Ronald R. Nelson: Inspired by the new movie “X-Men: Apocalypse,” we wanted to share some thoughts on one of the featured characters, Storm. The X-Men are a team of mutant heroes whose primary function is to help establish peace between humans and mutants. Mutants are a subspecies of humans who are born with superhuman abilities.
L.A. Williams: Marvel Comics’ X-Men debuted in comics in 1963, followed by a Saturday morning cartoon show in 1992 and a plethora of X-Men related live-action movies and other formats soon after that. Storm is one of the few Black characters in the X-Men, but the X-Men have always resonated with Black audiences. I believe it’s because in the X-Men mythos, “mutants” basically represent minorities and undergo most of the struggles in their fictional world that real-life minorities undergo in the real world. As such, the schism among the mutants in the X-Men movies is largely based on some of the same schism in the Civil Rights Movement. The X-Men’s primary antagonist is Magneto, who represents separatism. (Think UNIA, the Nation of Islam and younger Malcolm X.) His thinking is the majority will never accept the minority and will exploit and eventually exterminate minorities. The majority will do so because of their hatred and envy. So minorities must either completely separate from the majority or turn the tide, seize power and rule the majority. The X-Men are led by Professor Charles Xavier. His premise? Faith and love. People fear what they don’t understand, what they perceive as different and what they feel threatened by. But people are basically good. So the best way to keep mutants safe is show the majority (humans) how much mutants and humans have in common.
In comic, cartoon and movie versions of the X-Men, there are always different generations of the team over the decades. In the film “X-Men: First Class,” we saw the first generation of X-Men from 1962. In “X-Men,” “X2” and “X-Men: Last Stand,” we saw a later generation of the team.
RRN: Storm is from the second generation of X-Men that includes the now well-known Wolverine, Colossus and Nightcrawler. That team was introduced in the comic book, “Giant Size X-Men #1” (May 1975).
LAW: Storm is literally African-American. Her father is from Harlem, and her mother is from Kenya. Storm was born in Harlem but spent the majority of her formative years in Kenya and traveling throughout the Motherland.
RRN: In the newest flick, she’ll be one of the fabled horsemen of the main antagonist, Apocalypse. Apocalypse is the first mutant to exist and arguably the most powerful mutant ever. He was an excellent choice as a villain for this film because this dude is a serious badass. It’ll be interesting to see how they approach Storm’s role in this film, considering that everyone has seen her on the side of the X-men in previous installments. Storm, played by Alexandra Shipp in this film, is presented as a younger version of herself, which leads me to believe that this story takes place in the past since she already appeared as the older version of herself—played by Halle Berry—in previous X-Men films. However, since movie adaptations of comic stories don’t always follow the story to the letter, I’m left to wait until I see the film.
LAW: In most formats, Storm is portrayed, to quote Carl Carlton, as “foxy, classy, oh, sexy, sassy. She’s heavenly,” wise, kind, regal and loyal.
RRN: Storm is actually one of the underutilized X-Men characters, considering that she’s one of the most powerful. She can manipulate weather. And she’s a skilled physical fighter after training with teammates like Wolverine. In the comics, she’s also an expert thief. I’ll refrain from any stereotype musings.
LAW: Ironically, her blackness is rarely otherwise addressed. That may be because most of her stories have been done by white writers, but I think a lot of it has to do with the premise that any aspect of minority life is already captured by the overall theme of the X-Men and mutants as a whole. It’s only been fairly recently that she’s been fleshed out more in the comics.
RRN: I think Marvel has made genuine efforts to garner interest in her through comics over the decades. She’s been the X-Men leader in the books. But in terms of her use in the movies, I believe more can be done. I hear buzzings of an all-star cast in the upcoming “Black Panther” movie in 2018. The Black Panther is the king and protector of Wakanda, a fictional African country. Storm has been romantically tied to T’Challa, the Black Panther’s alter ego, in the comics. Perhaps there’s a logical connection between the two in an upcoming movie? We’ll wait and see.
Ronald Nelson is a New York-based illustrator. He is currently the illustrator of “(H)afrocentric: The Comic.” Visit him at http://ronaldrnelson.tumblr.com/.
L.A. Williams is a former comic editor and runs AquaBabyBooks.com online bookstore.