Yesterday, I received a text from my little sister that simply read, "Was the original Green Lantern black?" I didn't think too much of it, since she's not a comic book reader, and explained to her that John Stewart was in fact a Green Lantern, but not the original one. He was the Green Lantern during the 1980s and that the Green Lanterns were essentially the "space police" and there there were roughly 7,500 of them patrolling the universe at any given time. I had no clue that when the trailer for the upcoming Green Lantern film was released, it would be a bigger controversy than many people could imagine. All across the twitter-verse.
Many of the other tweets aren't really post-able since they contain some pretty strong language. Now, these people aren't being silly. They just don't know enough about the books to understand that there are many Green Lanterns. Many of them grew up with John Stewart on the Justice League cartoon as their Green Lantern, and they never knew there was more than one. It's an understandable mistake. However, after thinking about this for some time, I thought about race and comic book movies. Does it really matter what color the actor's skin is, as long as they have the character right?
"Green Lantern movie coming out. The have a white guy playing him. Smh, one of the only black superheros and they made him white. Smh." And one of my personal favorites, "Marvel get the fail of 2010 for making a white Green Lantern! Smh he was the only official black hero out lol... "
== TEASER ==
The most notable case of a character's race being changed was in the 2003 film Daredevil, where Michael Clarke Duncan played Kingpin, a character who is white in the comic book. There was quite a bit of skepticism of whether or not Duncan could play a larger-than-life villain. All-in-all, Duncan's portrayal of Daredevil's nemesis was probably the best thing to come out of that movie. He wasn't "Black Kingpin." He was Kingpin.
Five months ago, there was another instance of a black actor possibly jumping into the boots of a white super-hero: Donald Glover wanted to play Spider-Man. Donald Glover, who's known for his role as Troy on Community, expressed interest in the role and the internet seemed to be split on the issue. Regardless of what the masses thought, Glover is a talented actor who has proven he can do comedic roles, but doesn't have and action-orientated roles under his belt, and who ever is going to play Spider-Man needs a bit of both.
When it comes down to it, does the race of an actor really matter in a comic book movie? Sometimes. A character like Captain America, to me, has to be played by a white actor with blond hair and blue eyes: What Nazis considered to physically be the ideal soldier fighting against the Nazis. Same goes for a character like Luke Cage: I just can't imagine a white actor pulling off a rough-and-tumble street-wise character, but hey, maybe I'm wrong. There's a lot of room for a lot of changes when comics hit the big screen. Powers, stories, love interests, may change a bit from here to there, but race shouldn't matter as long as the quality of character and acting are there. So I say let Jet Li play Iron Fist, let Denzel Washington play Lex Luthor, let Terry Crews play Savage Dragon. (In fact, let Terry Crews play everything) What do you guys think? Does it matter if the actor is a different race than the character they are portraying? What actors could jump "race boundaries" to play your favorite comic book character?
Follow Mat "InferiorEgo" Elfring on twitter: @ inferiorego