Thursday, March 12, 2015

Young, Gifted, and Black: Why not Miles Morales?

Let's try this again.

When we originally posted this, unfortunately an anonymous commenter came on and made a personal attack on another commenter, and things quickly escalated before Doug or I could intervene. We've always said that our vision for this blog is one of a friendly place to hang out (unlike so much of the internet), and we've been lucky to see that come true. What happened with this post was a rare exception, thankfully. We pulled down the post to let things cool down a bit, and have deleted the attack post and the argument that came after. If anyone has questions about the sort of conduct we expect here at BAB, it's posted on the sidebar under "Drama-Free Zone" (that should be a clue). Basically: play nice. We encourage discussion and debate, but we won't tolerate personal attacks or hostility towards others.

We hope by re-opening the post it will allow anyone who might have been discouraged from commenting to join in and move the conversation forward. 

Karen:  I want to talk about something that's been popping up on the interwebs lately -the idea that when Spidey appears in the genuine Marvel cinematic universe, he might not be Peter Parker at all, but Miles Morales. Or at least, he might not be white.

OK, now that the collective gasp and initial outrage has passed, let's  rationally look at this idea, shall we? I'll admit, my first reaction to the idea of a non-Peter Parker Spider-Man on the big screen was one of dismay. Peter is MY Spider-Man. That's who I grew up with. The kid with a million problems and a huge sense of responsibility, who comes alive when he puts on that red and blue suit. It's hard to think of seeing anyone else up there. But these feelings were mired in sentimentality. I tried to steer clear of that, and consider the idea with an open mind.What, I asked myself, seemed essential about Spider-Man, as an idea, a concept?

There are certain things I think have to be retained to make any version of Spider-Man feasible. The "with great power comes great responsibility" theme is the backbone of the character and has to be present. The Everyman nature -the kid with a million problems -is also at the core of what makes him so appealing. And finally, the sense of fun, of youthful exuberance, of sheer rebellion, with the web-slinging and wisecracking, is the final ingredient in the mix.

So why couldn't we get this with Miles Morales? Admittedly, I haven't read a single comic with him in it. I had to look up info on him to get the lowdown. But he's been Peter's successor in the Ultimate universe for four years now, so it's not as if we're pulling somebody out of thin air, or taking a white character and 'turning' him black, ala Nick Fury or Johnny Storm in the new Fantastic Four film. So no one can complain that he's not a 'real' comic book character. No, Miles has been around and he's got fans.

He's also a lot like Peter, in that he's a science nerd. He was also pretty young when he first became Spidey -just 13, even younger than Peter. He got his powers through a spider bite too, although this spider was created by Norman Osborn. Now they'd probably have to change his origin in the movies, if there's no Peter Parker. But big deal. They could do that. He's got problems with his family -his uncle is even a super-villain. So there's plenty of angst there.

So what are the pros? Well, it would distance Marvel from the last two Spider-Man films, which were not that successful (although, unlike some folks here, I really liked Andrew Garfield as Peter/Spidey). It would also make it clear that this was an entirely different Spider-Man. It would be fresh, and exciting.

It would bring some much needed diversity to the Marvel cinematic universe, which currently has only three African American characters (Fury, Falcon, and War Machine), all  in supporting roles, although Black Panther is on his way. With Miles we'd have an A list hero of color. Some might ask, 'Why does this matter?' It does matter. It's important for our heroes to reflect society as a whole and I'm betting for some kids, to see a super-hero who looks like them among a bunch of otherwise white heroes, is a very big deal. Of course, Spidey has always been one of the few heroes who was covered head to toe, and could "be" anyone -Stan Lee makes that point in this clip at around the 1:15 mark:

Marvel's lucky -they really wouldn't have to change their toys or other products at all. Well, Miles' outfit is different but they might elect to stick with the traditional suit just for marketing purposes. 

What are the cons? Dumping Peter Parker does risk fan backlash. And let's admit it, there are still a lot of just plain prejudiced people out there. There's also the marketing issues, but again -Spider-Man looks like Spider-Man, regardless of who's in the costume (well, unless it's the Blob). 

I have to admit, I wish I knew more about Miles. My number one complaint about the Raimi Spider-Man films was that I never felt they captured the glib, smart-aleck nature of the character. The two recent, reboot films seemed to get that right, although that was about all they got right. I don't know if Miles has a similar personality. I'd miss that if he was a more serious guy.

But honestly, I feel like I am ready to give Miles a chance. I didn't think I could get to this place when I first heard the idea bandied around, but you know, I've had MY Spider-Man, maybe it is time to try a new one. When the new Star Trek films came out, with new actors playing Kirk and Spock and the rest, it wasn't MY Trek, but you know, I enjoyed them for what they were, and I always have my DVDs of the original series and movies to look at if I need that fix. I think we have to seriously consider the idea of Miles Morales as Spider-Man in the film universe, and not dismiss it so easily.


Redartz said...

Karen, you make a good argument for considering Miles as the web-spinner. Upon hearing the rumors, I was hesitant (Peter is, and always be, my Spider-Man) too. Yet as you point out, he could be anyone beneath the mask; Spidey has always been "everyman", and this is another way to reflect that. Think I'll look up some of those Ultimate issues...

Edo Bosnar said...

Yeah, Pete's my Spidey, too. But honestly I don't think this would bother too much (if at all) in the movies.
First, the movies made specifically by Marvel Studios have mainly been good, and I never found myself bothered by any of the changes made therein.
Second, the grizzled, gray-at-the-temples WW2 vet is also my Nick Fury, but I didn't mind the Samuel L. Jackson version (also from the Ultimate universe) one bit in the movies.
Third, I really didn't like the first three Spidey movies very much in any case, and have yet to see either of these newer ones - and I'm really in no rush to do so, either. So far the track record of movies featuring a character that was once my absolute favorite has not been very good, so why not try a new angle?
Fourth, I definitely agree with Karen about the diversity angle. As much as I've enjoyed most of the Marvel Studios flicks so far, the lack of minority and female headliners is glaring. Personally, I think Carol Danvers (as either Ms. or Capt. Marvel) should have been introduced much, much earlier, i.e. she should have already been in the first Avengers movie.

