Sunday, June 16, 2024

BHM: Comic to Screen Edition

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I’m just going to say it: It’s black history month, so I have 1 more week to geek out about some of my favorite black characters coming (and returning) to the big and small screen, before it becomes redundant. As we view the screen’s version of these iconic characters, let’s make use of this month and review some of their histories, shall we?


1. Black Panther/T’Challa

One of the first African characters to appear in comic books, T’Challa made his debut in 1966 as part of the Fantastic Four series. He is the ruling prince in Wakanda, which actually premiered in the theaters before he did. His connection to the Marvel world is partly due to interest in the western heroes, and the amount of vibranium that is stored in Wakanda. If you don’t recall, vibranium is almost as strong as adamantium, and is the material that makes up Captain America’s shield. Black Panther was raised by his father to be steps ahead of his enemies, which is what attracted him to groups such as the Avengers and the Fantastic Four.

Many actors have donned the Panther mask in cartoons and even a mini-series, but Chadwick Boseman will take the role for the upcoming films. T’Challa will make his debut in Captain America’s Civil War, and be (finally) given his own movie in 2018, which we’re already seeing some drama from on the directorial side. Though they are currently on different sides of the Marvel/Fox feud that separates a truly epic Civil War, Ororo Munroe (Storm) and T’Challa do wed and divorce in the comics, but not without a few super powered fights in the interim. The fact that they’re introduced at the same time makes me way too optimistic. Which brings me to the goddess herself:


2. Storm/Ororo Munroe

Quite possibly one of the most acclaimed mutants of the X-realm, Ororo Munroe never ceases to amaze me on and off screen. It’s needless to say that I was attached from childhood, and basically started my (and many other girls) interest in superheroes. First introduced in Giant Size X-Men in 1975, Storm is the first syndicated black female superhuman, and stars in both DC and Marvel comics. Goddess by title and abilities (she was dubbed Queen of Asgard for a brief time after losing her powers as well as a goddess in Wakanda), she is considered an Omega level mutant gifted with control over the elements. Her role in the X-Men only increases over time, even at one time winning her leadership without powers. Her character was meant to encompass both African and American culture, being raised in Harlem and Cairo, so her importance spans continents.
The first screen inception of Storm came in the first X-Men, starring Halle Berry. She was received with mixed reviews, mostly because they stripped away a lot of her authenticity in the comics as the films progressed (also, the writing- I was forced to remember the infamous toad line). In short, our African queen was lost in translation. But, considering how well X-Men: First Class has has handled most of their characters, seeing her blast on to the screen in Apocalypse just gave me chills. While there are qualms with the casting, what’s done is done, and my hope is that Alexandra Shipp will provide Storm with her due gravitas.

Extra Fun Facts: She has claustrophobia from an attack in Cairo when she was younger, and was a skilled thief prior to encountering Charles Xavier.
Also she was a vampire queen named Bloodstorm, after a torrid love affair with Dracula. Gotta love alternate universes.


3. Falcon/Sam Wilson

Sam Wilson, Marvel’s first African-American character (note the difference), takes his place alongside Captain America as Falcon-although he had a myriad of aliases, such as Brother Falcon and Snap. He made his debut in Captain America #117, with his trained falcon Redwing in tow. He fought off the Red Skull with a band of islanders turned slaves, and under the urging of Cap, stayed at his side to form a team. It was revealed much later that Falcon is actually a mutant. Considering the route of the Captain America movies today, we may see Sam assume another role as he did in the comics…in which that would be pretty badass. Stay tuned.


4. Power Man/Luke Cage

Born as Carl Lucas and raised in Harlem, Luke Cage was a creation from sentiments of assassination. He was created after the deaths of both MLK and Malcolm X, and depending on how his television series starts out, I could probably write an entire article about this connection and his powers. In fact, I call dibs right now…anyway, I regress.Introduced in 1972, the release Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1 makes him the leading man of his own comic book. A former gang member, Cage volunteers for an experiment which goes awry, leaving him with super-durable skin and enhanced strength.

Our leading man is Mike Colter, and besides his good looks, his take on the character brings a sense of vulnerability to the screen. It is obvious that he and Jessica Jones cross paths more than once, but I’d really like to see if they give us a different perspective- or ending- in the show. I’m even more excited about Luke’s appearance because of what he is rumored to bring as a Hero For Hire: Iron Fist and his “daughters”, Misty Knight and Colleen Wing. There’s two lovely ladies that will definitely grace your screens.


