The red and the blue and the white and the gay (or Why Spider-Man should remain a nerdy, white heterosexual)

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Amazing Spider-Man #68
Amazing Spider-Man #68

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks in Spider-News. British actor, Tom Holland, has been cast as the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s new Peter Parker/Spider-Man; leaked Sony emails say cinema’s Peter Parker must be Caucasian and heterosexual; Marvel announces that the ‘official’ comic book Spidey is soon to be the Ultimate universe’s Miles Morales (who is half-Latino and half-African-American); meanwhile Stan Lee says to leave his Spidey alone and instead create new, more diverse heroes.

Despite the volatile world we currently live in, where very real and ugly racial issues are in the forefront of our daily headlines, I have to agree with Uncle Stan (and Michelle Rodriguez) and side against the current trend of tweaking long existing comic characters simply to appease an audience that is demanding more diversity in their superhero entertainment.

Amazing Spider-Man #1
Amazing Spider-Man #1

Why not focus all that positive ‘change-the-world’ energy on creating something new (I’d love to read it!) and leave the old school characters alone? Let’s face it, when you make iconic characters completely unrecognizable, are they really that character or are they something else just using the same name? Can changing an icon really be a satisfying exercise for any of the stake holders?

I get it that a masked Spidey could be anybody, and that’s all cool; but has anyone ever read the Spider-Man comics just for the Spidey parts? For better or worse, nerdy, white, straight, male Peter Parker is Spider-Man – always has been and always will be. Anything else is just another “What If?” story.

Not to make light of the very real struggles endured by people of color or those of non-heterosexual persuasion, but white, nerdy, comic-book readers have had to deal with oppression of their own over the past several decades, and it’s only in the last few years that ‘our kind’ have been somewhat accepted into mainstream society. (I realize you can compound that persecution if you are of color and/or gay.)

When, as a white nerd, I tell casual acquaintances that I read comics or attend pop culture conventions, I very often get “the look,” like I’m suddenly standing there in my long-underwear; and there were many years where you simply did not make that admission in public. Believe me, nerds of all types have faced and continue to face many of the similar barriers that our friends in the LGBT community endure and we often have to keep our lifestyles a secret. (Grood help the non-white, gay nerds out there.)

Amazing Spider-Man #79
Amazing Spider-Man #79

There are two points here: One is that white nerds need Peter Parker every bit as much as every other minority group, which is why we are so protective of him; and the other is that people can’t just change history to suit their own political purposes – whether it’s the horrendous historical treatment of an indigenous people, the true origin of a racist flag, or the beloved background of a comic book icon.

On a related note: In Marvel Team-up #9 (currently featured in this week’s Classic Comic Cover Corner), Spider-Man and Iron Man are transported to the 23rd Century, where they battle a robotic zealot that takes religious offense to Tony Stark’s human flesh. Read about it HERE!


Discuss Literary Adventures at the Facebook group 'For the Love of All Things Edgar Rice Burroughs.'


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Bob Leeper
Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.