The following is a news-editorial. Newsditorial? Whatever. Let's move on.
After what seems like days of speculation, the word is out that there's a new web-swinger in Marvel's Earth-1610 (better known as the Ultimate Universe). If you haven't read the books, we apologize for the following [SPOILERS].
For those who don't know what the heck is going on, after being mistakenly murdered by the Punisher (was that a riff on the cover to Amazing Spider-Man #129? We may never know), Peter Parker is dead … in the Ultimate universe, mind you. The Ultimate Universe is Marvel's "modernized" experiment in storytelling which once took the scenic route to get to stories told decades ago, but now is the place where Magneto swamped the world with a tidal wave, Wolverine is dead, Reed Richards went nuts and became a super villain and Nick Fury looks like Samuel L. Jackson. Okay, the last part is in movies too, because that's just cool, and aside from the eyepatch and the badge, Jackson just had to wear the same wardrobe he likely kept from that Shaft reboot.
But we digress. The article notes …
Revealed in Marvel Comics' Ultimate Fallout Issue [#]4, out Wednesday, the new Spider-Man in the Ultimate universe is a half-black, half-Hispanic teen named Miles Morales.
In his first appearance, he simply breaks up a fight. But readers will learn the true origin of Morales and how he became the new Spider-Man when Ultimate Spider-Man relaunches in September with a new No. 1 issue.
"The theme is the same: With great power comes great responsibility," says writer Brian Michael Bendis. "He's going to learn that. Then he has to figure out what that means."
The new Ultimate Spider-Man series, as well as Wednesday's Ultimate Fallout issue, will be available digitally the same day as in stores.
In the regular Marvel Universe, Peter Parker will still be the same web-swinging Spidey as he has been since his first appearance in 1962. But in the Ultimate line, launched in 2000 to tell contemporary stories, he received a new origin and a reimagined supporting cast that paralleled the Spidey in regular Marvel continuity.
Morales' journey will be a similar vehicle for today's fans, says Marvel's editor in chief, Axel Alonso.
"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."
So much ground to cover here … okay, let's go …
- It only took Marvel having two Latino editors in chief — Joe Quesada and now (the not-surprisingly also Puerto Rican) Axel Alonso for a Puerto Rican hero to add a dot of color to the milquetoast palette of Marvel's Ultimate line. So now we have one Black Avenger (Luke Cage — also written by Bendis) in Marvel's "normal" universe (Earth-616) and one Black premier-class hero in their Ultimate universe (Earth-1610).
- Some people will try to wonder if this is a response to DC's New 52 initiative, relaunching their entire line and rebooting entire elements. It almost can't be. Ultimate Fallout has been solicited for more than six months, the death of Ultimate Peter Parker far beyond that. To get the appropriate corporate sign offs at the Mouse House of Ideas, this had to be at least a year back that this idea was floated. The fact it's also hitting in September is just a funny coincidence.
- What is relevant is that people don't have to drive to a comics shop to get this: Marvel selling it digitally day-and-date (few remember that announcement from San Diego) means that anybody, anywhere can get it at any time of day and night, and the lead book for this new sales path is one, singular focus point with a clear slug line ("Black Spider-Man") that anybody can grab on to. In terms of media manipulation, it's a simpler and smarter story than DC's V-necked relaunch, which again shows the media savvy of the team at 387 Park Avenue South.
- USA Today's headline — "The new Spider-Man: Half-black, all hero" is an interesting choice for a variety of reasons. First, most people who would meet a curly-haired, brown-skinned teenager with the surname "Morales" from New York City would call him "Puerto Rican." Not "half-Black." Not that there's anything wrong with it, either way, it's just an interesting choice — an attempt to play to a wider audience. It's like they're saying, "Something for more of you! He's Black and Latino! Congratulations!" This is likely more of a choice from the marketing minds of Marvel Entertainment than the editorial minds of Marvel Comics, admittedly. Is he Black?
- The idea of a "legacy" hero is not new, with a subsequent character picking up the mantle, name and sometimes visual elements of a previous one. Many of these character sequels have surpassed their predecessors. Hal Jordan clearly outshines Alan Scott, and Barry Allen laps the legacy of Jay Garrick. Marvel, conversely, has rarely done this — for example, there's never been a Captain America to stand up to Steve Rogers, despite having no fewer than four other men sling the shield, Shuri has very little traction taking over from T'Challa and regardless of who calls themselves Hobgoblin, they've never topped Norman Osborn. This takes a neophyte of a different race, one who maybe isn't a scientific genius, one who might not have a chance to work for the Daily Bugle or any non-menial job, and puts him in the costume and role of a character described as the heart of the heroic community in a fairly "new" continuity … that's a lot to put on some thin shoulders. Expect much vitriol from Ultimate JJJ on this one.
- Brian Michael Bendis — nice guy — has written more consecutive issues of Spider-Man than anyone. He has written Ultimate Spider-Man since its inception, and he remains in place. Fine and dandy. Ask how many Black writers are working on monthly comics at Marvel. Go on. Ask. The answer is zero. There's not a single Black person writing a comic book at Marvel, and we'd be hard pressed to name a Latino. Even with a Puerto Rican editor in chief. Are we saying Bendis should be fired after devising this whole thing? Of course not. That'd be mean. We're just pointing out a fact — both DC and Marvel are making "diverse" statements in their character casting without very much diversity in the voices presenting the characters. "We just want to hire the best people," we've heard some editors say Really? Have you checked out the writing programs at Temple University? At Howard? People who'd work cheap, fresh out of college with ideas and perspectives that are unlike anybody you know? This isn't a call for anybody to lose their job, this is — in the words of Sting — a deeper world than this, tugging at your hand.
- How many people think Donald Glover is dancing around his place in a Spider-Man costume and yelling excitedly into a phone at his agent about this?
We at Komplicated are always excited about the idea of new heroes of color. Beggars, as we so often have cast ourselves, can't be choosers. We'll take 'em with this kind of baggage, sure, but we're never going to stop striving for more. "Facing the rising sun of our new day begun, let us march on till victory is won."
[Source: The USA Today, Scans Daily, Newsarama]