Walking down the path of Glenn Beck's logic is kind of like trying to catch a rattlesnake with your eyelids, but here we go anyway.
What has Mr. Beck all a tizzy lately is the fact that Spider-Man has gone multiracial. Marvel has begun portraying the famous hero as a half-Latino, half-black teenager. This, says Beck, is a direct result of President and Mrs. Obama's plan to sublimate white America through our most cherished institutions. You can hear his thoughts here.
Okay, where to start?
First of all, we should note that Peter Parker, the Spider-Man most of us know and love, has not been given some kind of politically correct makeover. He's been given a killed-by-the-Green-Goblin makeover. This is all part of Marvel's Ultimate line that they launched in 2000 to reintroduce more modern versions of their most famous characters.
In the Ultimate Universe, Peter Parker died in combat with his arch-nemesis and will be replaced by a multiracial boy named Miles Morales from Queens. Morales will be the full-time Spider-Man starting this week in Ultimate Comics Fallout #4.
"When the opportunity arose to create a new Spider-Man, we knew it had to be a character that represents the diversity -- in background and experience -- of the 21st century," said Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso in a CNN interview. "We have a president of mixed heritage; in fact, I'm of mixed heritage, this is just the world we live in."
So Beck may be right in that the mixed-race heritage of the president may have had some influence on modern art, though to go by Alonso's words it's more likely that modern diversity has simply made a mixed-race president more likely. In any case, while he snidely ridicules the medium itself ("I'm not a comic nerd"), he nonetheless makes the argument that the colorization of one of America's most beloved white heroes is sinister.
The thing is, it's nothing new.
A mixed-race Spider-Man was already featured in Marvel's 2099 series started in 1992. The 2099 comics showed a world after the deaths of the current crop of heroes. In that world, a half-Mexican, half-Irish man named Miguel O'Hara becomes Spider-Man while working for a megacorporation called Alchemax.
Alchemax is attempting to restore the age of superheroes through genetic manipulation in the hopes of holding ownership over an army of metahumans, and O'Hara is working on a procedure to recreate Spider-Man. After his test subject dies, O'Hara refuses to continue his work. Alchemax responds by tricking him into addiction to a drug called Rapture. Since Alchemax is the sole legal source of Rapture, they blackmail him into continuing his research. A few comic book accidents later, and O'Hara rises as Spider-Man 2099.
Most of that line of comic books has been pretty much forgotten, though O'Hara did appear in the recent video game Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions that brings several different alternate versions of Spidey together. He will return to aid Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Edge of Time later this October.
On another point, O'Hara was married to a Chinese woman named Xina Kwan. That means if they had had children they would have been... hang on a minute... half Chinese, one-quarter spider, one-eighth Mexican, one-eighth Irish. That's diversity for you. Makes a quadroon ball look like a KKK meeting.
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That's not even the end, though. Morales and O'Hara are totally different characters. It's not like they took Peter Parker and totally rewrote his race for a different audience. Did they?
Meet Pavitr Prabhakar, also known as Spider-Man: India. In 2004, Gotham Entertainment Group published a retelling of the classic Spider-Man story for Indian audiences. The four issues were later reprinted in America as well. In the comic, Prabhakar receives his powers not from a genetic experiment but, mystically, from a yogi. Other than that, all the normal elements are in place. His uncle dies, the Green Goblin wreaks havoc, even Venom and Doctor Octopus get in on the act.
Our point is, there is nothing new, or even particularly noteworthy, about traditional comic roles being mixed around racially. It's happened before. It will happen again. There's nothing sinister about it.
It would be awesome to think that the president has some sort of say over Spider-Man, in which case we'd like to come right out and blame George W. Bush for that whole One More Day storyline they did. But we won't... 'cause that would be crazy.