New Movie Spider-Man Should be Peter Park

by Alice Meichi Li

There’s something obvious that’s been under our noses this entire time: Spider-Man as a Korean American named Peter Park, played by The Walking Dead’s Steven Yeun.

‘Nuff said, as Stan Lee would say.

Not ’nuff? Okay.

When Donald Glover’s offhanded tweet brought the idea of a black Spider-Man into the world, we were met with Miles Morales taking up the mantle of the Ultimate Universe’s Spider-Man. I was a huge supporter initially, reading every issue from the beginning. But I quickly began to feel that Miles was just living in Peter Parker’s shadow.


“Why couldn’t Peter Parker himself be a person of color?” I thought. And then it came to me — remove the last two letters of his surname, and Spider-Man instantly becomes Korean. It was so eloquent in its simplicity, really. Not much else needed to change to preserve the essential facets of Peter Parker.

Many young Asian Americans could relate to a Korean American Peter Park who was a working-class science nerd and photography buff by day, and a quirky wise-cracking superhero by night. His struggle to support himself and his first-generation immigrant Aunt Mae in their humble Queens-based lives — while trying doing the right thing — would ring true to so many of us with similar immigrant backgrounds.


Also, anyone acquainted with the Yellow Peril propaganda that historically plagued the Asian American community will find the yellow journalism of the Daily Bugle’s anti-Spidey crusade highly familiar. Seeing as contemporary American concerns with North Korea and China are stirring a new wave of anti-Asian sentiment, the cultural climate needs a likable and sympathetic Asian American hero for the public to relate to. Empathy is our greatest weapon against intolerance, after all.

Not to mention, the changing demographics of Spidey’s hometown informs the changing demographics of the United States. When Spider-Man was first created in 1962, Queens was 91% white. Now 53 years later, Queens is home to the most diverse neighborhoods in America; including the largest Asian American population on the East Coast. It would only make sense for a Spider-Man of today, from Queens, to be Asian American.

With the recent announcement that the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be taking Spidey back into the fold and rebooting the franchise, it seems like perfect timing to explore a fresh take on Peter Parker — one that embraces inclusiveness, representation, and the rapidly evolving demographics of both New York City and America overall.

Ilram Choi, Andrew Garfield's stunt-double in The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Ilram Choi was Andrew Garfield’s stunt-double in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

This not only falls in line with the diversity initiative that Marvel has been spearheading in the comics industry, but also comes with cinematic precedent. Previously-white characters have been recast as people of color with a fair frequency lately, especially with Marvel properties. From the now-ubiquitous Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury to Idris “Why-Can’t-We-Cast-Him-As-Everything” Elba as Heimdall (Thor), and even non-MCU Marvel characters like Michael B. Jordan’s Human Torch (Fantastic Four) and Jamie Foxx’s Electro (The Amazing Spider-Man 2).

Though there are not yet any Asian American heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe proper, last year’s release of Big Hero 6 brings us a step closer. The natural progression of this proliferation would be to use this upcoming Spider-Man reboot as an opportunity to both represent a wider audience and to do something other than showing us the same old origin story again. Besides, isn’t it about time we had a combo-breaker in terms of leading men in Marvel movies?

Chris… Chris… Chris… Goose?

Though there are plenty of Asian American actors out there who are talented enough to don the web-shooters, Steven Yeun proves to be a natural choice. Perfectly embodying The Walking Dead’s Glenn Rhee, Yeun has quietly revolutionized the characterization of Asian men in television. For decades, the typical portrayal of an Asian man has been one that’s sexless, stoic, and static. In other words: lacking in the character development that audiences can project themselves into.

Yet in defiant contrast, Yeun’s Glenn demonstrates immense growth, action-hero aptitude, and a full range of emotion — including romantic potential. Glenn’s relationship with Maggie is arguably the most well-developed and dynamic relationship on The Walking Dead, demonstrating the swoon-worthiness of Steven Yeun for any Gwen Staceys or Mary Jane Watsons that may come his way.

Now imagine she’s pulling a mask off instead of a cap, in a dark rainy alleyway… you get the picture.

Also, you can’t discount how ridiculously nerd-gasmic it would be for Steven Yeun to star in multiple huge comic franchises. Hey, if Chris Evans and Ryan Reynolds can do it, why can’t he? Granted, there are currently rumors that MCU Spidey will be going in a far younger direction than Yeun or any of the previous actors, but there’s no reason Korean American Peter Park couldn’t be a teenaged newcomer either.

Now that we’ve seen that it’s both possible and compelling to finally portray Asian American men as being fully realized characters on screen, the next step is to bring them out of the sidekick status and into a protagonist role. Like Miles Morales, there’s still something othering about being a Spider-Man variant. Yes, there is an Asian American Spider-lady variant, who’s shaping up to become a more of a romantic interest for Peter Parker. (Something I’d have to save for a feminist rant another time). I’d also be remiss in not throwing a mention to the cheese-tacular Japanese super-sentai style version either. But none of these variants carry the same weight of primacy as being the Spider-Man does.


Spider-Man has always represented the underdog “little guy.” In modern American society, people of color and immigrants serve as perpetual outsiders and underdogs. To people like us, Spider-Man is important because he shows that it’s not just the proportional strength of a spider that allows the “little guy” to do big things. Rather than navigating a world where we are constantly shown as being sidekicks and sidelined, maybe we can be the superhero for once.


The time is right for Peter Park. . Trend it.

AliceMeichiLiAlice Meichi Li is an Asian American nerd, illustrator, and daughter of working-class immigrants. She currently lives and makes art in Queens, NY. You can check out some of work and thoughts on tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter @alicemeichi.

