Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Thor is Dead

Actually, Thor has been dead several times in Marvel Comics.

He's also been Captain America, a Christian priest, a clone, a construction worker, a crazy person, a cult member, a divorced architect, a doctor with a bad leg, a dog, an exile from Asgard, a frog, a heathen priest, a horse-headed space alien, Lord of Asgard, a paramedic, Storm, a TV cameraman and a zombie. At the moment, those are the ones I can remember. I may have missed a few status updates.

Marvel swears female Thor is forever.
Forever? Forever ever? Forever ever?

Given the above, please excuse me for yawning while reading the breathless responses in mainstream media and social media to the Marvel Comics announcement that Thor will now be a woman. I hadn't even bothered to follow links to read any of the "news" stories, but people keep forwarding them to me and asking for my thoughts. I finally did some clicking around, and all was as I expected.

Marvel Comics editor Wil Moss insists, "This new Thor isn't a temporary female substitute – she's now the one and only Thor." As a check on the definitiveness of this definitive statement, please refer to the above list of the company's thunder god incarnations.

There are those among you who seem to be unfamiliar with the way comic books work in the post-"Death of Superman" era. Ever since the 1992 announcement of the Man of Steel's demise generated international media reports and millions of copies of a single issue, DC and Marvel – the two American comic book giants – have periodically killed characters or made other changes designed to fuel media reports and consumer interest.

The more popular the character, the less permanent the change. Superman stayed dead for less than a year. The reports of the deaths of Batman, Captain America and many other household names have also been greatly exaggerated.

One of the female Captain Marvels

Changes of race, gender and sexual preference of supporting characters have also been used to generate media attention and sales. Jewish Lesbian Batwoman got a lot of press. Asian Batgirl brought new attention to the character, for a time – then she moved aside for the return of White Batgirl. Female Robins have come and gone. Captain Marvel (Marvel version) seems to change gender every few years.

Marvel gained a lot of attention for its Thor titles when Loki became female. When that novelty wore off, he became a teenage boy. When that novelty wore off, he was zapped back to his original adult age  – thus skipping the awkward post-collegiate years when he moves back into Odin's basement and plays video games while "looking for a job."

Female Loki on Marvel's commitment to "female-centrism"

The Marvel website claims that the new female Thor is part of some wonderful empowerment plan for young American women: "THOR is the latest in the ever-growing and long list of female-centric titles that continues to invite new readers into the Marvel Universe. THOR will be the 8th title to feature a lead female protagonist and aims to speak directly to an audience that long was not the target for super hero comic books in America: women and girls."

This is somewhat reminiscent of the Marvel website asking in 2012, "Does Sif have the potential to be one of Marvel’s greatest heroines?" They answered their own question by canceling the female Asgardian's series after only ten issues. So much for Marvel's commitment to "female-centric titles."

Most people reacting to the Female Thor press release seem to have missed this little tidbit from IGN News: "The original Thor will still be operating in the Marvel Universe, however. He will now be wielding his magical god-slaying ax Jarnbjorn, which he used back in his younger days."

Balder dead? What will they think of next?

Do you think "the original Thor" will get his hammer back in time for the third Thor movie? Will Marvel re-start his comic book series with a Special Collector's Item First Issue in the lead-up to the film? Can we expect an iconic cover of Classic Thor holding the dead body of Not-a-Temporary-Female-Substitute Thor?



Unknown said...

I think that when the story arc in Thor the Unworthy ends and Thor is now worthy again he will become Thor again. I think that the reason more female readers are starting to read Thor is because they think he is hot, both the actor who plays him and the character. I think now that Marvel turned Thor into a woman it will lose the appeal. So within the year Thor will be male and this female version will be either killed out if the book sales drop or another heroine who will slowly disappear like Thorgirl did in the 2000's.

Unknown said...

Well written article Doc.

Tolin said...

I've loved Thor for as long as I can remember. My father read the comics to me before I learned to speak (Walt Simonson era - classic), although I stopped in high school when Marvel got gritty-weird.

I've tried to get back into it, but the overwhelming misogyny of comic books is now too obvious to me, and even my old favorites bore and upset me now. If this change is even the tiniest step forward, I embrace it. The people who run our pop culture are going to take a long time to figure this out, and they're going to need encouragement. The world does not become a better place overnight.

