BY ROB SALERNO –
Marvel Comics has just announced its new Spider-Man: half-black, half-Hispanic teenager Miles Morales.
Morales replaces Peter Parker in Marvel’s Ultimate Comics line, where Parker was killed in a battle with the Green Goblin a few months ago. The Ultimate Comics line is a reboot of the Marvel Universe that was launched in 2000 to attract new readers who didn’t want to learn 40 years of continuity in Marvel’s standard line. Parker is still Spider-Man in the regular Marvel Spider-Man comics.
Okay, so in the Ultimate Universe, Morales dons the Spider-Man costume to honour the fallen hero. Since Spider-Man is one of the rare superheroes whose costume covers his entire body, it was a mystery who the new Spider-Man would be until this week’s issue of Ultimate Fallout, which has been chronicling the effects of Peter Parker’s death.
But that’s not all. Ultimate Spider-Man’s creators are saying they won’t rule out revealing that the new Spider-Man is also gay. Wouldn’t that be a coup?
This isn’t the first time a superhero has changed race – The Star does a decent roundup of revamped heroes in the last few years. But Marvel probably got the ball rolling in the 1980s, when Tony Stark retired from being Iron Man and handed over the armour to his long-time friend Jim Rhodes, who served as Iron Man for years without his teammates on The Avengers even knowing. When Stark reclaimed the armour, Rhodes took on a second suit of armour and became War Machine. Both characters have appeared in the Iron Man movies.
In fact, some comics historians have said that the number of Marvel heroes who wear full-body costumes, which effectively cover the hero’s race (unlike say, Batman or Superman), was a big drawing point for visible minority readers, who could see themselves in the heroes in the books.
It also wouldn’t make him the first gay superhero. Northstar took that role in the early 1990s, and Marvel has been populating its books with gay ensemble characters for the last decade or so. Mystique, a bisexual woman, even starred in her own book for two years. But if Ultimate Comics’ Spider-Man is gay, it would make him the highest-profile gay superhero in comics.