A plea to Marvel

Those of you who pay attention to this sort of thing will know that this fall, Thor’s hammer Mjolner will be taken up by a woman, who will also take on the name of Thor. Moreover, Steve Rogers is putting down the shield and Sam Wilson, recently introduced to the world at large as Falcon in the 2nd Captain America movie, will be taking it up. Wilson is a black man, not the first to carry the Captain America moniker, but I believe he’s the first person at all to do so as someone Steve chose as his own successor.

Thor’s name is apparently being treated as a title, which I’m pretty cool with. I’m a little confused as to what we’ll be calling Thor himself, since his *name* is Thor and he’s presumably still a god, it’s just that he and Mjolner are on the outs again and it’s apparently decided he’s not worthy, but nevermind that. Marvel’s making statements left and right that the woman taking up Mjolner *is* Thor, and that’s cool and interesting and I, who have never liked comic-book-Thor, might just read that.

Cappy’s name has been passed around several times, and as a newly-fledged (er, no pun intended) Falcon fan, I’m freaking thrilled that Sam Wilson will be the man behind the mask. I am not, apparently, violently attached to the skin color or gender of my superheroes; I *like* the idea of them being flexible.

The only problem is that very little lasts, in superhero comics. Nobody really thinks that OriginalThor will be on the outs with Mjolner forever; everybody knows Steve will carry the shield again.

But what if that didn’t happen? What if they held the line? What if, yeah, maybe Thor does take up Mjolner again, or Steve the shield–but it’s only momentary, filling in for an emergency? What if they were *allowed* to do that, and what if we, as readers–particularly as women or people of color–were given those characters straight-up and for the long haul?

*That* would shake things up. *That* is what I’d really love to see. I’d love to have my cynicism proven wrong and for the status quo to change.

But the thing is, status quo is subjective. Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson got divorced after 20 (real life) years of marriage, because Marvel editors wanted to return Spider-Man to the status quo–nevermind that for an entire generation of readers, Peter and MJ being married *was* the status quo.

The problem was that it wasn’t the status quo for the editors and writers. They had grown up with an unmarried Peter and so that was how it Should Be.

But, y’know, I grew up with an unmarried Peter (and aside from the middling detail that I wanted to marry him myself in my childhood years) and I was terribly disappointed and shocked that they divorced. So I’m hoping–I’m even asking–that Marvel lets these changes stay in place long enough to become the norm.

And then I ask that they have the courage to recognize that for a generation, and for a gender, and for a race, that the status quo is important, and that when they change again–because they will–that they should continue to look forward with those changes, and not back.

4 Comments


  1. So, when Hawkeye was dead, and later running around in a ninja costume, a kid named Kate Bishop took up the mantle and became Hawkeye. She’s pretty awesome.

    But importantly, when Hawkeye came back? She didn’t become “Lady Hawkeye” or “Hawkeye Girl”. She’s still Hawkeye. And so is he. And it’s just a thing. (In fact, it is a thing which the fans and writers *embrace*).

    Now, Hawkeye is second tier (or bottom of first tier, depending on how one measures such things) but I like to think that this speaks well for how this all might turn out.


    1. oh, good *point*! I’d forgotten about that, although I love those two’s relationship. (“After you, Hawkeye! No, after you, Hawkeye!”)

      The world could probably not contain my squee of joy if they went that route with Thor or CA. *Especially* Cappy (mostly because I just like him better :)).


  2. I don’t think I’ve ever read more than one comic where the Odinson appears, so basically I don’t care. Now that we’ll have an Odinsdottir, my first reaction was… Mild annoyance. I’m not a big fan of remakes, re-imaginings, reboots and genderflips. Commercially, it makes perfect sense. No matter what you do, some of the original fanbase will stay. The name, the “brand” wil draw in a crowd, if only to see how you’ve butchered the original.

    As a story, though, I’m not so sure. The two prime examples of genderflipping that actually turned out a palatable character are Starbuck and Joan Watson. Neither of which has anything in common with the original, except part of the name. If you are going to change pretty much everything about a character, why not write a whole new character? Do strong* female characters really need that? I find that vaguely insulting, to be honest.

    Good female characters don’t need some man to base them on. Joanne Walker does just fine without being derived from some earlier dude. So does Nita Callahan. So does George Mason. So does Terra (Hi Mitch!) So does Hermione Granger. Temperance Brennan. Penelope Garcia. Karrin Murphy. Abby Sciuto. None of them male-based, all of them awesome.

    Unless the intention is actually to piss off the readers of the original character, and to use the resulting backlash to feed the victim routine that is becoming depressingly familiar.

    —-
    * “Strong” used here in the sense of intricately described, rich in personality, and with realistic feelings. Not in the “can lift a building” sense.


    1. I really think it’s more about trying to give the Thor comic sales a boost than wanting to create a “strong female character” per se, but if they’re going to do it, god damn it, I want them to *run* with it. :)

      They’ve done just fine with Carol Danvers’ Captain Marvel and her namesake Ms Marvel and indeed the aforementioned Kate Bishop Hawkeye, so on, so I don’t think it’s that they feel a woman has to bounce off a man to be, er, worthy, but I do think they figure if they’re trying to revitalize the Thor title they might be able to develop another/new/different female character under his moniker.

      They say the person who takes up the hammer will be someone from Thor’s current friends and relationships, so maybe it’ll eventually turn out to be someone who gets to be fantastic on her own. Using the hammer and the name as her proving ground, before coming out as her own hero. We’ll see.

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