These days it seems more and more the case that we are in a Golden age of Geekery. There are comics, cosplay, and gaming cons all over the world and new ones are popping up in unlikely places. And one look at the movie line-up for this year shows just how open are the arms embracing all that nerdery.
Iron Man 3 started the season off with a bang (and quite a few “boom”s). Star Trek: Into Darkness is still packing theaters. Man of Steel is right around the corner, and we’ve got Ender’s Game, World War Z, Thor, and The Wolverine to look forward to this Fall. In fact, at least 25 films with sci-fi or superhero themes are premiering this year.
It is a glorious time to be a geek. But you’ll notice that the leading lads of all of these films are white guys. That, of course, is nothing new.
The industry has even been improving somewhat its representation of minorities with controversial casting choices like Viola Davis as Major Anderson in Ender’s Game or Michael B. Jordan as The Human Torch in the upcoming Fantastic Four movie. John Cho as Sulu and Zoe Saldana as Uhura had major roles in the new Star Trek movie. A few other heroes of color, like War Machine (Don Cheadle) in Iron Man 3, Gail (Rosario Dawson) in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) in the next Avengers film, are on the roster. And 3 of the approximately 25 science fiction and superhero films out this year feature a character of color as the main protagonist and hero - After Earth featuring Will and Jaden Smith, Midnight’s Children featuring Satya Bhaba, and Machete Kills featuring Danny Trejo, Michelle Rodriguez, and Jessica Alba.
Nonetheless, it is a rarity to see a hero of color as a leader in sci-fi and superhero films.
As I’ve written more on elsewhere , there are, of course, exceptions: Abar, The First Black Superman (1977), Independence Day (1996), Steel (1997), Spawn (1997), Blade (1998-2004), El Muerto (2007), I am Legend (2007), Hancock (2008), … to name a few… most of them not exactly film masterpieces and most of them starring Will Smith. And there are refreshed rumors of a Black Panther movie running about again.
Here’s hoping After Earth, Midnight’s Children, and Machete Kills rock the box office with their original superheroes, but we haven’t seen a a movie based on an iconic sci-fi hero or superhero of color for since Blade. So, calling all producers, directors, and studios, here are a few heroes of color that could probably unleash a lot of awesome on the big screen…
Heroes for Hire
Heroes for Hire would be a great way to bring Luke Cage into the mix, a character who stands out as pretty unique in the world of fancy costumes, masks, and flight abilities. Luke Cage makes appearances all over the Marvel universe, and rather than throw him in as a side-character or random appearance in one of the big franchise movies that already have dedicated fans, a Heroes for Hire movie would create the chance to go into his dynamic back story. On top of that, sequels would turn over the lead to Misty Knight, whose own history is pretty intruiging too and she has the appeal that characters like Hawkeye bring to the table. No superpowers to speak of, just serious strength and talent. There’s also a mix of other superheroes of various races on the team, including Latina superhero White Tiger, so it could likely avoid the usual “All Black cast? Oh that’s a movie for Black people then” problem.
Katana first appeared in DC Comics’ Outsiders, alongside superheroes Black Lightning, Metamorpho, Geo-Force, Halo, and Looker. While an Outsiders film could be interesting, it’d probably look more like a knock-off Avengers movie. Besides, Katana has an interesting enough story to hold a film by herself, though appearances by a couple Outsiders, old and new, would certainly make it one of the most diverse movies to hit the big screen. With no superpowers herself, Katana became a superhero after tragedy struck her family in Japan, and she acquired a sword possessing the spirit of her husband and others. The sword itself if magic, and Katana supplements its power with her own kick-ass fighting skills. Her’s is the familiar story of vengeance that drives many superhero movies, and that drove two installments of sword-heavy revenge film Kill Bill. Katana is holding her own in her own new title comic these days.
The Spider-man movies were supposed to appeal to a younger audience. He’s a punchy nerdy kid who basically gets to jump and climb on things all day. It seems pretty perfect for nerdy action-addicted kids, right? Well, ya. Except he’s still a spider. You know what’s way cooler? An awkward 15-year-old geek with electromagnetic powers. His costume is cooler, and he flies around on a magnetized disk that basically amounts to a hoover skateboard. The four year run of the animated series Static Shock can attest to a healthy fandom for the character. Side-perk: It’d also be a great way to introduce the Milestone Universe to the big screen..
Speaking of Milestone… How does a movie about a perpetually young, invulnerable, nanotechnologically-enhanced scientist fighting supernatural creatures sound? Korean-American scientist David Kim invented the nanotechnological virus that saved his life and turned him into a superhuman. There’s lot of fun science to play with. One of my favorite scenes is when Kim, having a beer with a friend, explains how the nanotech in his body makes efficient use of every single thing in his body, meaning he produces no waste and can’t get drunk… and explains why he’s not doing the pee-pee dance after all those beers. It could raise some interesting questions about biotechnology too…at a time when we’re increasingly incoporating technology into our daily lives…
Parable of the Sower
Apocalypse stories are hot again, and the apocalypse movies and shows out there seem to rely exclusively on zombies or huge environmental disasters to create the desolate landscape for the tense story to unfold across. And usually, after this one big disastrous event, we’re in postapocalypse territory in no time. Octavia Butler‘s Parable of the Sower is unique, however. The apocalyptic landscape has come about by a combination of political instability, religious fanaticism, drugs, poverty, and desperation. Very real possibilities in our own world. People form communities and hide inside of walled neighborhoods to stay safe, but walls don’t always hold. The story unfolds in the heat of the apocalypse rather than after it, and our hero is a young Black woman Lauren Olamina, who suffers from a hyperempathy that makes her physically feel the pain of others. Way more interesting than zombies…