"Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor."[ - The inscription on Mjolnir

So, everyone with a dram of geek blood, plus a whole lot of civilians, now know that Marvel is turning Thor into a woman, and the new Capt. America is going to be Sam Wilson, aka The Falcon, who is a black man. There are a lot of vigorous discussions, of almost a religious nature, across all segments of geekery about these changes.

I don’t get religious about a lot of stuff… Well, except for maybe the 10th Doctor being the best Doctor, and Greedo shooting first, and not even then, so hearing there would be a female “God of Thunder” wasn’t at all that disconcerting, but the motivation and mechanics behind it are, IMO, complete bullshit.

Marvel is obviously paying attention to the demands for stronger female characters in comics, as well as more diversity in general. That’s good. What isn’t so good is the way they’re addressing the problem: It’s being done in a way to increase sales of one of their franchises which, like Iron Man, had been stalled as a b-level character up until the Marvel movie franchise took off, and taking little-to-no risk that could blow back and negatively impact sales.

In the case of Captain America, it’s all good. There is a history in the books of Cap handing off the mantle to others, including Bucky Barnes, and the the values of the hero in the suit are what matters, not the identity of the man IN the suit. In a way, it’s kind of like Captain America is the Dread Pirate Roberts franchise in “The Princess Bride.”

The plan for Thor, on the other hand, is woefully disappointing and limited in addressing gender-equity issues in any real way..

The press on this has said that a female becomes Thor when Thor himself becomes unworthy to wield Mjolnir. That’s okay. Thor fucks up and a worthy female picks up the hammer and becomes the Goddess of Thunder. Not a problem. That she becomes Thor IS a huge problem.

Thor is the identity of the individual, NOT the franchise. The God of Thunder mantle is the franchise. The woman that picks up the hammer will, as the inscription says, wield the power of Thor, but not become Thor.

This is obviously just a gimmick, and at some point the hammer will revert back to the redeemed, “Classic” Thor. It also doesn’t meaningfully address the needs of the readers who want to see more strong female characters, because it’s essentially being done with smoke and mirrors.

Marvel is taking an established character, making the change in a high-visibility franchise, and are not doubt counting on the controversy to send sales of the book skyrocketing. 

Maximum short-term impact, minimal risk. It’s all win from the marketing department’s perspective.

A more meaningful solution, one that would have a lasting impact, would be to write new books about new female characters, adding them to the Marvel Universe. But launching a new character, or book, is a risky proposition… Who knows if it will sell? What if they put all that money into the new character and it fails.

The Entertainment Industry despises downside potential, which is why there is so much retread material coming out of Hollywood. Nobody wants to take risks.

Also, telling your writers to write “strong female characters” is also not that meaningful.

The emphasis should be on writing good stories, with good characters, and writers need to write about what they are passionate about, not what is dictated to them by a corporate (which is quite often a) patriarchy.

No, the real solution to the gender-inequity in comics, and throughout the Entertainment Industry, needs to be addressed in a way that will create lasting change… In the case of comics, that means hiring more women writers and editors whose own interests and life experience will come out in their work, and that’s when you will see the gender inequities start to shift, along with the addition of more marquee female characters and subject matter that is of interest to women (and men.)

It will be interesting to see how this plays out, and I’ll definitely read the new books, but I’m seeing this particular implementation as one that isn’t going to make any real difference in the long run, but will still make some cash for Marvel.

The real changes that need to happen are generational in nature. Create diversity in the folks who are writing the comics, and you’ll get diversity IN the comics.