Thor’s a lady. Captain America is a black dude. Ms. Marvel is Muslim. Spider-Man is a Hispanic kid. Groot is a tree. Adam Christopher and I, along with artist Wilfredo Torres, have reimagined the original patriotic superhero — The Shield, once of Red Circle comics, now of the Dark Circle reboot — not as Joe Higgins, but, rather, as a full-figured ass-kicking woman.
It’s exciting stuff. I’m like, It’s not enough! It’s addictive. Let’s see Idris Elba as James Bond. Or Emily Blunt as Jane Bond. Hey, Japanese Batman. Or flip the Luke and Leia roles in Star Wars. Transgendered Pakistani Doctor Who! More, more, more!
*flips the table*
*then gender-flips the table*
*now the table is a chair and also a Chinese lesbian*
Actually, a while back I suggested flipping the gender of the Doctor, and dang, you’d think I was dropping a hot deuce on a Gutenberg Bible. Some people get mad when you say stuff like that. Like, religious war mad. Like, you just insulted my mother mad.
And I’m seeing that again. Not about our variant of The Shield — but about beloved characters like Thor. Like, ahhh what the fuck if Thor is a woman then anything can happen what if my Mom becomes my Dad and my dog becomes a plant and then I fuck the plant and then we have dog-plant babies holy snack-nuts this is worse than global warming.
People rail against this. They find excuses why it shouldn’t happen — “But Thor is mythology,” they say, as if mythology is history and as if comic book fiction is meant to be an accurate, factual depiction of historimythic events. (Sidenote: I now quite like the word “historimythic.”)
Thing is, I kinda get it.
Fifteen years ago (cough cough, maybe even ten), I probably would’ve been in the same camp. In my 20s, geek shit was more important to me. You bind yourself up with these things — Star Wars isn’t just a movie you like, it’s an emblem for things you believe, a sign of who you are, acting as both aegis and mantle. Someone fucking with that feels like someone fucking with your DNA. (Doubly ironic then when it’s troublemaker George Lucas mucking about with the work of legend George Lucas.) You say, “But I am That Thing, so if you change That Thing, then who the fuck am I?” Geeks don’t like change. That includes anybody who geeks out about anything. Washington Redskins? GASP HOW DARE YOU. Changing the name wouldn’t change the team. It would simply be a name that stops pissing in the eyes of Native Americans. But changing it is like saying, “If you change of the name of the team I love, what does that say about me?”
It says nothing about you, of course, but we’re weird creatures, we humans. Hard-wired, it seems, to associate with the things we love in a way that goes beyond mere appreciation. We aren’t distant. We mesh. We merge. We braid ourselves up with the things we adore.
And so, we rail against it.
Let’s hack away at some of the issues surrounding the gender-flip.
But This Thing I Love Is Different Now
It is. And I know that’s hard. I don’t say that glibly — I mean, yeah, no, I get it, change is hard. Even in something simple as the comic books we read. But, here’s a vital reminder:
The whole reason you have the affection you had is because the original version existed in the first place. Which means it still exists. Nobody is taking away your old Thor comics and drawing boobs and a vagina on him. You still have those things. The version you loved hasn’t gone away. Now it’s time, as all children must learn, to share. Let somebody else drive the Big Wheel around for a little while, okay? Someone who maybe doesn’t look like you or sound like you.
It Breaks The Rules Of The Story
Again, Thor can’t be a lady because Thor is a dude in the mythology. The Doctor can’t be a woman because [insert some cryptic rules-lawyering from some episode 20 years ago].
These are made-up stories, though.
This isn’t science we’re trying to defy. We’re not spitting in the Eyes of the Gods. I can literally, right now, go write a story where Harry Potter is a pansexual goat-being. It’d be absurd and I’m sure somewhere J.K. Rowling would quietly harrumph in her tea, but I’m just saying: this stuff ain’t gospel. Stories are meant to be flexible, malleable — even religion and mythology allows the teller to adjust the tale to the listener. That’s a feature, not a bug.
