Spider-man is Marvel Comics’ most emblematic superhero, and everyone knows of Peter Parker’s secret identity thanks to its comics, movies, video-games, TV shows and practically every other piece of media ever conceived.But how would readers feel if their beloved Spider-man just wasn’t Peter Parker anymore? Now, keep in mind, readers, there are spoilers up ahead so read at your own risk!
Since some time ago, Marvel has been published what they’ve dubbed “Ultimate Marvel”. This sub-line of their catalog deals with the same heroes we’ve known and loved for over 50 years now, but updated for this time and age. To be clear, Spider-man and X-men are still coming out, nothing has changed there, but in this sub-line the continuity is entirely different, and the authors are free to start from scratch, a tabula rasa where they can re-imagine characters, situations, and what-not. So, Gwen Stacy can appear again, Harry Osborne doesn’t have to be the Green Goblin, Wolverine doesn’t know anything about his past, and Jean Grey didn’t turn into Phoenix. The experiment was liberating, and long-time readers embraced these titles for the most part.
One of these several changes on the Ultimate universe was that Peter Parker was killed in action, after an epic fight with the Sinister 6, and particularly the Green Goblin. Peter Parker died in Mary Jane’s arms, surrounded by Gwen Stacy, Aunt May and some other characters after receiving several fatal wounds, saying “Don’t you see…it’s okay. I did it. I couldn’t save him. Uncle Ben. I couldn’t save him… No matter what I did. But I saved you. I did it. I did…”
But as it always happens in the Marvel Universe, there’s a bunch of super-humans ready to take the mantle once a hero has fallen down. In Spider-man’s case, people were expecting something like the Clone Saga of the 90’s with the Scarlet Spider appearing for the first time in the Ultimate universe, but readers got straight up a new Spider-man from the pages of Ultimate Comics Fall-out #4. This new Spider-man was Miles Morales, an entirely new character, a bit younger than Peter Parker, but as smart as him. Still, readers were surprised because this new Spider-man was the son of a Black man and Hispanic (Puerto Rican) woman. That’s right, the new Spider-man was Black/Latino, and this earned Marvel all types of press, including articles in mainstream newspapers like the Washington Post.
Reactions to Miles Morales’ appearance didn’t take long, and hours after he was introduced the Internet was filled with words of praise for the minority superhero, as well as bigoted, rabid attacks. Some readers complained that this was a move to appeal to the Politically Correct crowd from Marvel Comics and that they wanted Peter Parker or no-one. Now, keep in mind this isn’t the first time Parker was replaced (remember Ben Reilly, Peter’s clone?), or even a Marvel hero (US Agent for Captain America, Beta Ray Bill for Thor, and Spider-man himself replaced Reed Richards in the Fantastic Four at some point), but the fact that Morales belonged to a minority made the line between caring for Peter Parker and straight up racism a bit blurry.
Also, caring for the character is one thing, but keep in mind readers can still enjoy Parker’s adventures in the regular Spider-man comics outside of the Ultimate universe, so it’s weird that some fans felt so strongly about Morales, whose main difference with Peter should be the adventures he has and the characters that surround him, and not really his ethnicity. In the end, Spider-man’s adventures take place in New York city, where thousands of nationalities and ethnicities share a common place, and having the super-humans of the city reflect that, only makes sense.
How do the Walyou readers feel about this? We’re looking forward to your comments.