The newest volume of Thor has debuted and in it readers are witness to the continuing changes in this corner of the Marvel Universe: Thor Odinson is no longer worthy to wield his sacred hammer Mjolnir! In a move that has angered legions of misogynistic fanbois and anti-status quo upsetters, a new powerhouse has taken up the name and power of Thor. Unlike previous replacements or alternate versions of the God of Thunder, this one is a woman.
“A woman you say? Say it ain’t so! Women can’t replace men and they certainly can’t replace a top tier superhero! No woman is as good as man.”
“This is just a big PR move. I’m tired of Marvel doing stuff like this. Why can’t they just tell good stories?”
“I get that Marvel wants to have more female led comics, but why do they have to take Thor away and replace him with a woman? Why can’t they just launch a new book with a female character?”
These are just some of the responses-and they don’t come close to the worst offenders-to the changes to Thor. And let me be clear here-I approve of these changes.
As Wikipedia states:
For most of their existence, comic books audiences have been assumed to be mostly male. The female characters and superheroes were targeted towards this male demographic, rather than towards women readers. Although many female superheroes were created, very few starred in their own series or achieved stand-alone success outside straightforward erotic works. It has been debated whether the perceived lack of female readership was due to male writers being uncomfortable with writing about or for women, or whether the comic book industry is male dominated due to actual lack of women’s interest in comics.
Women read comic books too. In fact, a lot of them do.
In February, the Facebook universe of self-identified comic fans grew to a new high of over 24 million fans in the United States. Of that 24 million, women account for 46.67% of that population. Since I’ve been tracking these stats, that’s the highest percentage of women recorded. With some changes on Facebook’s end, I can now see what terms have grown from the previous month, and in this case it wasn’t any single term, it was many of the over 100 used to compile the statistics.
Since women make up a portion of the comic book readership, it makes sense to market books towards them, as well as improve the depiction of women in already existing titles. As a gay man of color, I recognize the benefits of diversification. I want to see more People of Color and LGBT people represented in comics (and in our wider culture), bc we make up the culture that consumes these products, so it’s easy for me to see that women want the same thing. Diversification benefits all of us, bc it shows that white people aren’t the only consumers being targeted. It shows that makers of a product are actively interested in reaching people beyond their traditional supporters. In addition, society is becoming more and more multicultural. White people will be in the [numbers] minority within the century, so if comics want to survive, they’re going to have to target women, People of Color, and LGBT people. And they have to do so respectfully.
Marvel has made efforts in the last year or so to target outside their traditional demographic. They have 10 books with women as the star (and one of which is a book about a Muslim American superhero). Of those, the all-new Thor is unique. She is taking over the role of an established male hero. She’ll be the new God of Thunder in a way not dissimilar to a female CEO taking over for a male CEO. This sends the message that Marvel believes that there is no glass ceiling…that women and men can achieve the same level of success. It sends the message that women are worthy of being in positions of great power. Kudos Marvel!