11.25.2013

What If Marvel Studios Made Blaxploitation Movies?

By St. Paco

If you were ever a fan of Marvel Comics from, say, 1977 to now, then you've probably run your eyes through an issue or two (or twenty) of Marvel's long-running What If...? title. For those who aren't familiar with the book, the stories in What If...? explore themes that deviate from or alter completely the established norms of Marvel's literary canon. For instance, on the cover of What If...? #1, readers were asked to consider, "What if Spider-Man was a member of the Fantastic Four?" Then, over the course of eighteen pages the writer and artist explored that idea without it actually impacting 'real' comic book continuity.

It was with a similar concept in mind that I made a limited series of "Marvel Blaxploitation" mini movie posters. The process permitted me to do some serious "What if...?" imaginings of my own. The very first of these was, "What if there was a fourth Iron Man movie with Ghostface Killah in the title role?" For those of you who don't listen to much hip-hop, Ghostface Killah is a member of the rap group Wu-Tang Clan. In addition to his main kung-fu movie inspired stage name the rapper also uses the comic book inspired nicknames, Iron Man and Tony Starks (ol' shell head's billionaire alter ego). To illustrate how much of a fan the man is, his first solo album was even titled "Iron Man."

Click to enlarge

In the bestselling book, The Wu-Tang Manual, author and Clan founder, RZA, reports that everyone in the nine-member crew grew up collecting comics. But it was Wu-Tang member Method Man who had, says RZA, "the most extensive collection...boxes and boxes of comic books." Like Ghostface, Method Man (another stage name taken from kung-fu flicks) also uses the additional comic book inspired nicknames of Johnny Blaze and Ghost Rider. In the Marvel universe, for you who don't know, motorcycle stuntman Johnny Blaze is the true identity of the flame-headed Ghost Rider. And it should probably be said that Meth's well-known love of marijuana 'blazing' has as much to do with these other nicknames as does his love of comics.

"It's my testament to those burned, play my position in the game of life standing firm / On foreign lands, jump the gun out of the frying pan
into the fire, transform into the Ghost Rider"
– Method Man, "Triumph"


Due to my own diehard affinities for hip-hop and comics, and sincere appreciation of Wu-Tang, Method Man and Ghostface Killah were obvious choices for the first pieces in the “Marvel Blaxploitation” mini movie poster series. It was originally only planned as two-parter but after finishing the two, I felt the urge to keep brainstorming to see what else might come out of it. The blaxploitation movie concept seemed like a good concept for at least one more mini-poster, which would give me a triptych/trilogy. But it was actually good for two more.

Although it took a few days to come up with the theme for the third piece, I eventually decided on one that would put Blade on screen (so to speak) with Nick Fury. Much to Marvel's credit, the company was already firmly on the cutting-edge of zombie lovin' pop culture with their Marvel Zombies comics. I even give them credit as trendsetters, since well before the other now-popular vampire franchises had come about, Marvel had three Blade films in theaters.


Mindful of the fact that Blade was also Marvel's first successful film franchise, the third piece permitted me to see him--quite deservedly--linked to the existing film universe of characters for which he paved the way. I also think that seeing Wesley with Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson resurrects his character's image from the muck of those franchise killing "sidekicks" played by Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel in Blade Trinity, the last Blade film.

(That’s right. I said it.)

The last piece in the series is based on a fairly popular "what if" scenario that plays out often in the minds of many comic book fans: "Who would win the fight between Storm of the X-Men and Thor?" Because Thor is the 'god of thunder' and Storm's mutant super-power enables her to control the weather, this one's a natural match-up. Thor is generally thought to have the upper hand in the battle, though, the most frequent reason being because: "He's a god!" But this…basically non-argument has less significance than many seem to realize.


Like virtually every god of ancient lore, Thor isn't immortal. He can be injured and even killed. Thus, with his mortality squarely in mind, I designed my mini movie poster...and then began writing a fan fiction piece in which Storm, who was worshiped by the people of her native Kenya as a goddess, opens up a shocking can of 'whup ass' on the god of thunder. It's a story rooted in religious lore and science-fact that would've made the late Dwayne McDuffie (who tried to tell a similar tale during his run on Fantastic Four, before nay-saying editors shot it down) very proud.

[Twirls mustache]

In addition to being just pure fun, the long process of making this mini-poster series caused me think a lot about power. More specifically, it made me think a lot about about the power of money and the power of images in American popular culture--as well as in traditional human societies. On a smaller and perhaps oversimplified scale, this series also allowed me to ponder what it must feel like to have the power to green light multi-million dollar movie deals, choose scripts, hire actors, directors, composers, musicians, and marketing & design firms.

Frankly, for a film buff like myself (yes, in addition to my many other obsessions), meditations on what it might be like to have movie mogul power was a wee bit intoxicating. But it also depressed the hell outta' me, too, recognizing even more now how very insular Hollywood is and how few have access to that world. Despite the fact that I may never get a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, for a little while at least the simple process of making these faux film promos enabled me to feel as if I had behind-the-scenes access (and front row seats) to some of the best superhero movies never made.

7 comments:

darrell d said...

you're going to be a rich man one day.

St. Paco said...

Hahahahahaha!

Pascal Wolf said...

I was expecting you to justify Storm as Jackie Brown or Tony Stark as Shaft. TIME OUT..it's still Batman Forever until my Dark Knight..but Tony's a b tt r Sh ft.(Sorry, I guess my keyboard needs ink.) I dig though. Something to Marvel about, and still keepin it Bruce Leroy. I hope your kung-fu is sharp, cause I am gonna catch up to you behind that Blade Trinity remark. (How dare you?!) Well done sir.

St. Paco said...

Pascal, I just watched Blade Trinity again. I stand by my comments. [Evil grins]

HECTOR LABOY A. JR. said...

You forgot TUPAC as the black player.
Nick minaj as Mary Jane
meek mills as Peter parker spiderman
Notorious B.I.G. as the king pin
The punisher as BIG PUN.

HECTOR LABOY A. JR. said...

Black panther TUPAC

St. Paco said...

I did actually think about Big Pun, but Tupac as Black Panther never crossed my mind. Pretty clever idea there.