A Firestorm Problem?

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I’ve made it clear several times that my all time favorite superhero is Firestorm. This stems from my days as a early comic book collector in the early 1980’s. Over the years I’ve come to look at this character, that resides in the DC universe, as the runt of the litter. The most powerful character to always get the worst hand in the deck. Please bare with me as I kidnap take you on a journey. (Warning: Spoilers lay ahead)

Firestorm_v.1_01Firestorm was created in 1978 by Al Milgrom and Gerry Conway as the answer to the Marvel problem DC was having. They wanted a superhero that was young and flashy. Something that was eye catching and had a science fiction feel to it. So, this duo came up with Firestorm: The Nuclear Man. Back then, the cold war was real and there always seemed to be some terrorist looking to get there hands on a nuclear weapon. Firestorm was created by a nuclear accident that fused two people into one, Ronald Raymond (High School Jock) and Dr. Martin Stein (Physicist).

While the first volume ended after 5 issues in 1978, the second volume began again in 1982 and lasted 100 issues. Firestorm’s popularity grew as he became a member of the Justice League of America which also lead to a animated role in the Super Powers cartoon. I remember getting the toy and thinking it wouldn’t get any better than that. After he played a critical role in Crisis on Infinite Earths, the readership for DC in general began to decline and multi book crossover became the norm. Firestorm was losing steam after Conway left the book in 1986.

This lead to a different writer (Ostrander) and different people who controlled the Firestorm matrix. This is where everything becomes dicey. Stein “dies” and Ronald shares the matrix with Mikhail Arkadin. Then after a few years of that crap, Stein comes back and takes over as the true “Elemental” Firestorm and the series ends at 100. From here, in different books, we find out the Ronald has leukemia and is cured by Stein (who has been living in space) which allows him to be the original Firestorm again without Stein.

COLD!!!!Years later Ronald’s Firestorm dies in action and his power is somehow absorbed by Jason Rusch, a young brilliant African American student, who takes over the the matrix alone. This starts volume 3 of Firestorm which does not last long. Before the New 52 starts we find out the Jason and Stein end up merging to become a stable version of Firestorm.

Then everything is reset during the new 52 where Ronald and Jason are separate Firestorms created by Stein and his God Particle. They can also merge to become an ultimate form. This book also didn’t last.

Again, runt of the litter consumed with bad ideas and bad concepts. He had a tendency to shine in books that were not his own. I liked Jason Rusch because he was so smart that there was no need for Stein in his version of Firestorm.

Why am I saying all this? Well, this brings me to current times. DC’s highly anticipated, Legends of Tomorrow debut last night with considerable hype. One of the main characters is Firestorm whom we saw in The Flash television series.

So let’s play some catch up with that. Firestorm in The Flash was Ronald Raymond (scientist) and Dr. Martin Stein (Physicist). In season one, we spend most of the season figuring out who and what Firestorm is. There is a real clever mystery about it too and we even see Jason Rush (Stein’s student) for like an episode. At this point I’m thinking, I know what’s going to happen, if they kill off Raymond, then Jason will be the next person in line just like the comics. Let me be clear, the writing on this show has been superb.

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So what happens? (Spoilers from here on out)

They kill off Raymond and the next person in line is Jefferson Jackson in Season two. Who? Jefferson was a character in the early run of Firestorm as Ronald’s best friend. A fellow High School basketball player (with an afro too). In The Flash, Jefferson is a star quarterback that gets injured by the particle accelerator explosion and somehow becomes a viable option to merge with Stein in the matrix. The problem with this, for me, was that they used a typical black story trope of an athlete kid that lost all his options and cant go to college now instead of using the genius black kid in Jason Rush that we rarely ever see in any television show (outside of Urkel in Family Matters).

Jax (what they call him) is a stereotypical black kid, much like the new Wally West in The Flash. So when we talk about how people of color are portrayed in Television, Film, and books, you can see why this is a little disconcerting.