This Is Tokenism
You misunderstand tokenism. Tokenism is, and here I’ll quote The Internet:
the practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to do a particular thing, especially by recruiting a small number of people from underrepresented groups in order to give the appearance of sexual or racial equality within a workforce.
So, to be tokenistic, Marvel might say, “Thor isn’t going to be a woman, but look, there’s a woman in the next issue. She’s a toll booth attendant and she’s a Strong Female Character because dang, look at those biceps. She handles loose change like a champion. She’s her own boss. #feminism.” Instead of making Captain America black, they’d say, “We’re racially diverse because his dry cleaner is Asian, and his real estate agent is a homosexual African-American, and look! Page four! Someone with mocha-colored skin walking a dog.”
Tokenism is doing the bare minimum to look like you’re meeting the maximum.
It’s Just A Publicity Stunt
I do not know the heart of anybody who decides to invoke greater pop culture diversity, but what I do know is that media companies are pretty much always engaging in publicity stunts because that’s how they get attention. If something like this is at the heart of a publicity stunt — hey, whatever. You only do publicity stunts when you think they’ll work, and if they think engaging in greater diversity would net them valuable media attention, that’s suggestive of a better world than I think I lived in ten years ago. The publicity stunt used to be that HOLY CRAP THEY’RE KILLING SUPERMAN. Now it’s HOLY CRAP THEY’RE SPACKLING OUR COMIC BOOK PAGES WITH DIVERSITY IN AN EFFORT TO READ MORE READERS.
Perhaps I’m just not cynical enough, but recognizing that this kind of news will grab attention and hook new readers — readers representative of the diverse world in which we live — uhh, okay, yeah, sign me right the fuck up.
It’s Just Politically-Correct Snarghlewarble
“Politically correct” is a phrase so often (mis)used, it’s entirely worthless. My opinion is that if you’re trying to score points with a political party or with folks to get votes, then that, my friends, is politically correct. If you’re trying to make an earnest change to whatever (media, policy, education, workforce) and that change happens to be about sexism or racism or some other perceived imbalance, that’s not political correctness. What you’re calling “politically correct” is really just someone trying to make the world a better place according to their ideals. “Don’t say that hurtful word” isn’t an expression of political correctness. It’s an effort to be Ask You To Be Less Shitty. “Let’s see more diversity on the pages of this comic book” isn’t somebody trying to score political points. It’s trying to address what the person or company sees as a problem.
Why Can’t They Make New Heroes Instead, Jeez
The logic here is, “Why do they have to make Captain America black? They should make new heroes, instead, that are black.” I get the point — and at the core, the creation of new and diverse characters has value. But you also have to realize that new characters regardless of gender / sexual preference / skin color / nationality / etc. have a hard time reaching new readers right out of the gate. They run the risk of being marginalized heroes. One of the great things about taking iconic pre-existing characters and flipping them around is that it says, hey, these top-shelf characters aren’t just restricted to one segment of the population (i.e. the Straight White Dude contingent).
Also, this excuse runs the risk of sounding like, “Yeah, sure, you can have your super-ladies and whatever, just keep them over there. Go play in your own sandbox. This one is ours.”
No, What We Really Need Are More Diverse Creators
Can’t fault that argument. Entirely true. Thumbs-up. High-five. Put it to a vote — you got mine.
That being said: as a fellow creator, I can only do so much here. I can support and signal boost.
Further, this isn’t a one-or-the-other dichotomy.
But yes, you’re entirely correct: more diverse writers, directors, artists, even executives.
But These Characters Don’t Look Like Me
Nope, they don’t. And they may have experiences not indicative of yours. So what? What do you think everyone who isn’t like you has been experiencing all this time? That same feeling. And yet they still read Batman or watch the same television shows.
Confession time: I’m a jerky white dude. I’m clumsy in my assumptions and preconceived notions and — hey, I acknowledge my privilege. The privilege of privilege is being blinded by it and blind to it. You can walk around all day, whistling like a happy asshole, completely unaware of all the toxic douchebaggery splashing all around. We step on flowers we don’t even notice.
