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Race and Comic Book Readers

February 5 saw the release of the brand new Ms. Marvel series by Marvel Comics with its first issue featuring new character, Kamala Khan, a 16-year old Muslim-American girl hailing from New Jersey. Now this isn’t about the comic itself, but I will say, its the book of the week on Prattling Panels. Its a fantastic book.

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On the day of the book’s release, write G. Willow Wilson participated in a live chat on YouTube to help promote the book. In the feed there were insults to Wilson’s Muslim religion and her own believes as well as that old phrase, “Death to Muslims.”

I’d like a moment to quote owner and reviewer of the site, Comic Book Cast, Armin S. here from the site’s Facebook page in a post about what I had just mentioned about Wilson’s YouTube chat.

“Aren’t we comic book fans meant to be more accepting of peoples views and beliefs? Until recently if you told people you loved Batman, you were a “Nerd”. Now its “cool” to be a Batman fan. Sometimes I feel ashamed to be associated with the new age of comic book ‘fans'”.

Armin brings up a good point. Comic book fans have been bullied, made fun of for their well liking and enjoying comic books, which has never made any sense to me, but whatever. We felt different and sometimes our solace was in the harrowing adventures of superhero comic books, people that want to save, everyone, no matter how different they may seem. Because they value the importance of standing up for what’s right.

But we also live in a post 9/11 world in which terrorist acts were carried out against America. Muslims have long been persecuted here and a good majority of people write them off as terrorists and freedom haters. I myself do not. I was raised much better than that by great parents.

Superheroes have long been seen as American as mom and apple pie. Superman and even yes our own Captain America. But as time progresses, so do superhero books. We have heroes now of many ethnicities, countries, and genders. But some people have an issue now with Marvel Comics publishing a book about a Muslim-American teenager becoming a superhero. I wish this was the first time race in comics was an issue.

Now of course comic books will tackle issues such as drug abuse, sexism, moral dilemmas, and racism. But today I’m not talking about comics dealing with racism, I’m talking about racism among comic book fans.

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Back in 2011, Peter Parker AKA Spider-Man died. Oh no not Peter, Ultimate Peter. The Ultimate Universe of Marvel was set up to retell the origins of their superheroes but in more modern settings and divorced of many, many decades of continuity. It proved to be very successful. Where was I? Oh yeah, so Peter Parker in the Ultimate Universe. He died. He died a heroic death and his successor was then announced by series writer Brain Michael Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli back in 2011 and would be an original character created by them. Enter Miles Morales. Miles is a half black, half Mexcian, highly intelligently gifted student.

When this was announced, there suddenly was news and buzz about it, not only in the sense of a different Spider-Man, but about his race too. People came out the woodwork to announced how displeased they were that this mixed race teenager was replacing Peter Parker. People said they’d outright protest Spider-Man books. Many of them not realizing it was an alternate version of Peter that had died. Media outlets ran with this story and it got Marvel many coverage for the decision. The character has been incredibly well-received and its book a constant bestseller for Marvel.

Its not just in the comic books this has happened, but in comic book related media, such as film adaptations.

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Perry White. Prominent supporting character of Superman, editor of the Daily Planet, always shouting. Lovable guy. So no brainer he’d be in the very polarizing Superman film, Man of Steel. What people didn’t expect was the casting of Laurence Fishburne in the role. There was an outrage on that and how they needed to stay true to the comics and keep it white. Yet no one raised an eyebrow over Michael Clark Duncan ten years earlier in the role of Kingpin for Daredevil. I guess since he fit the bill for the role and look of a huge, imposing, dangerous man that it didn’t upset everyone, but again I ask, why was there a tiff over Laurence? He’s proven time and time again that he’s such a capable actor of great range, so what’s wrong with him playing Perry White?

There was even uproar on a casting that didn’t even happen.

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When the news of rebooting the Spider-Man franchise arose, rumors went about who could fill the role of the web-swinger. One them was Donal Glover from the critically and cult loved show Community, which is amazing, and his rap career as Childish Gambino, also great and pick up Camp and Because the Internet.

“SPIDER-MAN CAN’T BE BLACK!!!!!1!!!!11!!” That was a reaction among some parts of the internet. Why can’t he be black? Spider-Man isn’t about race, its about the person under the mask, Peter Parker. Peter Parker was inspired to do good by the death of his Uncle Ben. I for one was fine with it. Glover does have the comedic side very well and has shown he can do the dramatic side, but we got Andrew Garfield, who I didn’t mind in the role.

We’ve had our books change so many times over the years be it writers, artists, characters, or reboots. When it comes to seeing them adapted, or anything be adapted really for that matter, sure I can see why people want everything to be the same but I like change and well adaptations are different. Different mediums meaning some, but that’s a whole different thing. Its about getting the core concept of what’s being adapted right and portraying it as best as possible. Who cares if Human Torch is black? (Yeah didn’t hear too much controversy on that. At best a couple angry internet commenters.)

Now readers of comic books, they read books with a very diverse cast of characters of race, gender, and disabilities. Superheroes are great symbols of hope, greatness, positivity, and valuing all that’s good in life. Diversity being one of them, people of all different colors. At least that’s what it is to me, a reader of comics for 20+ years now. People seem to not be so upset about a hero of different race and/or gender these days. Upset someone is replacing your established favorite hero, that’s understandable but honestly, getting upset someone of a different race is casted in a role that’s usually a white person

There are some racist, homophobic, just terrible people who read the same comics that I do. I accept that but man to see them just to me on some level stand against everything for the people they admire stand for and be hateful like this just kinda gets under my skin sometimes and something just gets set off in me. I wrote this not to change anyone’s mind, not to bring the world together in racial harmony, but because I just needed to say something on the topic, even though there are far more better qualified people than me to say something about the topic. Simple as that.

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