The Wrap is reporting that Michael B. Jordan has had numerous meetings with Fox to reunite with his Chronicle director Josh Trank on the director’s reboot of the Fantastic Four franchise. He is in talks for the role of Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, a role originated by Chris Evans in the first set of films. The website says that the only thing standing in Jordan’s way is that the studio wants to be sure he can build chemistry with the other cast members, whoever they turn out to be.
As you can see, Jordan is African-American, and Johnny Storm is portrayed in the comics as being white. This has cause a fair bit of outrage in the comic fan community already and he hasn’t even been cast yet (the project hasn’t even been officially greenlit yet for that matter). And if fans made a stink because Idris Elba, one of the best actors on the planet, played the formerly white Heimdall, one of the most minor characters in Marvel’s interpretation of Norse mythology, in Thor, you can expect this rumbling to continue and intensify if Jordan actually gets cast.
Of course, it’s easy to think that comic fans are upset over a black actor being cast as what is known as a white character because, well, they don’t want a black actor playing what is known as a white character. And I’m not so naive that I believe there are no racists in comic book fandom, but comic book fans are awfully fickle and finicky about how their comics are adapted to the big screen. If you do a quick Google search, you’ll find a lot of outrage over the fact that Superman isn’t wearing red pants in The Man of Steel. You’ll also find a lot of complaints about Superman’s hair style in the film and the fact that Lois is now a redhead. So all the rumblings over Jordan’s casting isn’t exclusively an act of racism, they’re more an act of fans being really, really anal.
As for me, I can’t say that I am familiar with Jordan’s body of work, but the fact that he has The Wire and Friday Night Lights on his resume tells me he can bring a lot to the role. If I would admit to any concerns about Jordan’s rumored casting is that it appears that they are looking at white actresses for the role of Johnny’s sister, Sue. This would mean that one of the siblings would be adopted. This would put an interesting twist on the family dynamic the characters represent, and could be worthy of being examined on film. However, in these types of films, these kinds of issues are barely addressed, let alone investigated in any meaningful way. If you are not going to use this casting to raise understanding or awareness of this kind of modern family dynamic, it becomes an arbitrary publicity grab and therefore superfluous.