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Race in Comic Books- Does it matter?

Race in Comic Books- Does it matter?

I have been trying to write this article for some time. I did not want to just react but to clearly state my thoughts. It is a complex issue.

As a kid back in the 70s, I remember reading comics with prominent African American characters. Robbie Robertson was a friend to Peter Parker and helped keep J.J. Jameson in check. The Falcon was a great partner to Captain America.  Luke Cage, AKA Power Man, was a great balancing force to Iron Fist. These characters were positive role model for African American kids who read comics. This midwest farmer’s son, who never met someone who was not Caucasian until I was 11 years old, loved these characters.

Recently Marvel Comics killed off their Ultimate Universe Spider-Man (Alternate Universe- Not the regular Marvel Universe- Spidey). The Peter Parker of that world is dead (we will see for how long- Super-Heroes don’t usually stay dead).  A new kid has taken up the Spidey mantel.   Miles Morales is a half-black, half-Hispanic teen and the new Ultimate Universe Spider-Man.

The news of Spidey’s replacement has brought out racist comments from some fans. The comments were terrible and offensive. Some of the comments were about affirmative action in comics which is a ridiculous comparison.

Before they announced the cast of the new Spider-Man movie, Donald Glover (son of Danny Glover and actor from TV’s Community) had his name mentioned in the running for the role of Peter Parker. I was not a supporter of Donald to get the role.  It purely had to do with Donald not looking like how I picture Peter.  I loved the fact that many of the Spidey characters looked exactly as I thought they should in the first three movies such as J.J. Jameson and Aunt May.  If Donald would have gotten the role, I would have gone to see the movie and would have hoped I would get won over but I honestly would have been a bit sceptical.  

How do I balance out my disgust with the treatment of Miles Morales with my lack of support for Donald?  Donald was not the first actor I have not supported for not looking like the character to me.  In 1989, I was very disappointed with the selection of Michael Keaton at Bruce Wayne/Batman. After seeing the movie for the first time, I was sold on Keaton as the right selection.  On the other hand, Brandon Routh looked just like Superman (except the colors on the costume were off) and Clark Kent but Superman Returns stunk.  

It really has to do with what and who you are changing.  I had no issues with Michael Clark Duncan as the Kingpin in Daredevil (best part of that horrible movie).  I was a great supporter of Samuel L Jackson portraying Nick Fury because he embeds the very persona of Nick.  

I have loved Peter Parker and Spidey since I was a little kid in the 70s.  I would be disappointed if Peter did not look a certain way in the movies because I am such a fan and have a specific look in mind for the character.  I was very disappointed with Topher Grace in Spidey 3 because Eddie Brook is suppose to be a much bigger guy than Peter.  To me, Donald Glover does not shout Peter Parker to me but I would give him a chance if he would have been cast as Pete.

To answer my question, yes race does matter in comics. Humanity has people from all sorts of races and skin tones.  The heroes in comics should reflect this and give kids of all races heroes that look some what like they do and characters of other races to admire as I did as a kid.  

When changes happen to characters we feel a bond with, it is difficult to take and support. I hope the fan boy or fan girl in all of us can take a step back and see how the changes turn out without stooping to nasty comments. Give change a chance.  I hope our super heroes can pull out the best in us and humanity and not the worst in us as has happened for some with the announcement of Miles Morales as the new Spidey.

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