Anonymous said...

What a coincidence - I was reading about this very subject in a sci-fi magazine just yesterday. I agree that because Miles Morales is a genuine Marvel character it wouldn't be a big deal to make him the new movie Spidey. I'm not the biggest fan of comic-book movies anyway so I don't really care that much to be honest - do any of the movie versions really feel like the comics version, a six-foot Wolverine - yeah,right. I've got to say though that it's really unfair to label people as racists just because they object to a black Johnny Storm - if it's okay to change the race of certain characters would a white Luke Cage be acceptable ? Comics fans are very protective of their favourite characters and don't want them messed around with is all.

Humanbelly said...

That's solidly open-minded thinking you've got going on there, Karen. But. . . I don't know. For me it still becomes the difference between having "a" Spider-Man or having "the" Spider-Man. Would this work if we were to replace Spidey w/ Superman? Superman w/out Clark Kent is just some powerful guy called Superman, y'know? Oddly enough, Pete's everyman backstory could really transcend racial/cultural lines. He & Aunt May & Uncle Ben could easily be brown, black, asian, mixed-race etc-- and I'm not sure anything of significance changes at all. I would kind of like that, in fact. Maybe half a second of "hunh-- how about that?", and then it pretty much disappears because. . . he's Peter Parker, after all. He's the kid that is THE Spider-Man.

I wonder, though, if there are copyright, marketing and similar legal wranglings in the mix with this sort of direction? Surely so.


david_b said...

"to see a super-hero who looks like them among a bunch of otherwise white heroes"

Hmmm, will have to ponder that provocative idea more at length...

You make great points, Karen. But somehow, it's still an unnecessary panderance to today's generation.

I grew up on a midwest farming community, but somehow, someway.., Sam Wilson was my hero. So was Peter Parker. So was Bruce Wayne.

Were my heroes somehow more palitable due to their skin color..? Nonsense.

Why was my generation more accepting of heroes without having to consider skintone..?

It wasn't the circumstance of their issues that I felt a desire to identify with, it was how they overcame it, and how their character/personality changed due to talented writers, editors and artists.

I do agree with Edo that diversity is good, all for it. Sure, let's change Wonder Woman into 'Wonder Man' instead, or make Sam Wilson white. Frankly, this generation can do whatever it pleases, but if I'm going to see a FF movie or see Nick Fury in a flick, I'd prefer to see 'em as I knew them growing up.

I was actually pondering this morning (watching the Cap movie again last night..), that Tommy Lee Jones would have made a cool Nick Fury if he was a few years younger, but I've grown to enjoy Jackson NOT because of his color but because of his incredible acting.

Perhaps my point is more melancholy in nature, so be it.

Sidenote, here's a great article with Morgan Freeman I've had up on my FB page..

Powerful words.

Doug said...

There has been some solid writing on this blog over the past 48 hours. That's a fact. What a great place to come and be challenged to think about the past, present, and future. Mike S. said it well yesterday -- this is about imagination.

Thanks, Mike and Karen.


Humanbelly said...

Very true, Doug.
I mean, knock on wood, but we do somehow manage to keep relatively clear of the UBIQUITOUS troll-traffic that seems to exist pretty much everywhere else on the net. (I mean, how do recipe sites manage to descend into ugly political name-calling??) Even the comments section in DaveB's interview link became coarse and vitriolic and ugly before long-- good grief. Maybe we're still just obscure enough to fly under that sort of radar? One hopes!

Colin, I think maybe a one-rule-fits-all approach to changing any character's racial identity would really be both unfair to the characters themselves and ultimately too simplistic. Luke Cage is, of course, a black character-- as is T'Challa. It's inherent and specific to the characters' history and identity. To some degree, given the reality of society and the military at the time of Cap's creation, Steve Rogers almost certainly is going to be white (remember some early flap about the possibility of Will Smith being cast as Cap?). Would an Eastern European Dr Doom ever be anything other than caucasian? Very unlikely. Would Sunfire make any sense at all if he wasn't Asian? Nope. But once you get into the general melting pot of humanity (particularly in the U.S.) from which most superheroes spring, I truly, truly don't have an issue with pulling from a much more diverse population pool. Johnny, black/Sue, white? Sure-- in fact, I muchmuchmuch prefer that to having the team "muscle" being the black character. I would have preferred it even MORE if the casting had stayed age-traditional, and Reed could have been cast w/ a solid black actor in his late 30's. (Geeze, Adrian Lester would have been awesome. . . if he could fix up his American accent a bit.)
Y'know-- just give me the best actors that NAIL the roles (Idris Elba IS Heimdall-- I'll look no further than him ever again)-- I want LIFE up there, folks! That's my main criterion. . . !

HB (losing track of his own rants, it seems. . . )

Edo Bosnar said...

HB, you're right about Elba being great as Heimdall, but it's such a small role for such a great actor. Personally, I can still think of no one better than Elba to play T'Challa, but alas, that ship has sailed...

Humanbelly said...

Wow, he even looks a bit like the T'Challa we see illustrated, doesn't he? Possibly almost a little too buff, maybe-- kinda "Big & Strong" looking, as opposed to "Lithe & Strong"-- but those things are malleable.

But yeah-- still, both Thor films would have been noticeably diminished w/out his presence. One of HBSon's favorite sequences in Dark World was Heimdall taking out that fighter ship singlehandedly with basically his sword and his bare hands. And the main reason you buy that at all is because of the astonishing level of intensity that you've seen established in the character prior to that.


Anonymous said...
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J.A. Morris said...

