Here’s how my day started yesterday: I got a text from my Dad at 9:47 that said “The new Thor is a woman?”
To say dad’s not into comics is a bit of an understatement. So if he heard about Marvel’s plans to introduce an all-new, all-female Thor, than you know it had made the mainstream news. Hours later, my Wednesday ended with me watching Marvel’s Joe Quesada announcing that Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon, will be taking over the mantle of Captain America.
Now I haven’t seen a lot of complaints about pandering in my various social media feeds. Mostly I think this is due to me trying to follow cool people and avoiding the comments sections of the comic news sites I read. Nonetheless, I did post this last night after the announcement, in anticipation of nerd-rage backlash:
For those about to ask “which is worse, a female Thor or a black Captain America?” The answer is you.
— Dwain Smith (@dwainsmith) July 17, 2014
I’m excited about these changes. Sam Wilson is a great character. If anyone was going to take on Cap’s shield, it should be his long-time partner. On the Thor side, Jason Aaron has been crafting a really interesting saga and I want to see what he’s going to do next in this corner of the Marvel Universe.
What irritates me more than accusations of Marvel pandering and being the PC-police (most of which I have to imagine will be coming from non-comics readers and people in the media hoping to use this news cycle to rant about an imaginary simpler-America they’d like to go back to where all superheroes were white men) is this kind of nerd rage:
- “This is obviously a cash grab. Marvel just wants to boost their sales”
- “Why does this matter? It will all change back by the time Avengers 2: Age of Electric Bugaloo comes out”
I have three responses to those two complaints:
1. No Duh.
2. Get over it.
3. So what?
I know. None sound particularly eloquent. Allow me to elaborate.
1. No Duh.
The last time I checked, Marvel was a for profit company. They want to sell more comics. And more movie tickets. And action figures. And Lego sets. And throw pillows and whatever else they can slap one of their characters onto.
And that’s a good thing! A more successful Marvel (and even more broadly, a more successful comic industry) means more stories for us readers. Some of the Marvel books I’ve loved the most in recent years (Hawkeye, Young Avengers, Loki) couldn’t happen if not for the juggernaut that is the Avengers movie franchise.
It certainly seems like the new Thor trying to reach more female readers. That’s awesome! From what I hear (from the internet) there are a lot of female comic readers out and even more potential ones. There are surely more potential Thor fans that identify as female than identify as alien horse face guy (sorry, Beta Ray Bros). Taking a big franchise like Thor and giving it a female lead has a far greater chance at financial success than the recently cancelled Valkyrie-led Fearless Defenders. Defenders was a great book but struggled to find an audience without an a-list cast.
Marvel is going to keep experimenting while trying to create new commercial hits. The current Silver Surfer book is so obviously built for Doctor Who fans the most recent issue was dedicated to Russell T. Davies. Anthony Mackie stole every scene he could in Cap 2. Marvel would be crazy to not try and capitalize on Sam Wilson’s growing fan base. And when it stops working financially, they will try something else. That’s what smart companies do.
2. Get over it.
“Thor is a name, not a title”. “Thor isn’t just a comic book character. He’s an actual mythological figure.” I actually saw someone tweet that today. That roughly translates to: “Thor isn’t just a fictional character, he’s also a fictional character.”
Look, I get it. Change isn’t easy. And for people like me, people that have been reading comics all of our lives, these characters are people we’ve grown up with. I was finally settled into Beast’s Quitely/Morrison era “lion look” when he got made over as an ape. I was a wreck for a week after reading the end of Kieron Gillen’s Journey into Mystery run. I teared up when Bastion killed Nightcrawler. Aside from Kitty Pryde, Nightcrawler is my favorite character. I knew his death wouldn’t last. This was comics. No one stays dead except for Uncle Ben and
Jason Todd and Bucky Barnes. Sure, he’d be back And sure, it would be at the most opportune business time for Marvel to do so. But if I can buy into the fact that one of my favorite fictional characters is a swashbuckling furry blue teleporting guy with a tail I can buy into his “death” if it serves the overall story.
I’m about six months behind in both Thor: God of Thunder and Captain America, so I can’t speak to where both of those stories are headed, but I’ve really enjoyed Remender and Aaron’s runs, respectively, of what I’ve read. Before you judge, READ THE STORIES. If you do and still don’t like them, that’s completely fine. They weren’t for you. Not everything is. But don’t prejudge. Give the storytellers a chance to prove this isn’t just gimmick. Spidey-Ock wasn’t a gimmick. Bucky Cap wasn’t a gimmick.
3. So what?
Which brings me to my last point. This has all happened before, and will happen again. “Peter Parker will be back before the next Spider-Man movie. Steve Rogers will be wielding the shield again before the next Chris Evans movie comes out.” That’s probably true. Avengers 2: Ultron’s EDM Dance Party will be out next year and we should completely expect to see vintage Cap and Thor back on the scene by then.
But that doesn’t mean that the time Bucky spent as Cap wasn’t really compelling. Similarly, Superior Spider-Man was really, really good. The same critics calling for Dan Slott’s head for killing Peter Parker were the same people complaining when he brought him back to life. A good story is a good story is a good story and I think a female Thor and Sam Wilson as Cap could be fodder for some good stories.
Still desperate for some vintage Thor and Steve Rogers action? It sounds like both characters are also sticking around. Steve will likely serve as an off-site tactical advisor and still be a a presence in the Cap book and even though old-Thor (henceforth known as “Snortblat”) won’t has Mjolnir, he does still have a pretty cool battle axe called Jarnbjorn. Watching them deal with not being able serve as Cap and Thor could also still mean some very interesting stories for them. See? It’s a win-win! (except for Steve Rogers. He’s really, really old now). At the end of the day Carol Danvers may be the only hero able to eventually outlive her predecessor. (let’s get that Katee Sackoff Captain Marvel movie greenlit, Carol Corps!)
With the increase of legacy characters over the last few years (something DC has done for years but Marvel fans are still getting used to) this is going to happen again. Soon, probably. Maybe even next week at SDCC. You may have heard, but for their next “stunt” Marvel is killing Wolverine in September. If I had my say, his
adorable deadly clone X-23 would make a great successor to the codename. Just don’t put her in charge of a school. That seems like a bad idea. Either way, don’t be surprised if that or something similar gets announced in San Diego next week. Heck I’d read an Avengers book starring the new Thor, Falcon-Cap, and Wolverine-23. Throw in Kate Bishop and Rescue and She-Hulk and I’d be really happy. Then there can be a book called “All Old Avengers” w/ Steve, Bruce, Tony, old Thor, (Snortblat) and Clint opening a bar. It’d be like the Avengers meets Cheers!
I’ll leave you with a Skrull quote: EMBRACE CHANGE. It’ll do you good.