After the killing off of Peter Parker in Ultimate Spider-Man Issue 160 in June, fans of the famous web-slinger knew big changes had to be in store for their favorite hero. On August 2, 2011, Marvel Comics unveiled the biggest change of all: Spider-Man’s ethnicity.
The new Spider-Man, who will be revealed in Marvel Comics’ Ultimate Fallout Issue 4, is Miles Morales, a half-Black, half-Hispanic teenager who takes over for the dearly departed Peter Parker. Morales, according to writer Brian Michael Bendis in a FOX News interview, was inspired to take up the Spider-Man mantle after the death of Parker. Bendis explains that it is not just Morales’ ethnicity that makes him a brand new hero.
“He’s younger than Peter Parker,” Bendis explained. “He’s coming from a completely different background [and] a completely different world view.”
The new man behind the mask isn’t the only thing that will be different for Spider-Man fans. The new Spider-Man also dons a new costume. Rather than the traditional red and blue suit fans have come to know and love, Morales wears a sleek new red and black costume.
Many fans have had mixed reactions to the announcement that Marvel Comics has termed “pop culture history.” Some, like Trystin Bailey, a resident of Brooklyn, New York, take the news in stride, noting that the new web-slinger exists only in the Ultimate line.
“In the past decade or so, the Ultimate line has solidified its spot in nerd-dom as that take-no-prisoners, progressive outlet, able to really reflect our times and ideals without being trapped in 60 years of history like Peter Parker, Fantastic Four, et cetera,” Bailey notes. “[But] our friendly neighborhood Peter Parker is still very much alive and kicking and reigning as the one and only Spider-Man [in the mainstream Marvel Universe].”
Rachel Williams of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania thinks it was a good idea to reboot Spider-Man, particularly after the last Toby Maguire-led Spider-Man feature film left a bad taste in her mouth for the character.
Particularly in light of their plans to release an Avengers film in 2012, “[Marvel Comics needs] to renew their characters,” Williams stated, adding that the Marvel franchise needs to create “a cast who will work well for a possible Justice League movie” as well.
Stephanie Gustafson, a Spider-Man fan from St. Paul, Minnesota, agrees that the revamped Spider-Man was a good idea.
“I think the decision of including a mixed-race hero was a good one on the part of Marvel,” Gustafson said, though she added that killing off a long-standing protagonist like Peter Parker is “never a good idea.”
Tara Clapper of Lindenwold, New Jersey, agrees that a mixed-race hero is a good idea, but suggests Marvel Comics should have gone about it differently.
“I’ve noticed a racially diverse audience at comic book movies recently and it’s great that Marvel wants to have a mixed-race superhero,” Clapper stated. “However I think a majority of fans will dislike this move. They should have made a new superhero.”
Clapper, as well as many other fans, also points out that changes like this one for Spider-Man seem to reflect fan reactions to other representations of favorite heroes, such as the somewhat negative reaction many Spider-Man fans had to Tobey Maguire’s representation of Spider-Man in the film franchise of the 2000’s. The ethnicity change for Spider-Man also leaves room for criticism of other elements of the modern comic book culture.
“It [would be nice] to see a comic book movie in which women weren’t simply playing supporting roles,” Clapper said.
Various news sources, including USA Today, have hinted that the ethnicity-change for Spider-Man came in response to the cultural shift in America resulting from the election of Barack Obama, a half-Black, half-White man, as President of the United States. Axel Alonso, Marvel’s editor-in-chief, has suggested that such an idea is not far from the truth.
“This was a conscious decision,” he stated. “Here at Marvel, we pride ourselves on reflecting the real world in all its diversity.”
Spider-Man fans need not worry that a new leading man in the Ultimate Universe may mean a complete switchover from the Spider-Man they’re used to. According to Marvel, Morales will get his powers in the same way Peter Parker did. While he will have new struggles–and, according to Marvel, some added abilities–he will also have the support of some familiar figures, including Peter Parker’s Aunt May.
Readers can look forward to a further explanation of Morales’ origins and his role as Spider-Man in September when Ultimate Spider-Man relaunches with a new Issue No. 1 that Marvel is calling “the most groundbreaking reinvention in comic book history.” But they can rest assured that, as Bendis notes, the theme of the comic series “is the same: With great power comes great responsibility.”
Brian Truitt, “Half-black, half-Hispanic Spider-Man revealed,” USA Today
The Associated Press, “Meet the New Latino Spider-Man, Miles Morales,” Fox News Lationo
Marvel Comics, “The New Ultimate Comics Spider-Man,” Marvel Comics