Geek Girl On The Street Reports: You Should Be Much More Careful When You’re Talking About The Sensitive Subject Of Race

Posted by August 3, 2011 Comment

Kate Kotler writes for Bleeding Cool;

There is a song from the musical Avenue Q in which two puppets proclaim that “everyone’s a little bit racist, sometimes.”

This song has been running through my head on a loop amongst the fallout following the Marvel Comics announcement on Monday (via the USA Today) that Peter Parker is being replaced as Spider-Man by Miles Morales… a teen of black and Hispanic heritage.

Keep in mind, Miles is only replacing Peter because Peter died in June’s issue of The Ultimate Spider-Man. And, further, Miles is only Spidey in the USM universe – Peter Parker is still happily web slinging in Dan Slott’s “Spider Island” run of The Amazing Spider-Man (launched last Wednesday with TASM #666.)

So what the hell is the big brewhaha about, then?

Oh right, the really crazy racist reaction on the Internet that people had to this announcement.

It really makes me feel sad and my heart bleed a little that seemingly every time our society has an opportunity to embrace something new and diverse that some pinhead somewhere has to say something like this:

Minorities are typically less than 18% of the population, but they seem to get nearly 100% of the history. Why should white children not have a comic book hero that they can identify with?”

The thing is, I can understand how people would be upset about Miles taking over as Spidey for two, legitimate reasons:

One: For nearly 50 years the character Spider-Man, as created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, has been Peter Parker. It is absolutely jarring for long term Spidey fans to have to wrap their heads around the concept that someone other than Peter Parker is Spider-Man. It would be equally jarring if someone at DC Comics decided that Superman was no longer interested in being an American icon, but rather wanted to be a “citizen of the world…”

(Remember when people went stupidly apeshit over that earlier this summer?)

Superheroes are iconic and (whether it is rational or not) when creators make a substantial change to their mythology, fans are going to push back… sometimes in a really disappointing way.

Two: I can understand that black and Hispanic people (and those of other minorities) would prefer that instead of making an already established superhero black and Hispanic, that Marvel create a new superhero and expand their universe to include someone equally as awesome as Spider-Man who started out black and Hispanic. I get that. I do. And, perhaps someone at Marvel will get that, too.

(Though – there is precedence for changing the race of an established cape, as in 2001 in Just Imagine’s Stan Lee’s Batman, Batman became Wayne Williams and was black.)

There are already quite a few minority superheroes,* though arguably not enough and absolutely not enough with the cache of Spider-Man.

The question which has been rolling around the Internet in response to the ugly reaction to the Marvel announcement is a pretty valid one: America has a black President,** so why can’t we have a black/Hispanic Spider-Man?

It is important that comics reflect the diversity of the audience reading them. It might have been an easier choice for Marvel to create a new superhero, with an entirely new mythology. However, I applaud Marvel and Brian Michael Bendis’ decision to make a harder choice and make an established, popular superhero such as Spider-Man reflect an element of the audience which has until now been more than somewhat ignored.

*You can easily find a list of black superheroes, Latino superheroes, female superheroes, gay superheroes and disabled superheroes on the Internet.

**President Obama is a fan of Spider-Man and was featured in The Amazing Spider-Man #583, where Spidey saves Inauguration Day for the Prez.

Kate Kotler is the founding editor of Geek Girl on the Street.com and a freelance writer/editor/marketing hack and full time geek girl who lives in Chicago. She loves Doctor Who, Frank Miller, Wonder Woman, knitting, puppetry and she used to be a professional fire eater. See her full resume on katekotler.com. You can Tweet at her @adorkablegrrl on the Twitters.

(Last Updated August 4, 2011 5:45 am )

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.

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