Marvel Comics has been dropping bombshells this week, announcing on Tuesday that Thor will become a woman, and revealing Wednesday morning what Ultron will look like in the next Avengers movie, and then announcing later that night that Sam Wilson (The Falcon) will become the new, black Captain America. More announcements are sure to come as we get closer and closer to San Diego Comic Con.
For the most part, reaction to these announcements have been met with everything from a rabid fanboy excitement to indifference to intense anger. Me? I’m in the “meh” camp (save for Ultron. He looks sweet as hell). Wilson as Cap doesn’t bother me in the slightest. In fact, I’m surprised its taken this long.
I do, however, have problems with the changing of Thor. Now, before some of you rabid morons hop on the “SEXIST PIG” train, take a moment to read.
Thor has been everything from a woman (yes, this has already happened), to a horse, to a frog.
The Captain America mantle has fallen to a number of people over the past 60+ years for various reasons. And guess what? It’s never lasted. It never will last. Why? For every “comics aren’t doing anything new” complaint lobbed at “The Big Two”, there are 5-10 people who buy the same thing that comes out week after week, month after month. They’re comfortable in familiarity. That’s just how it works.
Sorry, Sam. You do look awesome in the outfit, though.
Changing a hero’s gender, or killing a character, or any other major story change has, for the most part, never stuck around for too long (see Thunderstrike). There are only 3 characters in comics that, to my knowledge, have died and have stayed dead: Thomas and Martha Wayne and Uncle Ben. Why? Because those deaths matter. Those facts, those events, matter.
Even Barbara Gordon, who was paralyzed after being shot by the Joker in the 1988 Alan Moore/Brian Bolland epic “The Killing Joke”, became un-paralyzed with the launch of the New 52 by DC Comics in 2011. Most of these types of changes aren’t done to further the story, as they are retconned within a year or two. No, these changes are made to get people to go “Why is THAT? I need to get that issue”.
I understand comics are a business and that they need to come up with different ways for people to get on board with the books. There’s a fix for that though: create compelling stories and even more compelling characters. Which, admittedly, is harder than gender-swapping a fictional character. The current run on “Thor” by Jason Aaron has been, from what I’ve read, outstanding. Why make such a drastic change to the character that, in the long run, won’t really challenge the status quo of the male/female superhero ratio? Putting women in men’s roles only gets you so far.
AN UNSTABLE STABLE
Currently, Marvel has a number of books running featuring female leads: “Ms. Marvel”, “Captain Marvel”, “She-Hulk”, “Black Widow”, “X-Men”, “Elektra”, and soon, “Thor”. But how hard is Marvel pushing these books? How aware are people that these books are even on the shelves?
The highest selling female-led book in June 2014 was DC’s “Harley Quinn” at #4, with an estimated 93,000 copies shipped. The next closest? DC’s “Wonder Woman” at #29, with just over 48,000 issues shipped. The next title is “Batgirl”, another DC book, with over 47,000 copies shipped. The first female-led Marvel book, “X-Men”, shows up at #51, with just over 38,000 copies shipped. “Ms. Marvel” shows up at #61 (almost 34,000 copies). “Black Widow” shows up at #87 (25,000). “She Hulk” is at #90 (24,000) and “Captain Marvel” is at #94 (just over 24,000).
What is the point of forcibly establishing new female characters if you can’t even sell the ones you already have? How about sticking an AAA team on one of the aforementioned books? There’s Valkyrie and Lady Sif, two powerful Asgardian females. Give them a book. Strengthen those characters. Give readers a reason to care and buy the book (not saying that sales numbers indicate the quality of a book by any means) without resorting to temporary gimmicks.
This should technically go under #3, but it’s my list, and this is my main point, so shut up.
Some people have been claiming that the Thor change is a win for feminism. I respectfully disagree. What Marvel is doing is taking a well-established male character and bestowing the “title” of Thor to a female. A bestowment that won’t last. If anything, feminists should be outraged that Marvel would think that using a gender swap as a selling point is OK. That they’re seemingly saying “a female character can’t carry a book on her own, so let’s change the gender of an established male character to fill that void”. Is the change to make Male Thor feel some sort of humility? If so, why a woman? Why not someone/something else? There’s a lot of questions that nobody is answering.
Will the gender change of Thor make sense? I’m sure it will, in that charming comic book sort of way. In fact, I bet the entire explanation will be “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.”, which is inscribed on the hammer Mjolnir. And that’s it. He-Thor screwed the pooch, and now it’s someone else’s turn. Fair enough.
Should people be as happy about it as they are? Not in the slightest. In fact, it’s not so much “world shattering” as it is “business as usual” for The Big Two. I have all faith in Jason Aaron’s writing ability, but I won’t be buying the series.
I won’t be falling for that trick.
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