Remember when Zendaya got cast in Spider-Man: Homecoming as a character named Michelle and, even though we had absolutely no idea who in the world Michelle was, we celebrated because this was a huge deal? Well, it turns out that whole Michelle thing was just a red herring, according to the Wrap.
For the second time in less than 15 years, Spider-Man is being rebooted for a film franchise. But the good news is that, this time around, Peter Parker/Spidey will be played by an actual teenager – Tom Holland – and the reboot is attached to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has such a high batting average at the moment that they practically can’t miss. [Let’s pretend Iron Man 2 didn’t happen.]
As the first film of the new franchise comes together, the project’s starting to bring together its cast. Deadline reports that Zendaya Coleman has been cast as a lead in the upcoming film alongside Holland. Early reports claim that she’ll be playing a character named Michelle. This is great news given Zendaya’s growing popularity and adds to the much needed diversity to comic book products.
Black comic book fans all over the world have been beaming since news broke that the new (official) Spider-Man will be Miles Morales, an Afro-Latino teen. This fall, he will replace Peter Parker, the original Spider-Man, in the popular comic books.
This isn’t the first time fans are seeing Morales. The character has been around since 2011 when writer and co-creator Brian Bendis and artist Sarah Pichelli introduced him as an alternate version of the comic book hero. He also isn’t the first Latino Spider-Man since Miguel O’Hara, a biracial Mexican geneticist, appeared in a 1993 comic book set in the future. But, he is definitely the first Black Spider-Man, a fact that Bendis is very proud of.
Speaking to NY Daily News, Bendis said “Many kids of color who when they were playing superheroes with their friends, their friends wouldn’t let them be Batman or Superman because they don’t look like those heroes but they could be Spider-Man because anyone could be under that mask…But now it’s true. It’s meant a great deal to a great many people.”
Given that Peter Parker was murdered and replaced by Morales in the “Ultimate” version of the comic, many had hoped to see the Afro-Latino teen on the big screen in the next film but recent casting rumors suggest that Parker will still be headlining the film due out in 2017. Not only that, recently leaked emails from Marvel and Sony declared that Spider-Man could never be Black or gay in the movies. This seems odd since the Marvel franchise has introduced a Black Captain America and a female Thor. In all likelihood, Peter Parker will still be around even when Morales takes centerstage in the films. But, the hope is that he will be phased out as the “true” Spider-Man altogether.
The movement toward a more diverse, more representative Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is one we have all been waiting for. Bendis realized this when his Black daughter, one of two adopted Black children of his, put on a Spider-Man mask in a department store and said “Look Daddy, I’m Spider-Man!”
“I started crying in the middle of the aisle,” says Bendis. “I realized my kids are going to grow up in a world that has a multi-racial Spider-Man, and an African American Captain America and a female Thor.”
Hopefully, Morales’ presence in the MCU will change the way comic book writers, artists, and fans design heroes going forward. If nothing else, this means that the diverse children who consume this media have a chance to see themselves in the iconic characters we all grew up with. That little change could have drastic impacts on the genre in the future.
Jenn M. Jackson is the Editorial Assistant for The Black Youth Project. She is also the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Water Cooler Convos, a politics, news, and culture webmag for bourgie Black nerds. For more about her, tweet her at @JennMJack or visit her website at jennmjackson.com.
If I must have something that I don’t like about having locks, it would be that I can’t rock a snapback. Had there not been so much of a conversion in the herds of Black youth—fitted caps are nearly extinct among the heads of the coolest kids—my lament over snap backs would not even be an issue. No one can argue that the switch is another life-imitating-art fanatic, since none of the mainstream rappers—Drake, Maybach Music, J. Cole, etc.—wear snap backs. Besides, those types of perspectives, that restrict trends to imitations of media, demonstrate lazy thinking; instead, I think that the appeal to snapbacks connects to its forum for creativity.
For those that don’t know, in one of Marvel’s most famous comics, White Peter Parker has died and now an interracial male will be Spider-Man. Of course, popular talk about the new Spidey, Miles Morales (a combination of traditional Black and Latino names), yields more props to Obama. In order to do right by colored peoples’ voices there must be a distinction between governmental agendas and the liberating actions of the oppressed. The new Spider-Man series is not a government-issued reparation, but a takeover of meaning and race by racialized people.