NEW YORK - Spider-Man peeled his webbed mask back Wednesday to reveal a new face -- and it's black.
In a revolution for one of the most enduring characters in comic books, Marvel Comics introduced a revamped Spider-Man whose alter-ego is a mild-mannered half-black, half-Latino teen from New York.
The new Spidey is called Miles Morales and he lives in Brooklyn with his parents, at least when he's not in his famous red and blue costume and battling world evil.
The previous incarnation, Peter Parker, was white, an orphan and came from New York's borough of Queens. He was killed off in June during a fight with his nemesis Green Goblin.
"The superhero genre has been dominated by Caucasian (white) superheroes from Superman to Batman," Axel Alonso, Marvel's chief editor, told AFP.
"When Spider-Man peels back that mask, there will be a whole new demographic of kids who we'll be reaching on a new spiritual level."
Alonso said the idea of a black Spider-Man first came up when President Barack Obama, whose father was African, ran for the White House, becoming the first president with African-American roots.
But Marvel needed the right occasion to make the switch and that came when the story ended up in Peter Parker's death. "In order to kill Spider-Man, we needed to know who to put in his place," Alonso said.
The decision to go mixed-race rather than plain black -- like the Black Panther superhero in the early 1960s -- was also important.
Alonso said his own father is Mexican and his mother British, while Spidey writer Brian Michael Bendis is Jewish and has two adopted children from Africa. "So I know for him it was definitely personal," Alonso said.
Spider-Man is one of the most hallowed characters in superhero universe. In March, a copy of the inaugural 1962 comic book sold at auction for $1.1 million. Originally the comic sold to fans for just 12 cents.
In the inaugural adventure of the new Spider-Man, a slender Miles Morales takes on a fearsome thug called the Kangaroo, ultimately delivering justice, then climbing in spidery fashion up onto a New York rooftop where he pulls the mask from his sweating face.
Crowds gather to watch the fight, which leaves windows and one car wrecked as the neophyte superhero struggles to overcome the much larger Kangaroo.
There's no love from the public either, as bystanders accuse the blue-and-red suited stranger of wearing the dead superhero's costume "in terrible taste."
"I -- I thought you died," one says. "How is Spider-Man alive now?"
In the final frame, when Morales takes off the mask, there is no one there to see his surprising new face. "Maybe the costume is in bad taste," the heavy hearted-looking teen says to himself.