got the internet goin’ nuts: spider-man, racism, manga, & peanuts

August 2nd, 2011 by | Tags: ,

This review of Fantagraphics’ Peanuts reprint project is great. This little girl gets exactly why Charlie Brown and Snoopy are so wonderful. Hang it up, everybody else.

-My main man Tucker Stone turned five and then got back down to the business of showing you the guts of this week’s comic books.

-Rich Johnston pulled together a post meant to educate some dickface retailer about racism and speaking in public. It’s a good one, very well done. He asked me if I wanted to contribute, but I declined. I felt like that guy had gotten enough, or even too much, of my attention after I tweeted about it two times. C’est la guerre, right?

-The reason that retailer went off on the racist tip is that the new Ultimate Spider-Man (created by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli) is a half-black, half-hispanic kid named Miles Morales (alliteration, holla). While I stand by my position that original characters are greater than legacies, who are by their very nature subordinate and inferior to the original model, I also understand that cape comics are screwed and cannot support new original characters. They have to be tied to the old in order to survive today. It sucks, but that’s the industry we’ve built, right?

-The retailer, of course, is noted sexist douchebag Larry Doherty of Larry’s Comics in Lowell, MA, whose previous claim to fame, a year or two before making jokes about “nigga lips,” was calling out ComicsAlliance editor-in-chief Laura Hudson as a one-trick pony who only talks about sexism in comics and, I assume as some sort of incredible zinger, sending her a photo of a woman with a bunch of hot dogs stuffed in her mouth. It’s cool that he’s outed himself as a racist, too. Gotta catch ’em all, right?

-Every time I see somebody on Twitter shouting that guy out like “Yo this guy knows how to sell comcis!” my eyes narrow a little bit. Watch who you associate with, because it’s all too easy for their actions to define you.

-I don’t necessarily think Marvel should be patted on the back, but this is a pretty cool move. No other major character–and the major characters these days are Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man, make no mistake–have been replaced by a non-white. In this case, the one, true Spider-Man, or Ultimate Spider-Man, or whatever, is a black guy. What’s more, this’ll pull the Ultimate universe away from pantomiming the past, which is what the last murderfest and reboot was supposed to do. You can’t do a retread of Venom with Miles Morales. They don’t have the history, and there are no expectations.

-No, there are some expectations. We’ll see the classic villains, probably for the first year or so, to ease readers in. Seeing how the new guy (and I hope he has a different personality than Parker and doesn’t use the same yiddish slang) interacts with these old characters will be more interesting than seeing Parker do the same old song and dance. Word is that he’ll be working with Aunt May and Gwen Stacy, too, which is cool.

-I tweeted some stuff about the new Spider-Man and the marketing of the character, too: “It would be nice if the Big Two could treat diversity as a fact of life, but the market & genre demand events/hype. It’s nice when they try. So, though I haven’t been a big Bendis fan for a while, I’ll try out this new Spider-Man. It’s (mostly) new and fresh. I hope it works out. Wonder Woman’s pants has been a running argument for over a year now. A new Spider-Man, and what’s more, a black one, is gonna be a big deal. It’s like that bit in Casanova. “The genre demands it!” The cape industry bends strange in a lot of nonsensical, but traditional, ways. but anyway, Sara Pichelli is ill, and I’m all about her getting a brand new #1 to call her own, and hopefully a fat sack of royalty checks”

-One request: can we not call him “Black Spider-Man?” That’s stupid.

-There’s this quote from Sara Pichelli in Marvel’s PR that I wanted to pull out: “Maybe sooner or later a black or gay – or both – hero will be considered something absolutely normal.”

-What she says works directly against Marvel’s marketing. (Spider-Man is black now!) She’s saying that this sort of thing should be par for the course, rather than an aberration. I like that she slipped that in there, whether my understanding of her statement is what she intended or not. The big deal about Nightrunner, the new Aqualad, and… who am I forgetting? Batwing? Blue Beetle? The big deal about all those guys should’ve been no big deal to us. I don’t get hype when an ill new black character shows up in One Piece (word to sleepy old Admiral Kuzan) or in a new movie. Why should I when it happens in the comics I’ve been reading since I was a child? If anything, these books should be the ones blazing trails like they used to do.

