Ultimate Fallout: Ultimate Spider-Man Black

So word has been out for a few days now, and Ultimate Comics Fallout was released Sunday to a few quiet nods from people who know what an Ultimate Universe is, and a response from Glenn Beck (the man deserves his own special category). Since we have now officially gone through the process of mainstream media shrugging and/or vaguely acknowledging that a fictional character has died and replaced by another equally fictional character, I think it’s time we get some actually commentary on this.

I was pleasantly surprised when I read the news Wednesday morning that Spider-Man had been replaced by someone who wasn’t a white protestant Anglo Saxon. My initial response to the death of Peter Parker was “Oh, good, I can’t wait for a clone to replace him.” Let’s look at the easy way outs. There’s a clone, of which Spider-Man has PLENTY. And there’s a character who hopped over from an alternate universe and is now stuck here. In either case it would make the highly highly advertised “Death of Spider-Man” one of largest pieces of fan-bait in the last three years, and completely irrelevent. It would in short be another Death of Superman, which is clearly what they were trying to emulate with those last three issues of Ultimate Comics Spider-Man. Spider-Man goes through a massive elongated brawl with (a) villain(s) that is/are out of his league. Sounds like typical comic book death to me.

Again, imagine how surprised I was when I was envisioning all the ways this could go wrong and how those last few issues won’t even be worth their weight in paper. This is freaking Spider-Man. For a while the only reason people actually picked up an Ultimate Universe comic was because of Ultimate Spider-Man. The entire line was founded around his character. So we have the largest segment of readers in the Ultimate line now moving on to a black-hispanic heroes named Miles Morales.  That requires balls. Not as much balls if they killed Original Spider-Man and replaced him with a black guy, but balls enough. Of course, there is one risk Marvel is making with this decision. What if people read Ultimate Spider-Man not for Spider-Man, but for Peter Parker? The answer to that question will likely determine the fate of the entire Ultimate line.

Enough doom and gloom. This is great news for diversity in comics. I am tired of seeing one white dude fight another white dude.  This may have something to do with me living in a large metropolitan city, where two white dudes fighting each other is about as likely as an Asian and an Indian going at it while a white guy watches. I imagine New York City is somewhat similar, so it’s about time that a main character in that universe represented that diversity. Once more, I consider Spider-Man to be the centre of the whole line, while the Ultimates are really nothing more than chaotic backdrop. Thus, we’re really seeing THE main character of the Ultimate Universe become more ethnically varied. This has the potential to attract new readers, who are perhaps looking to see what the commotion is all about, and get a more diverse audience who finally have a teenage Marvel hero to whom they can better relate.

I’m not insinuating by any means that Miles Morales is innately a better character than Peter Parker purely because of his race. Bendis is still going to have to write him in a way where he stands out and yet is not exactly like the old Spider-Man we knew. For instance, if Miles immediately falls in love with Mary Jane and Gwen Stacy moves into his house, then this shift is an exercise in stupidity. Peter Parker is a fine and cherished character. While I hope they keep Peter’s supporting cast, they shouldn’t make Miles be black Peter Parker. This is an opportunity to branch out and spread into new territory never explored by the original Marvel U and should be treated as such. Personally, I can’t wait to see where they go with it.

Finally, I’d like to put forward speculation on one possible reason Marvel may have done this. Movie licensing. Now that Marvel has its own movie studio it’s had this looming problem where some of its most popular characters, like Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, are stuck in the hands of Sony and Fox. If Sony only owns the rights to make Spider-Man films based on the Marvel Universe, then there’s a possible loophole. Marvel could make a movie that has Spider-Man in it or a film with an overt reference to Spider-Man, so long as that Spider-Man is not Sony’s Peter Parker, but the Ultimate Miles Morales. Just speculation. I think that would be remarkable if it happened like that, but I also wouldn’t be shocked if I am completely wrong.

Final Word? This changes is a great thing for superhero comics. It may challenge the Ultimate Universe but I also think that’s a good thing. Series like these need to be challenged, and I hope that if Miles Morales can prove himself in the Ultimate U, maybe we’ll see something similar happen in the main Marvel U.

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Posted on August 7, 2011, in Comics and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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