Friday, August 5, 2011

Much ado about....something?

So.  The new Ultimate Spider-Man is Miles Morales, and some people aren't happy about that, and a whole lot more people are unhappy about that fringe unhappiness, and Jesus H Christ can't we all just get along?  See what I did there?  I just Rodney Kinged y'all.

I've got a lot of thoughts on the matter, they're a bit scattered, so bear with me, please.  Just to be up front, my initial reaction to the Morales reveal is that I mostly don't give a shit, but I hold a grain of hope for the character that I will get to before I'm done.

So I'm not invested much in that comic or that character, but I'm invested in the collective stupidity that constitutes these United States of America.  Don't ask me why, but at my advanced age and experience it still stings when I see huge cross sections of this nation get it wrong on every side of every issue over and over and over again.

In this case, I'm not sure what bothers me more - the handful of stubborn morons threatened by the idea of a fictional character that doesn't look like they want him to look, or the legion of blowhard pundits who think they're Sojourner fucking Truth when they decry the handful of stubborn morons.

On Bleeding Cool, and I shit you not, this is an actual headline of an actual op ed piece by an actual person named Kate Kotler:

"Geek Girl On The Street Reports:  You Should Be Much More Careful When You're Talking About The Sensitive Subject Of Race"

It's got all the elements I love -  long winded, scolding in content, superior in tone.  She certainly showed us, didn't she!

Geek Girl objects to folks on message boards who absorbed the news that Ultimate Spider-Man was now a blactino (thank you, Lateesha Rodriguez!) and spouted nonsense like this:

Minorities are typically less than 18% of the population, but they seem to get nearly 100% of the history. Why should white children not have a comic book hero that they can identify with?”

Now, it doesn't take a detective to parse this out and determine that logically, everything in that statement is rubbish.  I don't know what percentage of the population is minority, but I know that they don't get anywhere near 100% of the history.  White children have hundreds and hundreds of comic book heroes they can identify with.  And in fact, without even knowing anything concrete about Miles Morales, I know for certain that scores of white children will be able to identify with the new Ultimate Spider-Man.  Maybe he's shy in public and so are they!  Maybe he builds model trains, and so do they?  Well, that second one is a bit of a stretch, but you know what I mean.  There's more to life than skin color.  Lots more.

The point is that the person who posted that drivel is a moron, and that is beyond debate, and it's easy to see that.  And you know what?  I really, really, really wish Glen Beck hadn't sounded off on the topic and shot his mouth off about Michelle Obama supposedly mandating the move.  (Not true. Duh)  That's so absurd it wouldn't make its way into a Mark Millar book.  But he's a "big deal" to a lot of people, so even though he clearly knows nothing about the subject, people are more inclined to believe this crackpot, fringe, backwoods mentality is significant.  It's not.

The lead on this issue keeps getting buried, and the lead is this:

The Good Guys Won.

Doesn't anybody understand that?  If the idea was a world more in keeping with Martin Luther King, that idea won.  If the goal was to create a world where everybody had an opportunity to be represented, to succeed, and the norm was inclusion and diversity, that goal won.

Damn right, she's a woman
I think the reason people miss this very crucial and very demonstrable point is that most idle minds are fixated on Utopian fantasies of perfect compliance to the ideal.  As long as there are seven vocal morons still stuck in blind bigotry, the mass conclusion is that we're stuck at ground zero.  This is childish, counter productive thinking, and it really shits on the accomplishments of some good people who got a lot of bloody noses creating this world.  (I'm looking at you, the real Sojourner Truth, and Rosa Parks, and MLK)

The good guys won, and I can prove it to you.  I can prove it by reminding you that we're talking about a black/hispanic Spider-Man at all.  He's here.  We did it!  It's not 1955 any more, OK?  We're all drinking the same unhealthy water out of the same water fountain.  Spider-Man is Miles Morales.  This is unthinkable thirty years ago.

And no, it's not perfect.  A few people, obviously identifiable as morons are upset.  Who cares?  They are the fringe.  The norm, the flagship character of the Ultimate Comics Universe of the biggest comics publisher in this country is Miles Morales.

The good guys won, and I can prove it to you.  Miles Morales is the new Ultimate Spider-Man, and Samuel L Jackson is Ultimate Nick Fury, and Michael Clarke Duncan is the Kingpin in the movies.  We did it!  And yes, we do still hear from the fringe when Heimdall has a bit more pigment than we might have anticipated.  But that's just it - they're the fringe, and they identify themselves immediately as deviant when they rage.  So let them rage, we fucking won.