I for one will be subscribing to Thor for the first time almost two decades.

Datastar said...

I think Kevin is right. As a long-time comic fan, costume designer and cosplayer (long before it was called such), I think the costume sucks, which is a big turnoff for me, as a reader. I don't like this plotline, and would have preferred to see this character as Thor's DAUGHTER, or such, rather than as actual THOR, if the writers must go there. I wish the new writers would leave the characters and teams as originally written, and come up with interesting STORIES, rather than try to change things around.

Unknown said...

Dollar to a stale doughnut that they will run with the female Thor for a while, then put Thor through some kind of "redemption" story arc. Or in other words ... same-old same-old from the Comics Industry.

Chewie said...

I'm a female reader of American comics, but a rather recent one since I am French. When I was young, I couldn't stand American comics besides X-men because of the way girls and women were portrayed. Things are better now, and the female-centric titles of Marvel are mostly very good. But, as much as I love to read them now, I am not enthusiastic for the new direction of Thor. When reading the old Thor comics, I couldn't stand the ones where Thor, the "real" Thor, son of Odin... was replaced by another person who took his hammer and his power. I don't like the powers of a character, I like the character itself. I'm all for female-centric titles, but not like that, not when we all know that it is temporary AND that it is done at the expense of my favorite Marvel character. I WANT a female-centric Asgardian title, and the cancellation of JiM with Sif broke my heart and Fearless Defenders has been an awful title from beginning to the end. Marvel, just try again with Sif, giving her a title running from n°646 in the middle of a reboot of the numeration of all the other titles was a death sentence even before beginning.
And a new Tales of Asgard for us mythology lovers...

Unknown said...

I have an interest in Thor and Norse religious practices because my parents gave me an anglicised version of the Norse name Þórvaldr.

I have to date not read one Thor comic, nor seen any of the films from the Marvel universe. I find them unworthy.

lazycat said...

It seems to me that the failure of other female characters in the genre has more to do with bad marketing and plots than with the characters. Maybe Freyja needs her own comic series. She's the fairest of them all and also…a chariot drawn by kittehs!

Unknown said...

the problem will female characters in the genre is that Marvel has males writing the stories. The guys don't know how to write stories that men and women would enjoy. The attempt to make their female characters too weak and need the powerful male gods to fight for them but really Sif should have had a better run then it did. I heard her solo comics was horrible and when she should be the pinnacle of female warriors in the genre. Marvel should hire female writer who enjoy mythical stories and make their own female characters better than turn Thor, because his popularity is growing, female. Once the sales drop suddenly Thor will be himself again.

Unknown said...

While I do think that this is a ploy on Marvel's part that falls on a similar level to their plan for Wolverine's imminent death this September (oh, wow. Wolverine, gone forever. They won't bring him back in six months or anything. They'd never do that.), I do think that this new female Thor has the potential to have her own interesting, stand-alone arc. Though the whole thing may be mainly orchestrated for money, and the excuse to give Thor a cybernetic arm and watch him mope about and eat ice cream in the wake of Mjölnir's departure- listening to "All By Myself" on repeat- I find the idea of a woman joining the ranks of previous hammer-wielders like a frog and an alien horse guy to be totally acceptable. but then again, a frog had to come before a woman in the Thor roster. because, you know, frogs are much more easy to accept in positions of power than women are. That we now have to face who knows how many issues about Thor being all depressed over being "unworthy" for the millionth time is a drag, and that Marvel could not pick a suitable female hero in their roster to become the new Thor, and instead invented a new girl, is more than a little lamentable. I mean, I can think of someone who might've been a good fit, maybe... (STORM coughcough STORM coughcough OBVIOUSLY. Or Sif at least, I mean come on, Marvel, make an effort.). Nonetheless, I will read this new title, and I hope for the sake of feminism and Thor's continuing popularity that it doesn't tank. Please let it float for a good bit, let it have a nice solid run, and then give him his hammer back.

Saira Mokhtari said...

From what my dad read, this is technically NOT Thor. Thor becomes unworthy of Mjolnir and it passes to a woman who is worthy. Therefore she is NOT Thor himself (or herself). I am highly annoyed with the way Marvel is portraying things and so far have only been interested in the Loki: Agent of Asgard series.

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