A New Hero: Multiracial Spider Man
“Up, up and away web! Shazam! Go! Go! Go web, Go!”
He jumped on to the coffee table reciting those lines, mimicking the actions of his favorite superhero, the Amazing Spider-Man!
Since the age of two, my son has been a huge fan of superheroes: Spider-Man, Superman, The Flash, The Thing, The Incredible Hulk and almost every generation of Power Rangers. It seems like every superhero ever created eventually made their way into our home in the form of an action figure. At age three he started martial arts classes. The reason for the classes? Superheroes need to know how to defend themselves! At age four he started soccer and baseball. Why? Because superheroes need to know how to run fast and be coordinated! Any sport he was old enough to play, he joined…because those sports were a part of his self-imposed training regimen–the one required for him to become a real life superhero.
He loved watching and reading about superheroes who are always on the side of justice, always fighting to stop the spread of evil, always focusing on ways to make the world a better place (even though that is not always an easy job. “With great power comes great responsibility,” he would say.) He watched the original Superman cartoons from the 1950’s, read the original Marvel Spider-Man comics, was a different superhero each year for Halloween, and had superhero pajamas for every night of the week. Bath time was about more than getting clean… It was always an epic battle between Justice League action figures and Lego bad guys, where the fate of humanity rested in the heart of one superhero–my son!
It has been a pleasure to tease my now 6th grade son about the origins of his interest in sports! But honestly, he doesn’t much mind the teasing. He still enjoys superheroes! This summer he saw Thor, went to Captain America on opening night and watched several seasons of Smallville during our epic heat wave. These heroes still capture his imagination and make him dream about how he can make the world a safer, happier place.
There has only ever been one problem with his love of heroes: none of the mainstream super guys look like him. Green Lantern from the Justice League was the only brown-skinned hero in his collection of action figures. Recently he discovered the show Heroes on Netflix and was interested to see some people with powers who were not white (the Haitian, Hiro and Ando). He liked the Will Smith movie, Hancock, when he saw it. But that’s about it. (Before any die-hard comic book fans argue, I will acknowledge the fact that there have been other black heroes, but those heroes have never been marketed in a big enough way for my son to know about them. Those characters are never featured in kid-appropriate tv shows or movies, either.)
So, I was excited to learn about the latest incarnation of Spider-Man in The Ultimate Spider-Man series. This version of Spider-Man is biracial, just like my son. The new Spider-Man is half black and half Latino, and his name is Miles Morales. I am absolutely thrilled that my son, whose lifelong dream is to serve humanity on the side of justice, can see a superhero who looks like him! But apparently, not everyone is so thrilled. Stories about the new Spider-Man were posted yesterday. Those stories are now flooded with comments, and not many of them are supportive of the new hero’s secret identity. From Time magazine to USA Today, commenters are getting ugly. Some say that they are only angry because they are traditionalists who don’t think Spider-Man should change. Some say they are angry because the liberals and their “politically correct” movement are pushing their agenda too far. Many people suggest that President Obama is to blame for the change–whether they believe the birth of Miles Morales is positive or negative. The Altanta Post featured an article today about the backlash being another sign of the fact that we are not yet a post-racial society as many people claimed when President Obama was elected.
What do you think? Are you a traditionalist who thinks Spider-Man should only be the young, white, Peter Parker? Or do you welcome the biracial Miles Morales to the superhero scene?
**For more on Marvel’s Black Superheroes, see the series of posts on their website: A Marvel Black History Lesson**
This article was originally published on August 3, 2011 at jenmardunc.blogspot.com