5 August 2011

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Spider-Man: Never Mind Miles Morales, What About Pavitr Prabhakar?

Looks like the decision of giving Spider-Man a massive makeover (replacing the white science geek, Peter Parker, with a half black half Latino teen, Miles Morales) has provoked some quite uncool reactions among readers of some of the newspapers where the change was announced... Even so, from what I understand (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong) , the change only affects the Ultimate Marvel Universe's Spidey.

Our friends at Geeks of Doom mentioned USA Today as an example:
The news was initially released on USA Today, and if you made the mistake of venturing into the Comments section (which, shame on you to begin with) you may have seen some particularly disgusting reactions to the news. Honestly, I don’t see what the big deal is. After the events of Death of Spider-Man, we knew that a new character was going to be taking over, so that’s not really a surprise. The only thing to be “shocked” about is the character’s ethnicity, and what difference does that really make? The story was always going to be about a new character trying to live up to the model of heroism that was established by Peter Parker. It doesn’t matter what the background of the character is, that’s all just set dressing. What’s important is how the writer will tell that story.

But, even those readers haven't come up with something as "classic" as the one from the Daily Mail with his incredible:
"It feels like if you're white, heterosexual, single, able-bodied, law-abiding, English and live in England you have no rights at all."

Sorry, I'm still laughing out loud at that one...

You didn't know Peter Parker was English, did you? Well, thanks to that Daily Mail reader, you've leaned something new today (bless him!)

All those very BNP and EDL (and their equivalent in the US) inspired comments are nothing new, though... I remember too well the very similar ones made when 'Spiderman: India' was announced. 

Sadly,  some people haven't learned much since 2004.

Nothing New Under The Comic Books' Sun...

We should all know by now  that, when it comes to superheroes, nothing is written (or drawn) in stone anymore... and many have already gone through changes.

But, as we're focusing on Spider-Man in this post, we'll just look at the many alternative versions of Spideys out there in general and, of course,  Spiderman: India (well, he is mentioned in the title after all) in particular...


Loup Dargent

Some Alternative Versions of Spider-Man

Ultimate Spider-Man 

In Ultimate Spider-Man, Peter is a high-school student who is bitten by a spider during a school field trip—but instead of a radioactive spider (which reflected the Atomic Age in which Spider-Man's origin was written), it is a lab subject that has been genetically modified by Osborn Industries. This idea of using genetic engineering instead of radioactivity was used for the Spider-Man film. The themes, characterization, and setting are updated to reflect modern life. It is set in the Ultimate Marvel universe.
In the on-going series Ultimate Comics: Avengers, a second Spider-Man was shown to be one of its members, and is simply referred to as the Spider. The Spider is sarcastically referred to by Gregory Stark as a clone of Spider-Man and Charles Xavier "back from the future with a warning for humanity". He subsequently calls Black Widow "stupid" for believing him.
After Peter Parker's death in Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #160 a new character by the name of Miles Morales takes up the mantle of Spider-Man. He is half-black, half-Hispanic and has the powers of Spider-Man plus some new ones.


An alternative version of Peter Parker also exists in the MC2 universe, appearing as a supporting character in Spider-Girl.

The title follows almost the entire original timeline of the character up until the first attempt at a "relaunch" by the company, 1999, where it deviates and provides an alternate ending to the Final Chapter storyline. During his final battle against the Green Goblin, rather than survive unscathed, Peter loses a leg to his arch-enemy and Osborn is killed. Peter's wayward daughter May is revealed to be alive and well, and is returned to both Parkers by Peter's first clone, the redeemed Kaine...
House of M
In the "House of M", a Marvel crossover, the Scarlet Witch alters reality to make mutants the ruling class over humans. This world is ruled by mutants and their leader, Magneto. In the mini-series Spider-Man: House of M, Peter Parker is believed to be a mutant, and Spider-Man's identity is widely known. He is rich, famous and married to Gwen Stacy, and they have a young son named Ritchie. Aunt May and Uncle Ben are alive and in good health, and J. Jonah Jameson is Peter's often-abused publicist. Unfortunately, his life unravels when Jameson reveals to the world that Spider-Man is not a born mutant..

