In this modern collegiate age where every possible sub-division of the human race has to have a “safe space” in which to properly commiserate with those of like hue, various arenas of popular culture are following suit.
This past week, for example, it was announced that the new comic book version of Marvel’s Spider-Man will be a biracial — black Hispanic — teenager.
This isn’t all that big an announcement by itself, of course (the character, Miles Morales, was established already as an alternate reality version of everyone’s favorite wall-crawler); what was most interesting were the comments of his co-creator, Brian Michael Bendis:
The enormity of Miles Morales’ place in comic book history didn’t really hit Bendis, a father who has two kids of color among his four children, until recently. His 4-year-old adopted African-American daughter found a Miles Morales Spidey mask in the toy aisle of a department store, put it on and said, “Look daddy, I’m Spider-Man!” he recalls.
“I started crying in the middle of the aisle,” says Bendis. “I realized my kids are going to grow up in a world that has a multi-racial Spider-Man, and an African American Captain America and a female Thor.”
Many kids of color who when they were playing superheroes with their friends, their friends wouldn’t let them be Batman or Superman because they don’t look like those heroes but they could be Spider-Man because anyone could be under that mask.
“Our message has to be it’s not Spider-Man with an asterisk, it’s the real Spider-Man for kids of color, for adults of color and everybody else.”
This is very intriguing for two main reasons.
Don’t read if you’re still planning on seeing it! Avert your eyes!
The Silver Age of comic books arguably ended with a two-part Spider-Man storyline from 1973 titled “The Night Gwen Stacy Died.”
Written by Gerry Conway and drawn by Gil Kane, the story delivers exactly what the title says—though, to Marvel’s credit, they didn’t reveal the title until the end of the first part. Unlike in today’s spoiler-filled world, Gwen Stacy’s death came as a shock to ‘70s readers.
In the comics, Gwen was Peter Parker’s first love, first appearing way back in The Amazing Spider-Man #31 in 1965. Mary Jane Watson, whom Peter would eventually marry, was introduced as a romantic rival in #42. But Mary Jane wound up being the livelier character—a vivacious young woman who initially came across as shallow and flighty but was simply masking her true heart. Gwen, on the other hand, was just a nice girl.
So, to prevent Peter Parker from marrying a one-dimensional woman, the folks at Marvel decided to kill off Gwen.
It was one of, if not the first time the hero failed to save the girl—and not just Spider-Man, but super-heroes in general. Sure, they’d screw up from time to time, especially the Marvel ones, but outside of their origin stories, they seldom or never experienced irrevocable failure.