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on Thor and Feminism™ for Fun and Profit

MarvelThorWoman3So seeing as how this is all over the blogosphere right now and a couple people have asked me my opinion on it, I guess I might as well rant on it. “What do I think about Marvel’s decision to make the new Thor a woman?” Well, I think it’s ridiculously fucking dumb. But maybe not for the reasons people think I do.

Its disingenuous. On several levels. It’s a ridiculous marketing ploy. If you’re a comic book fan, then guess what. They’re not doing this for you.

Have you ever noticed that you never see commercials for comic books on TV? You never hear one on the radio. There are no billboards. You don’t even see print ads for comics in non-comics magazines. In fact, I can’t even think of the last time I saw a banner ad for a comic on a non-comic related website. The only place you ever see comic book advertisements is in other comic books. This means that the only people comics ever advertise to, are the people already buying them. We are currently nine days away from San Diego Comic Con, the biggest assemblage of geeks on the planet. If Marvel actually had an announcement that they wanted comic book fans to care about don’t you think they would have waited a week and done it there? But instead they did it on The View. Why, because this is a targeted attempt to say “Women should read comics, because Thor is a chick now!” and “Chicks watch The View, right?”

MarvelThorWoman4Now, don’t get me wrong. The story could be great. Who knows. Here’s hoping. I always hope comics will be great. But this isn’t really about Thor. This is about using “feminism” as a marketing demographic. It’s pretending to do something “big” so that you can peak the interest of the media. It’s like killing off Spider-man (newsflash, for the non-comics readers, he’s alive again) or Captain America (also alive) or Superman (yeah, guess what… alive). When either of the big two decide to make a press release to mainstream media about a big shakeup it is ALWAYS just a marketing stunt.

And this one I find kind of offensive. First of all, the initial announcement on The View, by Whoopi Goldberg (who clearly had it prepared for her and doesn’t know anything about the comic):

“Thor, the God of Thunder, he messed up. He is no longer worthy to hold that damn hammer of his. And for the first time in history that hammer is being held by a woman.” 

And then the press release from Marvel continues:

“The inscription on Thor’s hammer reads ‘Whosoever holds this hammer, if HE be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.’ Well it’s time to update that inscription,” says Marvel editor Wil Moss. “The new Thor continues Marvel’s proud tradition of strong female characters like Captain Marvel, Storm, Black Widow and more. And this new Thor isn’t a temporary female substitute – she’s now the one and only Thor, and she is worthy!”

FemaleThorsOnly this is NOT the first time in history the hammer has been held by a woman. Obviously, the audience of the View can’t possibly know that, so it sounds good in a press release. But Marvel knows that. And they know that their fans know it, so they never would have said that if it was announced at Comic Con. There was an out of continuity story where Rogue became the new wielder of the hammer. Mjolnir was wielded by Wonder Woman in the Marvel/DC crossover event from 2003— which ok, maybe you can argue it was out of continuity —or the couple times IN continuity where Storm WHO IS MENTIONED IN THE FUCKING PRESS RELEASE has held it, most recently in a comic they published a whole THREE YEARS AGO.

Press releases are about advertising. Comics aren’t unique in that respect. And if this can get a few new readers in the door to comic shops wonderful. But don’t promise them something you can’t deliver on. The press release continues:

Series writer Jason Aaron emphasizes, “This is not She-Thor. This is not Lady Thor. This is not Thorita. This is THOR. This is the THOR of the Marvel Universe. But it’s unlike any Thor we’ve ever seen before.”

THOR is the latest in the ever-growing and long list of female-centric titles that continues to invite new readers into the Marvel Universe. This female THOR is the 8th title to feature a lead female protagonist and aims to speak directly to an audience that long was not the target for Super Hero comic books in America: women and girls.

unworthy-thor-102795No it’s not! Do you know why? Do you know who Thor really is? Thor is Chris Hemsworth. The first Thor movie grossed $450M. The second one hit $645M. The Avengers movie pulled in $1.5billion. Right now, Thor sells 36,000 copies every month. You can probably expect the first female Thor comic to double to 70K, and if they’re REALLY lucky, they’ll triple to 100K or so. After that, they’ll settle back in to the regular pattern. 40K for a few months, and then dwindle back down to the current level. The second Avengers movie is set to debut on May 1st of next year, and if you don’t think Marvel will be looking for the sales bump that comes with having a character in a book that looks like Chris Hemsworth when the new movie comes out then I have a bridge to sell you (By the way, Spiderman and Captain America’s “deaths” were reversed just in time for their movies too). This means, at best she’s got a good eight to nine months of viability “being Thor” which, is probably about how long the concept is marketable, so this is pretty good timing actually.

And Marvel even knows this because what they didn’t put in the press release is that all the while Girl Thor is running around, Boy Thor will be too. They released images of what Thor the disgraced Thor is going to look like while he fights to find his honor while the female Thor is “leading” the book. Which means that they’re basically acknowledging that female Thor is temporary. But that wouldn’t make a nice sound bite on The View.

thorgirlBut what really bugs me is the quote from Jason Aaron justifying this. This is not the “real” Thor. The real Thor will still be in the book. This is essentially Lady Thor. Honestly, but for the fact that she gets to carry the “official” hammer (whoop-de-doo) she is basically “Thor Girl.” From what we know, (basically from what Goldberg said on The View this morning) she even has the same basic origin as Thor Girl did.

The thing is, Thor is not a title. It makes sense to be rooting for a woman to be the next president. It make sense to root for a woman to be a five star general. It even makes sense to root for Kacy Catanzaro on American Ninja Warrior. Those are situations where you’re looking for a woman to make her own way and become something as impressive as men have become. This on the other hand is just pretending to be that. It is saying that a successful female character should be a replacement (and obvious pretender) to a male character. If Marvel really wants to have female characters for a female audience to look up to, then FUCKING INVENT SOME. The new Ms. Marvel book is really good. At least Elektra, Storm and Black Widow are original characters. If you really want to have a tie-in to the Thor mythos, then why not give Valkyrie (currently very popular in Defenders) or Sif (very popular from the movie series) a book?

Why not? Because that would involve producing another title, with mediocre sales, and if you want it to get better actually having to write a good story. And writing is hard!!! It’s way easier to just do a sales ploy and ask people to buy it by saying “this is good for women! You’re a feminist right? Then you better buy this or you hate women!”

This wasn’t done to be innovative. It wasn’t done to empower women. It wasn’t done to give young girls someone to look up to. It was done to drum up interest and get to write about and advertise the book for free. Which they did. Mission accomplished.

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