Here lately, Marvel and DC have been making a few efforts to diversify their lineup of characters. Batman has been hooked up with a black guy named Bat-Wing. Mr. Terrific is getting his own book (that's likely to be cancelled within months, not because he's black, but because it's a book about a guy who's really, really smart). But the most controversial addition seems to be in Marvel's Ultimate Universe. Ultimate Spider-Man is now a Blaxican. Well, I guess he's Mexican. He's half-Black, half-Hispanic. I suppose I shouldn't assume.
From the few comments I read over at the IGN comment section, Miles Morales isn't going to be well-received. They don't like the forced diversity and feel that instead of just changing characters into black people, they should create original characters to reflect the diversity that Marvel and DC are trying to portray. One guy (I couldn't be bothered to go back and read his name; let's call him MrFantastic420) even said that changing Spider-Man into a black/Hispanic guy isn't true diversity at all.
And that shit is goddamn stupid.
Look, no one said anything about Spider-Man 2099 being a half-Puerto Rican Irishman named Miguel O'Hara, and it's the exact same thing. Furthermore, Nick Fury was turned into Samuel L. Jackson, and that was considered to be the most brilliant thing since we climbed out of the primordial ooze because we figured out that we didn't have gills. And that wasn't changing a guy's secret identity, that was changing the guy from Knight Rider into the guy from Pulp Fiction.
But that last point intrigues me: How is that not true diversity in comics? I mean, there's a black guy there where there didn't used to be a black guy. That's one more black guy than was there yesterday.
It's something that has been done before in comic books without controversy. Superman was replaced by four people once, and one of those guys was black. Ted Kord was replaced as Blue Beetle by a Hispanic teenager. Firestorm's two white guys were replaced by a black kid and his Asian girlfriend. It's nothing new. Tony Stark was replaced as Iron Man by James Rhodes. Hal Jordan was replaced as Green Lantern in the comics AND on the cartoon by John Stewart.
I guess it never bothered anyone that Rhodey was Iron Man or that John Stewart was GL, because we always knew that Stark and Hal would be back. But Ultimate Peter Parker is Ultimate Dead, which means, he isn't coming back. I suppose that's why it's a problem. Ultimate Spider-Man is an Ultimate Blaxican. Or Blackarican. Whatever.
But it's not Spider-Man. This is ULTIMATE Spider-Man. He's like, Earth-2 Spider-Man. And that's kind of the point of the character, and the universe, for that matter. They can try things that they couldn't do in the regular Marvel U without assholes claiming that someone just "spit in the eyes of continuity." That's why they have tidal waves wiping out whole superteams and Galactus existing as a swarm of bugs.
And while it's Ultimate Spidey and not regular Spidey, it's still a prominent position for a black man to be in. And Hispanic. Whatever. A black (Hispanic) man is now the top dog in a major comic universe. It's exactly like when Barack Obama become President, except that no one knows about it but comic nerds and the whole thing was made up. Okay, so maybe it's not like that at all. But it kinda is. A little.
It's makes sense to do something like this, because it's boring and predictable to make Spidey ANOTHER white guy. That's something that Captain America or Batman do (and DID. Even though it makes complete sense for a black man to be Batman. We merge into the shadows easier). Besides, creating whole lines of Black characters was also tried. How many years did Milestone last? Creating Black characters for the sake of doing it isn't a good idea, because that's how you get abortions like Rage and Night Thrasher. But in this case, it sounds like they have a story they're trying to tell, so I'm in.
It's so easy to write the whole thing off as "They're fucking fake, losers," but as a black comic nerd, I understand better than most what it's like to be force fed another minority hero. It's offensive and insulting. For a long time, I hated Luke Cage. HATED HIM. Luke Cage, Roadblock from GI Joe, The Junkyard Dog. All the time, I thought, "Why do you they all have to rhyme and dance? And what the fuck does 'jive' mean?" I was a very detailed thinker as an eight year old. But I wondered why black people couldn't just be heroes. Why do they have to be BLACK heroes? Where was my Superman? Where was my Hulk Hogan?
Here's hoping that for a younger generation of minority comic book readers, Ultimate Spider-Man (and Firestorm and Blue Beetle) can be just that.
And even at it's worst, it can't reached the depths of the time they turned the Punisher black. I'm still mad about that one.