hero that everyone (ie, people who don’t read comics) knows!

Yeah… Storm, maybe? Black Panther? As for Hispanic, I got nothing. That’s honestly embarrassing.

Peter Parker is dead, but only in the alternate Ultimates universe. The new Spider-Man is Miles Morales, a kid who is half black, half Latino. Naturally, the backlash has been disgusting. Where are the people who were supporting Donald Glover as Spidey in the new movie?

Between the racists rants, decries of “political correctness,” and Obama-blaming (???), many fans seem to have lost sight of the fact that this is not only a good thing, it’s a great thing. Because he’s Spider-Man.

The genius behind the incredible design of Spider-Man’s costume is that he can be anybody. His race doesn’t matter. He’s not rich, his personal life is usually pretty shitty. He’s the everyman. He is colorless. Any kid who lives in the Marvel Universe can look up at that swinging hero and envision a version of themselves. There’s a great comic in Spidey’s Tangled Web series that did just this, a young black boy who had an imaginary friend in Spider-Man, and by the end it was revealed that his Spider-Man was black, just like him.

I have heard kids say that they “can’t” dress up as Ariel/Superman because of hair or skin color. A kid of color can dress up as Spider-Man for Halloween without feeling like he isn’t allowed, without being told by other kids (or media) “You can’t be Spider-Man!”

If this story captures the imagination of a young kid of color, if it encourages him/her to pick up a Spider-Man comic, that’s a good thing, both for him/her and the industry. There are not nearly enough role models for kids of color in comics, or in other media, for that matter. This is important, and honestly it’s healthy for us white folks to shake off a bit of our privilege and see a story told from the perspective of a black/Hispanic character. People of color have to put up with white heroes all the damn time. We need to suck it up.

This is a step in the right direction, seeing a hero for his abilities before his color. While I’d like to see Miles Morales stick around for a long long time, realistically, I doubt that’s going to happen. I’d also like to see more heroes of color in the “real” Marvel Universe, as well as DC (Why can’t we have a black Batman in America?).

I’d also like to see a world where this is a non-issue. Baby steps.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 3, 2011 12:55 pm

    Honestly, I don’t care what skin color Spider Man has. I don’t care if he’s a gay black transvestite. I really just don’t give a shit. The point of Spider Man is not his skin color/sexuality/religion, the point is that he, given the ability, chose to go out of his way to make the world a better place.

    That is all.

  2. scandalousmuffin permalink
    August 5, 2011 12:22 am

    Great article, Bex.

    *COMIC SPOILER ALERT*

    Although I am pleased with the new Spiderman, I want to take a slightly off-topic moment to address the lame way Marvel killed Peter Parker. They gang up on him basically every villain he ever fought, and then in the middle of defeating the Green Goblin he was killed by an exploding van! Not only is it an anti-climactic to die, but it’s scientifically inaccurate for a car to randomly explode.

    So scientifically inaccurate!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultimate_Comics:_Spider-Man#.22Death_of_Spider-Man.22

    • August 5, 2011 9:34 am

      LOL. At the same time, it’s good story-wise that the hero dies. I haven’t read the one where he dies, but I plan on picking up the new issues.

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