Black History Month 25: Halle Berry? No Surprise.

February 25th, 2008 by | Tags: , , , ,

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art from marvel comics’s black panther. words by hudlin, art by sal larocca, scot eaton, and cafu.
Whether chocolate or vanilla, or you’re somewhere in between
A cappuccino mocha or a caramel queen
Rejected by the black, not accepted by the white world
And this is dedicated to them dark skinned white girls

–Murs, “DSWG”

This is kind of a hard post to phrase, ’cause, man, it’s rooted in old school prejudices. It’s the kind of thing that’s hard to shake, you know? So, let’s just get right into it.

When Halle Berry was announced as Storm for the first X-Men movie, there was really just one response from most black people I knew who read comics, including my uncle who put me onto them in the first place: “Well, if that ain’t just the worst and most apt casting ever.”

Halle Berry has made a career out of being the “safe” black actress. She’s part (half?) polish and she’s fairly light-skinned. She’s just white enough to be nonthreatening, if that makes sense. I’m not dissing her for that, of course. She can’t help how she was born or why she sometimes gets roles. It’s just that, well, she’s got a reputation.

So, in a way, she was the perfect Storm and the worst possible Storm they could have picked. Storm is a regal, powerful, arrogant African Queen. Storm possesses some of the most powerful abilities on the X-Men and in the Marvel U. She’s a powerhouse. Storm also has long, apparently super-permed white hair, blue eyes, and distinctly non-african features for the majority of her lifespan.

That’s the crux of Storm right there. For a long time, she was only black in skin tone, and barely even then. Claremont built her up into this amazing goddess in Africa (and that is something else entirely), a master tactician (making for three on the X-Men), and generally just this amazing character. Thing is, she looked black. She doesn’t read black, she doesn’t feel black, and to a lot of people, that means that she’s barely black at all.

I mean, look at how long it took her to hook up with a black dude. Heyooooooo I’m here all night folks, try the veal. You guys are a great audience, really.

The thing is, Storm was all we had for so long that she’s kind of the pre-eminent black female of the comics world by default. I might find Misty Knight more interesting, but I like crime comics and blaxploitation. Misty pushes my buttons, but she can’t really go cosmic. Who else is left? Vixen can’t carry that burden. Natasha Irons is still way too green. Who’s left? Bumblebee from Teen Titans? I hadn’t even read her in Teen Titans before Tiny Titans came out, but I hate shrinky people, so that’s a big fat en oh.

This is the problem with only having a few black characters in comics way back when. You have to latch onto someone, and sometimes that someone isn’t really what you’re looking for. You settle for second best, basically. You can’t get the Smurfs, so you settle for the Snorks. You can’t get Beast Wars, so you settle for Extreme Ghostbusters. That sort of thing.

In a way, Storm is one of the best black females in comics. In another, she’s one of the absolute worst.

I love Storm, but I hate her, and what she represents, so much sometimes.

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15 comments to “Black History Month 25: Halle Berry? No Surprise.”

  1. oh man, i was reading the dude in the beanie with Tracy Jordan’s voice.

  2. I mean, look at how long it took her to hook up with a black dude.

    Yes, and then look at the vicious, vile and racist comments that have come from a good amount of the comic reading community.

    I’ve always loved Storm, even though Halle Berry was a joke. I just love Storm MORE now that she’s black. Hudlin is far from perfect, but he seems to get it right more times than he gets it wrong.

  3. Yeah, I always found Storm to be this dramatic, yet blank character in the comics and the movies. Halle Barry didn’t do much to change that in the movies, not even when [i]X-Men 3: Halle Barry ‘n Friends[/i] came out. She was a safe choice, and Storm was written safely, but it certainly wasn’t satisfying.

  4. “I mean, look at how long it took her to hook up with a black dude.”

    Yeah, but how many hookups has she had, period? I mean, it’s been T’Challa, Forge, and…. who, exactly?

  5. I don’t really see how that’s any better. The other X-Women had angsty, drama-filled, plot-point relationships.

  6. I would have gone for an Angela Bassett type in the movies.

    I think it’s important to remember that, despite her bizarre visual design, Ororo is supposed to be African–as in, not African-American. Actually, I think she’s mostly supposed to be exotic. And wherever you’re from, she is, since she’s pretty much a mishmash of “exotic” elements.

