What if Peter Parker was black?

what if Spider-man was black

This is a great idea that I wouldn’t trust Disney/Marvel to not fuck up if they tried it:

I keep thinking how much more powerful the Spiderman origin story would be if Peter Parker was an African American kid, whose Uncle Ben was shot by police while being arrested for a minor parking infraction. There is no formal investigation, and Peter decides to put himself on the line to prevent it happening again. He tackles the white crimes that go unpunished, punishes POC criminals fairly. He is the leveler, always fighting to be without bias, to be just. To protect people like his uncle.

But oh the stories you could tell. You’d need to be careful though, it’s so easy, especially for non-African-American creators, to fall into the stereotype trap. (Which is why I have issues with Noah Berlatsky’s proposal for a black Antman). Take Peter’s origin frex. Most of that could stay of course: bitten by radioactive spider, a loner and nerd in a high school that doesn’t appreciate it (but careful there, don’t get into anti-intellectual black stereotypes), Peter gets his superpowers and want to use them for his own benefits, uncle Ben can still give his speech, but you cannot make Peter responsible for his death in even the indirect way he was in his real origin.

Because that undermines the point you’re trying to make, that the system is broken, that black Americans are always at risk of being murdered by their own police forces regardless of how they behave. if Peter was involved in an altercation with the cop who murdered uncle Ben earlier, that provides an out to explain why it wasn’t really a murder. Nobody would argue that uncle Ben deserved to be killed because Peter let the burglar escape; but as real life proves, a lot of people would argue that Peter giving lip to a cop explains why his uncle was shot.

Spidey accuses Jameson from haunting him because he is black

The other thing is: would it be general knowledge that Spidey is black? Because occassionally that does come up as a throwaway gag like the above with the real Spider-Man, that because he wears a full body costume people cannot tell his ethnicity and so he can pretend to be black. Does anybody buy that? It would be interesting if he was, as such a cornerstone of the Marvel Universe, though wildly feared and mistrusted at the same time by the public at large and some of his fellow heroes, even when white: how much more so if he’s black?

Or the murder of Gwen Stacey, if she remains white? And what about the Punisher, who must look very different from a black Spider-Man’s perspective than a white one, with his killing sprees of mostly street level criminals and drug dealers? Or his relationship with J. Jonah jameson and The Daily Bugle? The easy way there would be to make Jameson just another racist, but the interesting thing about him was always that he was highly principled even if obsessed with Spider-Man and at times you could argue that he had a point about the menace of superheroes. Not to mention Robbie Robertson, the Bugle‘s black longtime editor, often the voice of reason arguing against Jameson’s crusades. He could be a great viewpoint character for a more conservative black view of Spider-Man, a counterpoint to Peter’s radicalism.

So much interesting stuff there, but it would’ve to be done as fanfic, cause I can’t see Marvel ever going for it. Or doing a good job if they did.

Sex Criminals: Best Graphic Story Hugo

Suzie discovers her time stopping orgasm powers


Matt Fraction is a writer who’s made his reputation doing clever work for hire series for Marvel, most recently Hawkeye, not to mention his own Casanova for Image. Sex Criminals, co-created with Chip Zdarsky on the artwork, is his latest hit series, having been optioned for television already. It has had significant online buzz and of course was nominated for the Best Graphic Story Hugo. Like Rat Queens it’s a series I was thinking of buying myself, so pleased to be able to sample it this way.

Sex ed the US high school way

And I don’t really like it. Not raunchy enough, not weird enough, basically just another clever twist on the superhero story. Not bad, just a bit meh. It’s not as funny as the hype led me to believe (though the sequence the above panels are extracted from are hilarious) nor nearly as edgy. For some reason though Sex Criminals got a reputation as being a feminist comic, arguably because it’s so rare to see female sexuality be treated so positive and non-exploitative as it is here. Which is a sad goddamn state of affairs.

Suzie and jon meet cute

The story is simple. Suzie discovers she freezes time when she orgasms, thinks she’s the only one until she meets Jon at a party, they have sex and both are shocked to discover they’re not alone. They both tell each other their origins, or how they discovered their particular gift, then they team up to save Suzie’s library, in the process discovering they’re not alone and in fact there’s a police force patrolling their orgasmic pocket universe…

Sex police

Like Ms. Marvel this is basically an one issue origin story spread out over five, with a few neat storytelling tricks to liven things up. It’s well done, a neat idea but in the end I still think it’s meh more than awesome.

Rat Queens: Best Graphic Story Hugo

the Rat Queens: Betty, Hannah, Dee and Violet

I was thinking about buying Rat Queens: Sass and Sorcery anyway, so I was glad it was part of the Hugo Voters Packet. It’s been having a bit of buzz in online comics circles last year, winning an Eisner Award for best new series, but sadly also for less positive reasons as artist Roc Upchurch was arrested on domestic violence charges, which resulted in him leaving the series. This volume however still has him on art. Very nice art it is too, cartooney but with a computerised, photo-realistic sheen too it.

best of friends

Storywise this is neither a fantasy story, nor quite a D&D parody, but rather a fantasy that takes D&D tropes and uses them semi-seriously, something I haven’t seen done much before. Combine that with a bunch of cynical, sex and drugs obsessed bad girls and you got the start of something decent. Each of the protagonists has just enough of a personality to be memorable, though it’s very much broad strokes here.

dissing an assassin

Being very much antisocial types, the Rat Queens, as well as the other adventurers of Palisade, are targeted for assassination by somebody, getting sent on very D&Desque quests to clear out the sort of low level enemies you’d encounter at the start of a campaign. Things escalate quickly and Upchurch is an adherent of the Robert Kirkman school of showing graphic violence. Lots of blood, lots of broken bones and almost snapped off arms…

dissing an assassin

On the whole this is an enjoyable romp but in hindsight not something I’d want to spent money on to read. It’s not that this is a bad comic, but rather that it’s a bit on the formulaic side. There are hints of something better here though.

Cruising the information superhighway

Tom Tomorrow cartoon from 1993 about cruising the information superhighway

That Fredric Jameson essay reminded me of something. I couldn’t find it on the interwebs anymore, but the advantage of twenty years or so of copying over unsorted crap from computer to computer is that it can still be available in your backup temp directories. That’s a 1993 Tom Tomorrow cartoon making one of Jameson’s points much more succinctly.