Thor's hammer is changing hands, and the creators behind the move are out to explain why it's more than just a quick publicity grab.
When the women of The View broke the news Tuesday morning that the mighty Mjolnir, as well as the name Thor, would be taken over by a woman in an upcoming comic, many fans were thrilled to see another female hero stepping to the forefront of the Marvel universe, whoever she may turn out to be. But, as with all such developments, others were not pleased, and while I did see a few people around the web who were a bit miffed that Marvel's announcement wasn't a new title starring a female hero with her own name and legacy, most of the backlash came from those who were simply angry that a traditionally male superhero role will now be filled by a woman.
On the one hand, it's pretty easy to dismiss that particular form of nerd rage with a quick Twitter quip, like so:
Are you really the kind of dude who's totally down with Thor as a frog but not as a woman?— Jason Latour (@jasonlatour) July 15, 2014
On the other, there are actually some legitimate questions to be answered about this switch. Is this just a quick, temporary storyline hoping to grab headlines, or will this be an ongoing concern in the Marvel universe? Who is this mystery woman who'll pick up Mjolnir? Why take Thor's name away from him instead of giving us something like, say, an ongoing Lady Sif series from a badass female creative team (which, for the record, I would read the hell out of)? Well, Marvel's not ready to spoil everything yet -- you'll have to read the comic to get all the details -- but in an interview with Time shortly after the announcement was made, Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso, Thor editor Wil Moss and Thor writer Jason Aaron addressed some of these issues.
First, while her identity won't be revealed for some time, Alonso hinted that we might already be familiar with the woman who will be Thor.
"She wields the hammer because Thor can’t. This is different because for reasons we can’t disclose quite yet, Thor is unable to pick up the hammer. There are a number of women in Thor’s life, and we’re going to tease out for quite awhile the identity of who this woman is," Alonso said. "But one of the women in Thor’s life picks up the hammer. She is in fact worthy. And she becomes Thor."
Second, while both Alonso and Moss stressed that the male Thor isn't leaving the Marvel universe (though he "will not refer to himself as Thor anymore," Alonso said), Aaron also made it clear that this is not a change we can expect to shrug off anytime soon. The female Thor will apparently be around for a good while.
"This will have long-term effects on the title. This isn’t something that’s just going to last for a few issues," Aaron said. "She is Thor. She will carry that hammer in her own books and the other books as well. So for the foreseeable future this is Thor."
Third, while Marvel is certainly happy to be getting all of this attention, Aaron spoke a great deal about this move happening not as a mandated shakeup of the title but as something he sees as a "continuation" of the work he's been doing in Asgard as the writer of the Thor: God of Thunder title for nearly two years now. For him, it's all part of the greater Thor story.
"The story didn’t come about because of any sort of mandate. It’s not like we threw a dart at a board and said we’re going to change this character and make it a female," Aaron said. "This was the natural progression of the story I was telling and that’s been building in Thor history for decades now."
And finally, there's the issue of diversity in the Marvel universe, something Marvel's top editors and talent have been talking about for a while now. Marvel's received a lot of positive press over the past couple of years for its female-led titles, from Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel to She-Hulk and the all-female X-Men team, and it's also received plenty of criticism from fans who don't want words like "diversity" around their comics. It's a heavy topic that we won't go into too much for the moment, but let's just say things get a little heated in the geekier corners of the web whenever news like this comes up. For Alonso -- whose job, let's not forget, is in part to sell as many comics for his company as possible -- the female-led titles Marvel keeps putting out aren't just there to get pats on the back from the press, or from some small, fringe fan group. He sees an audience, a growing audience, of people who want books starring heroes who look like them, and he's happy to oblige.
"We see fans of all shapes and sizes and genders in comic stores and at conventions. And we perceived there to be a real thirst for characters that reflect what we see in the mirror," Alonso said. "From Miles Morales, the African-American Spider-Man, to the new female Thor, our goal is to make our characters reflect the outside world.
"Right now we have eight titles that are anchored by female leads where it’s that character’s name on the masthead. We’re definitely committed to growing that audience."
No matter how you feel about the Thor news, it's hard to deny that Alonso has a point. The audience for female-led books is large, and it's growing. You don't have to take my word for it, either. Research has shown that nearly 50 percent of the comics-reading audience out there right now is female, and while many of those readers are probably quite content to read Batman and The Amazing Spider-Man every month, they also want Ms. Marvel. They want Sex Criminals. They want Lumberjanes. And yes, some of them want a badass woman wielding Mjolnir for a while.
The new Thor series, from Aaron and artist Russell Dauterman, hits comic-book stores in October.