The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

A dumb Hollywood rumor

Important meeting today. I'd love to work with these guys. They want to work with me. The only thing is working out the numbers: time and money. The project itself is terrific. Keep your fingers crossed.


There was a recent rumor (just a rumor) that Will Smith was being cast as Captain America. I think this would have been an awful idea, even if it made a shitload of money. Sam Jackson as Nick Fury? Sure! Why not! Fury is no longer rooted in WW2. Michael Clark Duncan as Kingpin? Sure! I see nothing in 99% of Kingpin's presentation in the history of the character that would preclude this. But Captain America? No. He is rooted in WW2, and in order to make him black, you'd have to do a riff like they did in one of the alternate Marvel origin thingies, where a Tuskeegee experiment-style project uses blacks as lab rats. And that changes the entire political value structure of the character. This wouldn't even be "stunt casting." It would be a purely financial decision (Will is now the biggest movie star in the world) with no concern for the history of the character or his internal integrity over more than sixty years. You COULD re-invent him in the comic book if you wanted to, because you would specifically be playing with sixty years of iconography, and everyone would be in on the joke. But a film? No. What you get on the screen would be the first real cinematic representation. I'd be pissed, thinking that they were, not politically correct, but simply money-grubbers.

And remember "Wild Wild West"? That COULD have been a good movie, if anyone involved had believed in that character. No one did, so the "black James West" thing dissolved into a series of "clever" vignettes, instead of anyone sitting down and actually asking: "all right. Under what circumstances might a black man of unusual skills and temperament have come to the attention of the U.S. government in the 1870's? And how might they have made use of him? And under what circumstances might he have lived a life similar to that of the television James West..?"

I would expect the same kind of nonsense with Captain America: no real inner life, no real awareness of what his life might have been, or how he felt, and no effort to align this with the Comic book character to let the character have any integrity.

Disaster waiting to happen, and one that would actually contribute to social dissonance. Luckily, it was just a rumor after all...


Unknown said...

Agreed re: Capt. America, but I liked Wild Wild West. Admittedly, I had not watched the original, cuz I'm too young, but I think, perhaps, you over-state the place the TV show holds in the collective unconscious.

Anonymous said...

Agree on Captain America of the WWII variety.

Side note;

This really surprised me;


Evolutionary psychologists contend that these are innate traits inherited from ancient hunters and gatherers. Another school of psychologists asserts that both sexes’ personalities have been shaped by traditional social roles, and that personality differences will shrink as women spend less time nurturing children and more time in jobs outside the home.

To test these hypotheses, a series of research teams have repeatedly analyzed personality tests taken by men and women in more than 60 countries around the world. For evolutionary psychologists, the bad news is that the size of the gender gap in personality varies among cultures. For social-role psychologists, the bad news is that the variation is going in the wrong direction. It looks as if personality differences between men and women are smaller in traditional cultures like India’s or Zimbabwe’s than in the Netherlands or the United States. A husband and a stay-at-home wife in a patriarchal Botswanan clan seem to be more alike than a working couple in Denmark or France. The more Venus and Mars have equal rights and similar jobs, the more their personalities seem to diverge.


Can you imagine anyone regarding that as believable in some SF story written a few generations ago?

Bennett said...

Agreed that they'd have to majorly revamp the character to make him black. I don't think it'd be too terrible if they did at least cast someone who wasn't blonde and blue-eyed, though. The comic had a remarkable lack of awareness as to the irony of some big Aryan ideal-looking 'supersoldier' taking up the nationalist mantle of his country as some sort of physical and military elite, then going out to defend liberty and democracy from those nasty Nazi bastards who were... well, you get the idea.

Vince Moore said...

Actually Marvel did do such a story about a group of black soldiers being the early test subjects for the Super Soldier Serum. While it was released to critical acclaim, Marvel is currently attempting to eliminate the concept from the history of Captain America.
Perhaps it was that project, entitled The Truth, which inspired the rumor.

Anonymous said...

Have Will Smith play T'Challa or Luke Cage instead, and he can be as black as he wants.

Anonymous said...

aaaahhh, the Truth in Black and White. A lovely lovely story arc. I have had an IMPOSSIBLE time finding the second to last issue. This blog inspired me to reread them again... Will Smith SHOULD NOT play T'Challa either. ABSOLUTELY NOT. lol

Mark Jones said...

I'm with Steve on this--there's no way to make Captain America black, given his origin in WWII. It just won't work. Had Cap gained his powers in an accident of some kind, like Spider-Man or been a mutant, then...maybe. But in 1940s America, when they're trying to create a supersoldier via science? No.

And I don't think I could buy Will Smith as T'Challa. Will is just...too American for me to buy into that.

Anonymous said...

Truth: Red, White & Black is a seven-issue comic book limited series written by Robert Morales and drawn by Kyle Baker, published by Marvel Comics.

Set in the Marvel Universe, the series takes the Tuskegee Experiments as inspiration for a tale that re-examines the history of the super-serum that created Captain America. Beginning in 1942, the series follows a regiment of black soldiers who are forced to act as test subjects in a program attempting to re-create the lost formula earlier used to turn Steve Rogers to Captain America. The experiments lead to mutation and death, until only one remains - Isaiah Bradley.

