Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The New Thor

So....Thor is going to be a woman soon.  That's the news that dropped earlier today, that Thor's hammer will soon be swung by a woman who is found worthy after Odin's son loses that distinction.  And there is some serious fire both in favor of and in opposition to this move.  Judging but what I've seen on Twitter today (and you can follow me at rbonne1), there are two major camps: the 'don't do this' camp and the 'hooray! welcome to the 21st century!' one.  These are the same two camps that always sprout up when the race or gender of a long standing character are changed either in print or on film. I used to be a card carrying member of the latter group until I got back into comics about a year ago and started interacting with more longtime readers and collectors.  Now, I'm not opposed under certain circumstances but I feel there are definitely times when you should leave well enough alone.  DC has changed the race of some supporting characters like Iris West and Helena Bertinelli without anyone really caring, and they've been setting up a young woman, Harper Row, to fill the role of Batman's sidekick for a good year now.  But changing a major character or reassigning a role to someone of a different gender can be fraught with peril.  You risk pissing off longtime readers while not gaining many new ones.  Longtime readers have invested years, sometimes decades in a character and a series and do not take it lightly when a fundamental change is made.   It's not wise to cross them too many times.

Thor is one of those characters with a long history that's been well established over several decades, so this is a major risk.  And to me it reeks of a stunt.  They're doing something similar with Captain America; in a recent issue the Super Soldier serum left him and now he's an old man, unable to do his duty so someone else will be taking over as Captain America while Steve Rogers is down.  And of course, Wolverine is about to get 'killed'.  Now if you think any of those developments are going to stay in place permanently I've got a bridge to sell you.  But the longtime readers of Thor are right to be upset.  Not because they're sexist pigs, either.  Plenty of men who buy and read comics pick up copies of Black Widow or Batgirl when they're picking up Iron Man or Green Arrow. They showed as much love for Storm's turn as leader of the X-Men as they did for Dick Grayson filling in for Bruce Wayne.  Just like plenty of Black readers aren't clamoring for a new, Black Bruce Wayne and are not happy with Michael B. Jordan being cast as the Human Torch in the upcoming Fantastic Four movie.  People get upset over these changes because they largely aren't necessary and could be handled some other way.  A good friend of mine suggested that a female Thor could emerge in the same vein as Beta Ray Bill, a character who was able to wield Thor's hammer and had one made for him.  The writers could do that here as well.  Giving a woman the powers of Thor is no big deal really.  Making her Thor is potentially cutting off your nose to spite your face.

I end with a question for all those who are celebrating this move.  If you aren't already reading the book, are you going to start now?  Are you going to back up your words, tweets, etc. with money or does the support end when the Twitter debates do?  I see a lot of people riding for this move on Twitter and pushing back against the people are voicing their opposition.  Are you all going to invest in the new Thor's success by purchasing the book when the change is made?  How many of you even read comics to start with, and if you don't will you be willing to start in support of this thing you are so enamored of?  Because when all is said and done money talks.  Just like tweets don't vote in November, tweets don't put money in Marvel's coffers.  If the change doesn't result in more sales, or leads to a decline, then you better believe things will go back to the way they were pretty quickly.  And if that happens, save your outrage because I won't want to hear it.  Stunts aren't the way to meaningful diversity in comics.  Pushing for new characters is the best way to go.  The new Justice League United series is going to have Native American female character named Equinox.  The other thing is to push for meaningful and respectful depictions of existing characters.  Wonder Woman has grown in leaps and bounds from being a male fetish object to someone that female readers can follow without getting pissed off.  Batgirl has almost always been such a character, as has Storm.  Like I mentioned earlier, Storm got to lead the X-Men at one point.  Wonder Woman is damn near Superman's equal now.  Harley Quinn has her own series and is one of the most popular DC characters.  Black Widow has newfound popularity thanks to her being in the Avengers related movies, and her series is a good one.  Progress is happening so let's not act like this move was necessary.  But if you do think it is, then it's put up or shut up time.  Either put you money down, or walk away quietly.  We'll see what happens.

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