Ultimate Spider-Man

Today in news that’s easy to spin in an attention-grabbing way that makes it sound much more controversial than it is, legendary comic book creator Stan Lee has declared that Spider-Man must always be a straight, white guy. Actually, no, he didn’t say that. But it sure grabbed your attention! What Lee actually said was that he doesn’t like it when pre-existing characters get changed. He thinks it makes more sense to just create a brand-new character who isn’t a straight white guy than to mess with something that’s been around for a long time.

This significantly less controversial statement came from an interview Lee gave to E!, during which he also clarified that he’d have no problem “creating a superhero who’s homosexual,” or “a black one, a Latino one, a Chinese one,” or whatever. He says that, in comics, “the whole world is our playground. The whole world has heroes we can draw from.” His implication there seems to be that there should be more comic book heroes who are diverse instead of characters who already exist being more diverse, and it’s hard to disagree with him when you see how popular an original creation like the new Ms. Marvel is—although she did adopt the name of an existing superhero.

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Lee’s comment and the question that elicited it are coming in the wake of some significant diversity-based shake-ups in the Marvel universe. In 2011, Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli introduced Miles Morales, a half-black and half-Hispanic Spider-Man from an alternate reality, and he’s become so popular in the years since that Marvel recently decided to make him the Spider-Man in its mainstream universe. (Any hopes to see him pop up in the movies were quickly dashed, though.) There’s also the female Thor who started hammering the patriarchy to death last year, and one of the original X-Men—though he’s also sort of from an alternate reality because comic books are complicated—recently came out as gay. So Stan Lee might not be crazy about it, but we can’t imagine Marvel plans to stop this trend any time soon.