7/29/2015

Stan Lee and Spider-Man
Changing the race of a superhero for the movies has hotly divided fans. It's known as "Race-Changing". There was an open call from some fans to have Latino teenager Miles Morales as the new Spider-Man in the movies. But some fans were outraged that Fantastic Four's Human Torch is now played by Black actor Michael B Jordan. Some fans go crazy over race-changing, while dozens of characters get a race change in the movies and no one bats an eye.

92-year-old Stan Lee is the king of superheroes. He co-created the most popular Marvel superheroes. Working with several artists, like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, he co-created Spider-Man, the Hulk, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Thor, X-Men, and many more. So, how does Stan Lee feel about race-changing a superhero? He's talked about it over the years and some of his responses seem to contradict each other. Let's study them and see what we can learn.

Spider-Man is White. Nuff' Said
When asked about Black actor Donald Glover's campaign to become Spider-Man, he said, "A lot of [my Twitter followers] have been saying that he ought to have a chance to audition for the role. So I tweeted back by saying, as far as I'm concerned ... anybody should have a chance to audition for the role. I certainly think he should have a chance to audition." Stan Lee feels that any actor, Black or White, should get to audition for a role as a superhero. He's also said, "What I like about the costume is that anybody reading Spider-Man in any part of the world can imagine that they themselves are under the costume. And that’s a good thing."

But, when asked about the Sony email leaks that said Spider-Man has to be Caucasian, he said, "I wouldn’t mind, if Peter Parker had originally been black, a Latino, an Indian or anything else, that he stay that way. But we originally made him white. I don’t see any reason to change that." He added, the fan backlash has nothing to do with "anti-black, or anti-Latino, or anything like that. Latino characters should stay Latino. The Black Panther should certainly not be Swiss. I just see no reason to change that which has already been established when it’s so easy to add new characters. I say create new characters the way you want to." Over the years Lee's created hundreds of superheroes, so he feels it's easy to create great superheroes.

So why do fans get upset about Michael B. Jordan as Spider-Man, but not Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury? "We've already had the Kingpin in 'Daredevil' portrayed by a black man, where he was white in the comics, [and] we've had Nick Fury portrayed by a black man where he was white in the comics. But not that many people had seen these characters not that many moviegoers are familiar with them."

Lee added, "Everybody seems to be familiar with Spider-Man, so I say that it isn't that it's a racial issue it's just that it might be confusing to people. But that's a matter for the people at Marvel to take into consideration."

Human Torch is Black. Excelsior!
At first glance it seems like Stan Lee is against changing the race of a superhero is wrong. However, how does he feel about the race changing of Johnny Storm for the Fantastic Four? When the director asked him if it was OK to change Johnny Storm from White to Black Lee said, "It was more than okay. I thought it was a great idea!” Stan Lee is excited about changing the Fantastic Four cast member's race adding "I think they’re gonna get to love this character. So I’m not the least bit worried about it. I always tried to pepper these groups with as much racial diversity as possible because that’s the way the world is.”

How Does He Really Feel?
So, what's the deal? One minute he says its wrong, and the next he says it's awesome. It could be that he's getting senile, but I don't think that's it. He's making some valid points. First, fans don't like their superheroes changed in any way. A drastic change like race or gender can upset them even if they're not prejudiced. So, it's important not to label fans as hateful because they don't like changes. Even Black comic fans hate race-changing sometimes.

Second, comic creators work hard to create characters and it probably hurts them to see the characters they love changed. It feels like a cheat to change a character to meet an agenda instead of creating a new character.

Third, there's a personal element to this. There's a big difference between Fantastic Four and Spider-Man. Spider-Man is the superhero most closely identified with Stan Lee. We always see Lee throwing up a Spider-Man sign (though it's not as easy as it used to be) but it's rare to have Stan Lee yell "It's clobbering time!" So it's harder for him to see any changes to Spider-Man versus the Human Torch.

Finally, it's important to notice that he's not against the idea of race-changing. It's true that there's plenty of room for new Latino, Black or Asian superheroes. But, Stan Lee acknowledges that it's important for superheroes to reflect the world that we live in. If that means changing the race of a superhero every now and then he's OK with it. He just thinks some characters, like Johnny Storm, should have their race changed while others are not. Like many of us, he doesn't have a rule against it but he wants it used sparingly.

Is Stan Lee right? Why do you think some fans are upset about race changing?

Via Entertainment Weekly, MTV Splash Page, UpRoxx

About the Author: Maurice Mitchell
I'm an avid science fiction fan, former professional graphic designer and certified blerd. After the death of my Star Warsaction figures I use my powers for good and not for evil.
Visit my concept art blog: http://filmsketchr.blogspot.com

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