Thursday, February 27, 2014

Black And White And Red All Over!


So the producers of the next Fantastic Four movie have broken through the hype cycle with their clever casting of a black actor in the role of Johnny Storm, the Human Torch. My first thought was they might be severing the family connections which form the core of the Fab 4, but then I realized my aged pre-conceptions were showing since multi-ethnic families are hardly unknown nor even especially uncommon in the modern world. So after that sobering bit of reflection, I discover I can find no objection. What would they be?

Jack Kirby and Sol Brodsky
When first revived by Stan and Jack so very long ago, Johnny Storm was supposed to be the star of the FF, the kid with the blonde locks and the good looks who was going to be the one the boys all wanted to be and the girls all wanted to date. He was set up as a bit of heartthrob, an understandably immature teenager suddenly gifted with a amazing superpower and wild celebrity. He had his Justin Beiber moments for sure, but soon was a solid member of Marvel's flagship title.

Carl Burgos

Of course being human at all was a considerable change from the original Torch, created decades before by Carl Burgos, one of Timely's earliest superstars. Despite his android origins, that Torch too was a handsome blonde man, at least in his looks, an irony given that the Torch and his colleagues at the time were pretty seriously engaged in battling the Nazi ideals of the day. There was always a bit of a two-way oddness to those earliest comics.

Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott
So changing the skin color of one of the more famous Marvel characters is no big thing after moving from machine to man to begin with. Clearly the producers are counting on the fact that when Johnny yells those famous words "Flame On!" all anyone in the audience will see is red, the good kind. And all they will see is green.

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16 comments:

  1. Yeah, I'm not sure how they ever could make a good Fantastic Four movie, Rip. I just can't picture what it would look like.
    How are you going to portray the Thing and Mr. Fantastic (and his stretchy powers) on screen without having them look hokey?
    The Invisible Girl would be fairly easy. Just have a door or two swing shut by itself. Paranormal.
    And whose gonna play the Mole Man?
    I'm thinking Jack Nicholson. It's a role he's grown into, like a Shakespearean actor grows into the role King Lear.
    Seriously, I look forward to this movie in dread.

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    1. The Thing I can see. He can be made bigger and scarier and he can work with CG, but Mr.Fantastic is a problem. There's nothing they cannot show, but making it look like a serious power is going to be hard. Plastic Man and Elongated Man are funny for a reason.

      Nicholson as Mole Man! Never thought of it, but you're right, he's perfect. Ranting to the Moloids is the ideal acting trope for him, he does that kind of thing anyway.

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  2. Such a change illustrates the fact that superhero movies aren't made for readers of the comicbooks they're based on. Personally, I'd prefer superhero movies to be more faithful to the source material (where possible) and not to make changes merely for the sake of it. And before anyone starts thinking that anyone who objects to Johnny Storm changing skin colour is a racist (although some of them might be), personally speaking, I'd be just as irked if Luke Cage, T'Challa, or James Rhodes were turned into white guys for movies about them. I want to see the characters that are familiar to me - not vague approximations with similar powers.

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    1. Makes sense. One could ask why lease a property to develop into film and then turn that product into something else. But likely all the producers see is a guy on fire, not a character.

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  4. These movies don't really care about the characters or continuity of the comics - the X-Men First Class movie was set in 1962 but included X-Men from all different eras. They just steal the basic ideas and then do whatever they like with them - I wouldn't mind so much if they admitted it but in every interview or press release the producers and actors bleat on about how much they respect the characters - I wonder if they've even heard of the characters before they sign on the dotted line.

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    1. Some of them might've, but likely this is just some pleasant noise to calm the natives at ComiCon. The cold fact is that as popular as some of these projects are as comics, they must appeal much more broadly to succeed as films.

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  5. Kid, your argument would have more merit if the Samuel L. Jackson Nick Fury originally created for the Ultimates line hadn't turned out to be one of the best ideas Marvel has had in the last 10-15 years. :)

    I mean I definitely see your point and am inclined to completely agree with you, but I also know that even though it hurts us in our nostalgia, it doesn't have to be the end of the world.

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    1. Well, I wasn't really arguing, nor was I suggesting that it was the end of the world. It does make me wonder 'though, what it is that movie makers see in a comic when they change what it is that has appealed to readers for decades. As for Nick Fury, I don't see why they didn't just introduce a black character with a different name. Being called Nick Fury doesn't really add anything to the character in any way.

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    2. It's all about name recognition. they know they can change as much as they want but as long as they call it "The Fantastic Four" they'll get a certain number of fans to come out and see it.

      Good point. I don't know why they didn't just create a new character.

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    3. One name comes to mind....Herbie!

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  6. totally get what you're saying, &, yeah, fair enough, but, to be honest, I don't care. obviously, I care enough to comment on it, but I probably won't like the film, regardless of who's in it. of all the comics I can think of, the Fantastic Four are the only one I want to see a genuinely faithful adaptation of, but I'm also painfully aware that, no matter how much I want to see Kirby's Fantastic Four on the big screen, it's never going to happen. they can cast whoever they want in whatever role they want, and it won't matter. I'll see it, I'll probably moan about it a bit, and then I'll send it to that place where the last two FF films, The Spirit, Howard the Duck, and Man of Steel all live.

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    1. As weak as they were, I personally wouldn't put the last two FF films with The Spirit. At least they resembled the original. But I take your point.

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  7. I would've thought the personality of the character is more important than physical resemblance. Hugh Jackman is far too tall for Wolverine but it worked. Should they have cast someone based on stature? Silly. They can make the whole FF black for all I care AS LONG AS THE MOVIE IS GOOD.

    As for movies being true to the comics, the comics aren't even true to themselves with all the inconsistencies and "retcons" so to me it's no big deal. If you're okay with the previously never mentioned Elektra suddenly being a key figure from Matt Murdock's past, or Wanda & Pietro suddenly being Magneto's kids, why are you not okay with X-Men assembled from different eras?

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    1. Your points are well taken. Marvel has changed up the game so many times that a standard is at best flexible. But there are certain expectations that highly visual characters come loaded with. If the Hulk ain't green the crowds will be startled despite his not being green in many comics now. If Spider-Man ain't Peter Parker the crowds will be surprised even if in many comics show the alternative. Captain pulls off the mask and a black face is beneath it would be an interesting flip for fan-goers, but they'd know it was off-model.

      As for Hugh Jackman, he's fantastic as Wolverine and you're right he's too tall, but he's made the role his own just like Adam West redefined the Batman for several generations. Thank goodness we're about to wash that out of our systems after too many years of Zap! Pow! and Zing!

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  8. Yes, now we need to hose down the decks to remove the scum and grime of the Bale version...I hope the pendulum swings back to fun super heroes sometime soon.

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