I'd prefer to see a Spider-Man movie with Peter Parker as Spider-Man. But I'm okay if they go with Miles Morales, even though I, like Karen have never read a "Miles as Spidey" story. Diversity is a good thing and depictions of people of different races matters, and not just for "feel good" reasons.

But more than anything, I'd just like to see a great Spider-Man movie. Spider-Man is one of the greatest characters in the history of popular culture, yet(in my opinion),none of the theatrical movies have been very good. I think 'Spider-Man II' with Doc Ock was the best, but I'd rate it as "pretty good" at best. I don't know how they've managed to screw up so many times. Either there are too many villains, characters we don't care about (Peter's parents? Who cares)and stupid dialogue ("There was disturbance"? Really?) I thought Garfield was pretty good at delivering the wisecracks, but I never really bought him as Peter.
So if it's a choice between a mediocre movie about Parker and a great movie about Morales, I say Make Mine Miles!

Martinex1 said...

As I read this, I actually think I would like Miles to be Spider Man in the movies.

Peter Parker was my Spidey as well. But that was a different Peter Parker. I like the troubled, nothing goes right, nerdy, trying to make all the pieces fit Peter. I don't think he has existed for quite a while. Once Peter married Mary Jane, I think a lot changed for the character. His life was really getting in order, he had support, he had friends, and the troubles seemed more forced. He matured and he lost the sometimes exaggerated pressures that teenagers feel. Heck, he became part of the Avengers; how much more "in" could he be? And so the line between outsider Peter and wise cracking Spider Man became less distinct. And that kind of made me lose interest.

I think that is the problem with Peter in films as well. As some have already mentioned, Andrew Garfield was good as our hero but a little lacking as Peter. He was a little too hip, and glib, and cool for my taste. He was kind of the James Dean outsider; that is not my Peter Parker. In opposition, Toby Maguire never seemed carefree when in costume.

So for me, if Miles has more of that youthful stress and worries while still being a fun hero... more power to him. I will like that. I have to say I have probably only read a couple of Miles' appearances, so I don't know if I have a feel for his character entirely, but I do like his youth and his enthusiasm and his finding his way.

From a cultural standpoint, I also want my kids to see that anybody can be a hero, anybody can do great things, and everybody has problems but it is heroic to push on and do what is right. If that is the Spider Man they create, I am a supporter of that.

david_b said...

Agreed with JA and Martinex1.., if the BEST Spiderman movie I'll ever seen features Miles instead of Peter, beautiful and I'll consider it a splendid re-image.

The 'color aspect' means little if anything to me -- It's more a question of human spirit and conflict, giving homage to what (personally..) I grew up understanding.

As a comparison, I thought the Raimi Spidey franchise and FF movies with Alba were only so-so at best..., marginal charm (some bad casting decisions..), over-the-top action for the kids, but only obligatory depth at best.

I still find 'First Avenger', Thor, Ironman, and Avengers films the best all-around hero films to date...: Good depth/conflict/backstory in the individual Avengers films, then culminate with the group film.

Just.. like.. in.. the.. Comics.

Dr. Oyola said...

Man, I have more to say about this topic than I have time to write.

But the short version in numbered form.

1)I'd love to see a Spider-Man movie with Miles Morales

2) I have sampled the Ultimate Comics that feature him and found them poorly executed - blame it on Bendis.

3) Seeing people that "look like you on screen" means a lot more when you already are significantly alienated from the dominant culture. It is easy to say, "I didn't like particular character because they are white, even though I am white," when you've never had to grow up knowing anything different.

4) I'd love for the movie franchises to have enough power to support multiple movies of the same/similar franchise. Image an up-to-date Miles Morales Spider-Man movie AND a period piece Peter Parker: Spider-Man movie set in the 1960s.

Kid said...

'Diversity' is just political correctness, which generally I'm against. If colour isn't supposed to matter, then it really should make no difference what skin colour someone is. Once you start saying "We need more Blacks, we need more Asians, we need more Mexicans, etc.," then you're making colour an issue. However, if colour isn't an issue then ethnic origin shouldn't matter a hoot. When I watched Shaft back in the day, I didn't think "Hey, I need a white guy here to identify with." Once you suggest that Black kids need their own superhero because Superman is white, then you're saying that colour matters, which is the wrong thing to say. The best thing to do is ignore it. There's absolutely nothing wrong with Black kids hero-worshipping Batman, any more than white kids hero-worshipping The Black Panther. Let's leave out these attempts at social engineering and societal manipulation and just all be colour-blind. Please?

Karen said...

Kid, I think you misconstrue what I meant when I said it would be "a big deal" for some kids to have a Spider-Man that looks like them. Like you said, there's nothing wrong with black kids hero-worshipping Batman; everyone should be able to enjoy any character they like. Personally, I've always felt that a good writer -in any medium -should be able to develop a character such that a reader can connect with the innate humanity present.

But as a woman who was a child reading comics in the 70s, I can tell you, I felt the dearth of stellar female characters. I've said it before, so I won't go on about it, but in the early 70s, particularly at Marvel, comic book women were all wimps; even if they had powers, they were usually knocked out easily, taken hostage, and pretty much good for nothing. Their identities were defined by the men around them -brothers, husbands, boyfriends. There was nothing there for me to like. So I liked male characters, and pretty much actively disliked the female ones.

This, together with things going on all around me -being told by my first grade teacher that I couldn't be an astronaut when I grew up was absolutely crushing! - taught me pretty quickly that women were considered second class citizens by a lot of people. It was something I worked to get past in a lot of ways and thankfully things are much better today. But did what I saw in popular culture have an impact on me? Yeah, it did.

My experience is not the same as that of a person of color, but it's what I know. I do think it is important to those who are not the majority to see some representation in our popular media. You might think it naive or silly but it does mean something. When I started seeing shows like Xena and Buffy popping up, and the term 'girl power' being used, it blew me away. Now nobody blinks an eye at a woman doing action scenes in a movie (although few still headline...). But sometimes these things help to drive along changes in society, just as they also reflect them.

