Not All Human Torch Haters Are Racist: The Black Comic Nerd Perspective

 Guest Editorial by Tango Jordan

Actor Michael B. Jordan addressed some of the racist things said about his casting as the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four deboot (yeah, I'm going with that, it's a new word that works in this instance) about to be released by 20th Century Fox and offered some advice to the fans. It pretty much fell in line with the sentiments echoed by Adam Orth, former Microsoft employee who famously offered this advice about the criticism over XBox One always-on connectivity:

"Get Over It."

    Trust me, with everything that's going on in the world today, every time I open my Facebook page I'm very aware of the racist trolls out there and the things they will say. I recently posted about the reception of Obama to Twitter and I had trolls coming to my page to outline how Democrats have said "racist" things too, which is just the stupidest response of tit-for-tat you could imagine. With all that being said, though, I'm not letting Michael B. Jordan off the hook with that one: not everyone's objections are racist in nature, and as a Black Nerd, I think I have a responsibility to provide a counterpoint to this...

     I was overjoyed to see Michael Clarke Duncan (RIP) cast as Kingpin in the Daredevil movie (and still kind of like the movie, sue me). I thought that was a gutsy move, I enjoyed the portrayal also. A very brave and diverse casting choice.

    If we want to take things one step further and more recent, let's look at the casting of Detective West on the hit show "The Flash". Jesse Martin has been stellar, and despite all the hatred heaped upon Iris West's character (which parallels the hatred thrown at Katie Cassidy's character of Laurel on "Arrow" but that's another blog) during my livetweet sessions, none of that blame can be placed at the feet of Candice Patton, the actress. The connection between Barry Allen and the West Family has been seamless (the scenes in the season finale? THE FEELS!) No backlash there. 

    So why all the backlash against Michael B. Jordan and Fox for his casting? Why am I not up in arms about those characters being recast and I am vehemently opposed to what Fox has done? 

    Let's pull back from the picture for a moment and look at what's going on between Fox and Marvel. Sony and Marvel have managed to work out a deal between them to allow Spider-Man to rejoin the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I personally feel like the reason that this happened was because Amy Pascal *is* in fact, a racist. She needed a win after the "12 Years A Slave" joke about President Obama, and the one way she could guarantee it would happen was to walk Spidey over to Kevin Feige and let things get back to right.  She needs a big "W" in that column.  With the recent casting of Asa Butterfield and the announcement that he would appear in Captain America:Civil War, Sony is plugged into the Marvel Money Machine ("Age Of Ultron" pretty much repeated the success of the first installment and is well on the way to making an easy billion dollars). I'd like to remind everyone that this deal cost nothing to any of the parties involved. No money changed hands, so this is not a money issue, at least not from the Marvel side of things.

Mystery Of The Missing Marvel Money Makers
    Things between Fox and Marvel got complicated after the success of X-Men: Days Of Future Past. Fox doesn't believe it needs to work with Marvel, and they are content to squeeze as many dollars as they can out of the Marvel franchises it holds (with spin-off movies for Deadpool and The New Mutants already announced, and rumors of an X-Men tv show). While they may be repairing the damage Brett Rattner inflicted with that shitstorm called "X3: The Last Stand" (and Origins, and The Wolverine... hell, MOST of the movies made except First Class) X-Men at least STARTED right. Fantastic Four (from a comic nerd standpoint) was never fully on-the-rails with changes to Doom and then the Galactus-As-A-Smoke-Monster in the sequel.  Just really bad movie-making choices.

     The relationship has been sour for a while. While nobody is willing to own up to it, there's been rumors that Marvel has instructed any new writers on the X-Titles that they are not allowed to create new characters while Fox owns the franchise. The rise in the profile of Inhumans in the mainstream has been due to Marvel being unable to use the word "mutant". Hell, there's a Secret Wars cover circulating that's a reissue where the FF have been cut out of the picture altogether!