-Pichelli’s art is great. I did a Pretty Girls on her last year. Happy to see her with a huge gig.

-Thinking about this deal (and regrettably reducing it to a tired old Big Two competition, which I normally loathe but in this case is a viable angle for analysis)… Marvel’s never really had as much of a problem with race as DC has had. The ’70s were very good to them in terms of introducing cool new faces, and the 2000s (and maybe a little earlier–Priest’s Black Panther) saw a resurgence of strong titles featuring black characters. I think we’re long past the day when someone like Triathlon could gain traction, but Marvel definitely tries something new time and time again. Therefore–they didn’t have to create Miles Morales. They have characters who we love who are good.

-DC pushed Cyborg to the front lines as part of their big diversity push (at least in part) because he’s the only black guy they have that 1) has a fairly sizable fanbase (due to Wolfman/Pérez Teen Titans mostly) 2) doesn’t have Black in his name (eliminating Black Lightning from the runnings) and 3) isn’t a legacy character (peace out, John Henry Irons, John Stewart, Mr Terrific, Aqualad, and a handful of others). Not to say that he doesn’t deserve to play in the Big Leagues, because he absolutely does, but there’s a… paucity of candidates, aren’t there? He also isn’t named Vixen, which is a huge bonus.

-Marvel, though, has a figurative ton of black characters they could throw into the Avengers without anyone batting an eye, other than the people who make a hobby out of batting eyes. What’s more, they put him into their biggest costume. So, yeah, maybe this new Spider-Man really is something to be applauded. I’ll have to think it over some.

-I was on a Best/Worst Manga panel at SDCC 2011. You can read Deb Aoki’s great recap here.

-I liked this NYT piece debunking a few myths about slavery, marriage, and family, too.

-This post on Eating Watermelon While Black was also a pretty fun read. It’s interesting seeing other people’s perspectives on the very real cultural/social divide between black and white.

-Geez, I guess I did have something to say about Miles Morales after all. Hopefully the new book is good. Both companies’ sudden stabs at being inclusive seem sort of like a last-ditch gasp for air before the lights go out, but at the same time… I appreciate that they’re trying. Better late than never, right?

-New costume is pretty tight. I like the black and red, and the webby fingers.

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36 comments to “got the internet goin’ nuts: spider-man, racism, manga, & peanuts”

  1. “What’s more, this’ll pull the Ultimate universe away from pantomiming the past, which is what the last murderfest and reboot was supposed to do. You can’t do a retread of Venom with Miles Morales. They don’t have the history, and there are no expectations.”

    Thing is, Bendis was already pulling Ultimate Spider-Man away from pantomiming the 616 version. Iceman, Human Torch, and Gwen Stacy were living with him at Aunt May’s, JJJ knew Spidey’s real identity and had turned from one his biggest detractors to someone wanting to do anything he could help Peter in his efforts to help people as Spider-Man, and SHIELD was pushing him into a sort of early version of an Ultimate Initiative program by teaming him up with the big guns of the Ultimates/Ultimate Avengers. They didn’t need to kill and replace Pete in order to avoid retreading the past or pantomiming what’s taken place in the original continuity.

    While the fact that they changed his race does give me hope that the new Spider-Man won’t be a carbon copy of Pete, it doesn’t change my stance on holding the reboot up to a very high standard in order to justify the ridiculous “Death of Spider-Man” arc and keep me from dropping the book.

  2. I always hate the big hoopla about this shit. It reminds me of when everybody and their mommas giving a big hand of applause to Tony Dungy for being the first black coach to win the Super Bowl. “Way to go black folks, you movin’ on up to get that de-luxe apartment in the sky, who knew you could do it, what an incredibly special occasion and step forward this must be for black people all over the nation!”

    When honestly its like, who gives a shit, ya know? Props to coaching a team and doing your job I suppose, not gonna pat you on the back for having a darker skin tone then all the other guys who did it before you.

    I just…I just don’t give a damn about race, but I guess I’m the minority’s minority on this one, because it seems all my fellow black comic readers I talk to care. You care, David Brothers. The whole damn internet seems to care. But I’ve never jumped on the DIVERSITY!bandwagon. I never made a checklist of LGBT or non-white characters and demanded the big two change it. I never watched a Clint Eastwood war film and pulled a Spike Lee and thought, “EY, WHERE THE FUCK THE BLACK PEOPLE AT!?”

