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Comic Complex: Heroic Roles For Michael B. Jordan
The Fantastic Four has been one of the worst reviewed films in recent memory. That is something I think most people can agree. With that out of the way, one thing that might surprise many is the fact that among the few bright spots in the film was the performance of Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm/The Human Torch. Still, Jordan has done a fine job of keeping himself in the movie game starring in the well-received Rocky spin-off Creed. Admittedly, I haven’t seen the latest Fantastic Four, but seeing him in action for the first time in Creed, Jordan obviously has some skill on the silver screen.
So, it comes as good news that Jordan would be interested in doing another superhero movie. Between Marvel, DC, Fox, and other Independent Comic companies, there certainly is no lack of opportunity and prime characters for him to play. Jordan’s ability to deliver in a number of different roles pegs him as someone capable of bringing some interesting characters to life. With the right combination of directors and attachment to the characters, much like Chris Evans before him, Jordan could transcend his role as the Human Torch to reach newer heights in the live-action Comic Book world.
No, Creed doesn’t have a comic of it’s own, but Jordan’s outing in the ring could provide him a leg-up in taking on the role of Luke Fox, who operates out of the Democratic Republic of Congo as the Batman of Africa: Batwing! The second man to wear the mantle, Luke Fox is the son of Lucius Fox, friend and employee of Bruce Wayne. An accomplished Mixed Martial-Artist and MIT Graduate, Luke Fox takes on the role of Batwing after his predecessor David Zavimbe retires.
A departure from traditional Batman stories, the stories of Luke Fox take place in Africa–a part of the world that has yet to be explored well in superhero media. While Marvel’s upcoming Black Panther film will likely help to change that, Batwing’s placement in a real part of the nation and exposure to the corrupt nature of some of the countries police can offer a very real take on what life in Africa could be like. Or at least as real as a man in powered armor can be. Fitting Luke Fox into the still-developing DCEU will take time, but it wouldn’t be out of the question to see Luke appear in even the first Batman solo movie featuring Ben Affleck. As we expand on the story of this new Batman a new Lucius Fox and the appearance of his son are easily enough explained. Even if he doesn’t don the armored suit in the first movie, opening that door is something that DC can do early and likely benefit from down the line as Batman Inc. and the Batfamily grow and become possibilities.
One half of the Nuclear Man, Jason Rusch normally makes up the brains of the operation when fusing with another individual to create Firestorm. Though he may seem similar to Jordan’s last superheroic outing as The Human Torch, Firestorm is more than just flames. With the ability to manipulate inorganic matter and the potential to go nuclear, Firestorm is relatively unknown but one of the most dangerous individuals on the planet.
A departure from some of his other roles, Jason Rusch’s intelligence comes more into play than we’ve seen from a lot of Jordan’s characters in the past. A member of several incarnations of the Justice League and even appearing on The CW’s The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow, Firestorm has seen a bit of a resurgence in over the past couple of years, somewhat mirroring Jordan’s career since The Fantastic Four. Also interesting to note is the idea that a team of Ronnie and Jason would be interesting to see in these racially tense times. While not a character I expect DC to throw into a solo film anytime soon, a cameo or appearance in a Justice League movie isn’t out of the question.
A staple from the 90s DCAU series Static Shock, Rubberband Man was one of the few Bang Babies that not only turned good, but also became an ally of Static’s while dating his older sister, Sharon. Throughout the series, Rubberband Man-centric episodes often lent an increased amount of drama to situations, such as his initial failure at earning Static’s trust, to the battles he had with his older, more-powerful, and charismatic brother Ivan Evans (Ebon), and even his struggles with his learning disability; Dyslexia.
Jordan most likely wouldn’t be portraying this character in any of the DCEU films, but with rumors of a live-action Static series potentially starring Jaden Smith, it would be interesting to see if they include characters from the animated series as well. Most fans of Static came into contact through the hero through that series so it makes sense, and Rubberband Man was a well-known member of Static’s rogues and eventual supporting cast.
Mal Duncan is one of DC’s many underutilized characters, with a unique powerset. Known by many names, including Guardian and Herald, Duncan possesses, in most cases, the ability to open spatial warps and create destructive sound waves with either his voice via artificial lungs/voice box or an item called Gabriel’s Horn. Having been member of both The Teen Titans and an incarnation of the Doom Patrol, Duncan has run the gambit both as a hero and individual, having been both married and divorced in previous continuity.
Jordan may get his chance to play the character in a number of scenarios. There have been small rumors of DC wanting to produce a Titans movie in place of Cyborg, and with the recent Titans Hunt series establishing a past with the Titans post-Flashpoint for Mal Duncan, it would be a good way to double down on the character. While he’s not one of the first people to come to mind when the term “Titans” is mentioned, Jordan’s talent as an actor could bring newfound popularity to a character that likely won’t have many more chances to shine, as new characters are created and the Titans and other properties move forward. In addition, a character like Mal Duncan lends itself to a variety of identities, aside from that of Vox and would be interesting to have appear anywhere in continuity, from Arrow to the DCEU.
This would honestly be a huge test for Michael B. Jordan, both as an actor and as a comic fan. Steel is a hero who, unlike other heroes on this list, has had a live-action movie before. He was even the star. Unfortunately, the film was not well received. Even with (or most likely, because) of Shaquille O’Neal taking on the role of John Henry. While it wouldn’t be impossible, getting people to have faith in the character again could be tough, but I think it’s an effort Jordan would be up for.
Taking inspiration from the Man of Steel, John Henry fights crime using a powered armor of his own design, until eventually he created a liquid metal substitute. Using his mind as well as his muscles, he travels the world to use his scientific gifts to help the common man, and helps rehabilitate metahumans in his Steelworks facility. One of Superman’s closest friends, Steel is quite likely to appear down the line in the DCEU. While I can’t say for sure if he would be getting his own series, his characterization and abilities do harken to a more humanitarian version of Iron Man, which I think would be fun for audiences to see.
Now, of course I’ve listed a lot of African-American superheroes, but I personally had no problem with him being cast as The Human Torch. However, I think having black actors wanting and willing to participate in Comic Book films gives creators the opportunity to shine light on characters that wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to be noticed. I haven’t mentioned characters like Freedom Beast, Anansi, Jakeem Thunder, or any number of characters, but you’ll probably never see them featured in a big budget movie, or even live-action series.
I do think Jordan is a talented actor, and would like to see him get to pull off every comic fans dream, and successfully play a hero they love. These are just my DC Comics picks, but from Marvel to the indies, there are a huge number of characters that Jordan could likely do justice to. Let me know who you think Michael could successful play or who you’d like to see him play as in the future.