Black Human Torch

Okay, I’m dipping into sensitive waters here, I realize that, so let’s just agree that this post may contain some hard truths and in some parts might offend.

I’m sure many of you out there have seen the trailer for the new Fantastic Four movie. I know I have. Just to be clear, I think it looks awful and I have no intention of putting myself through it. It’s dark and gritty and that’s not how I have seen the Fantastic Four. It’s always been a fun, colorful kind of thing. That being said, one of the more hot topic issues with this iteration is casting. Johnny Storm is African American in this movie. Now, I fall on the side of the negative with this casting choice. I just feel the writers should have, as with all adaptations, stuck with the source material more closely. Johnny Storm is white. He was created white and has been white in every version of the character. I get the whole ‘the role should go to the best actor despite race’ argument, but are you telling me out of the millions of starving young actors out there today, this guy was the best of all of them? You could probably stuff a warehouse full of actors who could do the role and probably be able to pick out a Caucasian one.

I want to say race isn’t the issue here, but it is. I’m not racist, I just think a character that was conceived as being white should be represented as such in an adaptation. Now, if there was a legitimate, story-based reason for the change in race, fine. If you’re just doing it to satisfy some demographic or appeal to a certain segment of the population, not fine. That’s called whoring and I know Hollywood is no stranger at trying to satisfy everyone all at the same time, but there have to be some moments when integrity wins out. Call it optimistic, but I’m one of the few people in the world who still believe in integrity.

I’d even be okay with it if they had cast a big name African American actor to play Sue and Johnny’s father, but they didn’t. The guy they got is some character actor I remember from some educational show in the 90’s. I’ve seen him in some things, but he’s no Morgan Freeman or Sam L Jackson. He’s not the caliber of actor that you would make concessions for. He’s lucky he got this role. Biggest I’ve ever seen him in. So, they got him and he’s black, so we have to make one of the Storms black.

Now I realize some of you who are still reading this are just putting me in the ‘hater’ category right now. Fine. So be it. I just feel these characters were created by artists who had a vision. When they were hunched over their typewriters and drawing tables, they saw Johnny in their minds and they made him as they saw him. When that version was published the world accepted their vision and we all agreed that what they had given us was Johnny Storm. Fifty some years later, some slick studio execs slide in and decide something different and in casting an actor of a different race, they are saying that the creators were wrong. They’re saying that they can do better. As a writer, I am familiar with the process of creating a character and it’s not just coming up with a name and a visual concept. It’s much deeper and complex than that. You create their world. You create their childhood and their life up until the point where your story actually begins. You conceive them. You give birth to them. They are your children. I am offended when someone else’s children are treated so thoughtlessly. It’s not even like Marvel needs that much more diversity. They already have an impressive line up of heroes of other races. They have African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos. They’ve got the frickin’ United Nations of superheroes over there at the House Of Ideas. I am offended by a black Johnny Storm only because its clearly altering a character for the sake of a buck and a little promotion, which is working because here we are talking about it. I’ve fallen into the trap, but before I allow myself to go any deeper, let me get one last shot in by posing this question: What if it were reversed? What if an African American character were cast with a white actor? What if Falcon had been white in Captain America 2? War Machine? Hell, what if they switched Nick Fury back to white? Would people still be saying it’s cool and that it’s all about diversity? What if there was a JSA movie and Mr. Terrific got cast with a white guy? I think I would be less likely to make a stink about this issue if I saw the door swing both ways.

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New 52 Still Sucks And I Know Why

As many who have been reading my blogs, it is popularly known that I hate the New 52 over at DC Comics. Basically, they took 60 years of continuity and flushed it down the toilet in order to offer up a flashy redo in order to reach a younger demographic. Abandoning quality for flash. I’ve read some of the books since this launch and I’ve tried to get into it, but I just haven’t been able and I think I just realized today exactly why. It’s the lack of respect for the artists that came before.

In the comic book industry, there’s always been a sort of reverence for the past. Characters and other elements would carry the name of a beloved writer or artist as an homage. These would always be little nods that many fans would pick up on. It was usually done because the artists of the time owed their careers and inspiration to the artists of the past who blazed this path in the first place. Today I read a comment on Facebook about a current issue of one of the Batman titles and the story had to do with Harvey ‘Two-Face’ Dent’s past and in true New 52 fashion, they changed it from the original narrative. I haven’t read this book so I don’t know how it has been changed, and that’s not really the point. Someone left a comment that was critical of ‘The Long Halloween’. For those who don’t know, The Long Halloween was a special 12 part story written by Jeph Loeb and illustrated by Tim Sale. It set a new bench mark due to the scope and quality of the story. It is a classic, but because of the New 52, that story never happened. The new turks at DC took the helm and in their way said ‘thanks for the hard work people, but we’re dumping your story and doing things OUR way from now on’. It’s an insult to the great work that has come before to disregard those efforts so callously. I’m sure in their heads they still respect these artists and their contributions, but by erasing the continuity from the canvas like this, it’s a real back hand. I realize the New 52 doesn’t remove the story in real life. The story exists and is in print, but something feels wrong about the information it revealed being removed from the history of Batman and his characters. This is the kind of lack of respect that plagues the New 52 and that’s why I can’t get into it. Every page, while well drawn, drips with a subliminal disdain. Especially when you consider how many titles have been cancelled and how many characters have been dropped since the launch. It tells me this new universe wasn’t quite as well planned and thought out as they would have you believe, and isn’t  that their job? They need to figure out every detail. They need to know which characters are in the universe and which aren’t. They need to know the relationships that exist between these characters as well, and so far, I don’t see that they do. It’s like a bunch of kids came up with a cool idea and without really thinking it out, went ahead and did it and now we’re stuck with a mess of colossal proportions.

BTW, the latest horror is that the new Joker’s Daughter is getting her own monthly title. Really? I haven’t read any good press about this character and they’re putting her in a monthly? I hate this new incarnation of Joker’s Daughter. The last one had a little sex appeal at least. This one is horrible. She’s dressed like a lesbian and instead of her face being made up, she has the Joker’s rotting face strapped to her head like a mask. I’d say they’re getting their ideas by pulling suggestions out of a hat, but I think that’s giving them way too much credit. They really should have just used the New 52 as a branch universe like Marvel did with their Ultimate line. Do all the crazy crap you want and twist the DC universe however you like, but leave the main universe alone and let it flourish on its own. Let the readers decide which stories they will follow rather than cram this crap down our throats. God I hate the New 52. This is one case where DC could have taken a lesson from Marvel.