Five Reasons To: Get Over the New Thor Being a Female

NewThor1

Marvel apparently shocked the world with its announcement on ABC’s The View Tuesday that the current male Thor was about to become unworthy of his primary weapon and source of his God of Thunder powers, the hammer Mjölnir, and an as-yet unknown female character would be taking his place. The controversy stems from several places, but the biggest one seems to be that this new Thor will not be known by a different name, but Thor. According to a press release from Marvel, she is now Thor in the Marvel Universe and that’s it. Regular Thor: God of Thunder writer Jason Aaron confirmed this in the same release and in various other outlets. Naturally, the internet exploded over this and arguments, hate speech and senseless babbling has taken place ever since. Talking sense to those who’ve made up their minds may seem futile, but here are the top five reasons you shouldn’t be complaining about this.

5. We don’t have the full context of this yet. Probably one of the biggest flaws in the current comic book advertising structure is that of the advance solicit. Each month, the major publishers drop their official solicits (subject to change of course) for three months ahead. For example, it’s now July and we’ve just gotten the October solicits from all the major publishers. These reveal a lot of information about what’s coming up in the stories, occasional creative team changes, new cover art, etc… But what they don’t usually give us is context. We don’t get the ‘how’ or even much of the ‘why,’ just a few moments to tease us. This is a way to let people know when and where major events might be happening so they don’t miss out on it, but it’s also added to the already volatile entitlement culture that has permeated the entire internet comics community. These incessant fanboys (and girls) despise anything and everything and they can’t wait to tell you about it. Even more so, they can’t wait to berate you for not agreeing with them. Like the rest of us, they don’t have the full story behind this particular announcement, all they know is what they’ve seen in the press release and in officially released artwork. And honestly, that’s not much to go on. It’s a couple of pics showing off the new Thor’s armor and another pic showing the male Thor (that’s right, still alive), with a mechanical arm and holding an axe, Jarnbjorn, suggesting he still has a big role to play here (more on that in a minute). But how did this happen? There’s still an extra-sized issue of Thor: God of Thunder to come in September, which will also be the series finale. We’re likely going to see the setup for this and get quite a few more answers than we have right now. And isn’t that supposed to be part of the fun of comics? Shouldn’t we be surprised by things instead of demanding that it all stays the same all the time? How boring would that soon turn? Which brings us to…

4. Shaking up the status quo is a good thing. Many comic book characters have several decades’ worth of history. Thor is no different. As new writers come in year after year, sometimes stories start to run together. “This story sucks because it’s just like this other story from all those years ago. I liked that old story,” the entitled fanboy quips without realizing what he’s actually said. Saying a story is bad by calling it a rip-off of a story that was great is kind of a conundrum, don’t you think? If it’s telling a similar story to one you loved and you otherwise spend all your time complaining about how much you hate change, you should be quite pleased. But then you go and complain when the exact opposite happens as well. Maybe comics aren’t for you anymore. Keeping everything exactly as it has been for years means, obviously, that things will always look exactly the same. There won’t be any surprises and you’ll be able to predict the stories’ beginnings, middles and endings long before we actually get there. This sucks all the potential fun right out of the whole experience. What kind of person takes joy in being able to predict where every story goes ahead of time and hates it when things are kept surprising? If you hate surprises and change that much, then you should stick to the stories you’ve read dozens of times, old movies and TV shows and the same meals every day. If that makes you happy, then please go be happy, but stop faulting the rest of humanity for trying new things. Your way doesn’t work for everybody as, you know, life isn’t a one-size-fits-all deal. And comics are a business, like many others, that depend on money to keep them going. Making big changes to a major character like this can appeal to a broader spectrum of people and that can’t be a bad thing because…

3. Bringing new fans to comics means the medium expands and becomes more exciting. Your local comic shop owner will, no doubt, tell you how hard times can be when people aren’t buying comics. Remember the boom and bust of the 1990’s? Bet your bottom dollar any shop that’s still open today after surviving that does. It’s no secret the primary comics audience skews much older than it did in, say, the 1930s or 1940s, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. It’s also been dominated by a very large number of white males (myself included). That doesn’t mean other audiences don’t love comics, too, but maybe those demographics feel like they are not being represented in comics culture and, worse, aren’t welcomed in it. Creating new characters/heroes doesn’t always work to correct this, either. There are some great characters like Icon and Static who were introduced as totally new characters, but enjoyed only minor success despite being some of the most well-written stories in comics at the time. Why? Simple: comic fans are incredibly averse to trying anything unfamiliar. New fans doubly so. Walking into a comic shop the first time can be overwhelming to those who are curious but unfamiliar with the culture. There’s a lot of history and it can seem like too much to even bother with for some. But if a familiar name is now more representative of a different group, then it might just inspire some to give it a shot. And the female audience is the fastest growing in all of comics. Titles like Saga, Walking Dead, Fables, Rat Queens, Lumberjanes and others have all featured strong female characters without also objectifying them. The superhero genre has been slowly catching up to this idea, but there are a lot of fans out there who seem to be resistant to this because they clearly feel threatened by a group of people they’ve likely been afraid of their whole lives suddenly becoming part of their world. It’s really time to let that go guys. Because…