Sometimes, though, you have your eyes opened to it, and it’s a real holy-shit-we’re-in-some-kind-of-sexist-racist-Matrix moment. Rape culture doesn’t seem like a thing until someone starts pointing it out and then it’s a really awful Magic Eye painting, except instead of seeing a dolphin you’re seeing how we ask rape victims what they did to deserve getting raped. Once someone tells you, “That Terrible Thing is really an actual thing,” it’s ants, it’s dust, it’s fingerprints-on-glass. Didn’t notice it before, but now you realize it’s freaking everywhere.
And one of those “it’s freaking everywhere” moments is when you realize, oh, yeah, okay, our pop culture has been speaking very directly to heteronormative middle-class white-guy culture for a long time. Comics, television, novels, whatever. It’s time to share the storytelling. Time to pass the Talking Stick. Besides, maybe if we saw more diversity on the page, we might be willing to acknowledge the diversity outside our doors. I often say that the most valuable multitasking we can teach our kids and express in ourselves is to dual-wield Empathy and Logic, and if this helps in that, so be it. If this makes people more open? More aware? How is that possibly a bad thing?
57 responses to “Gender-Flip Geek Icons! Race-Flip Nerd War! Gay Batman! Raaaaar!”
Every major hero in the Marvel / DC staple has had his/her title rest on like six different characters over the years. Captain America? There’s been like five of them besides Steve Rogers.
But GOD FORBID one of them is a black dude!
People seem to forget that comics are an iterative serial thing, where changes are made, things are learned, bad ideas are dropped, and good ones get selected into the gene pool, over a period of decades. I wrote a thing about it one time: http://brandoncarbaugh.com/2013/05/07/building-a-better-batman/
Oh, and as an aside, yknow what? John Stewart is my favorite Green Lantern. THERE, I SAID IT
Stewart is my favorite GL, too. I thought I was alone.
I’m a lifelong comic book fan, and what’s surprised me the most about all the outrage is that this isn’t the first time comics have done this. Thor was once replaced by a horse-faced alien—and I mean that literally, the dude’s face was a horse. In the 80s, Steve Rogers was replaced by a jingoistic Captain America and then more recently, the Winter Soldier took over the identity. So notice the difference here—Thor was replaced by another dude and Cap was replaced by white guys.
In fact, the only complaint I have about the Falcon taking over the Captain America identity is that I think this would have been a great opportunity to bring back Josiah X, a character who is the son of the black Captain America and was awesome in the short-lived, extremely underrated series, The Crew. Plus, would have loved to see how the right started giving themselves hate-strokes at the notion of a black Muslim Captain America.
The “it’s all a marketing stunt!” argument drives me mad. First, unless you’ve bugged the Marvel offices, you have no way of knowing that for sure. Second, so what if it is? Brubaker’s Death of Captain America story from a few years ago was a marketing stunt, but that didn’t stop it from being a great story. Ditto for Dan Slott’s Superior Spider-Man or Dennis Hopeless’ Avengers Arena. Writers can get ideas from anywhere. Just because a marketing guy suggested something doesn’t mean a good writer can’t turn that idea, however ridiculous, into a good story.
Are you sure? I was having a good time picturing guys opening up their Thor comics and finding boobs drawn on and inverted Vs (representing vaginas) dripping blood – she’s on her period right? You ruined my day. *stomps* Next your going to tell me unicorns are mythical and Santa clause isn’t real. *cries*
People complaining really need to go and read up on the real Thor mythology and get over this. Your comic book canon doesn’t trump the original mythology where shape/gender bending wasn’t unusual. And also go read older versions of your own comics and notice your guy may not have been a girl before but was being an alien horse better? If your answer is yes – go think about what’s wrong with that.
And meanwhile Loki’s going, “No, you know what? Fuck you dad, this is bullshit. I’ve been turning into a woman for years and none of you even gave a shit!”
Turning into a woman and having children (in the mythology, anyway).
Well if we’re going by mythology, we should totally start seeing the comic where Thor dresses up as Freya to marry the king of fairies so that he could recover the Mjolnir he lost during a drinking binge.
