Hey internet, how is the happenings? So have heard? Do you know?? That the wells fargo wagon is a COMING down the street I—wait no… sorry. That’s… different.
Did you hear that Marvel is rebranding, recasting, and resexing Thor into a woman?? Well… you have now. Let me premise this article by saying I am not a comic expert. In fact the first thing I did when Lady Thor was revealed was contact Carey (my guest writer from the last post) and see what his thoughts were. Carey IS a comics expert and I’m sure he has deep, relevant, well thought out arguments of pros, cons, and some other relevant sounding words but he was busy with a life, or a career, or enjoying a fulfilling life filled with friends and family so he couldn’t make it. I don’t struggle with ANY of those things though so I’m happy (ish) to stand in the gap alone and give you some long, boring thoughts about an issue you probably don’t care all that much about!!… Wow… this is getting depressing….
So, for those of you who don’t know, (and didn’t understand my one sentence explanation above, Marvel recently announced that they were making Thor a woman!! No… no… not in the way you’re thinking now. Ummm…. Thor (the man) is retiring (for reasons we haven’t been told yet) and a new Thor (a woman) will be taking up the hammer and hammering. Needless to say this has led to some controversy and here I stand to answer your questions, fulfill your needs, and make off-handed remarks about a moderately serious issue!
Thought 1: Of course this is about selling more comics.
A couple articles I read initially were raising big questions about “is this just a ploy to sell more comics?” and the answer to that question is very simply “yup.” That’s kind of Marvel’s job. It’s what they do. Every major decision Marvel makes has the end goal of selling more comics. With the possible exception of when they make decisions to sell more movies. It’s not a bad thing, nor does it make this an inherently bad decision, it’s just a reality. Like when McDonalds decides to start making their chicken nuggets out of actual chicken, or when I invariably start posting videos of kittens on this site for no reason other than to lure innocent web people to this site. As much as we’d love to think people make their decisions for the sake of art or McDonalds makes decisions for the sake of your weeping internal organs business is business and bills must be paid… speaking of which… I should do that.
Thought 2: Why Thor though?
Let’s play a quick game, pretend you’re a Marvel exec and aside from the problem of how to spend your hilariously large amount of money, one of your biggest problems is something called “limited demographic.” Actually one of your biggest problems is probably something called “internet piracy” but let’s move on from that. For the most part the people who read comics are people between 10 years old and thirty years old and are men. I’m not saying those are the ONLY people who read comics but on the whole that’s what you’re looking at. Most people over thirty have become too boring to read comics (I will not be one of these. I promise) most people under 10 haven’t really developed a taste for anything other than Thomas the Tank Engine and whatever the current equivalent of Blue’s Clues is; and most women honestly just don’t care. Maybe it’s how they’re raised, maybe it’s what they’re told they should be interested in, maybe they have better things to spend their money on I don’t know. But of those groups the easiest to try and swing into comics are pretty clearly the women.
It’s actually not a bad time to be trying to pull women into comics either. Comic movies are starting to pull people in, comics are starting to lose the “made specifically for sweaty teenagers or nerds who live in their parents basements” stigma. So… as a Marvel exec you sit down at a big meeting with a table made out of hundred dollar bills and you say to yourself “what can we do to sell more comics, to women?”
The first answer that may come floating up is “Why not take an existing woman from the Marvel universe and make a comic about her??” Cause there are some very interesting female characters in the Marvel-verse. Black Widow is on the rise thanks to the Avengers franchise and Joss Whedons undying love of strong female leads. Storm has been around forever and is interesting AND somehow survived being stomped all over by Halley Barry in “X3: We Will Completely Ignore This Movie in a Few Years.” Even Scarlet Witch seems like a viable candidate as she has also been around forever AND is about to get a nice publicity spike thanks to Avengers 2 (and Joss Whedons inescapable desire for even more strong female characters.) But here’s the problem with those characters: they’ve been around forever.
By that I mean that they’ve kind of had their turn. There have been solo runs for Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, and Storm and many other “women will totally buy this” people all of whom have failed to do so (or at least failed to do so on a large scale.) Plus, because they’ve been around so long they all have frankly horrifying amounts of backstory. Storm dated this person, and got in a fight with that person, and started a small chain of Pickle themed restaurants with that person, so asking someone to dive into this long convoluted story midway through is like handing someone the last one-hundred pages of Pride and Prejudice and asking them to fall madly in love with Mr. Darcy… and those hundred pages are written in German.