44 thoughts on “New Movie Spider-Man Should be Peter Park

  1. I’d love this! However be prepared for the complete Fanboy shitstorm that would occur should you openly suggest this. It’s happening right now over on I09 just because someone suggested the New Spiderman could be any Man of Color.

  2. This is a damn fine article.

    Props for doing the research and injecting some heart into it!

  3. Oh please, give me a break. Hollywood shouldn’t do that for political correctness. Everyone knows Peter Parker is a white guy, just like Martin Luther King Jr. is a black male and Mulan is a Chinese girl. If you do care about Asian, create an Asian superhero (I’m pretty sure there are some) and we will be absolutely happy to see him fight alongside Caption America.

    1. I agree completely. Marvel has an abundance of Asian superheros. Iron Fist, is getting a TV show and Black Panther is getting a movie.

      1. Black Panther’s not Asian? And Iron Fist, aka Danny Rand, has the unfortunate implication of being a white guy.

    2. MLK is a real person. Mulan is a legendary Chinese figure. Peter Parker is a comic book character.

  4. Ahhhh no. Pls tell me why ppl are determined to change the race of established characters? Make a new hero and be steven yuan all you want. But please please leave Spiderman and 007 alone.

    1. Aunt Mae, come on lets just butcher established characters for the fun of it now. lol

  5. No more Peter Parker but Peter Park. Brooklyn is now diverse, not white like in Spidey’s early days. Nerd stereotyped Asians having a nerd for an action hero would feel natural to audiences. Spidey’s sense of responsibility and duty to family would feel more real in a modern day immigrant family than a white family (I made that up, not the article), being vilified by the media as Spidey is would also ring more true with a Spidey of color. An Asian spidey would be great for being high profile, badass, and doing tons to subvert the whole Hollywood emasculation of Asian men thing. Spidey has always been cast as the underdog. Make him proud to be Asian and proud to be American and make that a huge theme of the movie and I might have to nominate David to act the part. No, for real, that would be an awesome movie. Get in some 1st and 2nd generation immigrant family generational conflict issues a little bit (for the purpose of making it of wider appeal and to make it feel more real). It’d be awesome. With any luck you’d turn Spidey into a hero not just for young Asian kids but for tons of minority and immigrant children. Great idea. I think Marvel would be stupid not to do it.

    I guess the only real concern is pissing off the white people (a real concern). But, I mean, on the other hand, I’m white, I think it’s a great idea. White people want to be all politically correct and one big happy family and politically correct and like that. Market it to them as a breakthrough for Asians or something like that and they shouldn’t complain too much. This fits more anyways.

    1. Sorry. Context is missing on some of what I wrote. That’s from my facebook wall. Hence the rehashing stuff in the article and reference to David. But still. Let me repeat the relevant parts:

      “Spidey’s sense of responsibility and duty to family would feel more real in a modern day immigrant family than a white family. Make him proud to be Asian and proud to be American and make that a huge theme of the movie. That would be an awesome movie. Get in some 1st and 2nd generation immigrant family generational conflict issues a little bit (for the purpose of making it of wider appeal and to make it feel more real). It’d be awesome. With any luck you’d turn Spidey into a hero not just for young Asian kids but for tons of minority and immigrant children. Great idea. I think Marvel would be stupid not to do it.

  6. FYI, Queens is 27.5% Latino. If anything, Peter Parker should be African-American based on his backstory.

  7. Eff all you white haters who think super heroes should be white. The Last Airbender, Speed Racer and Gokku from Dragonball Z were all Asian re-castes as white, so I don’t give a rats a$$ that your white fragility can’t handle a world of diversity. I’m Asian American and frankly I don’t give a f**k what you whiny butt hurt proles think.

    1. It is not a matter of race at all. There are plenty of Asian Marvel superheros, like Iron Fist. Iron Fist is also getting a TV show.

  8. The Peter Park/Aunt Mae thing has crossed my mind before. I was thinking of it as an “Ultimate Universe” version, if they ever rebooted the Ultimate Universe at Marvel. Really though, I’d rather see Asian heroes built from the ground up, in the comics, than as replacements for white characters that would revert to their origins eventually. Amadeus Cho could be given a codename, a costume and his own book – but he hasn’t. Shang Chi could be given an all-star creative team like Matt Fraction and David Aja – but he hasn’t. BIG HERO 6, MILES FROM TOMORROWLAND, AGENTS OF SHIELD, UP, FESH OFF THE BOAT and MULAN show that Disney/ABC can totally do Asian leads though, so hopefully Marvel Comics follows suit.

    1. I also really like Silk as a character, and her title is the one I’m most looking forward to this month. Her introduction may not have been the greatest, but I would not complain if she became one of the publisher’s most high profile heroes [besides Shang-Chi, of course].

  9. Good Idea. Lets make Black Panther Chinese while were at it. Because that would make absolute fucking sense.

  10. Let the characters be as they were originally conceived. If you wish to have ethnic orientation of characters then I guess a Green Lantern type of universe would work.
    Problem is the characters that have a long history and story line also have a loyal following. While Iron Man is a stretch in physics and reality, a black iron man would push incredulity to absurd. Any successful hero must have a believable origin. Anyone could get bit by a spider, anyone could be zapped with a superpower but two things are certain, not every group has successfully created a successful superhero genre. Face it, from Jerry Siegel and Jerry Shuster to Stan Lee to Matt, Mark,Luke and John and good hero has a solid story line and maintains a solid following.

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