Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Waiting For Spider-Man



There's a new SPIDER-MAN in town, and it's a wonderful thing.

'Not a dream! Not a hoax! Not an emo reboot or a bad musical!'

Marvel Comics built their empire on the character of Spider-Man, as important to their survival as Superman is to their rival, DC Comics. It would be easy for them to play it safe with their breadwinner, but they have a second option to get bold with.

Marvel publishes a regular line of comic titles with all their classic heroes, but they also publish a separate line of Ultimate Comics. In this alternate universe, the characters have been re-imagined as their ultimate best selves for a modern era. The regular comic Spider-Man, that ever wisecracking Peter Parker, is alive and well. But over in the Ultimate Spider-Man comic, Peter Parker has just passed away and a young teen kid named Miles Morales will replace him in September. >

Your friendly neighbor's hood.

There seems to be some kind of flustered fuss about this.

Having an African-American and Hispanic kid as the new Spider-Man is a great thing in multiple ways. Most smart people understand why and said so. But a few fringe voices from the old hate had problems with it, which only reveals their sad flaws.


a.k.a., 'Who says only Stan The Man can have a soapbox?', dept.

Spider-Man's 1960s creators, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.

Well, let's get it out of the way, and point out the elephant irrelevant in the room.

ITEM: Here's the straight-up, pilgrims: there are no such things as races. There is only one race, the Human Race. This isn't idealism, it's simply a scientific fact. > >

When people speak of different races, they are mistaken. The flat scientific reality is... there is only one race, the Human Race, Homo sapiens ("wise man", "knowing man"). You can't divide people by minor physical quibbles, by religion, by map borders, or by cultural traditions and call them races. > It's ignorant and no better than superstition. So terms like 'bi-racial' are just (brace yourself) compounded dumbness. > > >

This may sound like idealism, but it is actually a smack-exact scientific fact, Jack.

"The Journey Of Man: A Genetic Odyssey";
How humanity is one race that branched from Africa

(Let's cut to the quick: a single African tribe seeded every person on Earth, we are all family, stop hitting your cousin and grow up or I'll turn this car around right now.) > > >

Races don't exist, but racism does. Racism is the belief in races, and justifying acting badly to others because of it. The results of that mistaken belief are very real, even if it is as stupid as we could possibly be. > I would've skipped all this as a given, effendi, but all the articles -whether pro or con- about Miles prove that the bulk of us still haven't grasped this.

Repeat: When you say 'bi-racial' or 'mixed-race', you're being double-dumb. Like bubble gum.

"Hey, tigers, time to get with reality!" concurs Mary Jane, "Get wise, man; act like you know and let's go. Next."

Stan Lee's Soapbox column, 1968.



Some folks think this is a heavy subject for such light reading. They're judging covers on mags they've never read.

But you know the score, true believers!

Comic books are as advanced in story and craft as any book, film, or series, and have been for many decades. Four generations worth of hip folks have enjoyed this, while some hack journalists and their clueless readers still have their head up their comics code authority.> >

Regardless, the generation who grew up on graphic novels now writes the best blogs, mags, books, shows, and films, which is turning the tide of public awareness; these professionals know that comics at their best have the pulse of the times, and often accelerate it. > >

Marvel Comics (alias Jack Kirby) introduced the first Black superhero,
the African king, Black Panther, in 1966.
> > > > > > > >

There's ways to do a good thing right, and still ways to go wrong anyway.

When the character Batwoman was announced as a lesbian (2006), it was decried by some as a stunt.> But, in practice, the character's confident sexual identity only enhanced some of the most essential stories and art of the decade. By focusing on depth and strength of character, in strong stories with stunning art, the creators showed that quality of craft and humanity of heart are the best keys for progress.

Another good character move was the debut of an Asian Batgirl named Cassandra Cain (1999)>, but she was mishandled. The creators seemed to think the vague concept 'Asian' was enough and blurred her background in a hodgepodge of pan-Asian cultural cliches. In the major city I live in, where everyone comes from all the radically diverse cultures grouped under Asia, this was infuriating instead of empowering.