So, there you sit, tapping your pen made of solid gold and munching on fresh picked pineapple brought to you buy a trained seal wearing a tuxedo and desperately trying to think of a way to sell a character to a new audience. When it hits you: why not take an existing well beloved male character (where most comics make their big money,) and come up with a reason to turn them into a woman????? And not just a well beloved character, no no no, we need a REALLY well known character which means we need one of the core Avengers. But which one???
Captain America: Meh, Captain America has already switched identities like… seven times in the comics. Plus, he’s not the big splash guy we’re looking for. Captain-ett America-ett could work but we’re basically just giving a woman super strength and sticking her in a stripedy suit. Nah.
Iron Man: Seems easy enough: stick a woman in the Iron Man Suit. But that’s the problem, it’s too easy. Besides there kind of already is a female Iron Man and no one really got all that excited about her anyway.
Hulk: She-Hulk is already a thing… and not one of your better Marvel ideas so… let’s just move on.
Ant-man: Ha ha ha ha. No.
Thor: God of Thunder sure but… well most/all of Thor’s powers come from his hammer so the transfer of power makes sense, plus it’s never been done before, plus Thor’s one of the three or four most rawly powerful characters in the comics so it’s something we really haven’t messed around with too much.
So out of the core Avengers the fairly clear option is “Lady Thor.” The right amount of believability, interest, and interesting power dynamic PLUS it gives us a chance to re-explore the super-powered world from a new perspective which is always nice, but we’re also not sacrificing brand-recognition by going with a brand new character no one has seen or heard of before… seems like a win!!
Thought 3: But will it actually work?
That’s the big question here. Lady-Thor makes sense on paper, it makes sense from a branding perspective, and it (loosely) makes sense from a story perspective (or at least it doesn’t seem completely far fetched.) It will interest people and that’s what we’re going for. It’s also nice that Marvel is saying this is a permanent change and (if you trust Marvel) that means they won’t be pulling a “Death of Superman” and making world shattering changes to their comics only to come back four minutes later and say “Thanks for giving us your money for that ‘world shattering’ comic, we’ve changed our mind though and are gonna put things back EXACTLY the way they were before we did that.” It’s a step in the right direction.
Here’s the thing though: just because you make a story interesting, does not mean you’re making a good story. And just because you say “Look, here’s a woman!!!!” Does not mean women will flock to buy your product. Women aren’t idiots, they don’t buy something just because there’s a woman on the cover. A great example of this (and I’m borrowing this example from an article on The House of Geekery) is the new Sherlock series. One Sherlock “Sherlock” was made by the BBC and featured a modern setting, great writing, captivating storytelling, and awesome acting. The other Sherlock “Elementary” featured a modern setting, decent writing, okay acting, and A WOMAN!!! Now Elementary isn’t by any means a terrible show but it’s gotten nowhere near the audience of Sherlock and that’s because Sherlock is (and stay with me here) better. The writing, the acting, the storyline, all of it. It’s better.
So if Marvel makes these changes to Thor AND can tell captivating stories with great writing and interesting characters Lady-Thor might just work!! But if Marvel throws together some half thought out storyline about a hot girl wearing a hot costume and happening to be a woman… the status quo will remain both statused and quoed.
It’s not the gender of a particular person that decides whether or not people (particularly women in this case) will buy something. It’s the quality. That said there’s nothing wrong with mixing up your settings and characters every once in a while and seeing what happens, just make sure you have a decent basis and storyline to make that mix up worth the bother.
Will Marvel succeed in this? Honestly, I don’t know. It’s a risky move and it could pay off big time but if it doesn’t they stand to lose some face and won’t be able to just go back to Man-Thor without losing even more face… like all their faces… forever. Only time, will tell.
So there you go guys!! A long article on an exceedingly comicy topic but hopefully it gives you a better idea of what’s going on with Thor, the Avengers, and my deep seated jealousy of the people at Marvel. I’ll probably drag Carey in here at some point and talk with him about what he thinks (cause his thoughts will probably be a lot more… coherent) but there you have it! Lady Thor! Check back in next week for more movie stuff, more comic stuff, and more stuff stuff.