    Further showing just how contentious this relationship has become, Marvel decided that if Fox was going to go forward with the plans they had regarding the Fantastic Four movie, they would cancel the series with issue #645, then went on to cancel Deadpool, too. Don't forget, Marvel has already killed off Wolverine in the comics. Marvel's position is that they aren't going to do anything to provide anything in the way of support for what they do. If they go forward, they go forward on their own. 
   Let's think about this: if it's about money, Marvel just cut off their revenue stream from their end. I think we can completely discount money being the source of angst in this case.

    So with all that out on the table, I think we can say that if there's that much beef coming out of Marvel for what's being done, Michael B cannot attribute all the nerd-rage to people who are just racist. That's a cop out. My own personal reservations line up with the problems we've seen before from how Fox handled the first movie. If the changes they made to Doom in the first film were mildly annoying, the things I've heard about the new movie could send me into a full-on conniption fit.

Grim Reaper or Fox Studios Executive?
   When they announced Michael's selection as Torch, I said "Oh, great. What, did Sue's family adopt him? Different Strokes much?" I was right about the adoption, but wrong about which sibling; Sue is the adopted one.

   Why ANYBODY thought this was even remotely necessary, I will never fucking know.

   Going back to my earlier example of Jesse Helms and Candice Patton, if Detective West is Black, then Iris West is Black. If they decide to introduce Wally West/Kid Flash later on, then we can assume that he will be... wait for it.... BLACK. If some genius decides that "Oh, they're going to adopt a white kid, and he'll be Wally West." WHY?! 

This is just lazy. It's like you decided you would "be bold" by flipping the script, then halfway through it you pussed out or something. Let them BOTH be Black! Johnny AND Sue Storm. THAT'S different. That's something I would have seen and said "Oh, wow.... maybe they are trying to bring something new to the table." This? This and the new Doom origin are just terrible ideas. Some of the changes they made I could have rolled with. Inter-dimensional travel? Sure, it's the Negative Zone. Let the exposure to the cosmic rays happen there. Updating things, but keeping the spirit of the project. But the idea that Reed Richards warps space around his body thereby giving the appearance of stretching? This sounds like Brett Rattner (director of the 3rd X-Men) all fucking over again. Some things you can "tweak" or fiddle with... some things, not so much.

    So, trolling aside, there's a contingent of "Fanboys" who have good reason to come with the angry mob routine. If this was a Marvel Studios film and Michael had been given the part, most likely I wouldn't have a thing to say.  Fox doesn't exactly fill us with confidence. There is a laundry list of things they've already done wrong, changing Torch's race is one symptom of a much larger disease. Taken out of context it seems like a 'race' thing, but it's the same as when Lady Viper in The Wolverine was suddenly a mutant, or when Juggernaut (X3 The Last Stand, yet again) was made a mutant. Same exact situation, in fact. It's heavy-handed Hollywood dismissing the fans because they know better than we do somehow.

    They have done more wrong than right.

I know, I know, this angry mob isn't nearly nerdy enough.
    Marvel has a legacy that I think they are trying hard to protect. Kevin Feige has proven to be of Beastmode-God-Status to those of us devouring everything they put out. Fox, on the other hand, seems to screw the family pooch every chance they get, so trying to chalk this up to just close-minded, short-sighted racists and bigots is probably just as close-minded and short-sighted. Michael says the movie is about "a family" and it's "okay to like it." Well, some of us more than like it, we love these characters because they represent our childhood, and no amount of Campfire Kum-ba-yah Rainbow Coalition propaganda bullshit is going to allow us to overlook a blatant money-grab by Fox...

     So, while you think you're "Torching the Color Line", you can just pump your brakes there, Jackie Robinson. Idris Elba's Heimdall in Thor is a way better example (even if he's a little ungrateful).

    You're just a speed bump on the road to Fox relinquishing these characters to people who care about the story first and the box office take second.


  1. Wait...... I just know I will get roasted for this, but JUGGARNAUT ISN'T A MUTANT??? How have I missed that for all these years? My whole life has been a lie.......

  2. Nah, G-Man. Cain Marko's abilities are magical, they come from the Ruby of Cytorrak. Because he and Professor X are "brothers", the confusion is understandable. (They are step-brothers).