(PCM) May 23, 2015 Fox’s Fantastic Four reboot scheduled for release in the summer of 2015 is trying hard to build hype.
Amidst the Fantastic Four hype, a brewing argument against its cast by purist comic book readers is gaining attention beyond pulp circles. It’s a retread of an old debate comic book enthusiasts had in 2013. It was rumored a Fantastic Four reboot may have a black actor (Michael B. Jordan) portraying Johnny Storm aka The Human Torch. The debate re-ignited in 2014 when it was confirmed. Now once again in 2015 it’s back. This past week Michael B. Jordan responded through social media to criticisms a black man shouldn’t be playing a character that has has only been portrayed as white. He has a right to stand his ground. Let his performance speak and then judge.
Wouldn’t it be nice if it were that easy? But extreme critics on each side of the issue along with thought police won’t let it go. Let’s look at this situation with an attempt to explain how we got here.
How do you describe Johnny Storm? You know, one fourth of the Fantastic Four. The comic book super hero. Johnny’s cocky. He considers himself a ladies man. He’s athletic. He’s loyal while being a bit of rebel team player. He’s Sue Storm’s brother. Oh and he’s pyrokenetic.
Johnny Storm’s skin color is hardly important to his character. So why is his skin color making news? First it’s good for hyping the film and second it gives the Social Justice Warriors (SJW) a platform in which to preach. There we are done. You can stop reading now.
Still here? Oh, that’s right, a pointing fingers back at the SJW requires a proper explanation otherwise you are labeled a racist. Let’s begin.
First, understand that comic book readers are the base audience. Without them, any movie is a non-starter. Comic book readers are vital to the process. They are like any other reader. They long to see on the big screen what they’ve experienced from source material.
The comic book purist argument has been over more than Johnny Storm’s skin in the Fantastic Four. Purist argue the entire team of Fantastic Four members have been adulterated. They’ve been altered in the upcoming 2015 reboot in ways that drift far from canon. It’s happened before with The Punisher (2008). The Fantastic Four reboot changes don’t beg criticism, the changes demand criticism — even if The Fantastic Four are no longer A-list superheroes.
Changes to The Fantastic Four in the 2015 reboot are numerous. The first concern isn’t so much a change but the reason for the changes. Director Josh Trank. His vision is to make a Christopher Nolan type Fantastic Four. The 2015 Fantastic Four reboot won’t be a lighthearted Marvel affair.
Trank told the actors not to read any Fantastic Four comics. The film wouldn’t follow them. Trank himself is also in an interracial relationship. So in the end, the director has decided his vision of what he wants the Fantastic Four to be is beyond the original source material. Josh Trank’s goal to make the Fantastic Four film he wants the world to experience has come at a price. Signs of dissatisfaction hit Fox studio executives too.
The signs of poor story telling are so bad studio executives have insisted and gotten their way with a list of re-shoots. These warning signs are where this film began to make the discussion rounds with comic book readers in 2014. Talk of how the re-shoots involved mistreatment of film crew built up even more animosity towards the film. Where was the Social Justice Warriors on this issue? Yet racism is now center stage in the talking points against comic book fandom’s criticisms.
The most dramatic change to the Fantastic Four are the origin powers. Diversifying the race of the members isn’t even a comparison concern. Social Justice Warriors (SJW) love it when comic book purists rail against changes because historically most popular comic book super heroes are male and/or white. So if a change hits that category, racism becomes the only point in the argument to matter. It isn’t just raised to the top of the list, nothing else can be debated. Kind of like now — with actor Michael B. Jordan tweeting his feelings regarding the anti-black Johnny Storm concern. YES, Jordan has a legit gripe but for him to debate only that concern is unfair to the larger argument — Many changes have potentially ruined the Fantastic Four reboot.
To those that argue his character shouldn’t be black and direct their outrage at him, the question is “Why”? He’s performing a role. He has zero to do with the character change you don’t agree with. Many don’t like that Ben Affleck will portray Batman. Until he’s on screen and you see the performance don’t judge the actor.
Purist note that Johnny Storm is changed from white to black in their criticism of the up-coming film, but they are more concerned with other damning changes to the Fantastic Four. Johnny Storm’s skin color doesn’t impact anything and most – let’s repeat it – MOST purist don’t care if Johnny Story is black. His skin color is not tied to his history in the comics at all.
Take a character like Black Panther and change him to white, and a purist will argue that change should never be made because Black Panther’s skin color is tied to his culture and heritage. The argument holds up better if you ask if Wonder Woman can be a man.
