My Spider-Man is black.

Spider-Man #2You speak your truth. The following panels, taken from Brian Michael Bendis’ and Sara Pichelli’s Spider-Man #2, irked many—myself included. I’ll be painfully honest, my first reaction upon seeing the panels was to smirk and to dismiss the work as the result of a naïve white author who had once overheard a black man exasperatedly proclaim that he did not wish to be a black writer (or artist, or actor, or musician) and proceeded to weave the experience into a story without any knowledge of the history behind such a statement. The scene rang false to me. Given my own history, I simply could not imagine an Afro-Latino kid from similar stomping grounds as my own who would not immediately recognize the importance of representation. I could not imagine a black kid from New York in the age of #BlackLivesMatter who would not wear his blackness and his heroicness like a badge, streaming across the avenue with all the bravado of Jeezy and the defiance of Kendrick.

Spider-Man #2These kids are better than we were. We made them better. Dragged them out of the Bushes with battered bodies still broken by Reaganomics. Built them ladders from our bowed spines.

And so black and brown blanched at the sight of those panels. Social media quickly ignited—journalists and critics fired back with lists of what Bendis should have done and what he should no longer do. In my opinion? Bendis did what he was supposed to do. He did what countless other white writers who overwhelmingly dominate the mainstream marketplace do.

He spoke his truth.

Spider-Man #2And his truth is different from my truth. His truth comes from a place where race does not have to matter. His truth comes from a place where one can innocently proclaim that one doesn’t “see color” or question why the world deems it so important.

Because he is white. And no matter who a white writer embraces at night or who he tucks in, he cannot step into the shoes of another and speak as them. He can only imagine and describe what their vantage point must be like from his own.

And that’s okay. And that is what writers are supposed to do. And beautiful works have been produced from that. What is not okay, what is unbelievably harmful, what we have in the marketplace right now, is a massive block of writers from one sole vantage point describing everyone else’s. A truth that is not multifaceted is distortion. A publishing marketplace where black voices are muffled and Bendis, Waid, and other white writers are given heavily promoted platforms to speak upon the topic of race is distortion. This is a long-standing problem. And it is one that will not be resolved with advice to white writers. Because all the advice in the world will not make them black.

I don’t want to be a black writer. I don’t want to be pigeonholed and only (rarely!) considered for stories featuring black characters, stories I will not get to write should a non-black writer have a desire to write them. I don’t want to be told that I can only write for characters who share my vantage point while non-black writers are given free rein to produce work from any vantage point they can imagine—including my own.

And be championed for it. And be paid handsomely for it.

But, oh, do I want to be a writer that is black. Oh, do I want to see writers that are black. I want black and brown and white children to know the worlds that are inside of us. I want them to know the beautiful way the brick and mortar of a brownstone changes the way one can see a sunrise. I want them to know how the heat of the jungle is described by one who knows the heat of the comb.

There is a difference. Another facet of the diamond. And aren’t diamonds at their most beautiful the deeper and more intricate the cut?


Got to give the people what they want.

“As a female fan I’m wary about talking about Amazing Spider-Man #700. It feels like the plot was designed for the purpose of baiting fangirls for publicity. So, yes, the scene with MJ and Doctor Octopus was distasteful, but manipulating female fans is as well. Marvel saw the attention received when the same damn plot unfolded with the Chameleon just a few months back. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. However, this time Marvel knows better—and, hopefully, so do the fans. Doctor Octopus will never sleep with MJ, but there will be several close calls. The end. I hate the fact that something righteous—irritation with the way the industry deals with gender—has been twisted into ‘cheap heat.’ Marvel’s stance: get them focused on something inconsequential that can benefit us instead of actually addressing gender inequality.”

—Cheryl Lynn Eaton

I broke my own rule on Twitter. I think what frustrates me even more is that, as an editor, I would have certainly supported the story and allowed it to be pushed through. Why? The press would be phenomenal and the fans, though temporarily irate, would happily flock back in droves to see the return of the real Peter Parker as he steps in just in time to save MJ from the clutches of his nemesis (or, depending on the writer’s choice, aids in the redemption of Doctor Octopus). Fiction allows for the suspension of belief. Serial drama generates a deep emotional investment. A combination of the two makes for ease in audience manipulation. And books must be sold.

I’m a woman. I’m an editor. I’m a fan. A woman needs to know that her concerns have been heard and that she is respected. An editor craves that perfect, popular tale. A fan desires the ultimate tease and release. I hope that at the culmination of this story everyone will be able to walk away happy. However, I’m not certain that will happen. Marvel, skilled at teasing fans and stirring up their emotions, often takes far too long to follow through (or in some cases, simply refuses to). People will only entertain a tease for so long before they walk away flustered and befuddled.

Anyway, just my “smart mark” comments on the matter! However, one last thing, MJ saving the day by rescuing Peter and facilitating another body switch would certainly be a happy ending warmly received by all fans. Hopefully it won’t be one that comes too late.

I swear there were no puns in the preceding paragraph—not one.


7-11.

I said I’d get to Marvel eventually, right? Seven things I want from Marvel in the ’11. Let’s go.

More graf-inspired artists. No it won’t work on Avengers, but I bet it’d look sweet on a Spidey issue. Nicholas is nice with it. I love me some Mahfood. Let me see some Ronald Wimberly up in there. I love a whole host of different art styles, and I’d love to see a place for each and every one of those styles at Marvel. From Linsner to Warren. Adams to Hernandez. I want it all.

