Marvel comics recently revealed some new artwork for their Thor title, and she looks great. Wait. She? Thor is a woman? Hold on a second. Let me make sure that’s right. Yep, in a completely unforseen change in the direction of the popular character, Marvel is making Thor a woman. Now, this isn’t some female version of Thor who comes along an plays sidekick like Valkyrie or Thor-girl. Thor didn’t get a sex change or a body swap or anything like that. The title’s author Jason Aaron shot that down pretty quickly and definitely:
This is not She-Thor. This is not Lady Thor. This is not Thorita. This is THOR. This is the THOR of the Marvel Universe. But it’s unlike any Thor we’ve ever seen before.
She wields the hammer because Thor can’t. This is different because for reasons we can’t disclose quite yet, Thor is unable to pick up the hammer. There are a number of women in Thor’s life, and we’re going to tease out for quite awhile the identity of who this woman is. But one of the women in Thor’s life picks up the hammer. She is in fact worthy. And she becomes Thor. There’s only one Thor in the Marvel Universe. The character we know as Thor will not refer to himself as Thor anymore.
So the Thor Odinson we all know an love becomes unworthy to hold the hammer. And someone else, a female friend, is worthy. Sif isn’t blonde, is she? This situation frankly begs a few questions. First, is “Thor” suddenly a title that can be passed around instead of a person’s first name? Perhaps the most famous example is Beta-Ray Bill, a horse-faced alien who was deemed worthy to wield Mjolnir. He was still ‘Beta-Ray Bill.’ He was mistaken for Thor once or twice, but his identity didn’t change. ‘Thor’ isn’t a super-hero codename like ‘Iron Man’ or ‘Captain America,’ it’s Thor’s actual first name. Having someone pick up Mjolnir and say “that person is now the Thor” is like me handing our esteemed editor Taylor my favorite shirt and having him go around calling himself ‘Andrew.’ Other people have wielded Mjolnir and kept their normal (as far as normal goes in the Marvel universe) identity. Second, why the change? Is Marvel trying to grab more female readers? Or are they just trying to pick up ratings? We’ve seen quite a few large changes in more recent years with Marvel comics, suspiciously not long after the New 52 reboot of the DC Universe. Ultimate Spider-Man died and the mantle was passed on to a 13-year-old, half African-American, half Mexican kid. Captain America was shot, replaced, resurrected and launched a new title in Secret Avengers. Johnny Storm died permanently (but then came back). Doc Ock became Spider-Man for a year. Now, Thor gets a gender swap. Are they trying to compete with DC’s title changes? And why is this going to be the official Thor title instead of a one-shot or a spin-off? According to Will Moss, the editor of the upcoming Thor series, says it’s actually all plot-driven:
We can’t give away all the story details now obviously, but once the story is out there, it becomes clear why there’s a new female Thor. It’s not about filling a certain quota. It’s about providing a shot in the arm to the Thor titles definitely, but it’s something that’s a natural part of where this story and the Thor title is going.
The change is a natural part of the direction of the series, then. Not some guys in a boardroom brainstorming ideas and the guy with the donuts walks in and goes “hey, let’s make Thor a GIRL. That’ll be new.” Nope, it’s a part of the story. That makes me feel better. I suppose the next question would be: how long will this last? Any thoughts on the matter, Mr. Alonso?
There really is this one Thor for an extended period of time for which we have no real exit plan.
Isn’t that about the same thing they said when Captain America died? And Johnny Storm? And then they went back to the way things were after less than 2 years? Jason Aaron had this to add:
This will have long-term effects on the title. This isn’t something that’s just going to last for a few issues. She is Thor. She will carry that hammer in her own books and the other books as well. So for the foreseeable future this is Thor.
I feel like I’ve been a little rant-y. Rest assured, I will read the comic before I pass my final judgement. As of right now, however, I’m failing to make sense of this move. I absolutely believe that comics need more strong female characters. But re-branding already-established characters won’t make up for the lack of strong female leads; it only serves to point out that the males dominated the comics media first. Personally, I don’t think the female version of Thor will or should last very long. I’d rather a new female hero were created, with new powers, an original backstory, and no male counterpart or predecessor. Having said that, only the future knows what lies ahead for Thor. The cover art looks awesome, though.