Yet, anything that involves the male/white argument in comics is a trap the SJW’s won’t allow anyone out of. Mention skin color or race and it’s ‘gotcha’ social politics. The problem is when you start an argument with a true geek who has little to know social skills and you’ll find some extremely inarticulate words being spewed. SJW’s jump to point to these few as an example of all who appose the current politically correct point of view.
So we have twits on twitter making racist stances on Johnny Storm being black and on the other hand we have bloggers and well known publication staff writers writing “in your face” articles that Johnny Storm is black and if you have a problem with it you need to check your racism meter.
The race argument by itself is obviously worth everyone defending their point of view over, but the fact is with super hero films getting their spotlight in recent years, the changes to characters race show a pattern of treatment towards source material that does has over time raised eyebrows with purist comic book readers.
The Fantastic Four movie is a perfect example of why any argument against a black Johnny Storm is considered harassment or an attack on civilized society. While purist comic book readers on a whole are discounting the film because it drifts so far off cannon and lost relevance in the comic book reading community, social justice warriors are standing on soap boxes scanning the crowd looking for dissension ready to scream racism.
Is it wrong to oppose a change to a character that has existed for a long time? No. It happens all the time. Characters that jump from print to the big screen are criticized all the time for not being enough like the character readers first became familiar with. Hunger Games character Katniss Everdeen is a petite spry thin girl. We got an athletic build in Jennifer Lawrence. Why did it matter to readers? It mattered because in print Katniss took to fighting high tree tops. Her size made her ability plausible. But no matter the argument, people that knew the character wanted ‘the character’ to come to life. Not be re-interpreted.
Tom Bombadil was completely dropped from the film adaptation Lord of the Rings. Peeves the Poltergeist – same in Harry Potter films. Speaking of Harry Potter, changes to his eye color? What true believer didn’t take issue with that? It was a fair argument, (btw the eye color change was due to Daniel Radcliffe being unable to wear colored contact lenses).
The issue of character changes seems to only become ugly when it is about changing a white character to a black character. The race card enters the argument and all other points are cast out. This article is meant to make the case that race isn’t the issue among comic book readers. Comic book readers have the same concerns any book to film critic has.
Does race of a character matter when re-telling a book in celluloid? The change to visual media is meant to take over where words do not. Being faithful to print seem only to important to those that want to experience on film what the experienced in print. Red in Shawshank Redemption is named Red because he is Irish with red hair. On film Morgan Freeman filled in not just nicely but gave the film more meaning as Freeman the actor is an ideal every-man.
In the first Daredevil film with Michael Duncan Clarke as Kingpin, the performance was uninspiring. No one in the comic book community readership complained Kingpin was changed from white to black, and the SJW’s where nowhere in sight as the thought police. Why? Because it’s only in recent history has social media empowered so many people that normally have no voice.
To borrow some wisdom from Spider-Man’s uncle Ben, “With great power comes great responsibility“. It’s clear a lot of irresponsibly people have a loud voice on the Internet in this modern day.
It happens all the time. Directors change characters hair color, eye color, skin color, race, etc… and it always gets criticized. Yet when the comic book community gets critical of changes to characters in print as they move to film, the call to action for the world at large to do soul searching is a loud and obnoxious drum.
Comic book purists can just about care less that the director of the film has taken the rightful liberty of bringing in a modern culture issue of diversity in current comic books and altering the race of well known characters Sue and Johnny Storm.
At this time in print Captain America is black. There is not an ounce of backlash in the comic book community about this fact. It’s accepted without question. Why? Because the Captain America helm is being taken up by a long standing character that has been a part of the Captain America circle for decades. That black character is a superhero too. Sam Wilson, aka Falcon. The argument is and has been for some time, source material.
With all these points, comic book purists are not against changes in color. Samuel Jackson is now Nick Fury and again no one is complaining. Make any change it is bound to draw criticism. Make a change and it’s good and you get credit. But make a change no one likes, don’t find a reason to call someone a bigot or racist.
Race is a discussion racists enjoy arguing over. Those begging for more black super heroes only need to walk into any comic book store and choose from: Luke Cage, Captain America, War Machine, Bishop, Black Panther, Spider-Man (Miles Morales is half black half Hispanic), Batwing, Spectre, Cyborg, Blade, Spawn and many many others.
Fantastic Four is scheduled for reboot release on August 7, 2015.