How fanboys interpreted the announcement
How fanboys interpreted the announcement

2. The longer you talk about it being a bad idea, the more misogynistic you sound. As a preface, not everybody who is against this idea is a misogynist. Some don’t like the idea of anyone other than Thor Odinson being the wielder of Mjölnir. Some are worried this means the story Jason Aaron was telling is now sidelined (it isn’t, more on that later). However, there are two forms of misogyny on display here. One is quite blatant and direct in saying that anytime a traditionally male superhero is either gender-changed or replaced by a new/preexisting female character that it’s a slap in the face to the (male) fan base. The level of entitlement present in these people is astounding. Not only do they feel a sense of ownership over a fictional character (sorry, you don’t own it at all) they hate and fear the idea of a powerful woman and will do anything to tear it down. The other is more subtle. It’s the one that says “a girl can’t be Thor because she’s a girl.” Imagine you have a daughter and she loves Thor. She wants to dress up for Halloween as a girl version of Thor. Would you tell her “sorry hunny, you can’t be Thor because you’re a girl?” This mentality is equally toxic, in a passive aggressive sense. The truth, however, is that this one causes more harm. It’s a passive aggressive way of saying “you’re not good enough because you’re different.” It’s taking things back to a “separate but equal” mentality and we all know what that actually means: plenty of separate without one ounce of equal. It’s a way of saying “put that off to the side so I don’t have to see it.” That creates a subtle mental separation between new and old fans that says “you’re not welcome here” to the new ones. Those new fans, they pick up on it. They walk into a shop and see one or two books that represent them with the rest being aimed squarely at the white heterosexual male audience; it sends a very clear message. And anytime someone comes along and shakes that up a little, the cries of “they’re destroying everything” flood onto the message boards and social media. You may see some people pushing back against that, but there are lots of others who see it and feel like they can’t go to a comic shop because they’re not welcomed there. So why not give a major role to a female character? It’s not like there aren’t still loads of white heterosexual male superheroes to choose from, nor is there any danger of that suddenly changing, especially since they’re the biggest-selling names in comics. Superman, Batman, The Flash (Barry Allen and Jay Garrick), Green Lantern (Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner, even though he’s a Red Lantern at the moment), Spider-Man (Peter Parker), Iron Man, Hawkeye, Captain America (Steve Rogers, yes I know this is changing and I say good! Also, likely temporary.), Cyclops, Wolverine, Gambit, Colossus and whole host of others have it pretty well covered. And male Thor isn’t exactly going anywhere. He’s not being killed off. He’s undergoing a change that was part of Jason Aaron’s larger plan from the start, if you’ve been reading along. In fact, that brings up the most important thing to keep in mind…

Credit John Kovalic
Credit John Kovalic

1. Jason Aaron isn’t going anywhere. Thor: God of Thunder is probably the best book Marvel is publishing right now. And while it would be a crime to take anything away from Esad Ribic’s masterful artwork, the larger reason it’s worked so well is because of Aaron’s writing. He’s taken Thor to new heights and progressed the character in ways many other writers have failed to accomplish. His love of the character is on full display in every issue, but it’s been strongest in issues #12 and #24. In both of these, he showed what it truly means to be a hero and what makes Thor Odinson so great. And all throughout his run, we’ve been seeing Old King Thor in the distant future, and he’s clearly seen better days. We know that’s still coming from this recent interview with Aaron. This is all part of the larger story and despite the cancellation of one title and the launch of a “new” one, it’s all still the same story. It’s not a crime for Marvel to do something to attract new readers to their books and that usually means printing a giant “#1” on the cover. It’s a proven, successful method. After all, nobody writing or drawing for Marvel is working for free, nor should they. Like us, they have bills to pay and probably families to care for at home. If nothing else, maybe they have pets who also need to eat. And has Aaron ever struck anyone as the type to just “get on board” with whatever is thrown at him? Of course not! He’ll play nice in a company’s sandbox, no doubt, but he’s always been one to advocate and defend his stories his way. This is no different. Before blatantly crucifying the man and his story, maybe give it some actual time to develop. Despite the best of intentions and explanations, not everyone is going to be on board with this. Some even hate the entire Jason Aaron run (as mind-blowing as that is). But just because it’s not for everybody, doesn’t mean it should be for nobody. It’s not the job of the publisher/writers/artists to make everyone happy. If that were the case, nothing would ever get done because pleasing everyone is, quite literally, impossible. It’s their job to tell the best story they can. Fans have as much say as they have money. Vote with your dollars, but make sure you put your money where your mouth is first.

"Do I look dead to you?"
“Do I look dead to you?”

Author: Russell Sellers

Comic book geek extraordinaire, Russell Sellers enjoys enthusiastic conversations about all things geek. He also traffics in ill-timed puns and random obscure Ghostbusters quotes. Send Russell an email