Martinex1 said...

Karen, I like what you said there. I have read some of your previous comments on female characters, and I have to say I totally agree. And I am glad you feel it is improving. I think your statement about how you felt as a youngster and having your dream of being an astronaut crushed is very important. This is not just an intellectual argument, it is about the human condition and feelings and dreams and hopes and aspirations.

In my opinion, if the needle gets moved to inspire anybody, whether intentionally or unintentionally or through sheer osmosis, it is good. The results are very important. I cannot claim to know what it is like to be female or of any minority, but if an action helps any person to dream and aspire, I cannot think of an argument to not carry out on that action. We only live once (as far as I know) and to live and not be encouraged to dream fully seems a cruel malady. Anything that hinders that should be worked against.

Dr. Oyola said...

Well said, Karen.

Anonymous said...

Not much into Spiderman myself, but... I recently enjoyed a couple of issues of Thor. Not saying it couldn't have been done better, but after fifty years of Thor comics the female version made for a new take on the material.
Since Marvel seem to have decided a while back that they're not into coming up with new stuff - that they just want to rework the roster of characters they've had for decades - they really need to try these different approaches.

The new Captain America sounds like a great idea, although... I'm a bit wary of how the writers will handle it, as they can be a bit hamfisted with black characters (yeah, I know, thats a sweeping generalisation and possibly unfair - just my opinion based on what I've read)
Anyway, I'll give it a go before I knock it.


Dr. Oyola said...

I hear the new Captain America is pretty bad, and what I read of him as part of the few issues of The Mighty Avengers (vol 2) that I tried because it has a lot of my favorite characters of color (including green, if you count She-Hulk) was pretty terrible. What an awful book!

It's a shame. What a waste of a great opportunity to make some legendary comics

Anonymous said...

By the way, whenever it's time for a new Dr. Who there's always a lot of excitement and speculation over whether this time it'll be a black actor or even a woman but it always turns out to be another white male and that's very likely what will happen with Spider-Man.

Anonymous said...

That's a pity about Captain America if its the case; the potential for at least an Obama-era state of the nation work seems obvious, but equally its not hard to see how they could mess it up. Still, I'll try and keep an open mind and give it a go anyway.


The Prowler said...

This is not only been a great topic, but yet another reason why this is such a great blog. The quality and interaction is clear from the opening to the end. Well, at least before I jumped in. I do that knowing that I have Dyno-Mike to bail me out.

I think Mr Miles strikes at the very heart of the last few topics. Mike shared with us his memories of those comics and his cousin Joey. Stories that resonated with many of us on a very personal level. A level that was laid long ago as we grew up with comics. I've stated before my struggle with Spider-Man and the blipping over of Betty Brant as his first "love". Also, the retcon of Mary Jane Watson as the high school girlfriend/clone/damsel in distress on the bridge.
Would it bother me if Spider-Man "changed"? If the story was good, heck no!!! (Hey there's the exclamation marks) As stated here several times before, I AM STILL WAITING FOR A GOOD FANTASTIC FOUR MOVIE!!!! I don't care who the actors are, just make a good movie.
Did I chuckle at Thor's Heimdall? Yep, then I moved on and enjoyed the movie.
Who remembers the blue and red Superman? What target audience was that?

The point I missed making in all that rambling is there is a part of me that rumbles at all these new "kids" who won't get off my lawn yet at the same time really digging the movies.

"What does it all mean?"

(Lennon said there are no institutions
There's nothing to believe in anymore
The time of the flood is almost here
The end of the world is drawing near

Stupid on a lonely afternoon
I almost gave up on my life too soon
Reckless at the lonely close of day
I almost listened to what the prophets, the prophets had to say

And I feel a light come shining down on me
And it's full of solar energy
There is no greater power
No man-made god could ever be
No man-made god could ever be).

PS I can't hit "post" without saying a huge THANKS to Karen and Doug for all that they've done to make this site what it it!!!!

Unknown said...

You should really read some of the Miles Morales Spideys...they're actually really good. Miles is a completely believable and appealing young Spider-Man, with his own subtly different take on Spidey's trademarked snappy patter, and seeing him adapt to and deal with his new powers was like a jolt of fresh energy. For me, it made the concept of Spider-Man, and of 'with great power there comes great responsibility' feel new and relevant again.

And Marvel could just use a little color in its lineup for sure. I don't know how many white comics fans really get the longing to see your 'own' presence in these worlds or to be the one grappling with being a hero, rather than a sidekick or bureaucratic boss.

As much as you wanted to be a superhero, imagine being a kid who wanted to just as badly -- but didn't even get to see it in the pages of a comic book?

Humanbelly said...

This is great-- I'm rather proud to be a member of this little community. We're having an open discussion about race in our corner of popular media. . . and no one's calling names or shouting anyone down or ranting or anything. There's an almost unheard-of level of respect being displayed here. And that's even with the expression of some slightly divergent (albeit not greatly so) viewpoints.

One point that does win me over a bit from my earlier stance is that, if they made a REALLY GOOD Miles/Spiderman film, I'd definitely be able to surrender to it on its own merits. And remember, I'm the guy who really, really liked the first two Raimi films, and rather enjoyed the third, AND liked Andrew G as Pete quite a bit. Ahhh, who'm I kidding? I'm the easiest-to-please movie geek on the PLANET. . .


Anonymous said...

A female Tnor? A Black Captain America? A young Hispanic Spider-Man? Hmm if a reader from the late 60s took a time travel trip to today, man, would he or she be in for a major cultural shock!