    I just like good stuff, ya know? I like 100 Bullets, and Hitman, and Scalped, and Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man, and Simone’s Secret Six and the work of Frank Miller. I like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Wire, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Arrested Development, and Seinfeld. I like Spielberg, Bergman, Michael Mann, and Woody Allen. Sometimes the characters are white, black, hispanic, gay, bi, straight, atheist, theist, one arm, one eye, and speak with French accents and shout “JOHN DE BATON-BATON!”

    So far, all this says to me is Marvel patting themselves on the bat and going, “Hey guys look, its a non-white male! It’s this incredible and make you buy it!?”

    And I’m just sitting there where everybody else makes googly eyes, wondering is there was some bigger appeal then what was offered.

    “Yeah..so what?”

  3. @Jeremy: So far, all this says to me is Marvel patting themselves on the bat and going, “Hey guys look, its a non-white male! It’s this incredible and make you buy it!?”

    That’s what turned me off from the press release. I get that it’s a “press release” but I hope that one day we can get past the “hoorah for diversity” aspect.

    But that’s as likely as people not using tired terms like “race card” and “pc” .

  4. @Jeremy: In a perfect world, I think a lot of us would agree with you that we should only care about quality and not even really notice when race comes into it. Unfortunately, it still is a rare enough event when either of the big two puts a minority character of any kind into the kind of spotlight that the name Spider-man brings, that we should encourage it and let them know that diversity is a good thing for their readership. If we don’t keep reminding companies that we recognize and appreciate their efforts to improve diversity, what incentive do they ever have to do so?

    I’m just one reader, but I stopped paying attention to the Ultimate line myself years ago, and this is already making me consider paying attention to at least this new Ultimate Spidey book, and I’m having conversations with family and friends who don’t even care about comics.

    And David, you do good work putting words together. “Watch who you associate with, because it’s all too easy for their actions to define you.” I wish I could have figured out how to put that concept so succinctly months ago.

  5. Being hispanic, I feel mildy excited to see a half hispanic kid in the costume of one of my favorite characters.
    Yes, I’ll miss Ult. Peter Parker, but he had a chance to die a hero and Ult. Spider-Man has always been a consistent book; I trust that Bendis will try to make this work, let’s hope he doesn’t fall in the typical traps of writing minority characters.

  6. I think whatever good Brian and Sara are going to do here will forever be tainted in some (most of the internet) comic fans minds by Marvel PR leaking this to the press before the event.

    Wouldn’t it be cool if this happened organically on Wednesday and have the Ult. Spidey fans who have been picking up Fallout go: “Dudes… you have to check this issue out! You will not believe who’s the new Spidey…”

    But noooooooo once again Marvel has to ruin a story point through the press…

    As far as Miles goes… I am hoping for a Jaime Reyes type situation here where we get the hero and a strong multi-racial supporting cast…

    But as I also said before: I am a black comic book fan.. I am used to disappointment…

    PROVE ME WRONG Bendis!

  7. ‘yiddish slang’

    is that what that is? Always been kinda curious if that was just bendis

  8. “I hope he has a different personality than Parker and doesn’t use the same yiddish slang”
    Oh man, I hadn’t even thought of that, it’s a strong possibility, isn’t it? For my money Ultimate Spider-Man has been Bendis’s most consistent super-comic, but distinct character voices has never been his strong suit. Fingers crossed.

    They’re sticking with that new costume then? I haaaate it. That interim(?) one in the preview looks pretty good. On a related note, I don’t get scrapping the (awesome) Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon in favour of an Ultimate Spider-Man adaptation, just as the source material becomes completely unrecognisable from what’ll be onscreen. (That’s an argument against the cartoon, not changing the comic.)

  9. […] or both — hero will be considered something absolutely normal,” which, as David Brothers points out, doesn’t do Marvel any favors: What she says works directly against Marvel’s marketing. […]

  10. Thanks for that link to the Best/Worst Manga Panel. I saved it and will go over it later to see what I should pick up (and what I should avoid).

  11. i never understood what was the point of the “ultimate” continuity having the same characters in 616 continuity (and it seemed mostly retread anyway), but i could get into alternative characters behind the masks!

