An African-American Spider-Man? I don't think so!
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.
New Spider-Man is...white!
I'm all for sticking to the original continuity when casting superhero movies. For the primary characters, at least. I didn't mind too much when the Daredevil movie chose Michael Clarke Duncan to play the Kingpin. He fit the role better than most white actors would've.
Similarly, I wouldn't care if, say, a movie made Green Lantern's or Flash's girlfriend a woman of color. I don't think her being white is central to the character's "mythology." White may have been the only choice in 1960, but it isn't today.
But if you're doing an "alternate" version of the characters, then it's fine to change their ethnicity. So Spider-Man 2099 is Latino, Ultimate Nick Fury is black, Ultimate Wasp is Asian, Supreme Power's Nighthawk (an alternate version of Batman) is black, etc.
So give the First Wave Batman a full-face mask and make him black or Asian. Say his parents were gunned down in a robbery with racial overtones (just like Nighthawk). Have him become Bruce Wayne's chauffeur so he can mingle with the rich and famous.
In fact, this would be a great plot twist. First Wave could go a dozen issues without showing Batman's face. Everyone would think he was Bruce Wayne, of course, and the comics would promote that belief. Finally he pulls off his mask and...it's the chauffeur, not the playboy!
And this would make the stories better. Doc Savage and Bruce Wayne are both rich white elitists. I guess the Spirit was a middle-class detective before he became a mystery man, but with his suit and lack of a full-time job, he seems more elite than not. I don't see him taking a stance radically different from the other two.
Imagine if the three white guys (including Bruce Wayne) have to deal with a street-wise black man as an equal. Especially if their attitudes are rooted in 1939 rather than 2010. To me that's more interesting than watching two wealthy industrialists compare the minor differences in their crimefighting approaches.
Again, harkening back to the 1939 era of rich gentleman crimefighters seems problematical at best. Who else is going to appear as a First Wave hero? Millionaire Oliver Queen (Green Arrow)? Millionaire Britt Reed (Green Hornet)? Millionaire Wesley Dodds (Sandman)? Millionaire Sandra Knight (Phantom Lady)? How about more street-level characters and fewer elitists?
For more on the subject, see Dismissing the Pro-Airbender Arguments and Denzel Washington as JFK?
Below: Nighthawk as a black Batman.