The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

THE NEW FEMALE THOR: From Asgard to new guard, 5 things to know about Marvel’s bolt from the blue

Thor concept art (courtesy of Marvel Comics.)

WHEN SUPERHERO comics publishers alter a character, they often wait and hope for the clap of approval.

This week, Marvel Comics’ big announcement brought a thunderclap.

Marvel announced this week — on the friendly venue of ABC’s “The View” — that a big switch is coming this fall to the God of Thunder: There will be a new wielder of Mjolnir, the mystical hammer of Thor.

Engraved within Mjorlin is the phrase, “Whosoever holds this hammer, should he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.” That “he” will very soon be a she. A female Thor will grace the pages of Thor: God of Thunder, as the son of Odin turns in his work tools.

As soon as the news broke Tuesday, some fanboys naturally raced to their keyboards — with all-CAPS rage — while other readers hailed the palace coup as Marvel announced its eighth title to star a female character, according to the New York-based publisher.

Marvel superhero Thor has received a new incarnation as a female in an effort to appeal to young girls and women. (Video: Reuters)

Here are Five Things to Note About the Thor news:

1. Old trick, new twist?

Many fans were quicky complaining by  claiming that this is an unoriginal idea from Marvel — that taking the mantle of a superhero and changing the sex of the hero is an old trick. We’ve seen female heroes taking over for male heroes before, but has it ever been a mantle this big? Thor is royalty at Marvel — within the pages of the comics and in the halls of Marvel editors. And the key thing to remember is that it’s not just about the fanBOY demographic as it often was decades ago anymore. Female readership is a force in the comic-book industry, compelling publishers to address issues of diversity. Before the Internet explodes, let’s see how the new Thor does with the hammer — and how all readers respond to the books — before labeling this merely another publicity stunt.

2. A champion for diversity Marvel continues to take very seriously its stated promise to make its universe as diverse as its readership. Whether changes involve the biracial Ultimate Spider-Man, a half Latino Nova, the Muslim Ms. Marvel or the all-female X-Men team, Axel Alonso meant it when he assumed the editorship several years ago and said the pages of Marvel Comics would reflect the real world — that no matter who you are, no matter where you’re from or what your religion or sexuality is, everyone deserves to feel like they can be a superhero.

3. Trusting the talent Trust is due to the person crafting this story. Thor: God of Thunder writer Jason Aaron has been penning a pretty spectacular run on this title. No matter who is under the metallic mask of this new female Thor, she should at the very least, be intriguing, given Aaron’s previous body of work. Whether she becomes a staple of the Marvel universe literally remains to be seen.

4. Lightning in a “battle”: She’s no sidekick One thing that seems to be inflaming the naysayers is that this isn’t She-Thor, Thorina or Miss Thor, fighting alongside the supposed one and only Thor. No, this mystery woman becomes THE Thor — holding the hammer, wielding the lightning. Such characters as Supergirl and Batgirl over at DC, or Marvel’s Spider-Woman, have a special place in their universes. They’re relevant and beloved by many for being the female equivalent of their male counterparts. But it can’t be like that every time. That’s not progress; that’s an outdated formula.

5. Almost nothing in comics is permanent What’s that: Thor is never going to be the same? Thunder-boy is banished forever from the power of Mjolinir? No more bright red cape and winged helmet? Wake up and smell the pulp. Almost nothing in comics lasts forever — not death and especially not mantle changes. Mjolnir will more than likely change hands to his original owner once more at some point. And if that does happen, hopefully the Marvel universe will have one more strong female character permanently inspiring in as a result.