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And Now For Something Completely Different

Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man Announcement: Could Spidey Be African-American?

An announcement by Marvel concerning Ultimate Spider-Man is coming tonight, and there is a lot of speculation that Spidey’s alter ego could be African-American. As we all know, Peter Parker died in Issue #160, leaving room for a new hero to take his place. And what with the really fun Twitter campaign to consider casting comedian Donald Glover as Spidey (pictured above), it’s possible that a light bulb went off in someone’s head that this might be a really good idea. Could there be a racist backlash? Yeah, probably. Oh wait, there was one? Ucccccchh. Well, here we go.

Bleeding Cool’s Richard Johnston has already contended with one racist reaction to a possible African-American Spider-Man, and most likely, there will be plenty of similar reactions. But let’s focus on the positive and let ignorant people be ignorant far, far away from this space.

It’s certainly a great, progressive step in the right direction to cast a race other than Caucasian as the man behind Spidey. Especially if he lives in New York City, where the minority population outnumbers Caucasians. So it really makes logical sense. There are also existing characters who could take over the heroics, such as Ben Reilly, a lab assistant who appeared in the “Clone Saga” and was a clone of Peter Parker himself who has worn the Spidey suit before as the Scarlet Spider.

But did the Glover effort — which Stan Lee supported — have an effect on this? At the time, Lee said that an African-American Spider-Man “shouldn’t be a racial issue,” but that it might confuse the audience:

“Here’s the point: We’ve already had the Kingpin in ‘Daredevil’ portrayed by a black man, where he was white in the comics, [and] we’ve had Nick Fury portrayed by a black man where he was white in the comics,” said Lee. “But not that many people had seen these characters — not that many moviegoers are familiar with them.”

“Everybody seems to be familiar with Spider-Man, so I say that it isn’t that it’s a racial issue — it’s just that it might be confusing to people,” he explained. “But that’s a matter for the people at Marvel to take into consideration. I certainly don’t want to weigh in on it in any way, except to say I think [Glover] is a fine actor.”

Once again, this is all speculation at this point. But it’s speculation about a potentially awesome development. We will keep you posted following the announcement.

(Bleeding Cool)

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  • Frodo Baggins

    Well, now that it’s not actually Peter Parker wearing the mask, that should weed out all the merely-racially-insensitive detail-obsessives, leaving only those who have a real, deep-seated problem with the idea of a non-white Spider-Man.

  • Nick Gaston

    I think the only issue I’d have with changing a character’s race is if a) they killed a character just so they could replace them with a different-race character (and even this could be mitigated, if, say, the replacement was an established character already.), or; b) it wouldn’t make any sense for the story or setting (like, say, if you made Frodo black, or the protagonists of Gaiman’s Anansi Boys white).

    I’d have even less problem if it were a complete reboot or something, and they were making Peter Parker black.

  • DH

    Pretty much this exactly.

  • Anonymous

    If it’s not Peter Parker it’s NOT Spiderman….I thought things like that clone episode had established this.

    What I mean is it’s not just a frikin’ costume, or a power…sheesh.

  • Rachel Bland

    Why would making Frodo black change anything? He’s a hobbit. If Frodo was phenotypically black, hispanic or indian it wouldn’t have any effect on the story or setting b/c the main crux of the story, him being a hobbit, remains the same.

  • Life Lessons


  • Amanda

    Spiderman could be someone else if Peter Parker could no longer be Spiderman for some reason (death, injury, retirement, etc.) and he needed the public to still see Spiderman out there doing his thing, fighting bad guys and whatnot. Bad guys are going to be more scared of Spidey than of some new guy in tights that shows up. Then Peter could be passing the torch (er, Spidey-suit) to someone else.

  • Amanda

    Spiderman could be someone else if Peter Parker could no longer be Spiderman for some reason (death, injury, retirement, etc.) and he needed the public to still see Spiderman out there doing his thing, fighting bad guys and whatnot. Bad guys are going to be more scared of Spidey than of some new guy in tights that shows up. Then Peter could be passing the torch (er, Spidey-suit) to someone else.

  • Frodo Baggins

    Because Middle Earth is a setting specifically and conspicuously based on medieval Europe (well, the Shire could be considered more like 19th-century rural England, but still, honky central), which includes in its mythos a foreign race of dark-skinned humans heavily implied to have come from a North Africa-like region. Not to mention the physical characteristics and ethnographic history of the hobbits are described in detail in the text. Making Frodo black is simply incoherent within the world Tolkien created.

    He’s not like Heimdall, a mythological being of vague origin from another dimension, or even Spider-Man, who hails from modern-day, racially-diverse NYC. He’s a character from a very specific place, time, culture, and ethnic background. You may as well claim it makes no difference to the story if Aladdin is Inuit.

    Besides, making your black protagonist a diminutive weakling who’s constantly overshadowed by the heroism of his white compatriots, and whose greatest asset is a pure moral compass that nonetheless ultimately fails him, comes off as REALLY FREAKING RACIST. Even if you make all your Hobbits black, they’re still walking around constantly agape at the beauty, nobility, and strength of the white humans, elves, and dwarves. So you have to make most of them black, too. And then it’s just bizarre that all these black people are speaking languages, wearing clothes, and incorporating folklore lifted wholesale from European sources. One might even call it depriving them of their own culture. So really, you’d have to change all those things about LOTR as well, to avoid it being racist. And at that point, why not just write a different fantasy story?

    More importantly: someone MUST make a movie of Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys! It’s SO GOOD and I’ve already been fantasy casting for years. Idris Elba should be Tiger.

  • Anonymous

    I find it fascinating that people would be “confused” by a black Spiderman.  It suggests that, in the common understanding, a person’s race is more central to their identity than whether or not they have frikkin’ superpowers.

    You humans are a very backwards species.

  • Anonymous

    OMG, is this a COMMUNITY episode?  :D

    It would be nice, if they for once, acknowledged that Spiderman has a sense of humor.

  • Anonymous

    Spiderman is perhaps the one SINGLE Marvel character where that does not work.  

    PP has changed costumes over and over again, he has joined pretty much every single superhero team ever created, fought every villain and has even gone from totally loosing his powers to gaining every single one (Cap Universe).

    Despite all that, despite deliberately changing his name, fighting with a paper bag on his head or getting friking cloned (over and over) we recognized  Spiderman because under that disguise he was ALWAYS Peter Parker.  It’s not Spiderman who fights crime, who gives all that “with great power…blah blah” speech, It’s Parker, always Parker.  It’s what makes the character so likable, and immediately recognizable and absolutely essential in the Marvelverse (Christ, all the other super-powered heros take the piss out of him for that, nearly none of them believe in it as much as he does (if any) but they ALL admire him for it.

    When that unfortunate Scarlet Spider thing happened even though Ben R was wearing the costume and getting called “Spiderman” in the Marvelverse…it wasn’t,  and Ben was a perfect clone.

    What I’m trying to say is that you can’t turn your back on that, PP has proven over and over again that it’s not about the suit, it’s about the person.  I’ve got no problem with rebooting and making PP come from another ethnic background (although I question the interest and motivation behind it)  but throwing the costume at some new kid and saying “now you are the new Spiderman”.

    bull.uh uh, it doesn’t work that way.  This ain’t Thor’s Hammer (that one worked out well) or some magical green ring.

  • Ann Marie Patterson

    I can’t believe I hadn’t heard about the Glover thing.  He’d have made an excellent Peter Parker in the upcoming reboot.

  • Kate Gould

    “New Spider-Man alter ego is half-black, half-Latino Miles Morales”