Ok, last night. In Legends of Tomorrow we see that Time Master, Rip Hunter selects eight people to hunt down Vandal Savage and he awaits for their answer. Stein is down to go and Jax isn’t. Understand that Firestorm doesn’t exist if both of them are not involved. Dr. Martin Stein drugs Jax (via roofie in his drink) and kidnaps him in order to make the quest. First of all, this is uncharacteristic of Stein. Secondly, the white man – black man dynamic of the former kidnapping the latter to go on a voyage is NOT GOOD WRITING.

It further proves my point that Firestorm is the runt of the litter and with writing like this, the character will never get any respect. Also, this move reduces Jax to sidekick status to Stein. The power dynamic is now reversed even though Jax ultimately controls the matrix they share. Have I confused you? Good. Because this shit is confusing.

I should’ve changed the title of this entry to, How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Character in Less Than a Thousand Words.

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Ant-Man and the Hombre Pequeño

Ant-Man-Character-Poster-Michael-PenaThis is not a review of Ant-Man. Let’s get that out of the way so you know that very few thing in this article contains spoilers. However, I need for you to be on the same page with me so I’m going to assume you’ve either seen it or you don’t care about things being slightly spoiled for you.

I want to go on record by saying that Ant-Man gets a B+ because it has all the elements of a typical fun loving super hero movie that you can expect from Marvel. But again, this is not a review of Ant-Man. But what do we really come to expect from a Marvel movie? A fast paced movie, humor, poorly written women characters, mid credit scenes, black side kicks, end of credit scenes, and a Stan Lee appearance. Right?

So let’s add something to the list, Latino coonery. I mean let’s be real about this. People of color have been relegated to side kick roles in all of Marvel’s films thus far. We all know who they are: Nick Fury, Iron Patriot, Falcon, and Hiemdall. None of these are black women, in fact, are there any black women in the Marvel Cinematic universe? Don’t say Storm because that is not the same “universe” we are talking about. Before you wrack your brain and say Zoe Saldana (who is Afro-Latino) understand that she is not portrayed as a woman of color in Guardians of the Galaxy but as an Alien woman which is the a big difference (just like Lupita in Star Wars, who you wont really see) because Gamora is no Amanda Waller.

So now that you know what to expect and what’s been added to the list, lets talk about Ant-Man. Scott Lang is a former criminal looking to change his ways so I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that out of his three “friends”, one is Latino and the other is T.I.. Please understand that when I saw that Michael Peña was in this movie, it was sort of big deal because I love this guy. He’s one of those actors that I feel needs more roles especially after seeing his performance in Crash. His character, Luis (which is kinda messed up since that is the name of the protagonist in my book, Hanging Upside Down – shameless plug), is supposed be the muscle of the group from what I gather. But he comes across as a hipster like gang-banger that sounds like Joey from Friends in SAP.

There is no question that he plays this role well. He is indeed funny but, I believe the dotted line between being laughed with and laughed at was crossed. I call it Latino coonery because it was just too much yapping younahwatIissayin? Luis was so just so extra in his words and verbal expressions that I cringed at certain parts. The same exact jokes could have been done without the need to make the only prominent Latino person in the film seem so ridiculous. Yes, it is a good thing that he does have a prominent speaking role and is very useful in his relegated side kick role but he is no where near Cisco from The Flash who is intelligent, witty, in addition to being funny.

What is really strange is the very few people have mentioned this about the film. I know some pretty opinionated people who gloss over this fact and that is alarming to me. I’m hoping that we’re not getting so comfortable seeing these big superhero films that we forget to be socially aware when it comes to pandering, cultural appropriations, and coonish portrayals of people of color in mainstream film.

So if you do see Ant-Man for the first or second time, take notice to what I’m saying. We should expect better from films we freely give our money to. While it is great to see Luis in this film he ends being much smaller than the hero.