Brian Michael Bendis Talks Race, Sexism, and Ultimate Spider-Man

Brian Michael Bendis Talks Race, Sexism, and Ultimate Spider-Man

Ultimate Spider-Man Miles Morales

Ultimate Spider-Man's Brian Michael Bendis thinks heroes like Miles Morales are true-to-life, considering "there are very few people in the world who look like Captain America".

The Ultimate Marvel Comics line may not be everyone's cup of tea, but when handled correctly it's produced some of the best superhero books on the market. One popular example is the long-running Ultimate Spider-Man, where Peter Parker was killed by Green Goblin replaced by Miles Morales, a half-Hispanic half-African American teenager. The decision met some controversy, but Morales proved to be a successful character, one prompting a rebranding of the series as Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man. To Bendis however, Morales is part of a larger effort to make Marvel more diverse, something he thinks will pay off for comics and film audiences.

"We made the determination that, if Spider-Man were created today, there's a very large percentage chance that, based on where he's living and who he is, that he would be a person of color," Bendis said in a recent interview. "So we made the choice to send Peter Parker off with a heroic death and have a new young man take the mantle in the form of Miles Morales, who's half Hispanic and half African-American. That gave a multicultural voice to Spider-Man that was always there, but never fully championed in the books themselves."

Marvel's characters have become exponentially more diverse across comics and film in recent years. While DC still struggles to provide Wonder Woman her own movie, Thor's Heimdall is being played by Idris Elba and the fan-favorite Captain Marvel has been reimagined as a female superhero. Reactions to these changes haven't always been positive, but so far Marvel shows no sign of slowing down. To Bendis, this isn't so much a change within Marvel as it is a better understanding of the company's audience.

There was no big meeting. It's a few things. I know I sound like I'm a hundred years old when I say this, but with the growth of the online comics community came more awareness of the world and who's really reading these books. And y'know what? Sure, there are people who look like Captain America who read comics, but there are very few people in the world who look like Captain America. I go to conventions, and you meet hundreds of people over the course of the day, and no two of them look alike. You see women and people of color who love comics, and there's nothing representing them in a way that isn't sexualized or something.

Now, you can't make these decisions [to be more inclusive] consciously, because then you're just writing in reaction to things, and that doesn't work out, dramatically. But subconsciously, if you look at the world around you and see your readers, you go, I wanna write something that I know is true. So you start writing women better and you write people outside of your experience better, because you look at pages of other people's comics and you don't recognize it as the world around you.

Bendis notes that when it comes to racism and sexism, the comic book community could learn more from its heroes. That being said, responses to diverse characters remain largely positive, and Bendis even hopes to see Morales appear in Sony's cinematic universe. Unfortunately, while I love what Bendis has done with Ultimate Spider-Man, Morales isn't about to don the costume on film anytime soon. Oh sure, he could be a secondary character, but even Marvel's mainstream continuity barely surpassed a year with an old white Spider-Man before it brought back Peter Parker.

On the other hand, if Spider-Man gets rebooted for the third time in ten years? Maybe that will be Sony's cue to try Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man for a change.

Source: Vulture

Permalink

I have trouble imagining Miles being successful as the movie Spider-Man. I can just picture all the tab;es being flipped over that choice.

Then again, I didn't expect him to gain the following he did in the comics, either, so maybe people will surprise me should that ever happen.

I'm glad for the more inclusive side of things, though. Maybe that does mean an Ultimate Spider-Movie some day.

Very few blonde haired and blue eyed people?

When Miles started off and I didn't hate him because he was new behind the mask but because he was no different to Peter Parker. You could have swapped them into each others story and nothing would have changed.

As time has gone on though Miles has become a far more unique take on Spider-Man and a separate character outside the mask. One I am genuinely enjoying reading each month.

Personally I would have loved to have seen more done with 'Jessica Drew' in the Ultimate Universe, being a female clone of Peter Parker.

A writer attempting to write more female/minority characters not out of a misplaced sense of "inclusiveness", but out of a genuine desire to do said female/minority characters well?

Be still, my heart.

Miles Morales is probably one of the best things to happen to Spider-Man in years, based off of the first volume. Sadly the second one is impossible to find on Amazon digitally or I would have read it by now. Hopefully this new spider-woman that's coming up is just as good.

