In a deal between Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures, Marvel has gained use of Spider-Man within their own cinematic universe. Terms allow Spider-Man to exist in Sony and Marvel films at the same time. Curiously, there were two words missing from Marvel’s press release: Peter Parker, Spider-Man’s alter ego. Which begs the question: Who is Spider-Man? It’s a headline worthy of The Daily Bugle. It has been reported that Sony is looking to stick with Peter, while rumors swirl around Spider-Man’s future in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, home of the Avengers.
The buzz is that Marvel’s Spider-Man could be the mixed-race (Black and Latino) Miles Morales, currently the Spider-Man in Marvel’s Ultimate line of comics, a universe that exists separate from Marvel’s main line of books. It would be a fresh direction that would help add diversity to future Marvel Studios films.
Here is where the Internet’s collective gnashing of teeth begins. When the rumor was floated, people cried out with fallacious furor. Comment sections, Twitter accounts and message boards filled with complaints from self-identifying white males who see a non-white Spider-Man as a terrible idea. At worst, it has been claimed, it’s the destruction of Spider-Man by progressive “social justice warriors.” At best, a cash grab by a studio out of ideas. I can kind of understand. As a Latino, I loved the characters from my childhood I could identity with — even if they weren’t that great. I could only imagine what it would be like if I could see myself in one of the coolest heroes in history.
When established characters are re-imagined as minority or female, a lot of the same demands pop up, earnest and facetious: Either there should be more original characters who are female and/or people of color, or we should turn iconic black characters like the Black Panther white — carefully avoiding the fact that characters like the Black Panther were explicitly created by Stan Lee and others to confront the lack of diversity in the universe they saw at Marvel Comics in the 1960s.
Dan Slott, a perennial Spider-Man author, made the point that Spider-Man’s race is not inherent to his character. If you were to list the qualities of what makes Spider-Man, he stated, being white shouldn’t be on there. Unfortunately, it seems, that the only way to get the masses to demand new female and minority characters is to threaten to take away a white male character. Why make Spider-Man a minority? Why not?
Mauricio Machucha co-owns Hi De Ho Comics, 1431 Lincoln Blvd., in Santa Monica.