Personally, I think there are several reasons we're seeing all these new interpretations of existing characters - the main one is writers are trying to get a fresh new original take on these heroes, re-inventing them for a modern audience. The comics companies are trying to appeal to a crowd which is significantly more open to diversity than 50 years ago. Part of it is the boredom factor too; sometimes the best way to build drama and reinvigorate a stale title is by changing the character's origins, be it ethnically or otherwise.

To be quite honest, Peter Parker like Karen said was my Spidey, not Miles Morales. I'm more interested in the upcoming Black Panther movie. Now that is one property that has huge potential for Marvel. Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury, Halle Berry's Storm and Wesley Snipes's Blade cinematic characters aside, this is THE main Black character in the Marvel Universe. Let's hope that they do justice to the King of Wakanda!

- Mike 'hoping against hope they don't turn Hulk pink' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Redartz said...

Excellent discussion again today. Not much to add, but just a thought. Kid commented about approaching such issues in a color-blind manner. Numerous others have stated their desire for a good story or a good film, above other considerations. It seems to me that if the story is truly good, if the writer gives us a character we can come to love (or at least sympathize with), it won't matter the character's physical specifics. If Miles is written engagingly, he will connect with the audience (and with me).

I recently tried the new Ms. Marvel featuring young Kamala Khan, and found it quite interesting. Karen so eloquently discussed her take on female representation in the genre. A wider range of folks reading, buying (and creating) comics can only be a good thing. I especially approve of the efforts to connect with young people; we need to nourish the next generations of readers!

Incidentally, I love how the BAB really reflects the best nature of fandom. Always thoughtful, friendly and tolerant. You folks all truly rock...

Karen said...

I want to also say a big 'thank you' to everyone who came by and added to the discussion today, and kept it all so civilized. Other sites are filled with nastiness but you folks are just the best!

Kid said...

Karen, I don't think I've read your previous comments about being a comicbook reader back in the '70s, but it's hardly surprising that women were portrayed that way back then. Superhero comics were mainly for boys, written from a male point of view, and female readers were in the minority. They had their own mags like Patsy Walker and Millie the Model, etc. I remember Stan saying that, in the '60s, Iron Man was picking up more female readers, but that was because they fancied millionaire playboy Tony Stark, not because they were looking for super-heroines to relate to. Remember, wimpy females were how women tended to be portrayed in every medium back then. (And, let's face it, that's how women seemed to be at the time. I remember girls fainting when getting vaccination jags at school, but I don't recall any guys doing so.) Now, of course, there are strong super-heroines who female readers can relate to, but those selfsame characters also come under fire for (according to some women) portraying females in an unrealistic state of physical perfection and also as sex objects for male readers. So opinion is still divided on that one, I suppose.

Actually, I did get your point, but I just think that if they go for the Morales version of Spider-Man in order to tick the diversity box, or to give Black kids a hero of their own colour, then they're doing it for the wrong reasons. White creators originating Black heroes for that reason has always struck me as being rather patronizing to the intended readership, to be honest. And, cynic that I am, I'm also slightly suspicious of any medium which tries to change society by 'reflecting' the kind of society it wants, rather than the society which actually exists. That's getting the cart before the horse in my view. (Of course, I'm ignoring whether such changes are for the better or not, but I just can't help being wary of writers and artists pushing their own personal agenda.)

In the case of the upcoming FF movie, I don't like the idea of Johnny Storm being Black, simply because that's not how he was intended by Lee & Kirby and because I want to see the character I grew up with. I also wouldn't like the idea of Luke Cage or T'Challa being White for the same reason. Why can't the movie makers simply give us the characters we know and and love?

Anonymous said...

I think you'll find that the society which actually exists is full of people who aren't white men, so a medium which reflects that isn't putting any carts before horses or whatever.
Not sure how it is that comics with, say "wimpy" female characters aren't pushing an agenda...


Kid said...

It's very simple, Sean. 'Reflecting' a society where everyone is treated 'equally' when that's not how things are in the 'real' world is getting the cart before the horse. And I obviously wasn't suggesting that comics should only show White people, only that creating a coloured character merely to tick the diversity box, rather than a coloured creator quite naturally coming up with a character in his 'own' image is being a bit too PC for me. It would be the same if most superhero comics featured mainly Black characters and someone said "Hey, those Whiteys deserve a hero of their own!" I've never been concerned whether or not a comic, book or movie featured a middle-aged, white, Scottish guy for me to relate to; I'm perfectly able to put myself in another character's shoes regardless of their skin colour if the story is an absorbing one.

And, as women were regarded as being the weaker sex back in the '60s, presenting them that way in comics or films wasn't pushing an agenda, it was 'reflecting' the prevailing opinion at the time, whether it was right or wrong. If someone today (a misogynist for example) were to write women that way today because he believed that's how they are and should therefore be presented, then he'd be pushing an agenda. That's not how it was back in the '60s.

Anonymous said...

We'll just have to disagree, Kid, because I don't think "prevailing opinion" (whose?) and "the way society actually is" are the same thing at all.


Karen said...

Kid, I think we have very different definitions of 'diversity'. For me, I see diversity all around me. It may have something to do with our life experiences and where we live. Growing up in California, and spending my adult years in the San Francisco Bay Area specifically, I was living in a true melting pot of peoples and cultures -and it was wonderful. So to me, it's very natural to see a variety of peoples in whatever media I am perusing. It certainly doesn't feel forced.

This statement of yours -"I obviously wasn't suggesting that comics should only show White people, only that creating a coloured character merely to tick the diversity box, rather than a coloured creator quite naturally coming up with a character in his 'own' image is being a bit too PC for me" - it raises a number of questions for me (Also, I should note that in the States, "coloured" is an offensive term).

Are you saying that only a minority creator can come up with a minority character for it to be authentic? So Lee and Kirby's Black Panther is somehow invalid? How do we decide when a minority character was created "organically" and when they were created for the wrong reasons? Luke Cage has become a much beloved character, but he surely was created "to tick off a box" -that of the fad of blaxploitation. Cage was made just to cash in on that trend and nothing else. Yet he has evolved into a character with depth, and many fans really like him.