Fanghawk:

Marvel's characters have become exponentially more diverse across comics and film in recent years. While DC still struggles to provide Wonder Woman her own movie, Thor's Heimdall is being played by Idris Elba and the fan-favorite Captain Marvel has been reimagined as a female superhero.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand pause. You probly should have gone with Anthony Mackie as Falcon for the example you're shooting for since Heimdall's casting (while it was genius) caused a lot of dispute since the character is actually white. Having Falcon, a comparatively minor supporting character, make the big screen as a full-on action hero with impact on the plot is probably better.

Second, and more important, Carol freakin' Danvers is not a re-imagining of Mar-Vell (who I assume is who you mean), the Kree soldier sent to Earth because of duplicitous war-dealings. She's been around for years as Ms Marvel/Binary/whateverotheronesshe'sused before assuming the name Captain Marvel very recently but it isn't a re-imagining. It's a legacy name, she even turned it down because Captain Marvel isn't even a super name, he's a Captain and Marvel is on his f*cking birth certificate. They have distinct powers, she spent a load of time working with him, even more getting over his death (pop-quiz, how'd he die? The answer may surprise you) and it's just flat-out wrong to say she's a re-imagining of him. She's her own character who plays in the big leagues and took up the name lately.

I wouldn't even call it a big deal that this got muddled up, except this is an article about comics, sexism and the prevailing problems of diversity. And to assume the new Captain Marvel is just a genderswapped version of the first one does a disservice to the efforts to write decent female superheroes. (and I'll stand by that while awkwardly hiding the many, MANY narrative mis-steps writers have taken with Lt. Danvers. Immortus's time baby? Nooooo, leaving that one alone...)

Fanghawk:
Brian Michael Bendis thinks heroes like Miles Morales are true-to-life, considering "there are very few people in the world who look like Captain America".

Stopped reading right there.

Eh... why turn it into more than it is. You killed Peter Parker and someone else took up the mantle. Morales is a great character. The only way it could have failed is if you wrote a terrible character (Ben Reilly, for example. Bad because he was a shitty character, not because he was white). People probably aren't buying into it because you made him a different race. People were already invested in the comic, so they kept reading and were pleasantly surprised.

I also find it abhorrent that he doesn't seem to think that white people are poor too. "Oh, the neighborhood and income automatically means that he can't be white and is by extension more believable". My main issue is that this is not a realistic view on life. Statistics are a bunk way to decide what a character should or should not be.

I find it amusing that the old Heimdall argument shows it's ugly face. People who have been reading Thor for years are automatically racist because they are mad about the character change. I was mad for like 5 seconds myself. But in the end it was as it was. Then all of the people who like him because of his race (Idris Elba is not an a list actor, I'm sorry to let you know) made this big hullabaloo because he "nailed it". It was a little tiny part with a few lines. His role was to stand there and basically look blankly at everyone. He was much better in Thor 2 because at least he saw some action. But with the exception of a little action, he just stood there and was a blank slate again.

All I'm saying is make them whatever race you want. That is fine so long as you are writing good characters. And yes, a lot of people do kind of look like Captain America, I'm sorry to say. I go to the gym everyday and see people who look like him. But if you think your character is good because of the race you made him... well that is just plain racist and wrong. If you want to go back to statistics, the people who fail to integrate into society are people who adhere strictly to their race (ie. people who never leave a spanish ghetto rarely integrate into American society as a whole, restricting them to a most likely poverty stricken life). Miles Morales is not defined by his race, but succeeds in spite of what is holding him back. He transcends race, but the explanation give here is that he is part Spanish, part black, and all awesome because of that.

Edit: I forgot to address the sexism part. Changing the sex of Captain Marvel was fine by me. I love that character, I have for a long time. But Captain Marvel has thankfully been spared the inability for characters to stay dead in the Marvel Universe. His character died a hero and that is never undone because they pass the mantle along, which is awesome. I say Captain Marvel can be man, woman or child, make him/her black, spanish, dutch, or some alien (still enjoyed the run where Genus was Captain Marvel, till he was driven mad of course by his cosmic awareness). But by god, don't make the mistake of having the character defined solely by their race or gender just because you think it'll be "more realistic".

It's like we are watching a man who has previously good writing and artist credits to his name basically unlearn how to write characters.

Am I the only one who's focusing way too much on that guy's package in the image? I swear I'm straight.

Fanghawk:
On the other hand, if Spider-Man gets rebooted for the third time in ten years? Maybe that will be Sony's cue to try Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man for a change.