Fictional character biography

Project: Rebirth began as a collaboration between US, British and German eugenicists led by Dr. "Josef Reinstein" (real name Dr. Wilfred Nagel), and Dr. Koch. When WW II began, Koch took over the German program and Josef Reinstein took over the American program. Each was attempting to re-create the super soldier serum which had previously turned Steve Rogers into Captain America a year prior to Pearl Harbor. Reinstein's early attempts to refine the formula were tested on African-Americans. Three hundred of these soldiers were taken from Camp Cathcart and subjected to potentially fatal experiments at an undisclosed location in an attempt to re-create the Super Soldier formula, as seen in Truth: Red, White & Black. Only five subjects survived the original trials. In the name of secrecy, US soldiers executed the camp's commander and hundreds of black soldiers left behind at Camp Cathcart. The government told the families of the three hundred subjects that their loved ones had died in battle.

The sole survivor of his test group, Bradley stole a spare costume intended for Captain America before he engaged in a suicide mission to destroy the Super-Soldier efforts of the Nazis at the Schwarzebitte concentration camp. There, he was also able to assassinate Koch. The mission ended when the Germans captured Bradley. Nazi interest in the American supersoldier was high; he was even brought before the Führer himself. Bradley was later rescued, only to be court-martialed and imprisoned at Leavenworth around 1943. In 1960, Bradley was pardoned by President Eisenhower and released.

Considered to be the "Black" Captain America, Isaiah Bradley became an underground legend among much of the African-American community in the Marvel Universe. A number of the most noted Africans and African-Americans of the twentieth century's last four decades visited Bradley as a sign of respect and, in many cases, hero worship. His visitors have included Malcolm X, Richard Pryor, Muhammad Ali, Angela Davis, Alex Haley, Nelson Mandela, and Colin Powell (as evidenced in Truth: Red, White & Black #7). Outside the Black community, however, he remains largely unknown. When he arrived as a special guest to the wedding of Storm and the Black Panther, Luke Cage was awestruck while Wolverine was totally unaware of the man's identity or importance.

Josiah X
While Isaiah was in prison, the government attempted to use his altered DNA to create another Super-Soldier. After 39 attempts the result was a child named Josiah, Isaiah and Faith's genetic son. Josiah X, as he would later call himself, was born to a surrogate mother, who smuggled him out of the government's clutches.

Steve Rogers
Meanwhile, the long-term effects of the test serum had severely damaged Isaiah Bradley's mind and body, similar in part to the effects of various steroids and Alzheimer's. In 2003, Steve Rogers (Captain America) learned the truth behind the Super-Soldier program and attempted a reconciliation with the now-childlike Isaiah Bradley. However, Captain America never discovered that the true mastermind behind the Super-Soldier program was the clandestine organization Weapon Plus and that Bradley was only one in a long line of Weapons, including Wolverine and Fantomex.

Isaiah is also the grandfather of Elijah Bradley (aka Patriot of the Young Avengers). Elijah claimed that his powers originated from a blood transfusion from Isaiah, whereby he gained the abilities of the Super-Soldier Serum. However, it was subsequently revealed that this was a lie, and Elijah really gained his powers from Mutant Growth Hormone. Elijah was later critically injured in battle with the Skrulls and Kree. This forced Isaiah to give him a blood tranfusion, and as a result, Elijah develops actual super powers.

Anonymous said...

lol,thank you for the correct title and info! I haven't read 7 because I've yet to find a copy of 6. Even went to a comic book store in Berkeley, apparently they had a few but sold out at a recent convention. The brotha at the register said he doesn't have a complete set yet either... DEFINITELY worth the read if you can get your hands on them. I lucked up and found them some years ago in a .10 dollar bin...

off topic:
DId anyone catch Fringe tonite?

Marty S said...

Mike: From my point of view the study you cite is just another example of a poorly done study, designed by people who thought they knew the answer. The only factor in male/female personality they seemed to consider was gender equality, but there are a large number of other factors that could explain the differences. On the nature side differences between ethnic groups in hormone levels, brain structure, brain function and etc. could affect the degree of personality differences between the sexes. On the nurture side, rural versus city and economic prosperity could be factors and I'm sure someone who really knows about the subject could if they thought about it add a lot more factors. A good study would control for as many relevant factors as possible, or if they couldn't control would collect data on the factors for inclusion in the data analysis.

Unknown said...

Truth: Red, White & Black is the book drawn by Kyle Baker. great stuff.

they actually made his grandson one of the Young Avengers. so they will be keeping the story in the Marvel Universe (the black Nick Fury comes from the Marvel Ultimate Universe, which is actually a pretty good reconstruction).

i have to agree about that though. Steve Rogers IS Captain America. Being a Captain America fan (i confessed this on my blog several years ago). i would be protesting this just as much as Dave Chappelle's black Santa Claus.

maybe they can make a full length straight to DVD like the ultimate avengers about Isaiah Bradley