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:
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?
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