Now now, no need to give Will and Jaden Smith ideas.

Morales is great.
I just don't like the ultimate universe.

Although I do find it funny that the arc about government paranoia, the feds controlling all information, and government agencies killing people while unaccountable ended with a really stupid sit-down with Obama. History... has not been kind to that plot point.

Fanghawk:
Ultimate Spider-Man's Brian Michael Bendis thinks heroes like Miles Morales are true-to-life, considering "there are very few people in the world who look like Captain America".

I would point out that this thinking completely misses the point of Captain America's characterization, but fair enough.

So tell us: What, then, is your "vision" for heroes that are "true-to-life"?

One popular example is the long-running Ultimate Spider-Man, where Peter Parker was killed by Green Goblin replaced by Miles Morales, a half-Hispanic half-African American teenager.

....really?

Hate to say this because I know someone here will get mad at me, but I wager that there are very few people out whose bloodlines are split across both major American minorities in a half-and-half scenario, too. In fact, given the statistics regarding how often most modern Hispanic families date outside of their race and cultural sect (though granted, those numbers are increasing), I'd say the odds of a half Hispanic and half African-American child being born in the US are far smaller than those of a buff white male.

Let's call this what it is: it's not an attempt to "diversify", and it's not being "true-to-life". It's a blatant attempt to appeal to a minority audience by re-making one of your best-known icons as a person of color. And just to make sure you covered both bases, you made him half of each.

Which, mind, I have no problem with, provided you're willing to just admit that's what this is. It's only because you're trying to lie to me about why you did it that it bothers me. Just admit that you'd like to start expanding your audience, and this was one of the best ways you could think of to do that. There's nothing wrong with admitting that. And heck, if you can make use of it to help you write better stories, more power to you. But please, let's just all be adults about this, there's no reason to lie to us about why you're doing it. We can handle the truth, no one (except maybe white supremacists) will get angry at you for doing so.

the fan-favorite Captain Marvel has been reimagined as a female superhero.

Please tell me you did not just call Ms Marvel, who has been around in the comics for quite some time and is most definitely her own unique character, a "re-imagining" of Captain Marvel.

I dunno, I knew a Half-Latino/Half Black man at my college. I also went in West Virginia and that's not exactly what people think of when they think a bastion of racial mixing. There's a lot more interacial pairings now that it's not, well, ILLEGAL, in the United States and I think that's important to reflect.

Then again, I'd love for comics to simply represent the reality of RL diversity.

I have heard of some of the dumbest, most ridiculous bullshit stories that come out of comic books, and people always freak out when a character either changes race, or changes sex. A hero can be resurrected, sent back in time, possessed by a demon, or fly off to another universe, but changing the contrast slider makes people shit their pants in anger.
I'll never get (extreme) comic book fans...

I have no problem with diverse characters and it's good to see this sort of sentiment. Better female and multicultural characters means better characters. I would have a problem if Peter Parker as Spiderman was rebooted as anything other than what Peter Parker is, but in this continuity it isn't Peter Parker, so it's good.

CriticKitten:

the fan-favorite Captain Marvel has been reimagined as a female superhero.

Please tell me you did not just call Ms Marvel, who has been around in the comics for quite some time and is most definitely her own unique character, a "re-imagining" of Captain Marvel.

I think they did. Excuse me while I collect my jaw from my table.

MeChaNiZ3D:
I have no problem with diverse characters and it's good to see this sort of sentiment. Better female and multicultural characters means better characters. I would have a problem if Peter Parker as Spiderman was rebooted as anything other than what Peter Parker is, but in this continuity it isn't Peter Parker, so it's good.

CriticKitten:

the fan-favorite Captain Marvel has been reimagined as a female superhero.

Please tell me you did not just call Ms Marvel, who has been around in the comics for quite some time and is most definitely her own unique character, a "re-imagining" of Captain Marvel.

I think they did. Excuse me while I collect my jaw from my table.

Isn't it that muslim character they're talking about? I heard one took up the Captain Marvel mantle or somesuch, but I could easily be mixing stuff up.

Halyah:
Isn't it that muslim character they're talking about? I heard one took up the Captain Marvel mantle or somesuch, but I could easily be mixing stuff up.

Yes, she is apparently being replaced by a Pakistani successor, and was originally sort of fused with Captain Marvel's DNA in an explosion or something and took up the mantle. But she's definitely a standalone character. I don't have that in-depth a knowledge of it, but you're right.