 Spider-Man Marvel Adventures

This Spider-Man first appeared in Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #53-#61 and is currently appearing in the new Spider-Man: Marvel Adventures comic book series. A modern-day high school student, this Spider-Man's origin is similar to his mainstream counterpart, but his supporting cast is significantly different. Although Gwen Stacy exists in this universe, she and Peter are not dating—instead Peter is dating a brand-new character named Sophia "Chat" Sanduval, who is also a mutant with the ability to talk to animals...

Spider-Man 2099

A geneticist named Miguel O'Hara gained his spider-like powers from a gene-splicing incident. When the company he worked for injected him with a dangerous drug called Rapture. He tried to rid himself of the drug by using the Gene Slicer he helped to invent. But unknown to him a jealous co-worker had set it repeat the former experiment creating a company owned version of Spider-Man. The last time they had tried this experiment it killed the test subject (This was the main reason Miguel O'Hara quit) but this time it worked. Instead of becoming a company owned version of Spider-Man he became the opposite....

 Spider-Man 2211
Spider-Man 2211 aka Dr. Max Borne, the Spider-Man of the year 2211, first appeared in the Spider-Man/Spider-Man 2099 one-shot. His daughter Robin is the Hobgoblin of 2211. He is later shot by an alternative version of Ben Parker, who is actually the Chameleon of 2211 in disguise as Uncle Ben...


Peter Parquagh is a counterpart to Peter in the miniseries Marvel 1602, albeit without powers. In the series he acts as an apprentice to the royal spymaster Sir Nicholas Fury. A running gag involves Peter repeatedly almost getting bitten by unusual spiders, something that finally occurs at the very end. In the sequel, 1602: New World, he takes the identity of the Spider....


In the series Exiles, which involves inter-dimensional travel, several alternative versions appear:
  • The Spider is an alternative version of Spider-Man who merged with the Carnage-symbiote and has become a psychopathic killer. Before being displaced in time, he had been on death row in his home reality. He originates from Earth-15 and was a member of Weapon X.
  • Mary Jane Watson, a.k.a. Spider-Woman, is part of a resistance against the techno-organic virus and heroes infected with it, including that world's Spider-Man. Mary Jane is also portrayed as a lesbian in issue #34.
  • A Spider-Man who is a member of the Fantastic Five dies in a battle against The Spider.
  • A version of Spider-Man 2099 joins the Exiles when his identity is made public.
  • Morph fought a Demon Spider-Man on an alternate world. Later, the Demon Spider-Man was viewed briefly by Mojo and Major Domo as it attacked a young couple in a parking complex, but Spider-Man killed himself.
  • In New Exiles #9-10 there is a world where Peter Parker is part of a mutant super hero team, Force-X, led by Emma Frost. His codename is "Spider". His outfit is the standard Force-X uniform and he wears goggles instead of a mask. Also, his webbing is organic.

Spiderman 'Trans-created'

(That's where we show, and prove once and for all, that Miles Morales is NOT the first non-white Spider-Man...)

Enter Pavitr Prabhakar...

In 2004, the Gotham Entertainment Group (Indian publishing licensee for Marvel Comics) announced the launch of a Spiderman more relevant to their readers in India.

To achieve this objective, they completely reinvented Spiderman as a young Indian boy (Pavitr Prabhakar)...
'We feel this is one of the most exciting and unique projects in comic history. Unlike traditional translations of American comics, Spiderman India will become the first-ever 'trans-creation', where we reinvent the origin of a Western property like Spiderman so that he is an Indian boy in Mumbai and dealing with local problems and challenges.'
Sharad Devarajan, Gotham's chief executive officer.
As the 'trans-created' character's story was targeted at around 5 million comics readers in India, Makriman (spider in Hindi) didn't seem to be a bad business-like venture either...

