Spider-Man will explore race and identity issues

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Comics book are a lot more diverse these days. And that’s a great thing. There’s been a change over the last couple of years, one where publishers have realised that every single hero on a printed page doesn’t have to be a Caucasian character waiting to be voiced by Nolan North in a video game cameo. And there’re so many wonderful characters that have been introduced in an attempt to say “Hey, comics are for everyone!”.

You’ve got Miss Marvel, a cosplay and nerdy new Inhuman hero who happens to come from a working class Muslim family, the super-genius and super-problem solving strenghts of the Blue Marvel and an incredibly awesome Hulk who happens to share a body with an Asian super-genius. Those are Marvel Comics examples, but they’ve got another great character leading the charge to change the status quo: Spider-Man.

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And I’m not talking about Peter Parker. I’m talking about one of the lone survivors of the Ultimate Universe, Miles Moralis. An amazing arachnid hero who has both black and Hispanic ethnicity, Miles has been a huge hit so far. After all, there’s more than enough room for two Spider-Men in the new Marvel universe, and Miles has been a welcome addition that channels the younger, more optimistic spirit of a webhead who isn’t bogged down by decades of continuity.

And it’s that possible culture clash that could help differentiate Miles from other heroes. “Yes, there were two elements of race that were easily the most requested things to be addressed,” Spider-Man writer Brian Michael Bendis said to CBR, discussing the end of the second issue where Miles’ seemed to be disturbed how vloggers were focusing on his ethnicity and not his actions.

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No one asked me to address them in any particular way, just that they be addressed. Number one was: how will Miles’ race differentiate him from the other heroes and in particularly Spider-Man? Here we go with this.

As a Jewish man I have an interesting take on this because I wear my Judaism very strongly because as I’ve said in the past if anyone has a problem with Judaism I’d like to know now, and not later. [Laughs] So I’m not surprised later. I can see people making lists of Jewish comic creators or gay comic creators. That’s always weird. First of all, not to quote funny people but, don’t put Jews on lists. We don’t like it.

I work with a lot of creators though from many different walks of life. And all of them have a very different thing they want out of this part of their life. I work with female creators who want to fully empower the world because of this, and I work with female creators who absolutely don’t want any part of the story. They just want their work to speak for themselves, and they don’t want to do anything to alter the perception of the work with someone else’s agenda.

So here’s a young man, Miles, who is having other people discuss his skin color and he doesn’t know how he thinks about that. He’s like, “What does that matter?” And I was part of a conversation with some people of a generation younger than me where this conversation happened. It was like, “No, I want what I do to represent who I am. My skin is not your business.” It’s right there though you can’t help but see the skin. That just seemed like Miles to me. I said, “This is the road I’d like to go down with Miles.”

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The first person to comment on his skin liked him more because his skin was brown and that’s kind of weirder than someone not liking him because his skin is brown. It’s like, “What’s that? Why do you like me more? I don’t understand what that is.” So it’s something to talk about for many issues to come.

His first reaction is “What is that?” And I live in a house where people are confronted with their race all the time and seeing different relationships to it with different people. It’s a very complicated subject. It’s something I would like to reflect, and thankfully with an ongoing comic you can reflect on it from many different angles. This will be the first one.

But I’m a White guy, should I be writing about this stuff? I am Jewish and part of an empowered multi-racial household and I have been called names my entire life. people think because I’m “White” that I haven’t had racism in my life but that’s pretty misinformed. I’m White, but I’m Jewish. And to racists, Jewish is a race. As the Ku Klux Klan often say, “African-Americans are animals but the Jews are the Devil.” So even among hate groups us Jews always shoot to number one. Yay us!

In issue #2, Miles asks a question, a question many of us have asked. He’s young and he is trying to figure it out. In my opinion, it is story and character appropriate. I knew some would read into it. I knew it would be interpreted by others because it’s a good question with no easy answer.

Miles’ Hispanic side will also pave the way for possibly his most diablocial villain yet. His grandmother. “Because here comes the second part where he’ll see his Latino side start to pour into his life, and lo and behold here comes what will be his greatest nemesis, his Doc Ock, his grandmother — who is a hurricane of attitude and fully based on someone in my life. I cannot wait to explore this further,” Bendis said.

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It’s a great angle for a breakout star in comics book today. And there’s still more to come as 2016 paves the way for a new Spider-Man to make his mark.

Last Updated: March 14, 2016

Darryn Bonthuys

Something wrong gentlemen? You come here prepared to read the words of a madman, and instead found a lunatic obsessed with comics, Batman and Raul Julia’s M Bison performance in the 1994 Street Fighter movie? Fine! Keep your bio! In fact, now might be a good time to pray to it!

  • Captain JJ the Isolated

    I work with a lot of brand placement in Africa and the interesting thing that we’ve seen is that kids tend to relate to characters, despite their race. In a lot of cases in the middle of Africa, the Caucasian toys sell and the African ones don’t. Turns out the children aren’t that tuned into race at that age and see the characters that look different as entirely different characters.
    Just an interesting thing I thought I’d share. 🙂

  • Vielen

    So, the current hulk is an asian, captain america is also an africa-american now, thor become a girl and ice-man is a gay! I wondered what other innovation ideas will Marvel come up with in the future ??!

  • Ryanza

    #blackspiderlivesmatter

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