Now it’s probably somewhat of an understatement to say that comic book fans can be, shall we say…outspoken, about their likes and dislikes – especially their dislikes. Oh boy, can they be outspoken about their dislikes, and when it comes to the movies made from their favorite comic books, that outspoken behavior may very well become downright vicious. Perhaps it’s because the actor playing their favorite superhero is too tall, or maybe not tall enough. Maybe it’s because they got the costume wrong, or the hair is off, or their claws aren’t shiny enough. Or, maybe it’s because they don’t like the color of the actor’s skin. Wait, what?
Here’s the story. Last week, when the cast of the new Fantastic Four movie were revealed, it was announced that Michael B. Jordan, an actor of African-American descent, would be playing the role of Johnny Storm, aka The Human Torch, a character that has been traditionally portrayed as blonde haired and blue-eyed for the past 50+ years of comic history. This, as was probably to be expected, started a slew of online backlash, and more than your average amount of racially motivated hate speech. Now, needless to say, the 27-year-old actor has seen a lot of this nonsense (he does know what the internet is after all) and has now taken it upon himself to address the situation. Here is a statement he made while at a press conference in Rome:
“It was expected. You kinda know going into it that people are used to seeing something one way, it’s a continuity thing more than anything. People don’t like change too much. But annoyed? Eh, you just kinda accept it, it is what it is. You can’t make everybody happy. You just gotta accept that and know. I’m an actor, I have to do my job. I’m going to do my job the best I can and the way I’ve been doing it my entire life, my entire career. I grew up a comic book guy, I read comic books as a kid growing up, and the Fantastic Four/Human Torch is one of my favorite characters so I’m going to give it my everything. I can’t wait. I don’t really let it bother me at all. I just want to go into it and do the best job I can. We’ll see what happens.”
Taking the high road, and not stooping to the level of race baiting going on in chat rooms and comments forums all across the web, Jordan has essentially blown off those who would have a problem with his skin color in the iconic role. I’m sure this won’t quell those haters bein’ haters, but it should be enough to make them seem as insignificant as they should be. Yes, it is a big change in the continuity of The Fantastic Four, even more so than when Samuel L. Jackson was tapped to play the usually white-skinned Nick Fury in the Avengers films (the comics at least had a black Nick Fury in their alternative Ultimate line of comics), but in the long run, why does it even matter?
Now I for one, was surprised when the announcement of Jordan was made, but by no means do I think it is a bad idea. As a die-hard comic book fan myself, I too believe that there have been some rather questionable decisions in many a superhero film, but at the same time, I say shake it up baby. Shake it up. Anyone who has seen Jordan in the film, Fruitvale Station (a role for which he should have been up for an Oscar), knows damn well the guy can act, so why not give the kid a chance? See what he can do with the character. After all, the last actor to play Johnny Storm would later go on to become Captain America. Now who wants to talk about the rumor that Dr. Doom is going to be a woman in the new movie?