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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Changing Characters

Allow me to say, right here at the beginning, that I'm going to be talking about some stuff that might get you riled up. If you'd rather skip this post, I won't be offended.

What's so controversial? Well, I'm going to be giving my opinion on changing established characters, specifically comic book characters, with regard to race/gender/sexual orientation.

Before I get too far into this, let me acknowledge something. I'm a middle-aged, white, male, so I am aware that I have all the privilege that can be had. I hope to come at this topic without too much bias in  that regard, but I wanted to put it out there right at the start. Now, on with the show.

Let me say that, in concept, I don't have a problem with taking a character that was portrayed one way originally and then changing an aspect of that character later on, but I need you to have a good reason for doing so. I'll give you some examples of what I'm talking about.

Iris West, the love interest of Barry Allen, better known as The Flash, was first introduced in the now famous Showcase #4 (1956). In this story, and for the remainder of her comic appearances Pre- and Post-Crisis, she was depicted as a white female. Fast forward to 2014 where the TV pilot for The Flash was filmed. Here both Iris and her father, Detective Joe West, were cast as African-American.

There is really no problem here as this is a new version of all the character and we get to see Candice Patton and the great Jesse L. Martin in these roles. So, we have a valid interpretation of the characters, paying homage to the source material, being played by very good actors. Nope, no problems at all.

Let's move from DC to Marvel and talk about Heimdall. As those of you that have been
reading/listening to my stuff are aware, I'm a Heathen, which means that I worship the Norse Gods. So, you might think that I would have a problem with "The White God" being played by a black man. Well, you'd be wrong. First of all, these are the Marvel Comics versions of the characters, which means that they aren't my Gods. Secondly, we had Idris Elba give an outstanding performance as the Guardian of the Rainbow Bridge.

Again, we have a new interpretation of the character and his race didn't effect anything with regard to the story, plus we had a great actor playing the part. No problems here, either.

Staying with Marvel, let's talk about something that I do have a problem with. In the recent Fant4stic (how do you pronounce that, BTW?) movie, the originally white Johnny Storm was played by Michael B. Jordan, a black man. While I have not seen the movie, everything I've heard states that he did a great job in the role.

So, why do I have a problem here? Well, it's not so much with his character, but more with the now changed relationship with his sister. You see, they decided to keep Sue as a white woman and make her adopted. Now, if they had done something with that plot, I wouldn't have a problem, but they seem to just say that's the case and drop it. What I would rather they have done is make Sue black as well, and then deal with the interracial relationship between her and Reed. So my problem here isn't that Johnny was black, but that Sue wasn't with no real need for it to be that way.

For the final example, I'm going to go back to DC. Here we have Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern from the Golden Age. When DC decided to scrap everything (except for Batman and Hal Jordan's Green Lantern) in favor of the New 52, they brought back the concept of Earth 2. Here we had a young Jay Garrick as The Flash and Alan Scott as Green Lantern. However, in this version, Alan was a homosexual.

Again, this is a new take on an old character, so I shouldn't have a problem with the change. I do, though, because of the ramifications of this choice. You see, Alan Scott is the father of two other characters, Jade and Obsidian, who are quite good characters in their own right. In fact, Obsidian is a gay man, which was used quite well to, you'll forgive the pun, shine a light on the topic Pre-New 52.

So, while I have no problem, in theory, of Alan being gay, I don't like that it was apparently not thought out and, therefore, seems to be more of a marketing thing than writing. Now, if he had been closeted, fathered the children, and then came out to everyone, THAT I could get behind. But, as with many decisions by comic companies recently, the long term was not considered.

So, what do you think? Am I off my rocker? Am I a closet racist/homophobe because I can't get behind all the changes? I'd really like to hear your opinions on the subject.

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7 comments:

  1. Surprisingly enough, I fully agree with all of the points you made. However, having watched the Fant Four Stic movie (that is how it is pronounced, I'm pretty sure Josh Trank clarified that in a drunken stupor as he blamed Fox for ruining his "grand vision") I will comment that not only was Michael B Jordan cast for no other reason than he was friends with the director, but he in fact did not turn in a good performance in the role.

    Alan Scott was mishandled as well, essentially wiping Jade and Obsidian out of existence. So, getting rid of one gay character in favor of a new, headline worthy gay character. Not winning me over, despite the fact that I have heard good things about how James Robinson wrote Alan in the New 52 Earth-2 title...

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    1. Thanks, Shawn. I found it interesting that you mentioned the interracial relationship possibility of Sue and Reed before I could on the 3rd Degree Bryne episode (http://twotruefreaks.com/media/podcasts/byrne/mp3/TDBWTFF.mp3) before I could, so I figured you'd have some agreement with this topic.

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  2. And by "watched" Fant Four Stic, I do mean specifically that. I was bored on late night at work, saw it was on an "illicit" streaming site, and misused one hour and 40 minutes in the most egregious way humanly possible. Joyless, soulless, and depressing are adjectives that I would use to describe the movie...

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    1. At least you were getting paid at the time. ;)

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  3. The only mistake you made was saying you have "all the privelege," instead of claiming your religious minority status! Then I would have had to pay closer attention. Just kidding -- interesting, agreeable points. "Change for change's sake" versus "Change for character's sake" or "Change for story sake."

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    1. But there's a war on Christianity, haven't you heard? :D

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  4. Just to let everyone know, we have a great discussion of this topic going on over on the Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/TheHammerStrikes/

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