As far as the idea of only a black person can write a black character, etc , goes -there weren't many creators of color (or women) in comics prior to recent times. So to go that route, we'd be deprived a lot of characters. I'm not sure you really meant that, but it's not clear to me -and honestly, I've heard people say that before.

When it comes to reflecting reality, maybe we need to ask: whose reality?

Kid said...

Well, there's usually only one prevailing opinion at a time on any given subject, Sean, and it tends to reflect the majority of those who express an opinion on the matter. Whether it reflects the way society actually is or not depends on what the topic happens to be, I guess, but they're not necessarily mutually exclusive. On the point of us disagreeing - not a problem. I don't require or demand that anyone agrees with my views in order to validate them in any way, nor do I seek to change anyone's mind on the matter.


Karen, it's difficult to be all-inclusive in my comments when it's such a big subject, but I'll try and narrow it down. I'm not a person who feels that all forms of entertainment need to reflect cultural diversity in order for people to feel good about themselves. Therefore, whether a book, movie or comic features a white Scottish guy matters not a jot to me. Consequently, I'm not bothered whether any other group of people are given space either. If a story is good, with interesting characters, then that's enough for me: I don't need it to include any specific English, Scottish, American, Chinese, Mexican, or any other type of character in order to avoid the accusation of not reflecting the cultural diversity of any particular country or community. If I did bother about these things, I'd just find something that catered to my tastes, not demand changes to accommodate them.

On your point of living in a diverse community and not finding a variety of peoples 'forced' in whatever media you're perusing, that's fine and I'd probably be the same. However, if any form of the media is being compelled to use a variety of people (or any specific type of person) in order to tick some boxes (you know, we need to have a Pakistani, we need to have a white guy, a gay guy, a black guy, a Jewish guy - in fact, too many guys, better change some of them to women), then there's something in me that objects to that. Let the writers tell whatever stories they want using whatever characters they want without being compelled to have a mix of peoples simply because the networks or publishers want to avoid being accused of racism, sexism, ageism or whatever.

On the matter of the word 'coloured' being considered offensive in America, I'm sure you know that it wasn't meant in an offensive manner. However, I feel that there are too many people these days looking to take offense over anything. Changing 'blackboard' to 'chalkboard' in case black people are offended is verging on the ridiculous in my opinion. I don't take offense from someone calling a 'whiteboard' what it is, and there's a limit to my sympathies when it comes to dancing around the sensitivities that some people adopt in order to rain hot coals down upon the rest of us.


Kid said...

And no, I'm not saying that only a minority (some people object to that word too, Karen) creator can come up with a minority character for it to be authentic, but it depends on why the creator is originating the character. I'm not convinced that Lee & Kirby created The Black Panther merely to have a black superhero, but it makes 'natural' sense to have a character of that name actually be black. However, if an edict comes down from above that "We need to include a gay, black, Jewish superhero" so that someone somewhere doesn't feel excluded, well, it's tokenism, plain and simple.

In Britain, we have 'positive discrimination' in our political system, where women are given jobs in government simply because they're women and not necessarily because they're the best qualified for the job. (Which is NOT to suggest that all men chosen ARE best qualified.) People should be chosen on merit, not because of their skin colour, gender, or sexuality, etc.

As for Luke Cage, it's more likely that he was created to shift some more comics to black kids, which is more a case of commercial exploitation than political correctness. Does that make it any better? Well, that's another discussion, but I suppose all comicbooks are created to hopefully sell and make money.

But back to the original topic. If a producer wants to do a Mike Morales/Spider-Man movie because that's the version of the character that he prefers, then I don't have a problem, although I'd obviously prefer to see a movie about what I consider the 'real' Spider-Man. However, if it's being done for what I'd call PC reasons, then I'm far from impressed.

Whose reality? When it comes to Spidey, the Lee, Ditko, Romita reality for me any time.

Anonymous said...

Don't think we're likely to persuade each other of anything, but on a point of fact - Kirby has said in interviews that the Black Panther was created because he realized there were no black superheroes while there were plenty of black readers, so it seemed only right.
He wasn't interested in just ticking all the monocultural boxes, so to speak, because there were a variety of opinions on stuff back then, just as there are now.


Kid said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kid said...

On another three points of fact: Kirby also said he created Superman, that Doom's face wasn't scarred underneath his mask. and that Stan Lee never created or wrote anything in his life - all of which are demonstrably untrue. Being a storyteller, Jack never let the facts get in the way when recounting 'how things were' long after the event.

Incidentally, I wasn't saying that there was only ONE opinion, merely that, out of various opinions, there is usually one that has a greater appeal or influence than others. It may be that you disagree with what you THINK I said (at least in part), rather than what I was actually saying.

Anonymous said...

Why do you all keep using Mexicans as the signifier for all Latinos? Seriously? This conversation has ignorance all over it. Offensive at so many levels by just about everyone that has posted.

Karen said...

Hi Anonymous (if you comment again, please try to give us something else to call you) -Any time one brings up a topic that touches on race, you run the risk of getting into a heated discussion. In general, I think the conversation has been civil, despite some disagreements. I'd be interested in hearing your viewpoint. I did look through the comments and only saw the term "Mexican" used two times, each time by the same author.

Kid said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kid said...

I'm afraid you're mistaken. I'm using Mexicans as a 'signifier' for Mexicans, not for all Latinos. And I'm only using Mexicans as an example plucked from the air to include different people. I could have said Austrians, Russians, Poles, Indians, or any number of different examples. For brevity's sake (and even then my comments were probably over-long), I decided against listing every race on Earth. It's probably for the same reason that not all races are mentioned in superhero books, not because of any kind of prejudice.


That comment was for Anon, Karen - you weren't there when I started typing. I'm bound to say his remark is a perfect example of what I said earlier regarding people who are determined to find offense where it isn't intended or doesn't exist.