5. Iron Patriot/War Machine/James Rhodes

James Rhodes (Rhodey) was a US Marine and Stark International’s pilot before donning the War Machine suit we all know and love today. Played by Terrance Howard in the first Iron Man and switched out with Don Cheadle right after (I kind of wonder if they didn’t think we’d notice), Rhodey provides comedic relief along with great strategic skills. Along with helping the Avengers on a regular basis, he also joined the west coast branch. While we have seen him pose as Iron Man briefly, he does take on the role full time a few times, which we will hopefully see in the later movies. I’m so down for a Rhodey-led crusade.

Extra Fun Facts: At one point, James Rhodes became the billion dollar black man when Tony had to rebuild all 4 of his limbs after a terrorist attack in Dubai. I mean, while this is terrible, it would be rather cool to see…


6. Amanda Waller

Finally, we have some notable DC characters coming to the screen (Sorry, Morgan Freeman, you were cool but…who were you?). If I cannot thank Suicide Squad for anything else, it’s this. Amanda Waller is basically the Nick Fury of the Squad, bonding supervillains under the cause of injected nano-bombs and possible freedom. Established in Legends #1 in 1986, Waller was a product of the Cabrini-Green projects and a widow with her children murdered. While not superhumanly gifted, she became a government agent, and combined elements from the first two incarnations of the Suicide Squad to provide her own team. Waller was played by Angela Bassett in the Green Lantern (a waste, to be quite honest), and will be reprised by Viola Davis (good save). Any controversy I’ve seen from her fanbase is how they slimmed her down from her original, somewhat formidable form. Let’s hope Viola Davis will deliver…which she usually does.

7. Nick Fury
Despite his first appearance being in May 1963, Nick Fury is not the Samuel L Jackson we know and love. In fact, almost nothing about the Nick Fury on screen is the same as the one on the pages, perhaps besides a potential backstory (oh, and the eyepatch). David Hasselhoff first played this character onscreen in 1998, but with the introduction of the Avengers franchise, the mother****** himself now is the face of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the creator of our beloved team. Remember in my last article when I said that most creative race changes in either direction can be met with disdain? Well, this man seems to have overcome that one, as I barely saw any criticism…or maybe I just blocked it out. The more likely answer, however, is that SLJ knows how to play a leader/badass, and with his delivery in The Avengers, not many could even complain. Anyway, on to the backstory!
Fury, much like a good percentage of our heroes, was born and raised in New York (Hell’s Kitchen, specifically). Introduced in Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #1 (May 1963),  he has been involved in the dealings of the U.S. Government for the bulk of his career, formerly serving in the military during World War II and befriending characters such as Gabe Jones, a canon black soldier and one of the original black syndicated characters. During this time, Fury becomes accidentally inoculated with the Infinity Formula, giving him enhanced longevity and villains seeking to obtain it. Didn’t do much for the eye though…
From there he went on to the CIA, payed his dues, and long story short became the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. A key difference between the comics and movies is Fury’s role in the Avengers. Rather than creating the team itself, Nick played an integral role in allying their abilities with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s agenda. It could be interpreted that way in the movies, but I get a serious leader/founder vibe.
His frequent appearances in the Avengers movies have been decreasing over time, and he will not be featured in Captain America’s Civil War. That does not mean the end of Nick Fury, however, as Samuel L. Jackson is looking for a way to extend this contract…plus Infinity War is supposed to have an estimated 63 characters, so why delete now? In fact, we should help him out. Petition, anyone?



7. Deadshot/Floyd Lawton

One of the characters I’m confused, yet optimistic about. I read some of New 52’s Suicide Squad and knew pretty quickly that it was not a Will Smith lookalike under that suit. Which is why and he’s in the bonus round, and obviously caused some debate in the nerd forums about why they changed his race. Taking my last article into account, I ask if it’s truly consequential. My answer? No. He could easily be raised in both the old and new versions of his origin story (similar to Batman’s) and have the same goal as a black man. It’s interesting casting, but unless Smith plays the character wrong, then we have some potential here.

Upon further research Deadshot started off as a self-made hero, crafted in Batman’s shadow.The character first appears in Batman #59, 1950 (waaaaay before the trend of black superheroes existed). Did he have the fashion sense of Batman? Not so much. If we’re being honest, he just looks like a magician with a gun in his first design.


But of course, he improves:


What I find interesting about Deadshot is that he never shoots to kill. Of course, since he emulates Batman, then it’s not hard to find the source of that motivation. This makes him more an anti-hero than a villain, and I’m hoping to see this in the movie amongst all of the other killers. He is destructive, though, and eventually, he regresses into a mind similar to Deadpool. Funny, but a little suicidal. This just amps up my excitement to see what the highly anticipated Suicide Squad has in store.

So, there you have it! A cumulative line-up of this year’s melanated superheroes and humans for our viewing pleasure. May these and the rest of the movies have great plot lines, less stereotypes and a whole lot of property damage and ass whoopings. I’m looking forward to it.

Images courtesy of DC and Marvel Comics

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