Somehow I think the fanboyz would scream even louder at either of these stories though…
I have been seeing ads for the new Hercules movie and I often think to myself, “I would go see that if they put in just ONE of the fifty-leven homosexual relationships that Hercules had in the myths.”
And I’m not even a yaoi fanboy. I would probably go get popcorn or something while the Mythical-Man-Love was going on. But if you’re worried about the accuracy of a myth, let’s talk about the accuracy of MYTHS.
I would give my left toe to see that movie.
As far as I’m concerned the hammer-wielder can be a man, a woman or an AI, to me that’s not a problem at all. Not worthy – lose the hammer, end of story. And whether it’s a publicity stunt, etc. is irrelevant. It’s all about the story for me, and here’s why this development raises my eyebrows: not only did Thor lose his job, he also lost his name. So basically “Thor” is all of a sudden a title/alias. Now that is new. He’s the only one of the heroes who’d always gone by his name and now that’s apparently changed without any preamble. Also, if “Thor” is a title/alias, then what’s his name? And if that’s how this works, then are Odin, Loki, and the rest of the Norse guys’ names also titles/aliases? Some might say all this is semantics, but I hope they address this in the story, otherwise it would be just strange.
I’m pretty sure there’s precedent for other characters having the name Thor. For example, Red Norvell and Dargo Ktor.
Compared to the reactions that Jyllands-Posten got, this nerd rage at Marvel is kinda endearing.
Yeah, any of those fanboys who weren’t screaming about ‘authenticity’ the first time Don Blake picked up the magic stick, or when Loki popped out of his cave before Ragnarok, need to STFU about the One True Mythology.
I seem to remember that there was similar whining when Gaiman had Odin, Thor and Loki show up for the first time in Sandman. His portrayal of Thor as the big dumb oaf was far closer to the original myths than Blonde Thunder Hammer Dude.
Excellent post, as always. You are so right about how we feel threatened when something we identify with changes on us. But I just have one question…you mean Batman *isn’t* gay??
Meh, I’m tired. This dance is so overdone now. You may have defined tokenism as this or that, but really, you are being catered to. If you can’t see that, then whatever. I care not about this stuff anymore. My wife was offended because Thor is her favorite comic. Maybe she’s a chauvinist.
Comic books cater to their audience?! OMG HOLD THE PHONE WITH THIS STARTLING REVELATION.
Here’s the problem for the publishers, though, to extend a dash of sympathy their way.
The bread and butter of comic books is men, many of whom want busty girls constantly menaced by the refrigerator and big spandex-clad white guys who save them and probably get to touch their boobs when they’re off camera.
There are a lot of people, both men and women, who want comics to diversify from that – and comics have, but not so much the Mighty Comics of Legend (DC/Marvel’s main titles.) They claim that people would buy more comics if they were more diverse. And they might.
But it’s a quantum jump: if you tick off too many Cat Piss Men, (Google it. I DARE YOU.) your title will lose buyers… and they may not come back. If you make the Diversity Corps happy, they might buy comics… or they might move on to their next cause, because buying comics as an ongoing, long-term thing, as opposed to “They made Wonder Woman a transsexual lesbian from Nairobi AND I WILL BUY THE SHIT OUT OF THAT” and then finding out that comic books are still comic books and well, I didn’t mean I’d buy it every month forever.
Until you are SURE that you can make that jump – leave Cat Piss Man and his ilk behind forever, and get AND KEEP enough Diversity Corps fans happy and engaged and buying comics to sustain the book, you have NO BUSINESS DOING IT. Yes, it is the right thing to do morally, ethically, and philosphically. However, writers answer to editors who answer to management who answer to shareholders and shareholders can’t cash Diversity Dividends, they cash Money Dividends.
I remain unconvinced – though I am open to being proven wrong – that if they made Thor a girl and kept her that way, that in a year enough Diversity Corps members would continue to buy Thor comics to make up for all the Cat Piss Men who will never buy another one. That being the case, I am not anxious to call comics publishers to task for failing to retcon-diversify their main cash cows.
Actually, over 40% of the comics market is women, apparently.