Hero For Hire?  Not in this lifetime
You know what would never ever happen in 2011?  Sam Worthington cast as Luke Cage in a Power Man movie.  Never.  You could hear the Pharisees tearing their robes on Alpha Centauri if that happened.  That movie would be shut down within a week the public backlash would be so severe.  Worthington could do a fantastic job in the role, by the way.  Jailed for a crime he didn't commit, banging heads to make some cash and clear his name?  Yeah, he could do that.  He'd never get the opportunity in 2011, though, because contrary to Geek Girl's assertions, the problem isn't that we are insensitive to race as a culture, but entirely too sensitive.  (See: death of Choi, Ryan)

The good guys won, and it wouldn't kill us to celebrate that once in awhile.  Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey?  Here's to ya, gents.  It wasn't all in vain, Ultimate Spider-Man is blactino.

And Yet.

Take out the obvious idiocy and you'll discover a legitimate and very reasonable undercurrent of skepticism.  When you have a title that's bounced from Ultimate Spider-Man to Ultimate Comics Spider-Man to Ultimate Spider-Man to fucking Ultimate Comics Spider-Man AGAIN, I don't think you can blame the constituency for smelling a gimmicky rat.

Which is not to say that we're smelling correctly.  I don't know enough about Bendis to say one way or the other.  Is it a shameless ploy to create buzz and ostensibly sales?  I don't know.  I know that Brian Bendis is Jewish, and that he's adopted black children.  Does he have some stories to tell about being a minority in America?  Yeah, I bet he does.

Let me tell you about four of the most beautiful words in the English language.  Every once in awhile, my broadcast partner will get a crazy look in his eye, swing his chair over toward the computer and say:

"Let me try something"

There is more magic in those four words than in most wedding proposals.  When I hear them, I can't be sure that success will follow.  I can't be sure that the idea in Mike's head will make it out onto the recording unblemished and pure.  But I can tell you that it's always worthwhile to be there for whatever comes after "let me try something."  Always.

And if that's what Bendis is doing with Miles Morales, trying something, then consider me in full support, for whatever that's worth.  If this is just something he cooked up to be edgy and attract press, then it's a little gross and almost certainly destined to flop, because there won't be any juice on the page.  Comics today have a hard time treading water when they're sublime.  Either way, I'm not getting upset.  The good guys fucking won, in case you hadn't heard.

- Ryan


Stephen said...

Great post, Ryan. You presented an interesting perspective very well and my hat's off to you for it, Sir.

Anonymous said...

What I don't understand, and I'm sure this would get Ryan ranting, is why why why they can't just say Spider-Man's dead. Peter Parker died, the character went with him. If they want Miles Morales to be an ethnic Superhero, why can't they give him his own Identity, his character, his own "stuff". I'm not opposed to an ethnic character, but I also think this is why Comics can't move forward and tell new and exciting stories. They'd rather have the new and exciting thing be that Spider-Man is now a "Blacktino". Bring on Blankman if you ask me!

Mike D in NY

Anonymous said...

Does anybody remember that 2099 is named "Miguel O'!Brien"?!? With a Latino mother and an Irish father, this whole Miles Morales thing seems kinda old hat to me. The good guys won years ago. -Miracle Keith

Chronic Insomnia said...

Mike D - you're correct, of course. If the big publishers want to put some spice back into the death thing, somebody needs to get dead for real, and this would have been an excellent place to start. There are many concepts that Marvel fails to grasp, but top of the list is "Law of Diminishing Returns". Honestly, the Ultimate Universe should be used to create new properties. That's also obvious. But Marvel won't do it because it's stuck in "everything old must be new again" mode, and no creator wants to develop The Next Big Thing so that a corporate giant can rape all the spoils.

Keith - Really, the only difference between this move and Miguel O'Hara is that there was no widescale internet or Peter Parker 2099 to bump off to make room for him. So Miles is spinning right into the teeth of conservative Peter Parker sentiment and "sick of stunty death" sentiment. There was no sense that anything had been "taken away" when O'Hara hit, but mucking with Peter Parker seems sacrilegious to a loud and vocal few.

Anonymous said...

Well at least they didn't dissappoint...

Now Marvel Tease The Return Of The Human Torch

There’s an October solicitation for a Fantastic Four poster by Joe Quesada that is blacked out in the Marvel Previews. Which is really handy for shops thinking about ordering it.

Well, I think this is it. The cover to Fantastic Four #600, presumably. And it was blanked out for a reason.

(Submitted by Rich Johnston on August 10, 2011 – 11:47 am)

Mike D in NY