I really wish they'd have gone with Superior Spiderman in the Ult. Univers, annd kept it, rather than bring Palker back intome for the newest wishy washy movie release

New Ulitamte Spiderman, new girl version of Spiderman in the normal universe.

I think Marvel is just trying to destroy normal Spiderman so they can get the movie rights back or at least replace him outright so they can use their new versions in movies themselves.

That's actually the reason I think they are killing off Wolverine too.

I'm kind of getting tired of recreating the same characters over and over and over again. There are lots of lesser known (and pretty much unknown) characters out there of different gender, sex, race and body types. Why not re-create them? Why not just make new characters to add? I'm beginning to think comic-based multimedia is scared of new content but a hint of it has brought huge funds when done properly.

"I have a dream, that one day my children will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

If you write a good character - male, female, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, gay, straight, young, old - that character will be a good character. If Miles Morales is a good character, it is not because of his pigmentation.

That said, that's not to say it shouldn't be done. If anything, it's proof that it needs to be done, largely due to how few well-written minorities there remain in comics. It wasn't that long ago that the entire premise of female-led action movies were publicly claimed to be non-profitable after Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, Catwoman, and Elektra all bombed in succession. Rather than blame the bad writing and directing, studio heads blamed it on their gender, and time has proven that assumption both unfounded and moronic.

The world is ready for a Wonder Woman movie. It's ready for a black Spider-man. If the talent behind the movie is there, the movie will resonate and succeed.

I'm sorry, I am all for exploring new character ideas. As an asian male, I would prefer more mainstream heroes that spoke to my demographic (also, I am not Christian). However, comic book characters are supposed to transcend such consideration, they can be anything. However, despite all this, Peter Parker is still Spiderman. If they were trying for a more culturally sensitive character, they should have gone with Miguel O'Hara (Spidey 2099).

In all fairness, it shouldn't really be about this at all. After all, Nick Fury was handled perfectly. He's black, he's still Nick Fury. There was no need to say "David Hasselhoff-looking Fury died to make room for a new guy who looks like Samuel Jackson."

The reason Fury works is because he's a good character (even if heavily based off Jackson). That's all the writer's cared about, not his ethnicity. With respect, John Stewart (Green Lantern) was NOT originally a compelling character. However, after they actually bothered to write a storyline for him, Stewart became more interesting. Personally, I found Kyle Ranier more interesting than either him or Hal, but I digress...

Such cloying tactics to become "PC" come across as insincere. Write good characters, then make them culturally sensitive. Take Batwoman for example. Initially, I thought her sexual orientation was a marketing gimmick. Unfortunately, in not allowing the writers to let her marry her life partner, I have been proven correct.

Honestly, it's little different from a game developer trying to "widen the net" to "capture a broader audience," like turning Dead Space into CoD -bait. Again, I have nothing against becoming more culturally aware, but such characters must be handled with appropriate aplomb, intelligence, and heart.

PS: I find it odd that the new Fantastic Four movie are going with a black Johnny Storm, but not bothering to make Sue black. If it's supposed to be a mixed family, I suppose that's alright. However, the whole "adoptive siblings" thing seems similarly cloying to me...

Yeah, I actually quit the Ultimate universe after Peter Parker died. Mostly because Spider-Man was the only character in the ultimate universe worth caring about since virtually everyone else died in the Ultimatum crossover. And I was enjoying the series with Spider-Man and his wisecracking ultimate friends, then that series ended with a very abrupt and phoned-in death arc.

So I stopped reading, but out of curiosity I read the first couple of chapters of the new Ultimate Spider-Man in a Barnes & Noble, then immediately put it down and felt really good about my choice. Miles Morales had the exact same radioactive spider origin that Peter did, but because Peter had already existed it seemed stupid that ANOTHER kid got bitten by ANOTHER radioactive spider. And the "Great power comes with great responsibility" moment was this kid watching the actual Spider-Man die. This was after the bite, Miles Morales could have jumped in an saved him, but he didn't, he watched his "idol" murdered while he rested on his super-laurels.

Also, has anyone else noticed that the Ultimate Universe is now almost entirely minorities and women? I think I read that Steve Rogers is still alive, but other than that the only people that I'm sure still exist are Cloak, Dagger, Spider-Woman, and Sue Storm.

