A black Superman. A Mexican/black Spider-Man. Yup, these are real characters that were created in alternate universes separate from the main (comic/movie) universe. But lets leave technicalities aside and focus on the issue here: Skin color.
These heroes were created in a time where all main characters HAD to be white. It was simply the way things are. Products of a time.
But recently we’ve been breaking this boundary. Rumours of a black actor playing Peter Parker in an upcoming Spider-Man movie circulated around the internet, then ended up going to Andrew Garfield. Marvel found common ground by creating a new Spider-man in the Ultimate universe.
Nick Fury was originally a white guy, but most people don’t know that and only recognise Samuel L. Jackson as the face of Fury. (Personally I find it odd when I see a white Fury in the main Marvel Universe.)
And I guess thats where the line is drawn for me. I don’t necessarily mind if skin color is changed just as long as the core character is the same, but only on secondary characters that haven’t been established for today’s audience.
I’m fine with Johnny Storm being played by a black actor because in my mind Johnny Storm isn’t at the level of Peter Parker, Bruce Wayne, or Tony Stark. In fact, when the first Iron Man movie came out you probably could have made him black and I would have been on board, because Tony Stark was a secondary Marvel property that most people didn’t care about and could have been introduced to us as a new thing.
What I would find a little odd is seeing the larger properties get a face lift such as Superman or Spider-Man in the MAIN universe (which the movies are usually based off, except for Jackson’s Fury who came from the Ultimate Universe). While I agree we NEED more awesome minority heroes who are great on their own merit and not just because of their skin color (STAR TREK TOS did this beautifully), I feel by changing color on the current A-List heroes is a form of cheating and pandering. “Oh, you want a black superhero? Well here. Have a black Superman.” It feels like taking the cheap way out to me.
(But let’s go on a tangent here, it’s not just skin color. Changing the character all together can do it too. I didn’t like it when Peter Parker was replaced by Ben Riley, his clone, because that was no longer Spider-Man. That was someone else running around as Spider-Man, even though it was an exact genetic copy of Peter Parker.)
Now to be fair I hear the new Spider-Man books with Miles Morales have been excellent, but it’s Brian Michael Bendis. Everything he does is awesome. And I’m willing to read and judge these books on their own merit. These are different characters and should not be compared to each other. But in my mind Spider-Man isn’t about the mask. It’s about the man behind the mask. It’s about how he grew up, and what he went through as a young man that drove him to dawn that mask for the first time. And for over 50 years that was Peter Parker. You can’t just pass that mask around like a title and expect the next guy to wear it.
In other news:
Here it is. The first proof copy of the next Frumps book. It’s a smaller sized compilation that takes dating and relationship based strips for the entire Frump run. Since it’s a compilation it will only be available at conventions as a lower priced item, and to my Patreon subscribers at the book club level. It’s still not officially released, but it will be soon.
If you’re not a Patreon subscriber or don’t live near London to meet me at a Convention, fear not. Volume 2 will be coming shortly and that will be readily available to all. I’m hoping to have that done by the end of March in order to have my copies ready to MCM at the end of May.