There’s an oft-used trope in the realm of comic books when sales are dwin­dling: Take a well-established male char­ac­ter and make a female ver­sion. I sup­pose the log­ic behind it is that a new female role mod­el will attract a new demo­graph­ic whilst not hav­ing to risk a non-established char­ac­ter in a sat­u­rat­ed mar­ket. It’s anal­o­gous to an adver­tis­ing exec­u­tive dis­cov­er­ing the per­fect vehi­cle to shove a tired, old pro­duct in for new set of faces by adjust­ing the paint job a bit. I have always thought of this as a lazy gim­mick more than any­thing else. Whilst female char­ac­ters deriv­a­tive of their male coun­ter­parts can devel­op into tru­ly great per­sonas of their own (She-Hulk and Spider-Woman imme­di­ate­ly spring to mind), most of the time peo­ple see straight through it. It always strikes me as a bit daft too; tak­ing the risk with a com­plete­ly new female super­hero is sure­ly more laud­able than giv­ing a male char­ac­ter long hair and stick­ing –girl at the end of their name. I mean, who hon­est­ly remem­bers Miss Martian or Cyborgirl? The most suc­cess­ful distaff coun­ter­parts tend to be those who are marked­ly dif­fer­ent from the orig­i­nal. So why do they need to be deriv­a­tive of an exist­ing char­ac­ter in the first place? But hey, I can under­stand not want­i­ng to take a risk when you’re a billion-dollar multi­na­tion­al cor­po­ra­tion … wait. That doesn’t log­ic.


In any case, chang­ing the gen­der of a char­ac­ter can demon­strate a lack of cre­ative vision. Often a char­ac­ter is intro­duced with a lack­adaisi­cal “they got the same pow­ers from the same acci­dent involv­ing this super sci­ence laser.” Having some­one show up with the same set of pow­ers sans penis is kind of bor­ing. This is actu­al­ly why I was excit­ed for the poten­tial of a female Thor. Thor draws pow­er from the myth­i­cal ham­mer, Mjolnir.


Whosoever wields this ham­mer, if he be wor­thy, shall pos­sess the pow­er of Thor.”


Originally the ham­mer was wield­ed by Dr. Donald Blake, a nerdy physi­cian who became the Asgardian thunder-god Thor when he picked up the ham­mer. He was wor­thy; thus he was Thor. Several dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters have wield­ed Mjolnir over the years, includ­ing a weird horse-alien thing, Storm of the X-men, and Loki, who I’m sure every­one knows as Tom Hiddleston by now. For Thor, there’s an actu­al rea­son why the char­ac­ter would change — if they’re wor­thy, they can be Thor. It real­ly doesn’t mat­ter what the gen­der is in that case, regard­less of pre­cise wordage in the hammer’s inscrip­tion. So, when Marvel announced Thor would become a wom­an, my reac­tion was “cool.”


Then this hap­pened:

Thor #5

The above is an extract from the 5th issue, the new run of Thor. In it, Thor is bat­tling Absorbing Man, who uses the choice phras­es:


Damn fem­i­nists are ruin­ing every­thing.”


Thor’s a dude. One of the last man­ly dudes left.”


After this, Thor’s inter­nal mono­logue espous­es how much of a “creep” the vil­lain is for not being a fem­i­nist. Now I know exact­ly what they’re try­ing to do here. Absorbing Man is a cypher for inter­net fan­boys who shriek about how every­thing needs to remain at the sta­tus quo and how Thor being a wom­an is the worst thing to hap­pen to comics since Rob Liefield. I get it. This kind of social com­men­tary has always been done in comics. Here’s my issue with this thing: It’s fuck­ing awful writ­ing.


When mak­ing social com­men­tary, you nev­er out­right state explic­it­ly your opin­ions ver­ba­tim. That doesn’t work. All that hap­pens is you end up turn­ing peo­ple off. I’m all for the idea of fem­i­nism in comic books. There’s some real­ly fer­tile ground there — just look at Y: The Last Man for an amaz­ing exam­ple. The issue with Thor is that they’ve changed an estab­lished character’s gen­der. People are going to have a prob­lem with this. Most comic book fans will see it as a gim­mick to gain pub­lic­i­ty. Marvel’s already start­ing on the back foot with this. To then start pro­claim­ing that “we know bet­ter than you, and any­one who dis­agrees is a sex­ist ass­hole” isn’t the best thing to do. Thor shouldn’t care about such triv­ial mat­ters. Anyone who ques­tions her because of her gen­der gets a ham­mer upside the head. She doesn’t need empow­er­ing, she’s the God of Thunder. It’s a shame too because I love the design of the new Thor. She’s got poten­tial to be such a cool char­ac­ter. When I see this lev­el of lazy writ­ing, it’s just so dis­ap­point­ing.

It could be worse, though. At least Thor didn’t sell his love to the dev­il then have the last 18 months of his mem­o­ry erased. Who’d be stu­pid enough to do that?

(Disclaimer: The opin­ions expressed in this arti­cle are the author’s own and do not nec­es­sar­i­ly rep­re­sent those of the staff and/or any con­trib­u­tors to this site.) BurtonComicsComics,Culture,Marvel,ThorThere’s an oft-used trope in the realm of comic books when sales are dwin­dling: Take a well-established male char­ac­ter and make a female ver­sion. I sup­pose the log­ic behind it is that a new female role mod­el will attract a new demo­graph­ic whilst not hav­ing to risk a non-established…
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John Burton
John is a tat­tooed astronomer. He hearts games, movies & beardy music. He also bakes a lot and looks through tele­scopes less often than he’d like. Helps with GamerGiving char­i­ty stream­ing as well!
John Burton

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