Anonymous said...

Karen, as a woman, who was a child reading comments in the 1970s, what are your thoughts on the Ms Marvel of 1977?

Doug said...

I would like to again thank Karen for her well-thought write-up concerning the issue of "What If? Miles Morales becomes the MCU Spider-Man". For the most part, the discussion that has followed has been cogent and even-tempered. However, it has somewhat devolved into what we feared it might - vitriol. While it's not the brand of name-calling and pig-headedness seen on other blogs and websites, it's gone well beyond what we generally see at this space.

The Human Genome Project proved some years ago that race is largely a social construct - the amount of biology in the conversation is quite limited. As a social construct, then, "race" seems to generally serve a purpose for marking our differences rather than celebrating our similarities. I would add that the term "race" has become an ugly identifier of peoples - even from the halls of classical anthropology, there were only ever three "races", maybe four: Caucasoid, Negroid, Mongoloid, and then the aborigines of Australia. To say the "Jewish race" or the "Mexican race" or the "Canadian race" seems outdated and honestly uninformed. Factually, it's just a bogus concept.

As far as I am concerned, as blog co-moderator and co-owner, this conversation is finished. If future readers would like to add to the discussion in the spirit of Karen's original remarks or what came in the first dozen or so comments, so be it. But the arguing for the sake of "come Hell or high water I am going to get in the last word" is juvenile and has ceased to serve its purpose at this space. Bottom line - it is trying my patience.

I hate to take this position - yes, it borders on censorship. However, long-time readers (whether they be commenters or lurkers) have time and again lauded Bronze Age Babies as a home of civility and intelligent conversation. Yes, we have debates. But the latter comments on this post have deviated from the spirit of the BAB. No, we don't expect conformity, and no, we don't shy from controversy. But we don't like petty discord, and that is what we have devolved to here.

Thank you.


Humanbelly\ said...

Me! Me! I'll be the last word!
Actually, let me toss out a list to choose from, eh?


. . . and how about. . .


Hmm? Hmm?


Doug said...

HB --

Thank you.

Doug (and Karen, too, who is busy this morning)

Kid said...

I'm the very model of all of them, HB.

Doug, with your kind indulgence, may I, through the auspices of your blog, let your readers know that I'll be addressing this topic (and some of the responses) on my own blog ( in a few hours, once I've attended to some other matters.

Unsurprisingly (to me at least), contentious issues usually attract contentious responses. I've never been shy about addressing such issues on my own blog, where I can deal with them as they deserve to be dealt with, unrestrained by the social conventions I observe as a visitor to another blog.

Doug and Karen (and anybody else), feel free to drop in if you want to. Thanks.

William said...

That's why I tend to steer clear of these kinds of discussions. Especially on the internet. No matter how well meaning, you just can't seem to maintain a civil discussion about race, religion, or politics. So, it's usually better not to even try.

I doubt a single person's mind has ever been changed about their stand on any of those topics, by something someone posted on an internet blog. And you're certainly not going to change the world arguing about what race Spider-Man should be anyway.

Doug said...

Kid --

Feel free to take whatever from this conversation that might enhance whatever you are going to posit. Copy/paste away, friend.

I don't shy from contentious issues -- I teach a course called "Social Injustice" after all. But this space has generally been reserved for nostalgia and the good feelings we got from the pop culture of our pasts. The topic of this thread happened to be a crossover between the pop culture of today and the "way things used to be". Whether race or the perception of such needed to come to the fore, I don't know. Karen and I both thought that it could. And I don't even think that's the biggest issue. For me, when it becomes obvious that it's come down to two commenters having an argument that can't be won, with name-calling to boot, then I'm out. This space no longer becomes escapism for me. My compartments have been violated.

Thanks to all who've had to indulge the conversation via email alerts. Hopefully you got something out of it. And if you would like to continue the debate on race, Affirmative Action, creator intent, and whatever else came up over the past 12 hours or so, please do head over to Kid's blog.

Everyone have a great weekend,


Kid said...

Doug, I see your point to a degree, but I'd see it more if I'd actually called someone names, but that just isn't so - unlike 'Anon'. If you'd kicked the conversation into touch once he'd started calling me a bigot, instead of me being placed in the unwanted position of having to defend myself against untrue allegations, we'd all have been spared your compartments being violated. Or mine too, for that matter.

Likewise, have a great weekend. My post will be up shortly.

Dr. Oyola said...

BTW, Karen - I forgot to comment that I love the Lorraine Hansberry reference in the title of this post!

Edo Bosnar said...

Hey, that's right, Osvaldo. I was wondering why the title had such a familiar ring to it...

...and Doug, censorship? Not at all. Like you said, you and Karen are the proprietors around here, and you're perfectly within your rights to dictate the tone and boundaries of discussion. The internet as whole may be a huge free-wheeling, free-speech zone, but that doesn't mean you little corner of it has to be everybody's personal speaker's corner.

Garett said...

Hey Karen, it's interesting to hear about your experience growing up as a girl in the '70s. Did you have other women who were good role models, outside of comics? How about the Bionic Woman? That sucks that your teacher discouraged you about becoming an astronaut. I teach art, and one of the things I do is try to be positive with the students, to expand the possibilities for them. Last question: were there any other girls you knew who were into comics during the Bronze Age? My sisters read a bit, but more Archie and romance comics, not superheroes.

Edo Bosnar said...

I second Garett's questions, especially the second one - I know now that there were obviously girls reading comics back in the '70s, but I never ran into any of them. In my school, none of the girls in my class read comics that I knew of, not even Archies or romance. Even when the Wonder Woman TV show appeared, which they all watched religiously (as did the boys), it never seemed to prompt them to start reading the comic book.

Anonymous said...

