We know that Columbia is rebooting the "Spider-Man" movie franchise, choosing to start fresh after 3 very successful films with Tobey Maguire as the web-spinner, so already they're falling into the category of fixing things that aren't broken. There wasn't much wrong with "Spider-Man 3" 2 years ago, as opposed to Christopher Nolan being handed the reins of the "Batman" franchise at Warner Bros. to erase the stench of Joel Schumacher's desecration of the Dark Knight in the mid-90's. However, they're really pushing it if they actually "listen", if you will, to a Twitter-fueled petition to cast an African-American actor as the new Spidey.
Columbia, you'll recall, made a major casting blunder in 1999's movie remake of Wild, Wild West by casting actor-rapper Will Smith ("Hancock", "Independence Day") as James West, a role created by Robert Conrad in the 60's. Despite Smith's star power, the cinematic "West" flopped, badly.
Twitter subscribers, blissfully ignorant of the "West" debacle, or so it would seem, are pushing for comedian Donald Glover (Community). Granted, Glover is a relative unknown, as are the five candidates the studio wants to look at, and it's been demonstrated before that an unknown commodity can succeed (Christopher Reeve as Superman, 1978). One online columnist, however, has proven to be even more ignorant by asking why Spider-Man should be a white guy at all, even as the web-head approaches his 50th anniversary next year. The last thing these folks want to do is to actually give Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada any ideas.
Quesada, you see, has proven to be unafraid when it comes to courting controversy. Just a few short years ago, he green-lighted a Rawhide Kid miniseries that rebooted the long-standing Western hero as a homosexual. Like "West", it tanked, even though a new Rawhide book is due to hit the stands shortly. It was also under Quesada's watch that The Ultimates was launched, creating an alternate world where superspy Nick Fury is in fact African-American, modeled after actor Samuel L. Jackson. Recognizing this, Marvel's movie division cast Jackson as Fury for the "Iron Man" movies and 2008's "Incredible Hulk". For once, taking a risk on reimagining an established character actually worked, since Ultimates was a success on the comics shop shelves.
Converting Nick Fury from white to African-American is one thing. Doing the same thing to Peter Parker, even if it's just for a movie, is asking for trouble. It was one thing when DC experimented with a 1-shot storyline by having Lois Lane change into an African-American woman for a news story she was working on in her self-titled magazine nearly 40 years ago. They also have an African-American in the Green Lantern Corps, starting relatively around the same time (John Stewart). However, they also allowed corporate cousin Warner Bros. to cast Billy Dee Williams ("Empire Strikes Back") as Harvey Dent in 1989's "Batman", then working around that to introduce Dent's alter-ego, Two-Face (billed as Harvey Two-Face) in 1995's "Batman Forever" and played by Tommy Lee Jones. No wonder the Bat-franchise seemingly died under Schumacher's watch.
But if DC were to even suggest that an African-American be in line to be, say, Batman, or if there was a suggestion made by an ignorant marketing suit at WB, then there's trouble.
The bottom line is, you don't take an iconic hero, such as Spider-Man or Batman, and change him from a white to an African-American just because of the whims of the ignorant. Columbia needs to understand this before beginning production on a new Spider-Man movie, because otherwise, they're risking another cinematic embarassment.