Marvel Debuts New Spider-Man to Firestorm of Scorn

You may not have noticed, but Marvel has debuted a new Spider-Man. The half-black, half-Latino Miles Morales is full controversy, despite the fact that the change is only in the Ultimates line. The new character-illustrated by Sarah Pichelli-debuts today in Ultimate Fallout #4, with his origin more fully explained in Ultimate Spider-Man #1 when it relaunches in September. As expected, this did not go over well with the internets.

Bleeding Cool compiled a list of comments that haven't been removed yet for being offensive. Some of the gems include:

"What will he say when he runs into a criminal? “Sup Foo? Dis is MY ‘hood!”

"What’s next? A Spiderman who is half black, half Cuban gay vegetarian who works as a Community organizer and drives a Prius that practices Tai Chi?"

"That’s just dangerous. With spider powers, just think how much stuff he could steal, if he was not so lazy."

Those are just a smattering of the comments collected, but you get the idea. Nearly fifty years after the Civil Rights Act passed we're still debating race. Is it really such a bad thing for Marvel to take one of their most storied characters and completely redefine him in such a way? In short, no. The bigger problem is the way Marvel went about doing it.

I have no problem whatsoever with Spider-Man being non-white. In fact, Marvel could make the main universe Spidey non-white and I'd be ok with it. The problem is releasing the change to the mainstream media the day before it hits comic book stores. There's a reason why Marvel did it and it sits at the crossroads of comic book loyalty and profits.

Ultimate Fallout #4 will no doubt sell like gangbusters. Spider-Man is such a powerful character that transcends comics and the issue will most likely fly off the shelves. Marvel though chose the promise of even more profits by issuing a press release for the event as opposed to letting the people that would care most about the change (read: local comic shop frequenters) discover and organically advertise the change through word of mouth. It would be one thing if Marvel just announced the change, but they also included an image of what Miles Morales looked like with the suit as well.

This isn't the first time Marvel did this. More recently the House of Ideas also leaked the death of Human Torch to the MSM as well, looking to drum up sales on that issue. (Ironically, Johnny Blaze ended up being replaced by Spider-Man in the Fantastic Four). The fault with Marvel on this move lies squarely with their need to make money selling books, a need that has probably been emphasized more since Disney bought the company.

Disney is an international media powerhouse who didn't buy Marvel for Stan Lee cameos. No, it bought them for events such as this. Marvel Studios films are making money hand over fist and we're in a new age of comics, which might appropriately be termed the Digital Age since everything is going digital. Even Ultimate Fallout #4 is available day and date with the print version, making sure everyone gets a chance to send money Marvel/Disney's way.

Events such as this have also lost their luster because everyone knows their not permanent. Supergirl's death in Crisis on Infinite Earths was a big deal, only it wasn't when the event was retconned later. Superman's death was a mammoth deal, only it wasn't when it turns out the multiple Supermen really couldn't replace the original. Captain America's? Same idea. Bruce Wayne? Big, but not so much anymore. It's only a matter of time before Johnny Storm is sighted by someone who can't believe what they see and he comes back in some evil form that has to be dealt with.

The point is that making Spider-Man a mixed-race superhero doesn't really have the same impact from a storyline perspective because it's been cheapened by events before it. What's to say that he's not killed in Ultimate Spider-Man #7 and replaced by a white Spider-Man again. Or another race. Death and change in comics are almost a joke at this point because, again, nothing's permanent.

It is, however, gratifying to know that Donald Glover really did have an impact on the new Spider-Man. Fans will remember the campaign last year where the Childish Gambino (fantastic album) openly lobbied to play the role that Andrew Garfield eventually secured for Amazing Spider-Man. He even opened the season premier of Community in Spider-Man PJs.

A second article in USA Today referenced the appeal Glover had to Brian Michael Bendis on inspiring the change.

"He looked fantastic!" Bendis recalls. "I saw him in the costume and thought, 'I would like to read that book.' So I was glad I was writing that book."

It would have been even bolder of Marvel to cast Glover in the film, which goes to show that Marvel isn't quite ready to make such a massive jump with a flagship character just yet. Honestly, I'm surprised there hasn't been more vitriol on the internet that Morales has been inserted as Spider-Man in the Ultimates line, which is Marvel's sort of "test" universe. It goes back to the point earlier that while Bendis and Marvel probably had genuine intentions on making Spider-Man more diverse, the presentation of the change to the MSM almost makes it seem as if it just wants profits.

I'm not faulting Bendis here for wanting to make Spider-Man diverse, nor am I necessarily blaming Marvel. Again, I applaud the decision and commend the two on taking such a bold move. I really and truly do. I also hope that Bendis and Marvel stay committed with this change and put their hearts in it, making it a seamless transition from Peter Parker to Miles Morales. Don't worry purists, you still have Peter Parker in the main Marvel Universe.

My problem is with Disney most likely, asking that the event be revealed to a broader audience for the sake of making more money. The capitalist in me agrees with the plan, but I guess the comic fan in me is a little upset. Maybe that's just the cost of a world where movies featuring Thor, Green Lantern and Captain America all come out in the same year, while sequels to Batman and Spider-Man are on tap for next year.