I would be delighted if that were the case – and the two biggest comic book fans I personally know are both female – but that methodology doesn’t pass the laugh test, nor does it tell us how much or what comics those women are buying. It seems highly likely that there are lots of comics that don’t need Cat Piss Man: the question is, how bad do traditional Big-Name Hero Comics need him, and are there enough Awesome Nerd Chicks who’d buy *and keep buying* Big-Name Hero Comics if they were changed enough to make them happy which is probably enough to turn off Cat Piss Man?
And the answer is, I dunno, and I don’t know that anybody else does either. I’d sure like it if there were, though, because I have no use for Cat Piss Man and Awesome Nerd Chicks are, well, awesome.
Incidentally, I use Awesome Nerd Chick as the antithesis of Cat Piss Man because it seems like a good colorful metaphor, but there are surely many men who might also buy comics that Cat Piss Man hates for the same reason Awesome Nerd Chicks would. I am not saying that there are Man Comics and Wimmen Comics. There aren’t.
Your not coming off very well here. Women not chicks please. Diversity corp?
It’s amazing how asking for respect and to be represented has even people claiming they’d be happy to see the change happen use demeaning and insulting language.
Wouldn’t it be cool if comics were full of interesting characters and less straight, white only characters, and women with big boobs.
Wouldn’t if be really cool if comic books respected their readers instead of sending out the message that they think the readers are guys stuck in some kind of teenage porn mastubatory stage that never was true? Or at least I don’t think most men went through a stage where they spent hours upon hours looking at porn and masturbating (Oww). My 2 brothers did tons of others things as teens that wasn’t just playing with their prick.
*waves hand in circles in front of blog post* This. ALLL of this. You hit every point I’ve been saying since all this news broke. Bravo.
No matter what, people are always going to resist change, but often change can be a great thing. I think that as long as any new version of a character retains the essence of the original, retains what made it so good, then why not embrace the variation? After all, the original will always be there as well.
Great, now I have contracted an Aerosmith “Dude looks like a lady” earworm.
Though really they need to do the same with Loki, since as a trickster god he was often gender fluid. Since the power derives from an object, in the universe mythos it really doesn’t matter. The thing to criticize is whether you like the way the mythos works and not the fact that there is a new Thor.
In the meantime it just means its Hammer-time for someone new
Batman wasn’t gay to begin with?
awesome stuff man. well said.
I loved (and when I say loved, of course I mean hated) all the comments about how Thor being a woman is against the mythology. That’s a very nice argument, but it would probably work better against someone who didn’t grow up with stories from said mythology. I have never read the Thor comic (was more into X-men and Spiderman) but when I first saw the Thor movie I actually yelled at the screen (fortunately this was at a friend’s house and not in a cinema) when I found out that they had made Loki the son of Odin and brother of Thor. The whole thing gave me a quiet seething rage against that part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which didn’t evaporate until I saw Avengers. So no, you don’t get to draw the Buh-buh-buh-mythology!!-card when talking about a comic that makes those kinds of changes.
WHAT WE REALLY NEED ARE MORE DIVERSE CREATORS
Hear, hear. Someone give me a job. I’m cheap, too.
I’d love to see a female Doctor, that’d be absolutely amazing. I can already hear the chauvinists crying “Reverse sexism!” When she picks up a gorgeous, six-packed male companion 😀
That’d be BRILLIANT! Just as soon as they got rid of Moffat. I don’t trust him within 100 feet of a female character without someone making sure that he doesn’t cock it up.
To be honest concerning Marvel’s character changes there is little to get excited or annoyed about. In my opinion Marvel arn’t great with the long term and often any dramatic character changes have little lasting impact.
Even some instances when seemingly permanent events have occurred, like Ultimate Peter Parker’s death, they end up going back. The aforementioned death especially annoyed me as the initial story-line left such a mark.
I have no problem with much of the flipping going on. Hell, gender-flipping’s been going on since the beginning of time. I think where the problem comes for me is that *if* it is a publicity stunt to entice me as a female to read more comics/be more involved, that’s where it breaks down for me. You want me to really invest more in comics? Give women or PoC a shot at the helm, working on the “big” characters. That’s happened a bit, but not as much as it should. (And, Chuck, I realize there’s nothing you can personally do about that, so I’m not pointing any fingers–middle or otherwise–at you. It’s just a deep frustration that seems to have no quick solution).
That’s a meaningful frustration and the only solution really is for companies to hire more diversely across the board. Not just as creators but at all levels. Again, not much I personally can do about it except agree and yell about it, but — er, I do agree! AND I CAN YELL!
And if it is a publicity stunt to entice females to read more comics, why make her look like a blonde Lara Croft? I could be wrong, but I don’t think Lara was designed to appeal to a (hetero) female audience. Can’t there be strong female characters without flowing blonde hair, pouty red lips, and conical breasts? As a hetero female, I found the male Thor very appealing. 😉 Coming up with a version that looks like Thor-Barbie does not entice me to buy more comics.
I remember when Eccleston ended his run as the Doctor, and I learned Tennant was taking over. I saw a picture of David Tennant and I immediately thought OH GOD NO THIS IS GOING TO SUCK NO OFFENSE TO MISTER TENNANT BUT WHAT THE HELL WERE THEY THINKING? Eccleston’s run had been too short in my mind — I thought he was, you know, “fantastic” — and Tennant just didn’t “look right.”
He won me over. David Tennant is now my favorite Doctor, and he has some stiff competition for that spot. And because of that experience, when everyone else was going “MATT WHO?” when *his* replacement was announced, I remembered how I first reacted to Tennant and told myself “don’t panic. Watch first, then decide.” And Smith pretty much knocked the ball out of the park. He was brilliant. (Not my favorite, but who cares? Good is good.)
Similarly, I remember being initially excited about this movie called “Constantine” until I learned they’d cast Keanu Reeves as John Constantine, that Constantine was American, and that it was set in California. At which point I believe I vented on Twitter in a suitably ventish fashion, because WHAT THE HELL MOVIE PEOPLE? It’s like all they wanted was the name. And the movie? Well it actually would have been a mostly OK film if they’d just used that plot and given Reeves’ character a different name. But they tried to tie it into a thing I was actually somewhat invested in as a reader and it pissed me off.
The initial reaction I had for both was, I think, OK. I personally think it’s OK to be pissed off when someone goes in a creative direction you don’t agree with… within limits. I can certainly understand, for example, that someone who really enjoyed Steve Rogers as a character they followed regularly would be pissed that he’s not the character they’ll be following any more. Same for BroThor — if you collected Thor comics since issue 1, I can see how that character being replaced might make you feel a bit put off. And I’m pretty sure there are people who are having those reactions who are being drowned out in this brouhaha, and are being painted unfairly as racists and sexists as a result.
But that only goes up to a point, and then it stops.
It’s pretty obvious that most of the really flammable criticism is culturally and politically motivated rather than creatively motivated. They’re not pissed off that they’re not going to read about Steve Rogers or BroThor any more… they’re convinced that Black Captain America and Woman-Thor are at the Marvel-financed vanguard of the New Socialist World Order, with Steve Rogers and BroThor standing on the sidelines cheering them on. THAT pisses them off.
If Marvel had decided that Frank Castle would be the new Captain America, none of the jokers raising a stink now would say a damn thing. The people who were actually invested in Steve Rogers as a character probably would complain, though… but they’d also probably read the first few issues just to see what it’s like. Which is probably also what they will do with the new Cap and Thor.
I never really cared if a Superhero or villian was black, white, male, female, mutant or animal. All I cared about was were they likable. Were they someone I could relate to. Did their powers/gifts meld with the personalities?
Batman has always been a favorite of mine.Why? Because deep down he’s pissed off. He’s bitter and hurt and spiteful and inspired and conflicted and well…he’s human. His strength lies in being vulnerable and acting out in a way that everyone admires but doesnt have the GONADS(or finances) to aspire to.
Diversity in a character doesn’t come from a skin tone, sex,religious belief or a gadget; It comes from creating/ writing a character that resembles our experiences as human beings. The next big hero or any alteration of existing heros to make them PC is garbage.
Just my opinion….:)
The next big hero or any alteration of existing heros to make them PC is garbage.
But you just said you don’t care about skin color or gender.
Speaking of Dr Who, I’d say that’s the easiest one to do. You have the war one, with David Tennant, where they have to give a genetic sample to get into the inhabited part of a planet and the result is a blonde girl; the Doctor’s daughter, cloned from his dna. She gets killed but then she comes back to life and the last thing we see is the empty morg slab, she’s disappeared. Oh yeh. So there is already a female Timelord out there, it’s just a case of whether or not Moffat decides to bring her back.
Am I right in saying that it’s really going to be Thor’s sister, who has appeared before rather than Thor? Because actually, I’m good with that. Better than if it was Thor. Because I know it’s mythology but I like continuity and I also like new stuff. I get it about changing the old stuff but to me but I get to the point where I want something else. Thor’s sister? That sounds ace. I see what you’re saying. As a bird, I get fed up with supposedly ‘strong’ female characters who are really just a bloke with tits. But yeh, new is the way to go for me, female Doctor? Yeh? Girl Thor? No. Girl Thor’s Sister? OH YES.
Extremely well said. I do think Thor being a woman is kind of strange, but strange doesn’t mean bad, and it actually fits really well with the way Marvel does Thor–the power is in the hammer, and actually a bunch of different characters have wielded it at different times.
Maybe in another ten years there will be a woman *writing* all the Thor comics.
How chic the reactions. The reality is less-so: When pull lists lose subscribers, publishers make changes to get them back and/or to get attention from potential new readers.
I’m a long time Marvel geek and I dig what they’re doing, but I don’t think they’re going to go all the way. Every time comics juggle these kinds of things around (kill Superman, kill Cap, the Punisher is black, Spider-Man is Doc Ock, Wolverine has bony bones, etc) they always revert back to status quo eventually. It’s the nature of the beast. The beloved heroes always return as themselves, more ass-kicking than ever.
I think that’s fine, it’s what we all expect nowadays. I think that if they really want to promote diversity they need to step up their game a bit more seriously and make permanent changes or create new and diverse heroes. Otherwise all we’re getting is a fresh coat of washable paint.
I really get how upset people are. You do know there are actually people who worship Thor as a god, right? Same as there are people who worship Shiva. Comics don’t bleed over into popular culture the way blockbuster movies do, but now that Marvel-Thor has been in blockbuster movies, it’s been impossible for heathens and pagans to pretend we don’t notice. Who cares what’s in the Marvel Universe? Meh. But, who cares what’s in world popular culture? Pretty much everybody who doesn’t live in a TV-free commune in the woods. Most heathens / Asatruars / etc. are not at all upset about Thor becoming a woman. I mean, our gods do this already. You know in the original language, in the story of Thrymskvitha when Thor is wearing a wedding gown, Thor is “she” until he takes the thing off. The ancient heathen culture acknowledged gender as a social construct that one could literally put on and take off like clothes. Then there’s Odin. And of course Loki. Don’t get me started. No, it’s not the boobs, it’s the high-handed idea that they can take our gods and do whatever with them, including say their names are not names, or they aren’t “worthy” to hold their own powers, or their uncle is now their brother (Thor and Loki, people! Not brothers!) and somewhere inside even the most good-natured of us will nod a little when someone says, “Hollywood wouldn’t do that to Mohammed.” But there are more important things to be upset about. What does god-Thor actually want? I doubt it’s for humans to stop telling silly stories about it, because we’ve been telling silly stories about him in our actual mythology for over a thousand years now. No, I’m pretty sure if Thor is at all upset with Marvel Comics it’s because they cut down trees to make paper. Let’s put things in perspective. Humans are poisoning the Earth. I KNOW Thor wants us to stop doing that. The earth is his mother, literally. So if we’re going to be upset about something on behalf of Thor, how about the whole earth-poisoning thing instead of boobs?