Aethren:
Am I the only one who's focusing way too much on that guy's package in the image? I swear I'm straight.

The lighting on his crotch while accurate did have some unintended consequences.

OrokuSaki:

Also, has anyone else noticed that the Ultimate Universe is now almost entirely minorities and women? I think I read that Steve Rogers is still alive, but other than that the only people that I'm sure still exist are Cloak, Dagger, Spider-Woman, and Sue Storm.

It's not like the other universes and reboots aren't mainly filled with just white dudes. So I guess a solitary tear is shed for the loss of your one tiny slice of pie.

MeChaNiZ3D:

Halyah:
Isn't it that muslim character they're talking about? I heard one took up the Captain Marvel mantle or somesuch, but I could easily be mixing stuff up.

Yes, she is apparently being replaced by a Pakistani successor, and was originally sort of fused with Captain Marvel's DNA in an explosion or something and took up the mantle. But she's definitely a standalone character. I don't have that in-depth a knowledge of it, but you're right.

She didn't replace the original Ms. Marvel. The original one moved up in rank to Captain Marvel and the old title was looking for someone to fill her shoes.

Dragonbums:

MeChaNiZ3D:

Halyah:
Isn't it that muslim character they're talking about? I heard one took up the Captain Marvel mantle or somesuch, but I could easily be mixing stuff up.

Yes, she is apparently being replaced by a Pakistani successor, and was originally sort of fused with Captain Marvel's DNA in an explosion or something and took up the mantle. But she's definitely a standalone character. I don't have that in-depth a knowledge of it, but you're right.

She didn't replace the original Ms. Marvel. The original one moved up in rank to Captain Marvel and the old title was looking for someone to fill her shoes.

Ah, that explains things. Thanks.

Sigh, if you have to say "he would be a person of color" in your defense or reasoning for creating a legacy continuing character then in my eyes you have chosen to focus on something that should not matter for a good character. When Peter was killed off, it was a good series of events and the fallout comics afterwards I found enjoyable, however when they announced him I remember the artist saying something like "maybe some day a black or gay super hero would be considered normal" and that to me just made me believe they where focused on his race rather than his character and that just annoyed me, if they had just kept their lips closed and been secretive going something like this "The new spiderman is a younger teen called Miles who witnessed his final battle." I'd of been interested and I would of started reading and following the new Spiderman with interest. I will eventually pick up the new Ultimate spiderman books and hopefully I will read a good interesting character and have my initial annoyance proved wrong.

OrokuSaki:
Yeah, I actually quit the Ultimate universe after Peter Parker died. Mostly because Spider-Man was the only character in the ultimate universe worth caring about since virtually everyone else died in the Ultimatum crossover. And I was enjoying the series with Spider-Man and his wisecracking ultimate friends, then that series ended with a very abrupt and phoned-in death arc.

So I stopped reading, but out of curiosity I read the first couple of chapters of the new Ultimate Spider-Man in a Barnes & Noble, then immediately put it down and felt really good about my choice. Miles Morales had the exact same radioactive spider origin that Peter did, but because Peter had already existed it seemed stupid that ANOTHER kid got bitten by ANOTHER radioactive spider. And the "Great power comes with great responsibility" moment was this kid watching the actual Spider-Man die. This was after the bite, Miles Morales could have jumped in an saved him, but he didn't, he watched his "idol" murdered while he rested on his super-laurels.

Also, has anyone else noticed that the Ultimate Universe is now almost entirely minorities and women? I think I read that Steve Rogers is still alive, but other than that the only people that I'm sure still exist are Cloak, Dagger, Spider-Woman, and Sue Storm.

Nope, Steve died back in March of this year, as did Thor. Bendis killed them.

There's a handful of white males left in the Ultimate Universe, but only Tony Stark (and arguably Doctor Doom, the solicits for the books say he'll be a permanent member of the Future Foundation team along with Tony, Sue and Falcon, but that remains to be seen) is actually a member of a team that has a book.

I've owned and read every Ultimate Marvel book that's come out since it started in 2000 and I'm actually enjoying things. Outside of Miles being created to add diversity (and I have been liking Miles) it never felt like they were trying to force the Universe to be centred on minorities/women; it feels like it occurred naturally and it feels like it was earned. Well, except for Ultimatum and Cataclysm where everyone proceeded to fucking die, those events were shit, but felt unrelated to this particular topic.

 

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here