With the recent casting of Halle Bailey as Ariel in The Little Mermaid and the passing of Captain America’s mantle to Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson in Avengers: Endgame, it seems that Hollywood is finally open to some change. But it took a while to get there, so we might as well help speed up the process, at least in our imagination.
This is Recasting Call, a series dedicated to re-imagining superheroes and video game characters in our image. Each post will focus on a character and how recasting them as a POC would alter their impact on pop culture, and who would play them in a movie.
In this introductory post, however, we’ll be counting down, in no order of importance, five superheroes that have helped pave the way for much needed change.
5. Static Shock
Static Shock was the first animated black superhero series I remember seeing on TV. Although it only ran for four seasons, it made the most of its time on air, choosing to broach social issues such as gun violence, racism, and mental illness.
It even attracted guest stars like Shaquille O’Neal and B2K. As shown in the clip above, even Batman solicited help from Static Shock. It was one of the most watched pre-teen shows, ultimately cut short due to low merchandise sales. However, it proved that there was a viable audience for heroes that looked like Static Shock.
— IGN (@IGN) July 9, 2015
I remember watching X-Men in theaters by myself when I was a kid and feeling a bit jilted by the very mature adaptation of the comic and animated series I had grown up watching. But mostly, I remember liking Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of Wolverine and not liking how Halle Berry’s Storm said little to nothing during the entire film.
The sequels didn’t improve upon that aspect at all, barely utilizing Storm even after Halle Berry’s historical Oscar win. I want to believe that Berry did Catwoman because no one had thought to make a solo Storm movie and she had no choice. But talk about a missed opportunity. Despite what could’ve been, Storm was and still is a significant figure in the X-Men series and here’s hoping that a solo movie is on the way.
Feel the rhythm! Happy birthday to Street Fighter 3 and 4's own capoeira princess, Elena! pic.twitter.com/8osziSiXmm
— Shoryuken.com (@shoryukendotcom) September 18, 2017
Elena was the first black female character in the Street Fighter franchise. Although her portrayal isn’t perfect, she’s amassed a cult following among the game’s fans. While Balrog is more well known in the SF series, black female characters seem to be few and far in-between in the video game world.
Hopefully, that’ll change soon, but until then Elena and her capoeira fighting style will always have the honor of being the first in a widely renown video game franchise.
Wesley Snipes was the man to beat in the ’90s. Not only did he have charisma, he had the martial arts chops to back it all up. It was only fitting that he play one of the most iconic black comic book heroes ever in Blade.
Many people point at Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy as the paragon for serious superhero movies, but it was really Snipes’s Blade trilogy that showed what was possible in a rated R comic book series.
Not only did the success of Blade spawn more sequels, but it inspired more comic book movie adaptations. It’s possible that without Blade, this next Marvel movie may not have been made.
1. Black Panther/Dora Milaje
Predictable, I know. But I can’t overstate how massively successful this movie was, not just at the box office, but in cultural impact. I watched this movie in a packed theater in Vancouver, where the demographic is overwhelmingly white and Asian.
Black Panther and the Dora Milaje uplifted black men and women at the same time without watering down the complexity of race in America. It’s possible that literally everyone has seen this movie. And this will only pave the way for more change, which we’ll start to recast in our next post.
Who are some of the trailblazing POC that you loved to watch or play when you were growing up? Tell us below!
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Written in VA. An MFA graduate in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia.