Tag Archives: Marvel

Marvel have given Mjolnir to a new, female Thor.

Is a Female Thor a Good Idea?

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.

How Iron Man 3 Got Extremis Wrong

I couldn’t love Iron Man until Warren Ellis came along. Until that point, Marvel didn’t seem to know what to do with him. He lacked a spark, so he was just a guy in a suit. Then Warren Ellis wrote his Extremis storyline. And I loved Iron Man.

Now if you haven’t seen Iron Man 3, look away now. In fact, drop everything and go see it.

To everyone else: wasn’t it a good film? Highlights for me included Tony’s panic attacks, Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin and, as ever, Don Cheadle. Good stuff. But man did they drop the ball with Extremis.

Tony Stark unlocks a door using a chip implanted in his arm. There are people in the world doing this now.I mentioned earlier that Iron Man in the comics lacked a spark. That’s because every superhero character has an identifying core. Captain America’s is patriotism. The Hulk’s is the monster/man, ego/id battle. Iron Man didn’t have one. But Ellis got the premise in five little words: test pilot of the future. Iron Man’s core is cutting edge technology.

That’s something Jon Favreau realised. His Iron Man films were grounded in tech, almost obsessed with it. But Iron Man was created fifty years ago. Today we’re building exoskeleton suits that aren’t miles away from Iron Man.

So Ellis gave us Extremis. The storyline gives us a Tony Stark whose Iron Man suit is reaching its limits. It’s become heavy and slow. And when Iron Man battles an Extremis-enhanced man, he gets his tin can handed to him.

What does he do? He’s outdated, antiquated and broken. So he upgrades. He installs Extremis into himself. Iron Man becomes a techno-biological upgrade to Tony Stark. He is the test pilot of the future. He is Iron Man.

Extremis put the technology in Tony Stark's body, making him Iron Man inside and out.Extremis puts Iron Man beyond today’s science. It lets Tony mentally interface with any wireless technology. It lets him power the suit by thought. It lets him control multiple suits and call them to him. Sound familiar? Barring the first, this is all the ending of Iron Man 3, isn’t it? Only Tony can’t do those things. He has to ask JARVIS to do them.

I like JARVIS. Great idea and I love Paul Bettany’s performance. But JARVIS overshadows Tony; Tony can stay in bed and send JARVIS instead. You can tell Shane Black knew that because he broke JARVIS for a huge portion of the film. JARVIS makes Tony, as a character, weak and redundant. When a computer can fly the Iron Man suit, it makes the notion of a human pilot outdated. Antiquated. Broken.

An Extremis-enhanced Tony Stark could have remedied that and given us Iron Man: test pilot of the future. But where Warren Ellis used Extremis to update Iron Man to 2.0, Shane Black used it to make monsters. And we got Iron Man 1.4. Incremental update.

Am I right? Or am I wrong? Leave a comment, I’m interested to hear what you think.

Your Guide to Gay Superheroes

Last week I wrote about the controversy surrounding DC hiring anti-gay activist Orson Scott Card. And it seemed no sooner did I put down the metaphorical pen than I heard the news that Batwoman had proposed to her girlfriend. (Damage control on DC’s part? Or am I being cynical?) So this week I decided to put together a little guide to the major gay superheroes in comics.

Northstar marries his partner Kyle.Northstar

Northstar has to come first in the list. He was arguably the first major gay superhero, coming out back in 1992. Even if he wasn’t the first gay superhero, though, he’s certainly the first superhero to get married! So he definitely gets top billing.

That said, though, you’ve probably never heard of him. That’s because Marvel couldn’t (wouldn’t) out a major character in 1992. So they chose a member of Canadian mutant super team Alpha Flight.

Apollo/Superman and Midnighter/BatmanApollo and Midnighter

Apollo and the Midnighter come from the Wildstorm Comics stable of characters and came out quite quickly. They had a commitment ceremony long before Northstar started shopping for rings and they’ve adopted a daughter (and she’s the spirit of the 21st century, so make of that what you will). Wildstorm is now owned by DC but started life as a separate company and Apollo and the Midnighter are unabashed Superman and Batman analogues.

Which makes sense. There’s always been a chemistry between Supes and Bats, right?

Ultimate ColossusUltimate Colossus

I took a little dig at Northstar for being a minor league hero, but Colossus is definitely a bigger ticket. He’s one of the X-men and even made it into the X-men movies. Okay, yes, he’s straight in mainstream continuity. But back in the 90s Marvel launched their Ultimate line, comics using the same characters but updating and reinventing them for new readers. And in this universe, Colossus is gay. In fact he dated Ultimate Northstar.

Green Lantern Alan Scott was retconned to be gay in the New 52.Green Lantern

DC wiped out years of continuity in 2011 and completely rebooted every one of its titles as part of their “New 52” initiative. As part of this reboot, DC announced that they would out one of its classic characters. Batman was immediately everyone’s favourite candidate (perhaps due to the enduring influence of Fredric Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent). But DC opted for Green Lantern. But not Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern you might recognise from the movie. They picked Alan Scott, the Green Lantern from alternative and second string universe Earth Two.

I won’t lie, I was a little disappointed. Alan Scott wasn’t the quite the big ticket name DC had led us to expect.

Batwoman

Batwoman has been around for almost sixty years but came to the fore during DC’s 52 event when Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman disappeared for a year. Although Batwoman is a bit of a Batman clone (she’s a millionaire and suffered some childhood trauma of her own) she’s quite beloved and big enough to have her own comic. And she just proposed to her girlfriend in a frankly stunning panel of comic art.

Batwoman proposes to her partner Maggie.

Now tell me: are there enough gay superheroes in comics? Or are there some characters you think still need to step out of the closet?

Cover to The Homeless Hero by James T KellyUpdate: I’ve written a superhero story of my own! Pinnacle is the only superhero in the world and is determined to look after all of us. But he can’t look after himself. Does being a hero mean self-sacrifice or can a balance be found?

Check out The Homeless Hero now!