More diversity in your writing staff. I’m not even gonna lie. This is a tough one for a mainstream comic publisher. If you only hire five people to write your entire line, it’s going to be pretty damn hard to make sure you’ve got some women, minorities, and gay peeps sliding in as scribes. Here’s three successful tactics to take that I’ve mentioned on this blog dozens of times before. One, venture down the co-author road. Pluck a famous writer from another genre and pair her with an established comics writer. Step two: profit! Once she’s gotten the hang of writing for comics, split up the team and let each author go solo for maximum effect. You know it works. You’ve tested the method with white dudes more than enough times. I’ve also said that I love the idea of easing in new writers with back-up stories in the back of popular books. Let a new writer pen a nice five-page story about Danielle Cage’s first day of pre-school. Or perhaps a quick joint about Tony walking into a bar after hard day…and ordering a glass of milk? Back-up stories are also a nice way to let readers know that they’re getting more for their money. Especially when they’ve got to plunk down quite a bit more change than they do for a DC book. Anthologies are a nice idea, but you’re better off focusing on a certain character or theme than throwing the random work of thirteen black dudes together and trying to sell it. I’m more likely to buy a romance anthology or a Cage anthology. And I’m not paying for floppies either. I want a book. Go hard or go home.

Danny and Misty. I wander off to play video games and watch soap operas for a few months and come back to this? Fix. This. The hair (let’s nip this straight bang thing in the bud now, shall we?), the chi-sperm, everything. She doesn’t have to be pregnant, but…chi? I am so mad at that.

Ladies only. Listen, Marvel is the only place where I have even the slightest chance of getting a female team starring women of different races. And no, I don’t mean a book where the white women drive every story and there’s an Asian chick who stands in the background and kicks a guy every three issues. Yes, I have a lot of nerve asking for diversity and then frowning at the inclusion of penises. But can’t the guys be the damsels in distress for just one book? Let some old dude cook wheatcakes while the girls go off to be your friendly neighborhood superhero team. Or field operatives. Were you aware that SHIELD has had an all-female ROSE (Reconnaissance Organization for Security Enhancement) team in place since WW II? A red team of assassins, a white team of spies, and a yellow team for public, peace-keeping missions? Nine women in total. I bet you didn’t. Because that book doesn’t exist. Nope, no Guns & Roses book for you. You just sit over there and look pretty.

Logos. Yo, DC is killing you when it comes to logos, son! The following characters need clear, easily identifiable logos that stand for a certain theme or idea: Spider-man (and Spider-girl), Luke Cage, Wolverine, Ms. Marvel, and Iron Man. I’d add Storm, but you guys have really made a mess of that character.

Black Panther. Hell, all of Wakanda. DoomWar was a great series—for Doom fans. It wasn’t so much fun for fans of the Wakandans. Doom basically spanked the hell out of them, emasculated T’Challa, and Diddy-bopped back to Latveria to bang hot, crazy chicks. And Black Panther decides to mope in Hell’s Kitchen while his baby sister handles business. This. Is. Not. Okay. You need to find some way to build the Wakandans back up to their past glory. New artist. New writer. Jungle Action Monthly. T’Challa holds court in Wakanda, Shuri rebels in the streets of NYC, and the Queen Mother has kept a large volume of active Vibranium secret from everyone—until now. Reboot the series. How did Wakandans stay isolated so long? Because the island (yes, an island set a bit lower off the continent) isn’t really hospitable to many humans. In fact, Doom was right. The Wakandans do carry a genetic strain that allows them to live upon the island and not suffer. But it’s a gene that a small number of humans all over the world carry. How was this discovered? Well, it was noticed when visitors and invaders started showing up on the island and dying. You see, Wakandans are nice in the water, so nice that they thrived by commandeering ships that dared venture into their waters. And when 85 percent of all the people captured (or liberated—where slave ships were concerned) died within days of hitting Wakandan shores? Well, you’ve got to be a little bit tougher than average to make it there. Oh, and due to the Wakandans being so nice in the water? Namor’s people and T’Challa’s people do not get along too well. And this provides a great deal of added tension that Storm doesn’t need—especially when Namor starts in with his nonsense about how mutants need to stick together. Luckily, Storm knows better than to listen to Namor. And T’Challa knows better than to leave Namor alone with anyone’s wife. Trust that.

When you’re done with T’Challa, can you mosey on over to Spidey? Get rid of Carlie. Hell, give Peter Carlie’s job as a forensic scientist (modeled after those appearing in hour-long dramas). Then he’s armed with the two most important things Spider-man should have—a lab and a camera. And he’d always be at the scene of a crime. Plus, he’d get to interact with the old Bugle staff (sans Norah the racist hipster, please) since they’d constantly hound him for scoops. And he’d always be torn between uncovering the truth at his day job and keeping secrets in the tights. Did I mention getting rid of Carlie? Secret time. I love the idea of a single Peter, but Carlie is boring and Poochiesque. And why would one make Peter single just to put him in a committed relationship? It makes no sense. Peter should have a trinity. I want MJ to hold Peter’s heart. I want Felicia to control Spider-man’s body. I want a brunette stimulating Parker’s mind on the job. Make her a reporter. Oh, and I want Aunt May fighting for Peter’s spirit (always guiding him to do the right thing) and Anya doing the same for Spider-man. Oh, and give Anya an after-school job with May. She needs to be in Peter’s life a lot more.

Anyway, there’s your seven for the eleven. Hurry up.