I am certain the comic fans of this blog knew that this blog was going to happen. For once, I’m on trend. And of course, my monumental 50th post had to be on this. It would be a travesty if it wasn’t!
Dear readers, Marvel has announced that Thor will be a woman.
The details are sketchy at the moment. It’s unclear whether we’ll see some transformation, some effect of mysticism or something altogether more human. We’re not sure if this is Thor gender-bent or some new character. We do that this Thor will have no gendered signifier—she will not be She-Thor, Lady Thor or Thora the Explorer. She is simply Thor. We also know that, as far as the current creative team is concerned, this will not be a temporary change.
This has been a controversial announcement to say the least. The internet is divided, people are up in arms, and Marvel may have penned another civil war (don’t look at me; I’m still not over the last one). Everyone and their rude little brother seems to have an opinion on it.
My take on it? It’s about damn time.
I love Thor as he is. Whether he’s portrayed as a Shakespearean puppy or a Norse brute, he is a charming character in any medium. Thor as a woman would not change any of this. I think Gail Simone’s critically-acclaimed fan-favourite series Red Sonja has proven that woman being Brutish and interesting is possible. It’s even—dare I say it?—a good story. Red Sonja and Thor could be cut from the same cloth. Let’s get Simone as a consultant or something. That’s something I’d love to see in print.
Of course, I am but one voice amidst thousands, and the nay-sayers are notoriously loud. Many have voiced their criticisms. They seems to be the same arguments over and over, rehashed with a colourful vocabulary and a range of insults. I’d like to address the most popular of objections, giving you my views as a feminist, a comic fan and as a writer. As always, I welcome debate and invite you to leave your comments and opinion on these points. So, let’s get started.
“It’s not keeping with the mythology.”
With this being a Thor comic, this could mean of two things. The first thing they usually mean is that Thor is not a character who resides solely in the Marvel universe. He is a figure of classical Norse mythology, dating back thousands of years. And as one critic put it: “Thor was GOD of lightning, not goddess”.
Interestingly, I recall similar objections when the Thor movie cast list was released. When Idris Elba was cast as Heimdall, there was a sudden demand for the purity of Norse mythology to remain intact. It was not racist, obviously! Black people just weren’t invented yet.
The Thor comics have never been all that concerned with the mythology. They pay homage every so often, but the plots are usually of their own concoction. The mythology they are interested in is thematic. They take the feel of the myths. They use the tropes and archetypes of Epic or High Fantasy. And guess what? The gods morphed their forms all the damn time. They took for the form of creatures, and yes, they even took the form of women. There’s an entire poem called the Lokasenna which sees Loki and Odin mocking each other for being women at some point in their lives. Odin myths, if they truly existed, have been lost to time, but Loki’s times of being a woman of some description are well-documented. A female Thor keeps within this confine if this is Thor gender-bent (as some have assumed).
The second meaning of mythology is that it’s not keeping with the mythos of the comics. To that, I have only this to say:
Jane Foster disagrees. In What If? #10 (1978) Jane Foster finds Mjolnir and is decided to be worthy enough to wield the hammer. She is transformed to look like a female Thor, granted the same abilities, and takes on the name Thordis. The same thing happens to Black Widow. In fact, in a special DC/Marvel crossover, it was shown that Wonder Woman was worthy to wield the hammer of Thor. Not only are women worthy of holding Mjolnir, but they’ve been proven to be deemed worthy enough to become goddesses of their own.
So on both counts, in the realm of the Thor comics, mythology is not being upset by having a woman Thor.
“Thor is a name, not a title.”
I hear this one a lot, and I don’t understand when the two became exclusive. Thor is his name, yes, but it’s also his title. It transcends him in ways that are hard to explain. He is Thor Odinson; son of Odin and Frigga, brother of Loki, sometimes husband of Sif and love interest of Jane Foster. He is all these things and more.
But Thor is the title of the God of thunder. Mjolnir grants the powers of Thor to whomsoever wields it. With Thor-like powers, the person becomes God of thunder. I see no issue with them also taking on the mantle of being Thor. It’s the same with Kate Bishop as Hawkeye; she became the archer protector, so she took on the name. Obviously Hawkeye isn’t Clint’s real name, but that’s how a mantle works.
Whoever this (maybe) new character is, they have the right to use the name. It is a name that has recognition; it is a legacy that they should be allowed to contribute to.
“It’s pandering. Gender shouldn’t matter.”
This is an odd one for me. Gender should not matter. They’re right. But when I say it, I mean that there should be a fair representation in comics of gender across the spectrum. When this was said in the forum, it was in the context of arguing that Thor should remain a male character.
When the argument is used like this, it’s usually a safe bet to assume that it is a man saying it. It’s fine to be a man and like comics. Chances are, there’s a character for you to relate to. You are represented in comics. Women don’t have that, and lord help you if you identify outside the perceived gender binary. Women in comics are drawn and written for a man’s gaze. They may be superheroines, but they’re sex objects, either for the characters or for the readers. It’s getting better these days, but it’s also getting worse. For every Ms Marvel we get, we also get a Starfire.
If you want to call this pandering, okay. I call it equality. It’s a chance for another superheroine, one who maybe someday will have little girls wanting to grow up to be just like them. Not sex symbols, not brutalised victims, but heroes in their own right. We don’t get that a lot.
“Why did it have to be Thor?”
It didn’t have to be. I do wish it was a new heroine, mainly because I think we’re due some new heroes, but this is good enough for me. It didn’t have to be Thor. But I am damn glad that it is. Not only is Thor an interesting world to use, but he is popular. Thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thor is in everything these days. Most know who he is. That means everyone suddenly cares that there will be a new Thor.
It didn’t have to be Thor, but the creative team wanted it to be Thor. The executives may be concerned with sales, but ultimately artists and writers care about one thing; their craft. If it makes a good story-line, a writer doesn’t care. There have been plenty of times I’ve been writing and been told that what I’m writing isn’t marketable, or it upsets my reader. I’ve simply continued. Yes, I want people to like my work. But I know that someone will. For every offended fan boy who thinks they know better, there’s an excited fan that can’t wait to see what will happen. It’s the same with the artist. Drawing the same thing can be dull. Drawing something or someone new is fun and interesting. This is their job, but it’s also their passion. The creative team wanted to do this. I trust their judgement.
There are more arguments out there. These were just the recurring ones that irked me. What’s worse than these comments, though, are the responses I got for daring to voice my rebuttals. I got a torrent of hate, insults and threats. Naturally, this was made worse when they realised I was a woman. Suddenly the threats were more graphic and brutal. Sexual threats were made; rape threats were made.
This should not be the norm. The reaction should not be so violent. But here we are. Truthfully, this wasn’t going to be a blog post. I was going to be talking about Constantine. This just really got to me. My opinion matters less because I am a woman, and can therefore be reduced to nothing more than something that can be brutalised as punishment. Once more to Gail Simone, her women in refrigerator website proves that women, especially in comics, have it rough.
I will be buying this new Thor when it comes out. I hope you will be too. And if you don’t know how to start collecting comics, don’t worry. That has been a requested blog post from my tumblr. That is coming soon, probably after my review of Avenue Q.
And so, dear readers, we reach the end of another blog post.
Let me ask you this: what do you think of the news of a female Thor? What character would you like to see gender-bent? And why do you think this series will soar or fall?
Let me know your thoughts.