Don’t know about you, but Spiderman was never one of my favorite characters as a kid. There was just way too much self pity and angst over nothing to relate to the character.
In an attempt to (finally) integrate major comic characters – Marvel has introduced “The ultimate Spiderman”, a character who is half Mexican and half black – which raises the question…
Did they forget the 7% Asian?
As a kid from Queens, NY it’s not hard to understand why Spider-Man has always been my favorite superhero. Aside from a shared geographical location Spider-Man reflected many of the qualities of urban youth. He came from a working class background. He lived with extended family. He was open-minded. Sometimes unsure of himself, he struggled to make sense of the bustling world around him and his place in it.
And now there’s a new chapter to the story. Today we meet Miles Morales, a younger multiracial and multiethnic Spidey. Morales, of mixed black and Latino descent, is described by TIME Magazine as a gangly teen “that fights crime and hurls spiderwebs, just like Peter Parker used to do.” The similarities between Morales and Parker don’t stop there. They share alliterative names and Miles was bitten by a powerful spider too. I guess that makes them both multiracial spider-men.
“What you have is a Spider-Man for the 21st century who’s reflective of our culture and diversity. We think that readers will fall in love with Miles Morales the same way they fell in love with Peter Parker,” says Marvel’s editor in chief, Axel Alonso. In the Ultimate line, launched in 2000 to deliver updated stories, Spider-Man was recreated and his supporting cast was re-imagined. “It’s certainly long overdue,” said Ultimate Spider-Man writer Brian Michael Bendis, continuing that the racial representation of superheroes is still “crazy lopsided.”
Even though Morales may remind us of the Spider-Man we’re used to in the more traditional Marvel universe, there are definite differences. In addition to racial and ethnic differences we’re told there will also be important personality differences as well. Miles also develops different physical capabilities as a result of being bitten. One commentator wondered jokingly whether “the spidey-sense will kick in to combat racial profiling?”
As a story in which diverse characters live to varying degrees in and between races, cultures, languages and worlds, Ultimate Spider-Man will foreground interracial relationships and multiracial identities as sites of tension — between civilization and savagery, fantasy and reality, tragic history and hopeful future. And, because it is science fiction Ulimate Spider-Man might just be able to take these tensions in different direction, where forms and stories can be blurred to settle an argument that has so far been impossible to resolve in reality: What do mediated representations of mixed race and mixed ethnic characters mean for today’s audiences?