Yesterday Laurence Fishburne was announced as the new Perry White, a traditionally Caucasian character, in the upcoming Man of Steel Superman film in 2013. At the same time, Marvel’s Ultimate Universe (separate from their primary one) recently killed off their Peter Parker/Spider-Man character and have replaced him with an African American in Ultimate Fallout #4, which was released in comic book stores today. These alterations have raised a vocal amount of fear and trepidation on many of the message boards and comment sections across the internet.
Suddenly, openly racist comments have been flooding the net, with some even blaiming Barack Obama’s presidency for character changes. Oddly enough, casual Spider-Man fans are upset about a comic story that most of them would never have bought or read anyway.
Perry White isn’t white?
There was once talk of Will Smith playing Superman, but it was never more than a rumor. Fans (myself included) were not happy with the notion because Superman has a certain look that we expect to see when we’re treated to a Superman movie, TV show or comic book. And it’s not even that he has to be white. He just has to look like Superman. Warner Brothers couldn’t get away with breaking that tradition any more than they could cast a short, overweight Asian woman for the role. Superman has to look as though he stepped out the collective consciousness of the masses, and the casting trick has been to find young men who look the role, then figure out which ones of them can act and have a necessary charisma.
Although Perry White is a well-known character in the story of Superman, there is no reason he can’t be black. In fact, of all the first-tier characters, he’s the most likely candidate for a racial change. Laurence Fishburne is an A-list player in Hollywood with a respectable body of work on his resume, and, more importantly, he fits the character well. In the comics of the mid-90’s when Perry and his wife adopted an African American orphan named Keith, he had to deal with a number of racist comments, including ones from his friend and publisher Franklin Stern, who was also black.
And would you like to know who would be happy about this casting change?
Ultimate Fallout Fallout
One of the most popular Spider-Man artists in the 80’s and 90’s was Todd McFarlane. In an interview, he once said that one of the best things about Spider-Man is that anyone can be him, at least under the costume. The Spidey duds cover 100% of the characters body, so even though we know Peter Parker is a skinny white kid, race makes no difference once he puts the costume on.
McFarlane said that there was one moment he regrets never putting into one of his stories where Spider-Man would have saved a white man from being mugged by a black man, only to have the victim sprinkle racist comments into his appreciation. Spidey would have gotten up close to his face and asked, “How do you know I’m white under this mask?”
And remember that it was the Ultimate Spider-Man series that introduced a Nick Fury that was specifically made to look like Samuel L. Jackson, long before he was cast in the role for the Avengers movies. Perhaps Marvel Studios should have brought David Hasselhoff back to lead them in 2012.
And would you like to know who would be happy about this change?
I don’t believe that casting Perry White with a black actor, or replacing a dead Peter Parker (probably temporarily) with a black character in the non-primary Marvel Universe is a politically correct action. Many of the more incendiary comments on the message boards suggest that these are politically motivated changes meant to teach readers and moviegoers about tolerance. But I think there’s something far less sinister going on.
Could it be that these creators simply want to tell the best story they can using the best ideas and talent they can get? I look forward to both.
What are your thoughts on the changes, and the heated fan reaction?
Ultimate Fallout #1-4 are available at most comic book stores right now, and #5-6 are scheduled for August 10 and 17 respectively. The Man of Steel is scheduled in theaters on June 14, 2013.