“Because all he knows now is that it’s okay to act this way, to treat people like this…he’s going to grow up to be a full-grown…greedy, mean, selfish liar. The world is filled with them. The world is being run by them…”
It’s surprising, amidst the backlash of negativity towards a new movie being announced or a new book being published or anything else related even remotely to the worlds of comics, it’s hard to remember that what comic books are supposed to teach us is that it’s important to be a good person and to help people out.
Spider-Man taught me that.
I’m not talking about the Spider-Man that you might be thinking about.
About eleven years ago, Marvel launched a separate imprint of comics to tell more contemporary and modern takes on many of their classic properties, in the hopes that it could attract and bring in readers interested in the characters without them needing to understand fifty plus years of super hero history. This imprint was called “Ultimate Marvel” and featured three main ongoing series with different mini-series in-between, Ultimate X-Men, Ultimate Fantastic Four, and, the pinnacle of super-hero storytelling in this form, Ultimate Spider-Man.
Many of you would have seen lately that there is a new Spider-Man who is half-Mexican, half-African named Miles Morales. This new Spider-Man is the new “Ultimate” Spider-Man, since that Peter Parker fell, tragically, against overwhelming odds saving innocents. You know, like a hero should do.
What does this translate to in the world of “Comic Matters”? Certainly we could spend many a paragraph talking about the ramifications of this decision; instead, there is a much simpler connection to be made. What this version of Peter Parker, Ultimate Peter Parker, has to teach us about the people in the world that tried to make a political spectacle of this moment in one of the longest ongoing series that lasted past 2000.
Or maybe this is just a chance for me to bash Glenn Beck.
Ultimate Spider-Man began as the flagship series in 2000 for the entire Ultimate Marvel imprint, serving as the original source of re-imagining of all their classic characters. The series was handled by soon-to-be Marvel Architect, Brian Michael Bendis (author of previous “Comic Matters” focus, Takio). Joining him is artistic collaborators Mark Bagley (issues #1-111), then with artist Stuart Immonen (#112-133). Following that, Bendis had multiple artists draw the exploits of one of the greatest heroes in the world. With the death of Peter Parker, the series stopped at issue #160.
What we have here is a complete run, from beginning to end, of a young hero’s enthused, albeit, misguided career and his attempt to make his way in a world filled with those that don’t always make the right decisions for the greater populace.
We all know the tale: nerdy Peter Parker, gaining powers from a genetically altered spider, tries to make something of him as a performer, misusing his powers, and unfortunately, accidentally causing the death of his Uncle Ben. Thus, he learns the greatest lesson of all: With Great Power, comes Great Responsibility.
I think, though, Ultimate Spider-Man teaches us a greater lesson. One more relevant, and since the name of this column is called “Comic Matters”, I believe it ties in perfectly. What this younger, 16 year old Peter Parker (in the comics, he was never actually called Ultimate Peter Parker) has to show us is this: There are bad people in this world, and even at a young age, they are going to try to ruin it.
Amidst the anti-mutant agenda where the metaphorical hatred of other races is on portrayal in “Ultimate X-Men”, to the secrecy of the government run super-team dealing with overseas affairs in the form of “The Ultimates”, “Ultimate Spider-Man” just showed us a young man trying to do the right thing against the backdrop of powerful men and women making the wrong, selfish choices they think can run the world, but only seem to make it go down. This sounds eerily familiar, doesn’t it?
Every single time this younger, “Ultimate” Peter Parker tried to go out, dressed in red and blue tights, to save innocent people, it seemed there was always a government agent or official or some “adult” type person there to tell him that if he keeps this up, he is going to get killed. That if he keeps trying to do this, he will never meet 18. Sure enough, he never did.
In a bold move, Bendis wrote Peter Parker up against a wall and he perished, stopping those who most wanted him dead, in front of hundreds, unmasked, and in
front of his family. That was it. He was done.
What Ultimate Peter Parker always tried to teach us, with all these people standing in his way, was that primarily bad people are running the world, but he can’t stop because they’re telling him no.
And now we’re reaching Glenn Beck.
Inspired by the fallen, young hero, young half-Mexican-African New Yorker, aptly named, Miles Morales (named for the classic formula of naming Marvel characters with a first and last name with the same letter), decides to put on the costume and does his best to follow in the footsteps of his hero. As far as I’m concerned, it is all about the character. Bendis has always written Ultimate Peter Parker with a voice all his own: snippy, neurotic, brave, heroic, cowardly, sarcastic and funny, all at the same time. So I trust that Bendis can take this character and demonstrate another new level of heroism.
What Glenn Beck tries to turn it into is another one of his anti-blah-blah-blah rants where he deems the moral fiber of American culture has fallen because everyone isn’t listening to him and following the Ways of the Beck. In a small clip, located on website “Bleeding Cool”, Glenn Beck makes his true feelings about this new Spider-Man known.
So, right off the back, suddenly Glenn Beck has an issue that this new Spider-Man supposedly “looks like President Obama”. So, apparently, Glenn Beck now believes that all African-American people look alike? What kind of statement is that to make for a supposed radio/political expert? Following that, Beck continues to show his ignorance by stating his uncaring nature towards the comic overall, but still feels the need to continue to badger it, not only calling it stupid, but saying that it does not matter and that it’s stupid.
Sure, okay, Beck is allowed to have his opinion on comics. They aren’t for everyone. Even though out there, there are comics for everyone, but that’s beside the point.
What bothers me that, instead of just making his opinion about comics known, he decides that now is the best time to use this as a spring board to further the supposed importance of Ways of the Beck.
He goes on to say that this all came about because of the influence of First Lady, Michelle Obama, who stated in a speech that things need to change, our traditions, conventions, etc. So, hey, thought Marvel Comics Editors, let’s obey the first lady and make Spider-Man African-American. Not gay, though, Beck failed to look that up.
So, what is the point of all this? I mean Beck’s speech. What is he trying accomplish by supposedly proving this? During political debates, maybe that can all be justified, but all Beck is trying to do here is prove that things are wrong for no reason whatsoever except that Marvel is trying to sell comics because they feel the need to suck up to the first lady. What does that prove? The man has power, but all Beck is trying to use it for is, as figured, to put something down.
This is exactly the kind of man that Ultimate Peter Parker would have been fighting against.
So, rest in peace, young Peter. You did teach me more than any other fictional character could have. I can only hope that your replacement, young Miles
Morales, teaches a new generation of readers what it truly means to fight against bad people.
- In addition to writing for the column “Comic Matters” for the Tucson Citizen website, Rob Acosta is also a 5th Grade Elementary school teacher, frequenter of local comic book shop Heroes & Villains, and explorer of the importance of comics. Contact him at email@example.com