Just when you thought the white-washing stuff was over and done with at Marvel Studios, here’s a brand new thing to re-incite it. Heroic Hollywood is reporting that 14-year-old New York actor Michael Barbieri, currently shooting The Dark Tower for Sony, has been cast as a character based on Ganke Lee in Sony and Marvel’s upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming, due for release on July 7, 2017.
It’s worth pointing out that in the comics, Ganke Lee is a heavy-set Korean-American teenager and is the best friend of Miles Morales, the popular half-black, half-Hispanic teen who becomes Spider-Man in Marvel’s “Ultimate” universe (which was folded in to the main Marvel Universe in 2015).
ComicBook’s sources say that Ganke will be “a new one” but is influenced by Brian Michael Bendis’s Ganke from the Ultimate Spider-Man comic books. ComicBook says Ganke’s “affinity for Superheroes and unwavering optimism and support of his friend are his standout characteristics” will be found in Barbieri’s interpretation.
Except, you know, that he was a cool Asian character. This isn’t to take away from Barbieri’s success (Quoth the Kanye, “I’m real happy for you and I’mma let you finish…”), but it is a bummer another Marvel character of color has been changed to a white actor in the live-action version.
This isn’t even the first time: Amadeus Cho a Korean-American boy genius who is currently the Hulk in Marvel’s ongoing series Totally Awesome Hulk was played by the adult Martin Starr in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk.
Unlike Amadeus, Ganke isn’t “cool” in the traditional sense. He’s a bit of a loser, he’s overweight, and is obsessed with Legos. But Marvel fans have loved Ganke and his devotion to his best friend in the few years he’s been in the Marvel Universe. He also probably looks like a lot of readers; if I log in to my MySpace you’ll see how much I look like Ganke when I was in middle school.
And Ganke resonates. A moment from Ultimate Spider-Man #2 when the hottest girl in school, Gwen Stacy, kissed him because he gave her a gift (of freaking Legos) has been reblogged over and over on Tumblr.
While Tom Holland’s portrayal of Peter Parker was celebrated following Captain America: Civil War, there was still a tangible disappointment that he wasn’t the popular Miles Morales iteration, which has been a celebrated figure of diversity since his introduction in 2011. And now, even his best friend can’t be on the screen.
Spider-Man: Homecoming will be in theaters July 7, 2017.