In February 2014 it was announced that African American actor Michael B. Jordan, would be playing the role of the Johnny Storm a.k.a “The Human Torch” in theFantastic Four reboot. This caused a backlash from many fans, arguing that it went against the original storyline, questioning the logic of the Human Torch’s sister, Susan Storm a.k.a “The Invisible Woman”, remaining white.
The issue of race has been a sensitive area in the comic book community. Prior to Michael B. Jordan, fans expressed a similar discontent, with the casting of Idris Elba as Heimdall in the 2011 film Thor. Most recently documents leaked onto the internet detailing the licencing agreement between Marvel and Sony Pictures, stating the legal requirements of Spider-Man:
Whilst many media outlets highlighted the absurdity of these requirements, Stan Lee stated “we originally made him white. I don’t see any reason to change that … It has nothing to do with being anti-gay, or anti-black, or anti-Latino, or anything like that … I just see no reason to change that which has already been established when it’s so easy to add new characters. I say create new characters the way you want to. Hell, I’ll do it myself”.
The thought of Spider-Man being a black super hero on the wide screen, is a cool and surreal idea, which will hopefully manifest itself in to reality one day. But until then it’s about time we started looking at other superheroes that represent diversity and have proven to be favourable among comic book fans. In the space of seven years, we have had five Spider-Man movies, isn’t about time Hollywood left Spidey alone for a while?
In 1993 a group of African American comic book creators, came together to create Milestone Media, which showcased a group of socially, culturally and ethnically diverse superheroes, exploring a range of social issues not greatly touched on by Marvel or DC comics. One of the most successful superheroes from Milestone Media was Static, who achieved his own TV show in 2000 called Static Shock .
Overall Milestone Media created a range of superheroes, that didn’t necessarily fit the status quo. For example comic book hero, Icon was an alien with super powers, who crash landed on Earth and morphed into an African American, when he wasn’t crime fighting, he was a corporate lawyer. Static was a teenager who gained electromagnetic powers during a gang war and sought to use them to combat inner city crimes, such as gang violence. Static’s best friend Rick Stone was homosexual and issues of homophobia, were regularly discussed in Milestone Media.
As people debate about historically white superheroes becoming black, there is a mass of diverse superheroes out there, with fans that want see their stories on the big screen. Thankfully Marvel has acknowledged this idea and recently hired Selma movie director and co-writer, Ava DuVernay to direct the upcoming Black Panther film, set to be released in 2018. Hopefully we see more diversity on the big screen. We all love to see our favourite web slinger, but it’s about time the narratives of different superheroes start being told.
This article originally appeared on Next Up Magazine. Shades of Noir has been granted full permission to use this article and share across their different platforms.