  12. RE: DC’s big diversity push

    If putting Cyborg on the JLA is part of a big diversity push, I wonder why they’re completely ignore the Milestone characters (except Static, of course)?

    It’s a shame that they’re not taking better advantage of their relaunch to further integrate Dakota into the DCU.

  13. I like the basic idea of it. Though I can’t really give any credit away for the race thing, since it’s so overdue that it no longer surprises anyone. 😛
    BUT: Why do they have to make it so extremely clichee?? Again an alliteration name -.-
    Plus, half-Latino? Making the character like that seems nothing but forced on first sight. Like a bad TV spot, which has a message so obvious it insults ppl’s intelligence.
    And now they put the focus on his background instead of his character to attract readers, that’s not good. Couldn’t they build up a story and leave the whole race thing unknown for at least the first few issues so it wouldn’t become the character’s #1 trait?
    That’s just not convenient in my opinion.
    Oh yeah…one more thing: I hate the black tights, wtf -.-
    that is a big no-no

  14. […] Reviews | Aaron Zenz and his 11-year-old daughter Gracie review Fantagraphics’ The Complete Peanuts collections. “My goal is to read all of the Peanuts comics ever made. That’s my dream,” Gracie said. [Bookie Woogie, via 4thletter!] […]

  15. @Chris: Why leave the race thing unknown? They wouldn’t do that with a white character. The race thing is front and center right now, but judging by Bendis’s statements, it won’t be the driving force of the series.

    And how is being half-latino, when he’s from New York City, at all forced? There’s tons of crossover between black and latin cultures in the States.

    @jqha: It’s probably that they own Cyborg outright, while they are licensing Static and them. I’d much prefer to see Hardware on the JLA, for example, but the new lineup isn’t bad.

    @Chris V: thanks man

  16. @david brothers: I’d love to see Hardware team up with Steel. Maybe something dealing with an Alva Industries/Steelworks merger that has various evil factions interfering with it?

  17. @Prodigal: I have this sneaking suspicion that either Steel or Hardware are going to show up in Eric Wallace’s Mr Terrific series. Total hunch, though, not even close to informed speculation.

  18. @david brothers: Given Terrific’s technological abilities, it’d make perfect sense. Yet another reason to give that book a look, if only to confirm whether or not it happens.

  19. […] America, Iron Man, Superman, but this is different, somehow. David Brothers tries to get at the ‘why’ of ‘why is this […]

  20. You know Prodigal and David, I never even considered Hardware and/or Steel possibly showing up in Mr. Terrific’s book as either an ally or competition. That would make sense though….

    As far as Miles Morales goes, let me just say that at my local comic shop on the border of Queens and Long Island, the move has had the desired effect of seeing new customers coming in, of different persuasions, asking for the book. My shop owner Donna is partially cursing Marvel because now she’s on never-ending back order…lol

  21. comics make a big deal about characters race etc because character is a bigger deal in comics. More comic books focus on one character, with a small supporting cast that can be removed at anytime than TV shows do. And many movies only get to display their characters once with the plot, actors, and potentially effects, being what they use to draw people in.

    It’s not like: “Here is who you’ll be caring about if you buy this book. Oh, he has some friends and family in the background, but his trials and tribulations are what drive this book. If you aren’t prepared to care about this character don’t bother picking up this book.”

  22. @Jason: get rid of the not at the start of the second paragraph

  23. I’m trying to see the big to-do about a new Spider-Man from an alternate universe. The racist loons that tend to want to pour the PC/affirmative action card to justify their ignorance and bigotry are largely wound up because they felt, and let’s put it out there, a Black kid replaced a White kid in an alternate version of the more mainstream, more familiar Marvel Universe.

    About 99.44% of those voicing their disapproval:

    a) thinks Miles is replacing the traditional, mainstream Marvel Universe Peter Parker, which he’s not.

    b) don’t read comic books and using the story to justify their racism, ignorance, and blatant hatred towards people darker than a paper bag, especially the couple currently residing in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

    To be fair, there was an alternate Spider-Man that was also half-Hispanic (Spider-Man 2099), and nobody batted an eye. There’s also a Spider-Girl who’s Hispanic. Again, no backlash. Wasp in the Ultimate Universe is Asian and Nick Fury is Black. Very few eyes were batted in those cases.

    Ignorant people are going to be ignorant people.