And you know writers are clueless when they descend to the whole 'hero/now villain/now hero' ricochet. The creators seemed equally tonedeaf to the resulting backlash; "Huh?", blink, blink. Newsflash: way to ruin a great character in no time flat, ya boneheads. (What was their solution? They just replaced her with a blond. Yeh. Nuff said.)

Batwoman; Batgirl

Good stories about good people are the whole point of superhero comics. They're fantasies of our inner spirit personified as its ultimate best.>>

Sadly, some bad people with their own problems slung a lot of abuse at Batwoman for having love in her life; and have so again at the casting of Perry White with a fine actor; and of course at our fledgling spider-kid, Miles for being... in a book they're unskilled to read anyway. So I was really impressed when the main man at Marvel Comics, Joe Quesada, responded to all the bigot blowhards by saying, "if people with racist tendencies disagree with the things we do, then I know we're doing the right thing."

Joe Quesada is hispanic, and extends the proud history of immigrant underdogs that made comics (and culture) great. Comic books were invented in the melting pot of 1930s Depression-era New York City, cranked out by idealistic young Italians, Jews, Poles, Irish, and more who yearned to empower themselves in a better world. > From the later waves of Filipino, French, and Spanish artists in the '70s, to the English and Scottish writers in the '80s, to the rise of African-American artists in the '90s>, and Asian artists in the '00s, American comics are only improved by inclusion and empowerment.

"Sayyy, aren't you forgetting something there, buddy?" interjects Mary Jane.

Woman make up the majority of the human race, but they are the most neglected and marginalized part of the comics community.> > > > > So it's even better that the series is being drawn by a woman, which there can never be enough of in comics creation. Sara Pichelli has a keen eye for telling a story, particularly through the humanity imbued in clothes, expressions, and gestures. > And what an excellent job with the costume! Totally new and yet totally identifiable as Spidey.

Hey, wake up over there, I'm on a roll. Wow, tough room. Did we run out of women-in-leather pics? Cue the film, Irving!



But what really put the passion in me was in seeing how much they were influenced by the documentary WAITING FOR SUPERMAN.


This indie film has clearheaded prescriptions for solving the education crisis in America, using the metaphor that we can't depend on any messianic agency when we should focus on saving ourselves. > >

The cruelest and most moving part of the film is seeing all of the bright kids from poor homes pinning all their hopes on a random lottery system that might let them into a school that can save them. The horror of seeing qualified kids thrown to the wind by sheer chance is almost too heartbreaking to take.

Looking at the three pages of preview art from ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN #1 >, it's clear that writer Brian Michael Bendis has adapted this exact scene from the film. At that point my empathy for Miles Morales was absolute, and I knew I was going to buy this book every month.

Waiting for hope

WAITING FOR SUPERMAN nails what's criminally wrong about our current education system. We strobe to kids that they can do anything with an education. But we don't provide them with the education which allows them to do anything. When we reduce their chances to a lottery, we tell them that all their hard work means nothing against fickle fate, and they should just give up.

I say, tell fate to go fickle itself.

Kids reading comics, 1939-1947. source

Comic books were first created to lift kids' dreams. Their sole purpose is to empower the hero within you.

In this new Depression, we need to believe that quality will win, that the inner spirit is stronger than evil or fate, that the dreams of our own youth weren't delusions, and that the dreams of the new youth can be given a fair chance. That we have humanity and decency in common, and that together we can make a better world.

We need a narrative of belief that we make happen ourselves. Miles Morales is the hero for our times because we are Miles Morales.

President Obama meets the kids from "Waiting For Superman".
Miles Morales was almost certainly inspired
by the two people shaking hands.


If you haven't seen the film, I can't urge it enough. Then see how you feel about our friendly new neighbor....

ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN #1 goes on sale at comic shops September 14, 2011.

(This is a variant cover.)




"For only love can conquer hate." -Marvin Gaye

Spider-Man (Miles Morales)
and Spider-Woman (Gwen Stacy), 2016.

© Tym Stevens

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