Multiversity You: Anyone, Anywho, Anyhow

Recently, like many of us did, I saw the trailer for the new animated Spider-Man movie “Into the
Miles Morales - Spider-Man.
Spider-Verse.” The title, of course, refers to the 2014 comic book event in which a series of inter-dimensional hunters travelled through various versions of the Marvel Universe, hunting a myriad of incarnations of Spider-Man. Of course, not all versions were Peter Parker. Instead we saw that “Spider-Man” could come from a variety of cultural, racial, gender, and sexual identities – even some that were not human such as Spider-Cat, Spider-Monkey and the fan-favourite Spider-Ham. What is interesting about the implication of the film’s sub-title, the choice of Miles Morales (an Afro-Latino teenage over the typically Anglo-American Peter Parker), and the Spider-verse story-line itself is that anyone, of any background, can potentially be Spider-Man. That Spider-Man is no longer Peter Parker specifically, but instead simply someone bitten by a radioactive spider.

This approach resonates with me quite well since I started reading Spider-Man with the onset of the 1990s Clone-Saga event. My first Spider-Man comic didn’t feature Peter Parker at all, but was the first appearance of Ben Reilly as the Scarlet Spider (Web of Spider-Man #118) and saw him facing off against Venom. Peter Parker, to my reading experience, was never the one true Spider-Man. Perhaps that’s why, even though I enjoyed Spider-Man comics in my teenage years, Spider-Gwen and Venom are titles that I choose to read over those featuring Peter Parker. Perhaps that is why I enjoyed Spider-Verse so much.

Still grim, still gothic...
There are other examples of the same logic and implication being put into place such as Grant Morrison’s Multiversity series, along with his other works such as Batman: Incorporated. DC’s recently re-christened New Superman and the Justice League of China, various presentations of Iron Man and Thor as alternate identities, and so on. Of course, this notion has been deconstructed recently by Scott Snyder in the Dark Knights Metal event. Herein a variety of different versions of “Batman” take on the roles, and identity of various superheroes – merging them with his own gothic-pulp mystique. What is intriguing about the Dark Knights Metal take on the action of mask-hopping a particular superhero’s costumed identity from one background to the next is that it reveals the bizarre underpinning of the trope’s logic. I’m not raising the issue here that Batman could be pushed over the edge and become a villain (The Batman Who Laughs). That idea has been explored in a variety of comics already, such as Mark Miller’s Nemesis. Rather, the implications for iconic examples of non-Anglo-American, Male, superheroes such as Cyborg or Wonder Woman when their identity is taken up by another character. Presented under the guises of the Murder Machine (Cyborg/Batman) and the Merciless (Wonder Woman), the implication that if superhero identity is exchangeable seems sinister when presenting an African American or female character self taken up by a wealthy, 1%, Anglo-American male. And sometimes when I think about that, and the lack of reaction to Batman becoming Wonder Woman in contrast to Captain America being presented as a Hydra Agent, there are a myriad of questions in my head. Perhaps it is simply the execution of the storyline – the presentation of alternate takes on Batman (Dark Knights) versus the idea that Captain America had always been a Nazi sleeper agent (Secret Empire). And its troubling to think what this sort of logic would do to a character such as Black Panther if applied in a similar direction.

I honestly have more questions than answers about this trope, but what I can say for certain is that it is one that I both adore (Spider-Gwen!) and despise (the Merciless) on a case-by-case basis…

Dr. Nicholas William Moll is a lecturer and researcher at Federation University Australia and a freelance game designer. His interests include science fiction, tabletop games and literary tropes.

Multiversity You: Anyone, Anywho, Anyhow Multiversity You: Anyone, Anywho, Anyhow Reviewed by Nicholas William Moll on Monday, March 05, 2018 Rating: 5
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