    On another topic, I don’t think Vixen’s name was meant to be the “spiteful/shrewish” interpretation of the name, but the female fox. As in “She’s a fox, she’s a babe.” Chauvinistic? Perhaps. Then again, foxes are known for their cleverness and slyness. but they covered their hides by making the Totem of Tantu shaped like a fox. Also, I’d rather Vixen be a part of the new Justice League than a brand new character they had to make up like Lady Luck.

    But that’s just me. Just been having fun reinterpreting Vixen’s origin on The X Bridge, and I’m still in awe that Mr. McDuffie gave her a new life in animation and the comics, introducing her to a new generation of fans.

    Still, I’d love to see the Irons still around in the DC Universe. John’s been given the shaft by the Superman family of creators, and I’d like him and Natasha to still have a place there, somewhere.

  24. “You can’t do a retread of Venom with Miles Morales.”

    And yet it will surely happen?

  25. @Jeff Harris: well Vixen was originally created in the 1970’s, she just took a while to debut, so I’m pretty sure her name was meant to be based around her looks, combined with the fact her powers were animal based

  26. I’m just happy it is someone who isn’t Peter Parker wearing the outfit, which allows all new stories. It’s the Ultimate Universe, we’re supposed to be super-different from the 616 Marvel-world, after all. Knowing I don’t have to read yet another Spider-Man comic with Peter Parker, be it a grown-up one or a teenage one makes me actually kind of want to pick up the new Ultimate Spider-Man comic despite my having dropped a lot of Marvel books (I’ve not been feeling the stories or $3.99 price tag). I wouldn’t have cared if the new Ultimate Spider-Man happened to be another white dude, just by NOT being Peter Parker I’m happy. However, by making it someone non-white Marvel is creating some diversity. I’m not going to go and praise Marvel or make a big deal out of this. I’m just going to observe I’m happy that this makes a lot of new stories possible, and at the end of the day I read comics for the stories and pretty pictures, so that’s a good thing.

    Now just don’t screw this up horribly, Marvel.

  27. @Jeff I agree with you mostly especially concerning John…but one correction.: DC didn’t just make up Lady Luck, apparently she’s an obscure character from the 1940’s retooled for today. Why do it now? I don’t have a clue…

  28. Am I the only one more concerned that DC brought back the female Metamorpho? She had a perfectly sad and touching end in “Sandman”. Seeing her alive is just… cheap. :negativeman:

  29. @Johnson Smalls: It’s a different one, I think. You’re thinking of Element Girl. Element Woman is a new creation for Flashpoint.

  30. @david brothers: The idea and power is the same. It’s like when Marvel created the government Captain America and Bucky (who was black). Not cool, bro.

    But on topic, why did no one complain when they eventually whitewashed Dream from “Sandman”?

  31. So what’s the problem with Vixen?

  32. @Alquimia: Her name is questionable and/or stupid.

  33. @Johnson Smalls: Unfair calling Marvel out for “black” Bucky. That wasn’t meant as a slight or a comment. Mark Gruenwald was trying to introduce a new black character and wasn’t aware of any possible racist connotations or problems with calling the character Bucky. He was chagrined when he learned and in story brought it up, and changed things.

    It’s an example of trying to do a good thing, failing with the best of intentions and working to make it right.

    Gee, I like Vixen, but then I dig Supermodel Superheroes….though now that I think of it, there’s a number of those at DC…Vixen, Starfire, Fire….they should form a team.

  34. @david brothers: Unfortunately, there’s no alternate name I can think of that would work better for her. “Animal Woman” would make her sound like a knockoff of Buddy Baker, and I can’t think of anything that sounds good that would be a good name-as-description-of-powers for her. Menagerie, maybe?

  35. @Prodigal: There’s already a sister named Menagerie at Image (part of Dynamo 5) who can actually shape change into animals….

  36. I’m not happy at all about Peter being killed off. The new Spidey has nothing to do with race. Any new Spidey of any colour of the rainbow would really tick me off. I’d “almost” take a clone storyline to bring Peter back. This really blows. I’ll buy a couple of issues, but I can really see myself dropping this title. It’s really annoying when they kill off someone that you can relate too, it’s like they’ve killed off a part of me. That may be an extreme reaction, but that’s what it feels like to me.