Here Comes the [Black] Spider-Man?

“And this is how the USA Today audience reacted. These are comments that haven’t been removed for being offensive.”

“Fear Of A Black Spider-Man,” Rich Johnston

First rule of the Internet: Do NOT read the comments section of any remotely “controversial” article published on a mainstream news site. Just don’t.

That aside, I’m of two minds about the new Spider-Man. While Marvel deserves kudos for recasting such a high-profile character (even if only his separate-but-equal, alternate reality version), I’m concerned about how committed they really are to it.

Not to be cynical, but looking at the sales trends for the series over the past few years, this has PR stunt written all over it:

  • May/06 #95 – 73,564
  • May/07 #109 – 72,478
  • May/08 #122 – 55,759
  • May/09 #132 – 50,144
  • May/10 #10 – 39,690 (series was renumbered)
  • May/11 #158 – 47,941 (series renumbered again to celebrate 150th issue)

These are actually pretty solid sales for a long-running series relative to what counts as blockbuster sales these days—#158 was the 24th best-selling comic overall in May 2011—but they’re rather low for one of the best-known comic book characters in the world.

Interestingly, the final issue of the series, #160, featuring the “death” of Peter Parker, sold over 159,000 copies, presumably to the remaining speculators who prey on those who think comics are still a smart investment.

*sideeyes CGC*

Unlike Araña, Marvel’s earlier (last?) attempt to diversify the Spider-Brand, Miles Morales isn’t a sidekick, he’s stepping into Parker’s webbed suit and taking over the lead role. How much of a drop-off can he have from Parker’s swan song and still be considered a success? If he’s in the 40-50k range by issue 12, does Parker get resurrected?

In light of Marvel and DC’s continued inability to introduce new superheroes with diverse backgrounds, a full generation after everyone wanted to “be like Mike” and Will Smith became a bankable leading man, what does the furor over Morales say about the state of comics and their place within pop culture?

SOURCES: Sales figures via The Beat and ICv2, respectively.

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