    I mean, Egypt? Really?

  7. Storm’s African-American in probably the truest usage of the word. Her dad’s from Harlem, her mom is Kenyan. They just completely de-emphasize that in the comics, which is something else I don’t like.

    Which, if she’d spent a little more time in the US, would lead to some interesting interaction with Cage.

  8. Just thought I’d point out, Forge is Native American/Kre-indian isnt he? Its not like Storm has been chasing white guys her entire career.

  9. Storm’s rarely been in a relationship. She’s dated Forge, she seemed into Yukio(a woman) and she’s had sexual tension with Wolverine and possibly some with Wolverine. Dr. Doom was kind of interested in her, but I’m pretty sure she didn’t return the interest.

    There was an issue in the 240’s of X-men where she gets dreagged along on a girl’s night out. She asks why she has to get a makeover and is told so guys will look at her.

    Her response is that they already look to much and she doesn’t like it.

  10. I wonder if there’s any mileage in writing something about the various evil dudes who want to marry her.

    Including DRACULA.

  11. the one dude hit the nail on the head, she(storm) should have been played by angela bassett but i think bassett was too old for the part and halle is one of the more famous negro actresses out there along with vivica and vanessa williams. i think storm was created the way she was because of the new international feel of the x-men and they wanted her to be different than a traditional african female. honestly the people of the usa don’t know much about africa, black and white people. some people dont even know there are cities in africa. i think a good second choice of black female role model would be captain marvel the old one i don’t know much about her now in the new marvel universe.

  12. I was really irritated with Halle Berry’s casting as well; but I do agree with Dane’s comment (“dramatic, yet blank character“) in what I’ve seen from Storm. But my impression of the X-Men was formed from watching the cartoon as a child, and I barely remembered Jean Grey being on the damn show because I thought she was boring, too.

    Storm is very much the “Token Minority” of the team in most versions, and is either treated as “notreally black” or as “only black”, where that is the defining element of her personality. As an example, Ultimate X-Men takes it a step further, with Storm being a Moroccan immigrant (who can’t control her powers very well) without a high school diploma who steals cars for a living. I am not kidding. She enrolls in some kind of diploma or GED program at the X-Institute after being picked up by Xavier and Crew. Her hair also started out curly, then went mysteriously straight when she turned “goth”, she’s hooked up with two different white guys, and at one point one of the artists was a face tracer and she became Halle Berry. (Ultimate-verse has other race problems; Ultimate Nick Fury, who is also black, became Samuel L. Jackson overnight when that same artist was working on the comic, and in the straight-to-video “Ultimate Avengers 2”, Black Panther and all the citizens of the imaginary country of Wakanda have no shoes. These are some of the smaller issues.) Also, all of the writers doing anything with Storm have yet to address the cultural difference in the way the character was raised and grew up (depending on the story), and working as a vigilante in the US, as well as the distinct differences between African countries.

    As a “dark-skinned white girl”, it’s very irritating to see race reduced to stereotype or the definition of a character when any minority character is specifically and obviously meant to be distanced from the “regular world” in some way. It really is a second-best thing, and it’s damn sad that Storm is the best example of a black female superhero that American comics have to offer.

  13. I’d also like to add, I think it would be really interesting if someone tied in Storm’s origin story with some Barack Obama stuff (his paternal grandmother is still living in Kenya), but if they did it well. Unfortunately, it would suck, considering Marvel’s history with any brown people at all. And they might even retcon Storm’s origin (again) to keep her “exotic”.

  14. you are completely right. i never thought about storm that way

  15. Hollywood was not even trying…Halle Berry…

    I needed the accent, imposing height and stature…I needed an IMAN, a Katouche (RIP), Nadine Willis…anybody, to play the role, but Hollywood makes a point of keeping RIDICULOUSLY GORGEOUS women of “full” African descent off the large and small screens.

    Angela Bassett doesn’t work either. If IMAN didn’t work, they could have found a new starlet that fit the IMAN bill, but again, Hollywood was not even trying…