But making Thor or the Doctor a woman would make it so much harder to write homoerotic fanfiction about them. I guess you could always write lesbian fanfiction about them, but it just wouldn’t be the same…
Seriously, though, anyone who says that making a character a female is just a ploy to get more female readers has no idea what the actual audience for comic books looks like. When I went to see The Avengers on the day it came out, there was a half-mile long line at the theater made primarily of teenage girls. Really, with all the ridiculously buff guys jumping around in skin-tight spandex and speedos, it’s not really a mystery why so many young girls love comic books. And the stories are okay, I guess.
Those are some wise words. IRL, I cried for a while when my daughter came out to me, but then it occurred to me that she was the same person I had loved since she was a tiny scrap of life, that I was crying for my dreams of her future that had to change, so I stopped. I hate change but for the things/people I love I can change. Superman (Superperson?? God, I hate PC-speak.) would be awesome as a nerdy, knock-kneed woman (of any color or race) with ink on her fingers who can kick ass and take names.
I hope someone sees “Emily Blunt be Jane Bond” and acts on that pretty please.
Gina Curano would also work. She’s already played one female espionage wrecking machine in Haywire and that was one of the coolest action flicks ever.
Gina is awesome!
The new Thor looks like a bad-ass, full stop.
The new cap is Falcon. That’s like when Nightwing was Batman for a while, only slightly more awesome. I see no problems here, except that I really, REALLY like Steve Rogers as a character and will miss him. I hope like when Bucky was Cap, he brings some aspects of his prior super life to the role. A flying cap would be very cool.
Fans have been considering possible female Drs Who for decades. Really. So I don’t know where this anti-female-Who idea comes from.
As for a female Thor, in Norse mythology, there was a time he had to dress up as a bride to fool the giants for some reason. So, cross-dressing Thor.
[…] of the better responses has been from the writer Chuck Wendig who points out the insecurity that lies behind some of the angst: “Our pop culture has been […]
Great artcile! another great post I should say. Loved your feminism token example. It brought to mind the Joss Whedon reponse when asked why he creates so many strong female characters, “because we’re still asking that question”.
*slow clap* As always, Chuck, you pinned the point down and beat it into submission.
I used to be the same way. Until recently, I felt personally insulted when anyone suggested that my favorite characters could be bendable. In fact, I boycotted the new episodes of Star Wars, whined about the ever-changing face of Batman (and nearly had a seizure at the idea of Heath Ledger being the Joker, and turned my back on Spider-Man altogether. Then, one day, I realized that I was being a big, snot-sucking, stomping and kicking baby. Since I got my “All The Things Should Stay The Same Forever, Because WAAAHH” training wheels off, I’ve been much happier.
I’m still not going to see Planet of the Apes, though, because new ideas are better than recycling the same old ones every couple of years ad infinitum.
I still like the idea of them just making new and bad ass heroes/heroines (preferably ones without cheesy garters and push up bras…on both sides), but I get what you mean. It is hard trying to sell an issue 1 of a brand new character. Frankly, I think the Thor change is kinda cool, but I thought it woulda been a cooler thing if she was his daughter and he handed down the mantle of Thor and saying of all the Asgardians, he felt that she was most worthy to carry Mjolnir. Other than that, everything you said is right on the money. After all, if Green Lantern’s ring can be handed down, why can’t Captain America’s suit and a new super soldier be created to take the name?
I have to say, honestly, that I did go rage monkey for a few about Michael Clark Duncan being Kingpin and I did question Samuel L. Jackson being Nick Fury, but Samuel plays such a bad ass Nick that he owns that role now. Kingpin was the best part of Daredevil. I’m sure the next generation of Thor readers will appreciate both characters. I know I’m gonna give it a look. The picture that’s been circulating looks awesome.
Although I still speak against boob armor. What a way to insure a weapon will glance into your breastbone. 😉
And that Avengers cover looks friggin’ sweet! Anyone know who the little guy with the cane may be?
This is one of my favourite pieces from you, Chuck. Well-written. I’ll be sharing this far and wide.
[…] Chuck Wendig talks about gender flips. […]