The series was created by Sharad Devarajan, Suresh Seetharaman, and Jeevan J. Kang with Marvel Comics.

It ran for four issues, which were later also published in the United States in 2005. 


The 'New' Costume...

Quite similar to the western classic Spiderman's one, really...
The only difference was in the fact that the Indian version wore a dhoti (Indian wrap-around worn by men) and jooti (traditional shoes).

Re-invented Villain...

The first of the usual classic Spiderman's villains to get the same treatment as our web-swinging hero was The Green Goblin...  He was now Rakshasa, a demon from the Hindu mythology.

The Rakshasas are said to have magical and shape shifting abilities and are described as green, yellow, or blue.

The Story 

Source: Wikipedia
Pavitr Prabhakar, a poor Indian boy from a poverty-ridden village, moves to Mumbai with his Aunt Maya and Uncle Bhim to study after getting half a scholarship. His parents died some years ago. Other students at his new school tease him and beat him for his studious nature and simple background. He knows his uncle Bhim is struggling to support him and his aunt Maya, and pay his school fees. Only Meera, a popular girl from his school, befriends him. Meanwhile, Nalin Oberoi, a local crime lord, uses an amulet to perform an ancient ritual, where he gets possessed by a demon committed to opening a gate for other demons to get back to Earth. 

While being chased by bullies, Pavitr encounters an ancient yogi who grants him the powers of a spider, in order to fight the evil that threatens the world. While discovering his powers, Pavitr refuses to help a woman being attacked by several men. He leaves the place, but comes back when he hears his uncle's cry. He learns that Bhim was stabbed when he tried to help the woman. Pavitr understands that with great power comes great responsibility, and swears to use his powers for the good of others...

Was 'Spider-Man: India' A Success Or Not?

It looks like the jury is still out on that one, even after all those years...
But, it sure also brought some rather interesting discussions regarding the agenda/mission behind it.

In January 2005, Abhi from Sepia Mutiny let us peek into them in his article 'The Anatomy of a Spider'... Here is an extract from it:

"At first, the suggestion that Pavitr has a destiny that he must fulfill may strike some readers as un-American. In the land of opportunity, we reject out of hand the notion that individuals must resign themselves to their fate. Instead, we believe that there are no limits to what can be achieved by a combination of hard work and ingenuity.

Yet is the concept of destiny really so foreign? Was it not under the banner of Manifest Destiny that the young United States claimed for itself the Great Plains and the northern reaches of Mexico? Was it not Ronald Reagan who constantly reminded the citizens of the United States that they had a “rendezvous with destiny”? To what else did George W. Bush refer to in his second inaugural address when he stated that History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction, set by liberty and the author of liberty”?

The most important difference Spider-fans will notice between the Indian and American notions of destiny is the Indian belief that tyranny and evil are primal forces no less powerful than freedom and good. Yet there is also a considerable measure of doubt embedded in the American vision of progress. Although one scientific accident gave Spider-Man his powers, other scientific accidents were responsible for the creation of his arch-nemeses, Dr. Octopus and the Green Goblin. In the final analysis, that which makes Pavitr Prabhakar authentically Indian does not make him in any way un-American.

Today the Republic of India is the most populous democracy on the face of the Earth. Someday, it may rival the United States in terms of wealth and power. Conventional thinking suggests that the emergence of a second superpower would threaten the security of the United States of America. Yet if India’s first superhero recognizes that with great power there also comes great responsibility, perhaps we should look forward to the emergence of an Indian superpower..."


Now, that makes a change from the boring and tiring (as well as so predictable) whining we get from the pathetic "Keep Spidey White!" Brigade, doesn't it?

In the words of  Mr. Stan Lee himself: Nuff said!
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