Whosoever Holds this Rage
In case you have been living under a rock and missed the news, Marvel rocked every fanboy this week with a huge announcement. In their flagship title Thor, it was announced that Thor will soon be female. Before everyone screams “What the sex change?!”, allow me to explain the reasoning behind this. In order to teach Thor humility, Odin placed an enchantment on Mjolnir, and if the person who tried to lift it was worthy, they would be granted the power of Thor. This enchantment acts as a quasi security system to prevent evil doers from misusing Mjolnir’s power. It also acts as a conscious for Thor since if he swayed from the path of honor he would lose the ability to wield its power.
That brings us to this week’s announcement. It isn’t clear just what exactly Thor does to become unworthy, but when it happens Mjolnir will somehow come into the hands of this mysterious woman. This is when the absurd nerd rage begins. Complaints that are all over the net include: Thor’s power comes from him being Odin’s son, this is a stupid marketing stunt that will ruin the comic, Marvel already has an Asgardian female warrior with Lady Sif, Marvel already has strong females – why aren’t they just making those characters better instead of ruining this one, and Thor is his real name not his code name – she can’t take his name. All of these knee-jerk complaints are from people who know nothing about the character.
The first complaint: “Thor’s power comes from him being Odin’s son” just shows a complete lack of understanding of the Marvel character. Thor is Asgardian and with that comes increased strength, resistance, stamina, and quasi immortality. All of Thor’s other powers are bestowed upon him by the enchanted hammer Mjolnir. It is the hammer that allows him to control lightning, create vortices and force fields, fire mystical blasts of a variety of natures, and to strike with enough force to destroy mountains. On top of all of that, the hammer was the main method for Thor to travel. He would either use it to teleport or by throwing it and holding on for the ride. No joke, this is why Thor always spins his hammer around before taking off. All of the powers that people commonly think of related to Thor come from Mjolnir. The only power he actually receives from Odin is the Odin-Force, and I am fairly certain no one has claimed that this new Thor will have that.
The Second Complaint: “This is a stupid marketing stunt that will ruin the comic for years to come!” just makes it seem like these people have never read comics or have an incredibly short memory. Let’s look at the countless “marketing stunts” that Marvel has done in the past. Spoilers ahead folks, so beware! In Superior Spider-Man, Peter Parker essentially dies and is replaced in body and name by Doc Octopus. This run, while controversial at first, was applauded for being some of the most unique Spider-Man stories in years. Captain America was “assassinated” at the close of the Marvel Civil War, and his mantle and title were passed on to Bucky. The Bucky-Cap stories were remarkably well told with the background theme of legacy constantly being addressed. Black Panther also made big changes when T’Challa passed his position and mantle of the ‘Black Panther’ to his sister Shuri. Shuri was a fantastic and intense character that gave the Black Panther series an amazing change in direction. Shuri taking over the position as Black Panther was not the only time a mantle was passed to a strong female. When Clint Barton (Hawkeye) died, during the Avengers Disassembled storyline, his mantle was picked up soon after by Kate Bishop. Kate would become Hawkeye with the Young Avengers. When Clint Barton came back to life (comics, everyone!) he gave Kate his blessing to continue on as Hawkeye. All of these are cases where major character changes to the story could have been considered marketing stunts, yet in each of these cases it resulted in some fantastic stories. I will acknowledge that it isn’t always successful (I am looking at you Spider-Man clone saga), but I would rather have creators that are willing to push the characters and stories in new and different directions than just the same old story time and time again.
The third and fourth complaints go together: “Why not focus more on Sif (if you want a strong Asgardian), or focus on some other Marvel female character?” To this I would say, have you read Journey into Mystery, Captain Marvel, (the brand new) Ms. Marvel, or the Fearless Defenders? Marvel has had and still has some amazing books that focus on their powerhouse female characters. These books tell great stories and if you haven’t read them you really should. My point is there are tons of great books out there that showcase female heroes, but does that mean we shouldn’t keep adding new ones?
The last complaint is one I can understand why people might be confused or have issue with, but if you think about it from a comic book universe point of view, it makes sense. The complaint is: “Thor is his real name, not his code name”. This is true; his name is Thor Odinson. However, he exists in a world where you have heroes with dual identities. It just so happens that his two identities are Thor Odinson and the Mighty Thor. The world of the Marvel 616 Universe is familiar to heroes passing on their names to another generation. Why would Thor be any different? It would seem like she takes the name as her own to give us an image of what her powers will be and also to honor Thor’s legacy. Beyond that, the enchantment placed on the hammer does state that if someone is worthy enough to lift the hammer they will be granted the powers of Thor. And, let’s be honest – if you came across Mjolnir and were deemed worthy to wield it, wouldn’t you would call yourself Thor?! I know I would!
Here is the point of all of this: Marvel (and DC for that matter) has a long history of passing on the mantle of a hero. This tradition has led to the creation of some of comics greatest stories and greatest characters. This is also a tradition that has shown that gender lines don’t matter, as we see with Hawkeye, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Spider-Man, and more. The nerd rage that seemed to flare up instantly seemed to show a lack of understanding of comic history and tradition or simply fear of change. We all know that Thor Odinson will return one day, probably right before Avengers 2 or Thor 3 is released in theaters, but until then why not embrace this new character and give it a read before you immediately dismiss it as gender pandering.