As testament to how far comics have come and been ingrained in the cultural consciousness, i was honestly shocked to hear actual watercooler talk the other day about the big news from Marvel Comics. In the long, proud tradition of geekdom, it was a hallmark day June 16 that a 44-year-old comic book character was all the buzz. Enough of a buzz, i’d say to warrant asking if you’ve been living under a rock if you don’t know by now.
i became aware of the story during an early afternoon lav break, which offers a fleeting moment of escape from the donkeywork, and flagged the topic for future reading. About an hour later, a friend posted his thoughts on the announcement, incredulous as they were. My attempt to make a case included reserving judgement until reading the story, the evolution from adolescent boys’ power trip fantasy to diverse readership and the difficulty of establishing new, lasting characters.
It fell on deaf ears.
Okay, how about cyclical character arcs that return to status quo without growth, and how Marvel these days is experimenting with significant character changes and new kinds of stories?
Impenetrable. It just didn’t make any sense to arbitrarily change Thor’s sex, to my friend or several others involved in the discussion. Even offering the simplest possible reason had no effect. Because magic.
Readers versus nonreaders
The social scientist in me ad hocced data collection. It seems to me most people who have any sort of problem with the change to Thor are those who don’t read comics now, and often for the most part really haven’t at all. There’s some outrage, some skepticism and some disbelief at this mysterious journey Thor is taking. On the other hand, folks who know their comics are excited by the prospects. There’s a good chance the story by writer Jason Aaron might be really fantastic. Esad Ribic’s (seen above) and Russell Dauterman’s (seen below) art looks evocative. And seasoned comic book fans know, they can always change it back. There’s a good trend in comics right now, i think, that allows for all different types of stories being told with the same characters. If Thor turns out to be the hottest selling book of all time, and another creative team pitched a good original Thor story, well they probably would publish that too. Heaven and The Long Shot know i could go on and on about comics – there’s always something good out there each Wednesday.
i’ll go out on a limb and say, if you only read one comic in 2014, pick up Thor #1 this October. If it got you interested enough in comics, put it on your digital pull list or visit the comic shop and pick it up. Get an answer to your burning question. Does it make any sense? Find out.
“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,” Aaron said. “But it’s unlike any Thor we’ve ever seen before.”
Men versus women
These two groups did not see much differently as regards the change to Thor, except as they differed in readership. For nonreader women, the issue most often concerned whether or not Chris Hemsworth would remain movie Thor. If we’re going to make our nonreader girlfriends watch explosive superhero action movies, Hemsworth helps sell the ticket i guess.
Men who were skeptical seemed put off by turning a burly, rugged mighty man into a woman. So in a way, maybe the same thing a little?
Speaking to the NY Daily News, pop culture journalist Jill Pantozzi shared her thoughts about the news.
“Giving her the title of Thor gives her a great power behind her from the get-go,” says Jill Pantozzi, editor in chief of TheMarySue.com, a pop culture news site. “People know the character Thor from the Marvel movies, that makes this a big event. It is nice to see that both Marvel and (rival publisher) DC Comics are realizing that there is an untapped market in women readers.”
The husband of a co-worker is a huge Marvel zombie based on her descriptions, and i shared the news with her, suggesting perhaps bringing it up as dinner conversation. She did, and they had an insightful conversation about it.
You’re welcome, co-worker’s husband.
@dimdullcold No, she’s just called Thor. And WTF is that we’re doing it and it’s awesome.
— Ryan Penagos (@AgentM) July 15, 2014
Age versus youth
Here again, there seems to be little difference of opinion except between those who are and aren’t comic book readers already. On the older side of the spectrum, readers have seen Thor and a multitude of other characters change over the years, and are for the most part intrigued by this new direction. After all, in the Marvel Comics universe, Thor is in some ways a concept rather than an individual. The persona and power of the thunder god resides in his trademark weapon – the hammer Mjolnir. Inscribed on the mystical artifact are the words “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.” Over the years a few people have proven worthy, and i am looking forward to reading about how this new hero will prove herself.
Younger people, especially those without a history of comics knowledge, wonder why comics creators aren’t developing brand new characters instead of retooling old ones. On a related note, a friend of mine who is opposed to the upcoming change asked why they don’t just elevate existing female characters, like fellow Asgardian goddess Sif. Others cite existing female heroes like Wonder Woman as being sufficient role models for women. But, barring the fact WW is from a different publisher, should there be but a handful (or one) great example of powerful female superheroes?
In response, i offered my observation that it seems to be extremely difficult to create and establish new characters in comic books. While there are modern day superheroes of note, rarely do they ever achieve the kind of status or staying power held by the icons we all know. At the same time, the pillars of the superhero community have been around a long time, and to me it only makes sense that publishers shake things up for them now and again. Taking one of Marvel’s “Big Three” (along with Iron Man and Captain America) and making waves with this big change i think is great. The reactions of her fellow Avengers will be interesting to see, and personally i love a good female ass-kicker. Mass Effect’s FemShep taught me the value of that.
Odds are in your favor with this new direction for Thor. If it’s a great story and terrific art then it’s money well spent. If you still don’t buy the premise, then at least you’ll know you gave it a shot and your instincts were correct. At the very least, you’ll have a Wednesday evening moment to talk about on a coffee break or over dessert. Maybe it will turn you into a regular reader. Making a judgement before you see what the story has to offer seems means you might be losing out on a great experience.
In the meantime, i decided to check out Thor: God of Thunder. Only a couple of issues in, but i am impressed by the artwork enough to keep going. The characterization of Thor keeps me interested, but the story hasn’t taken hold of my imagination just yet. i’ll give it at least another issue or two though.
Existing comic book fans and readers hopefully will give the new Thor a chance in October. With any luck, all the buzz created by this announcement will make create some new comic book readers, too. Personally, i’ve always preferred the classic superhero characters, and i enjoy seeing all the changes they go through over the years.
And the thunder god isn’t the only one undergoing a change, either.
Another of Marvel’s top tier characters, Captain America will be undergoing an identity change in the near future as well, with the superhero known as The Falcon taking on the mantle of the Star Spangled Avenger. Fans of this summer’s blockbuster Captain America: The Winder Soldier known Sam Wilson from his popular portrayal by Anthony Mackie. This longtime close friend of Cap’s will be filling his buccaneer boots after a storyline in which the super soldier serum that made frail Steve Rogers into Captain America is drained away, leaving him a fragile shadow of his superheroic self.
Even though i enjoy comics from other publishers, Marvel Comics have always been closest to my heart and i’m really enjoying the ride lately. They’re putting out a number of great books that offer a break from the standard bad guy throwdowns of the month. Books like Silver Surver, Daredevil, Magneto, and especially Moon Knight – all titles on my digital pull list – are telling off-the-wall stories. Another title i just discovered has rocketed up my charts, too. Hopping on board with issue #13, Superior Foes of Spider-Man quickly enchanted me with a sort of behind-the-scenes look at the lives of supervillains. The often-hilarious story of this gang’s attempts at supervillainy got me going back to issue #1 and working my way up to speed. Look for a full review soon here at The Long Shot.