panel of of sun-spider by Jethro Morales. Image: Marvel Comics.

Original Spider-Verse Creator Defends Exciting Additions to the Canon Against Bigots

After the widely praised movie Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse introduced many to the spider-verse and the idea that anyone can take up the mantle of a hero, the internet flooded with Spidersonas. Each of these illustrations featured people making their own heroes, and the #spidersona hashtag inspired Marvel Comics to connect with some of the creatives to canonize their characters into Marvel comics.

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Now on Edge of Spider-Verse #4 coming next month, a gross reaction has met the newest rounds of spideys. The group includes the return of Spider-Ham, a first solo debut of Spider-Mobile and also Sun-Spider, and the official debut of Spinstress.

While no one takes issue with an actual pig or sentient vehicle (or a number of other wacky characters like Spider-Rex), many online are very upset about Spinstress and Sun-Spider. With Spinstress, lots of the criticism is straight-up uninspired misogyny, probably aided by racism. People are complaining about how Disney she looks, as if that’s a bad thing. Looking like a Disney character is only an issue when we’re talking about social media filters and body dysmorphia, not a Spider-Princess that can talk to spiders, which is both terrifying and kinda cool.

Most hate about this issue, though, comes down to Charlotte Webber (yes, a reference to Charlotte’s Webb), a.k.a. Sun-Spider, and has once again come with bigoted personal attacks calling writer Tee Franklin a “diversity hire.” Created by Dayna Broder, Sun-Spider was selected, by Marvel, from the Spidersona contest a few years back. Sun-Spider has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), and those with EDS have extreme flexibility. This causes sores, bruising, and sometimes worse. So, like many with mobility devices (scooters, crutches, canes, etc.), Charlotte uses them sometimes but can go without for periods of time.

Disabled heroes have always existed

While not always done well—and, more often than not, attributed to a villain character—disability in superhero comics has existed for decades. Still, without even accounting for mental disability or the use of super common aids (like glasses), there are dozens of heroes with disabilities. Professor Xavier uses a wheelchair, and Daredevil is blind. Several characters, from Barabra Gordan (as Oracle) to Hawkeye, use accessibility equipment due to things that happened in their storyline. We don’t know for sure yet, but that seems like the route taken with Sun-Spider.

Some tried to rationalize their way out of Sun-Spider’s inclusion by stating that if she were super, she would have a healing boost. Number one, she’s not Wolverine (though now I’m wondering if there’s a Spider-Logan). Secondly, this is incredibly ableist because it assumes the disability is something to be fixed, and until then, people/characters with disability are somehow broken or not whole.

This harassment got so bad over the weekend that it caught the attention of many at Marvel, including one of the original Spider-verse creators, Dan Slott. He didn’t link to it so as to not give it more attention. Instead, he pushed against the nasty comments and gave context to those confused about how this character would work by explaining EDS.

Best writer for the job

Franklin was chosen as a successful rising star in comics, and because she has been praised by many for her nuance and care when writing disabled characters. While she’s not a capital “A” activist, she speaks up about the need for more representation in comics and shares stories about her own disability. Also, I’m not sure if it applies to this project, but a lot of times, writers have to pitch to editors. They are not just pre-assigned and hand-selected.

As previously stated, people just get really bothered to see marginalized people existing and bringing our stories into the fold. Franklin gets called a “self-insert” for including sex workers, Black queer faces, and characters with a disability, as if only certain artists bring themselves and their experiences into their work. To top it all off, people had the audacity to say she doesn’t “deserve this,” bringing up the “merit” debate again. Meritocracy is a myth, but even if it weren’t, she and many others have receipts of her success. This entry in the Spider-verse canon will add to that list of Ws alongside all the other fantastic writers, artists, and designers working on the comic.

Pre-order time has passed, but Edge of Spider-Verse (2022) #4 publishes September 21 and will be available online and at your local comic book store.

(via Twitter, featured image: Marvel Comics)

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Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.