Here’s something new: Asgardian god and Chris Hemsworth lookalike Thor is being replaced by a woman.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think this is a first for comics. Not that Thor is getting replaced; when you go on holiday someone fills in for you and superheroes are no exception. Iron Man, Spider-man, even Superman. And Batman’s given up the cowl so many times the Batcave has a revolving door. But all of these temporary replacements have been of the same gender; no woman ever stepped into Batman’s shoes. I think this is a great story opportunity and I might have to pick up an issue. That said, I’m not convinced this is such a big step.
That sentiment wasn’t helped by another Marvel announcement, just a day later, that Sam Wilson, a black character, will also take over as Captain America. Another minority (as comics defines them, i.e. anything other than white male) gets a turn in the limelight. Two in as many days. It would be easy to accuse Marvel of tokenism, of shouting “look, we’ve got women and black guys in our comics!” until they’ve got our money. Then they can bring back the old white guys.
Because the status quo is king in comics. Man-Thor and Steve Rogers will come back sooner or later and these two characters will be relegated back to second string.
But here’s the thing: this is still a positive move.
I wrote a blog about what’s wrong with women in comics in which I said that comics are rightly called juvenile and backwards until they give women the respect they deserve. Since then we’ve heard David Goyer, the screenwriter behind The Dark Knight and Man of Steel, calling She-Hulk a porn star and a male power/sex fantasy. We’ve also seen the Internet pour vitriol on Janelle Asselin for criticising the hyper-sexualised teenager on the cover to Teen Titans #1. I was beginning to think there wasn’t much hope for comics.
But even if this is tokenism, and even if it only lasts, say, six months, two of the three core members of the Avengers aren’t white guys. That’s six months of representation, six months of diversity, six months of different perspectives for comics readers.
A lot of commentators have been saying it would have been better to create new heroes than hijack existing ones. That has to be a long-term goal, but let’s not overlook the power in a six-month gimmick. When it’s all over everything will look the same as it always did. But the publicity can draw in new readers that might have previously been put off by the white male spandex brigade. And, hopefully, Marvel will have shown existing readers that a female Thor is just as good as a male Thor.
And readers will have shown Marvel that there’s an appetite for “minority” superheroes that can be fed with new, permanent characters.
What do you think of the female Thor? Is it tokenism, a waste of time, or can’t you wait for the first issue? Let me know in the comments.