Bringing Miles Morales into the Avengers movies would be an ideal way to establish Spidey in the movie Marvel Universe and avoid the confusion of anyone thinking the Marvel Studios movies were connected with the previous Spider-Man movies.

John Pitt said...

Hi Karen and Doug, I'm not at all bothered that you also deleted my "joke" comment ( aimed at taking the p*as out of the hostility ), but I'm not sure that wiping out several portions of the replies was the right thing to do. If people are going to comment like that ( AND IT HAS ALREADY BEEN SEEN BY SOME ), then to censor some comments isn't lettingnewcomers see the true picture and make their own minds up about any of the commenters.
Of course, this is your blog and I agree YOU should choose what you print, so might it not be better first to approve your responses before printing them? That way, anything contentious - don't post it and no more hostility! Just a thought.
( I STILL think my joke rounded the whole shebang off nicely, though! )

Anonymous said...

I didn't find your joke about disabled superheroes very funny John Pitt. Re: the debate, we need more high profile ethnic heroes on screen. The Falcon and Warmachine are sidekicks, Nick Fury isn't centre stage enough, so a black Spider-Man would be very cool.

I don't see the problem with it. Miles Morales is already an established character.

Having said that I still think they will use Peter Parker.

Doc Savage said...

Because Miles Morales isn't the version that sells merchandise.

But no reason why Peter Parker couldn't be black.

More to the point: how about, instead of taking beloved characters and altering them, they create some worthwhile new characters? Have they created any characters in the past 35 years who have stuck around and become classics?

Doc Savage said...

I love it when white people jump in to defend us colored folk.

Still waiting for my Latino characters. There are more of us than blacks, yet we seem to be out of the running in all your talk of diversity and an America which you seem to feel is made up of "white or black" and no other options.

Anonymous said...

That's a fair point Matt, sorry. Yeh, more Latino characters would be good.

Re: merchandise, I'm sure there would be lots of Miles Morales Spidey merchandise if he was in the movies. Guardians didn't sell merchandise until the movie.

Edo Bosnar said...

Well, as far as I know, the character that got this discussion rolling is both both black and Latino - he's Puerto Rican isn't he?

However, I think Matt does make a good point about Latino characters. The same point can be made about the dearth of heroes of Asian descent (either east or south) in the Marvel and DC universes - that's something that had me scratching my head even back when I was a teen. The new Ms. Marvel is refreshing in this regard.

John Pitt said...

Lighten up, it was only a joke, not an insult! In my defence, I "nicked" the idea of a disabled Spider-Man from disabled cop Joe in Family Guy, so blame Seth McFarlane!
Only, in my take , his secret identity would be a disabled Peter Parker, but nobody would have a clue that he was also secretly disabled Spidey!
STILL, not laughing?
O.K. - I give up!
( back to the day job, sigh.... )

Anonymous said...

John Pitt, I guess you never heard of Freddy Freeman aka Captain Marvel Jr, or Barbara Gordon aka Oracle, or Professor X? You see, there have been various "disabled" superheroes but it may disappoint you to hear that no publisher ever stooped so low as to make a "joke" out of them.

John Pitt said...

Dear ??, ( I WOULD call you by both your names, as you do me, if you weren't hiding behind anonymity.
You completely missed the point. My joke was not aimed at disabled super-heroes, it was aimed at hostile commenters who cry "racism", just because some people prefer comic book heroes to be the skin colour they were when originally created. So, to change the subject, I suggested a LUDICROUS concept by making Spidey a completely different minority, one of which I unashamedly belong to myself ( and I CAN laugh at myself, rather than cry " Discrimination! " if somebody uses the word "disabled")
Honestly, I would make the most laughable super-hero ever!
HOWEVER, in the spirit of friendship, as you personally seem offended by my remark, will you accept my apolgy to you and let the matter lie, as I have no desire to " war" with anybody on the blogs. I come here for the comics.
Whadya say?
All over?

Anonymous said...

Edo Bosnar, I had forgotten that Miles was part Puetro Rican. It's been a while since I read any Ultimate comics. It's pretty cool they gave him mixed parantage.

John Pitt, I'd never heard of you until you made your "joke" but I see what you're trying to do here and I'm not falling for it. I'm done.

Forbush said...

Hey John, the Miles Morales version of Spider-Man being discussed and proposed here for movie stardom has been non-white ever since his original creation in the comics. There are no suggestions that he should have his skin colour changed for the movies so I don't understand how those sort of objections qualify in this specific debate. It's like saying there shouldn't be a Red Hulk in the movies in the future because we have a green one at present. Different characters.

John Pitt said...

Hi Forbush, thank you for your civil reply. Yeah, I know that and I'm not bothered either way. I never objectedto ANYTHING! But when others said they preferred movies about the PP Spidey or that they thought that the Human Torch should be left white, nasty anonymous remarks, accusing innocent people of racism were posted here.
So, to divert attention away from the hostility. I regrettably posted a stupid comment, for which I apologize.

Forbush said...

I don't see any accusations of racism on this thread. There's some prejudice towards change and some valid counter arguments regarding that but I don't see accusations of racism.

Forbush said...

Oh wait, the offensive comments were removed before I got here. I get it now, sorry.

John Pitt said...

No worries, Forbush. Yeah, things were getting pretty nasty and my attempt to change the subject by posting a silly remark hasn't helped matters. Still, I can but learn from it!

Forbush said...

We're all learning every day, friend, to be better people. It's good to know the guys causing the ruckus have gone. Peace prevails.

I read a news story recently where Whedon said there's gonna be more superheroes in Age of Ultron in addition to those we know about. I'm wondering if Spidey might make a cameo after all?

John Pitt said...

I think these cameos add to the movies. You get a little buzz when someone you know pops up!
I'd just like to say, for the record, if they do add a Spidey, anyone from the the Spider-Verse is fine by me, even Spider-Gwen!
(Please, don't let it be Peter POrker!!)

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