In May 2010, a fan suggested Glover for the role of Peter Parker in the then-upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man film, encouraging his supporters to retweet the hashtag “#donald4spiderman”. The campaign, originally started to see how far social networking could carry a message, quickly gained a large following. The call for Glover to be allowed to audition for the role was supported by Spider-Man creator Stan Lee. Comics writer Brian Michael Bendis, who announced an African-American version of Spider-Man a year later, said he had conceived of the character before Glover’s campaign went viral. Bendis gave credit to Glover for influencing the new hero’s looks; on seeing him dressed as Spider-Man on Community (a nod to the campaign) Bendis said, “I saw him in the costume and thought, ‘I would like to read that book.’
Of course, Glover didn’t get the role (it went to Andrew Garfield). The thing is: there’s nothing wrong with the idea of Spider-Man being a black man. The core of who Spidey is: extremely smart, socially awkward kid from a lower socioeconomic background, raised by his aunt and uncle, learns, after a personal tragedy that “with great power comes great responsibility”. There’s nothing in the core of who Spidey is that says “gotta be a white guy”. He was created white because it was the 1960s (well that, plus the pervasive racism in society that says white is the default). Today, however (or 2010), people have become more aware of our multicultural society. People from various ethnic, socioeconomic, religious, sexual, gender, and racial backgrounds have spoken up and want to be represented in all walks of life, including comic books (and comic book movies). The readership of comics and the viewership of movies is made up of more than white people. Comic book companies and movie studios have started to realize this and market accordingly, but there’s a lot of ignoring of minorities to overcome before things are more equal (personally I can’t wait to see Michael B Jordan as the Human Torch in next years Fantastic Four).
Donald Glover did get his wish…after a fashion. He’s going to be voicing Ultimate Spider-Man on the animated Disney XD series Ultimate Spider-Man:
Donald Glover, the “Community” veteran who inspired Brian Michael Bendis in 2011 to introduce Miles Morales as the new Spider-Man of Marvel’s Ultimate Universe, is finally getting his chance to play the superhero.
USA Today reports the actor will voice the character next year in an episode of Disney XD’s animated “Ultimate Spider-Man,” which in its upcoming third season carries the subtitle “Web Warriors.” In the “Spider-Verse” story arc, a dimension-hopping Peter Parker (voiced by Drake Bell) tries to prevent the Green Goblin from collecting the DNA of Spider-Men from parallel universes, including Iron Spider, Spider-Man 2099, the Amazing Spider-Girl and Miles Morales.
While this is only a version of Spidey on an animated tv series, it should be noted that 30 years ago, the thought of seeing any version of Spidey who was not white would have been darn near unthinkable.