Blatant Insubordination: Spider-Man, Race and Change
1. Spider-Man, Race and Change
The world of comic books found itself in yet another mini-scandal this week when Marvel announced the new Ultimate Spider-Man would be a half-black half-Hispanic boy named Miles Morales. Some readers (seemingly the minority) cried foul, saying a move like this was too PC, that this character would never be the “real” Spider-Man, and my personal favorite, that it was part of the Obama administration’s agenda to corrupt the country with blacks, gays, immigrants and reading. In contrast, many embraced the idea, cheering Marvel on for being more inclusive from a racial standpoint. Others labeled the move a lame publicity stunt.
For the record, I think the Miles Morales character is a positive step for mainstream superhero comics. A lot of bloggers have said this already, but there’s nothing about the Spider-Man character that inherently ties him to a particular race. That can be said for most superheroes, actually. Yet the most prominent ones are all white dudes with the occasional white chick thrown in, because they were all created during the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s. In their original incarnations, both the Justice League and the Avengers were made up entirely of white heroes. But the world doesn’t look that way anymore. According to the US Census, 2010 was the first year the number of minority babies born in the United States was higher than the number of white babies born. The world is changing, and it’s only natural that our stories and popular culture reflect that. For my money, a lot of the people complaining about Ultimate Spider-Man being blasphemous or overly PC are insecure about those changes.
But to me, all that is common knowledge. What really interested me about this whole situation was what some of the pro-Morales crowd were saying about what having a black/Hispanic Spider-Man would do for young black or Hispanic readers. They talked about how kids would be able to look at a black Spider-Man and say: “Wow, he looks like me! I could be Spider-Man!” As a guy who grew up a white suburban kid, that’s something I’d never thought about. All the big heroes, whether it’s Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Captain America, Thor, The Flash, even most of the Power Rangers, were white. To a kid, whether on a conscious or subconscious level, that says heroes have to fit a certain mold: White and muscular. That’s obviously not the case at all, but as adults we don’t think about that. All we want is a great story. To kids, a black/Hispanic Spider-Man says that there is no mold. It tells young readers that no matter what race you are, you can do great things. How cool is that? How can that be a bad thing?
Suck it up, haters.
2. Perry White, Race and Change
In a related story, this week Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment cried “Hey! We can do that too!” when they announced that Laurence Fishburne will play Perry White in the next Superman movie, Man of Steel.
For the uninitiated, Perry White is Clark Kent’s boss at The Daily Planet. He’s your typical hardened boss character, who smokes a lot of cigars, yells for his reporters to get things done, and says: “Great Caesar’s Ghost!”
I’m interested to see what happens with Fishburne’s characterization. Heck, I’m interested to see what happens with Man of Steel in general. Supposedly, they’re moving away from some of the elements of Superman that were established in the Richard Donner films. Of course, because this is Zack Snyder we’re talking about, it could all be turned into something as nasty as Sucker Punch. I can only assume Fishburne will take the Perry White character in a bit more subdued direction, which may or may not be a good thing. All in all, it likely won’t make that big a difference, as Perry won’t be a main character anyway.
3. Woo Woo Woo! I Found it!
This evening, after weeks of randomly pulling into Targets, Walgreens’ and K-Marts, after about 100 John Cenas, 50 Triple Hs, 30 Undertakers, and strangely enough, about 20 Wade Barrett, I finally found my equivalent of the Mattel Holy Grail…a Zack Ryder action figure! I simply walked into a Walgreens and there he was, appropriately hanging in front of yet another John Cena figure. Tonight, the plastic broski took his rightful place on one of my shelves next to Bret Hart, The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels.
Thus, my quest has abruptly come to an end. However, I have a new quest to tackle: Learning how to get photos from my cell phone camera to my computer. I just spotted my Zack Ryder action figure fist pumping with one of my Batman action figures, and that’s something the internet NEEDS to see! Something tells me PI hasn’t seen that last of the Zack Ryder action figure…
You know it, bro!
Front page image from Marvel.com. Perry White image from superman.wikia.com. Zack Ryder figure pic from comiccollectorlive.com.