There are spoilers ahead if you’re one of the 20,000 people or so who still read Ultimate Comics. Beware.
Spider-Man is dead! Peter Parker was killed battling the Green Goblin one final time. But that’s only in the Ultimate Universe - you know, the place where The Blob ate The Wasp. It’s kind of a shithole over there anyway.
But there must always be a Spider-Man, and so Marvel has announced the new face beneath the (redesigned) mask - and he’s a minority. Not just one minority either; the new Spider-Man is a half-black, half-hispanic kid named Miles Morales, who is a newly created character. And Brian Michael Bendis, the man behind Ultimate Spider-Man since its launch, gives Donald Glover the credit.
You may remember the ‘Donald Glover for Spider-Man’ campaign that hit the internet a year or so ago. It was half tongue in cheek, but I think it was a great idea, and it really brought to the forefront the discussion of race in comics. Why does Peter Parker’s skin color matter, especially when all of his skin is covered in a costume? Why are the only black heroes in comics those who are in some way defined by their blackness?
Then in the season premiere of Community last year Glover appeared in Spider-Man pajamas as a nod to the campaign. And Bendis saw that. And liked it. “He looked fantastic!” Bendis told USA Today. “I saw him in the costume and thought, ‘I would like to read that book.’ So I was glad I was writing that book.”
Bendis sees Morales as starting to fill a gap in superhero comics. “It’s certainly long overdue,” Bendis says. “Even though there’s some amazing African-American and minority characters bouncing around in all the superhero universes, it’s still crazy lopsided.”
Of course this is all taking place in the universe where the Blob ate the Wasp, so it isn’t like Marvel is getting into the diversity business too thoroughly in their main titles. Still, a start is a start.