The case for a non-white Spider-Man

Miles Morales is alternative version of Marvel Comics' Spider-Man Image copyright Marvel Comics
Image caption The look of Miles Morales was inspired by US President Barack Obama and actor Donald Glover

Spider-Man will soon be joining the likes of Iron Man and Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but will the man underneath the mask be black or white?

Here's how thousands of social media users have reacted to news of a deal between Sony Pictures and Walt Disney that means Spiderman may now be in an Avengers movie: they've begun a debate about Spidey's race. So far there have been two big-screen iterations of Spiderman swinging through New York, and in both of them Spidey's alter-ego has been the lily-white Peter Parker. But now, some comic books fans online now say it is time for a different webslinger to take over - specifically they want a teenager named Miles Morales.

The Morales character has a Hispanic and black background, and has been featured in the comic book version since 2011. Morales took over when Peter Parker died in the Ultimate line of comics, and his looks were based on US President Barack Obama and actor Donald Glover.

So will the new film incarnation of Spider-Man follow suit? Over the past 24 hours, around 5,000 people used Miles Morales' name on Twitter and a hashtag of his name seems to have been briefly trending. On Tuesday, #donaldforspiderman - a reference to the possiblity of Glover playing Morales in a movie version - also got a boost with more than 3,000 tweets. However, many more people online were discussing Peter Parker and the most recent Spidey actor, Andrew Garfield.

"I would be so excited to see #MilesMorales Spider-Man on the big screen!" said one fan. "MCU [Marvel Comic Universe] definitely has enough white guys."

Prominent heroes from minority backgrounds have been rare in the comics world. Many of the ones featured actually have the word "black" as part of their alter egos (Black Lighting and Black Panther, among others). And so when Morales came along, he was seen as a breakthrough by many - an A-list non-white character with critically acclaimed stories and a sizeable fan base.

Image copyright Marvel Comics
Image caption Miles Morales' Spider-Man has become a breakout star in the Ultimate line of Marvel Comics

So will the new Spidey be black or white? Although Spider-Man will likely return as Peter Parker's alter ego - Sony mentioned him by name in their news release on Monday - Marvel was silent on the subject, giving Morales fans some hope.

More generally, Hollywood is opening up when it comes casting its comic book characters. The dark-skinned, bald Samuel L. Jackson is now synonymous with Nick Fury even though the comic book character has been a white man with salt-and-pepper hair for decades. And this summer a new film version of The Fantastic Four will feature African-American actor Michael B. Jordan as the Human Torch - a role once held by the blond, blue eyed Chris Evans.

Blog by Tim Swift

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