When superhero comics publishers alter a character, they often wait and hope for the clap of approval.
This week, Marvel Comics’ big announcement brought a thunderclap.
Marvel announced that a big switch is coming this fall to the God of Thunder: There will be a new wielder of Mjolnir, the mystical hammer of Thor.
Engraved on Mjolnir is the phrase, “Whosoever holds this hammer, should he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.” That “he” will very soon be a she. A female Thor will grace the pages of Thor: God of Thunder, as the son of Odin turns in his work tools.
As soon as the news broke on Tuesday, some fanboys naturally raced to their keyboards with ALL-CAPS rage while other readers hailed the palace coup, as Marvel announced its eighth title to star a female character, according to the New York-based publisher.
Here are five things to note about the Thor news:
1. Old trick, new twist?
Many fans claimed that this was an unoriginal idea from Marvel — that changing the sex of a superhero is an old trick. We’ve seen female heroes taking over for male heroes before, but has it ever been a mantle this big? Thor is royalty at Marvel — within the pages of the comics and in the halls of Marvel editors. And the key thing to remember is that it’s not just about the fanboy demographic as it often was decades ago anymore. Female readership is a force in the comic-book industry, compelling publishers to address issues of diversity. Before the internet explodes, let’s see how the new Thor does with the hammer — and how all readers respond to the books — before labelling this merely another publicity stunt.
2. A champion for diversity
Marvel continues to take very seriously its stated promise to make its universe as diverse as its readership. Whether changes involve the biracial Ultimate Spider-Man, a half-Latino Nova, the Muslim Ms Marvel or the all-female X-Men team, Axel Alonso meant it when he assumed the editorship several years ago and said the pages of Marvel Comics would reflect the real world — that no matter who you are, no matter where you’re from or what your religion or sexuality is, everyone deserves to feel like they can be a superhero.
3. Trusting the talent
Trust is due to the person crafting this story. Thor: God of Thunder writer Jason Aaron has been penning a pretty spectacular run on this title. No matter who is under the metallic mask of this new female Thor, she should — at the very least — be intriguing, given Aaron’s previous body of work. Whether she becomes a staple of the Marvel universe remains to be seen.
4. Lightning in a “battle”: She’s no sidekick
One thing that seems to be enraging the naysayers is that this isn’t She-Thor, Thorina or Miss Thor, fighting alongside the supposed one and only Thor. No, this mystery woman becomes the Thor — holding the hammer, wielding the lightning. Such characters as Supergirl and Batgirl over at DC Comics, or Marvel’s Spider-Woman, have a special place in their universes. They’re relevant and beloved by many for being the female equivalent of their male counterparts. But it can’t be like that every time. That’s not progress; that’s an outdated formula.
5. Almost nothing in comics is permanent
What’s that? Thor will never be the same? Thunder-boy is banished forever from the power of Mjolnir? No more bright red cape and winged helmet? Wake up and smell the pulp. Almost nothing in comics lasts forever — not death and especially not mantle changes. Mjolnir will more than likely change hands to its original owner once more at some point. And if that does happen, hopefully the Marvel universe will have one more strong female character, permanently inspiring, in as a result.