WHEN MARVEL COMICS announced in July that mighty Mjolnir, the mystical hammer of Thor, would soon no longer be wielded by the son of Odin, but rather by a masked mystery woman — thus giving us a new Thor — the news naturally spread quickly.
At that same moment, Jason Aaron — the author responsible for writing this pioneering take on the God of Thunder — just happened to be at the Marvel offices in New York, unaware that his latest idea had just gone public on “The View” and gone viral on social media.
“We were having one of our retreats; I didn’t get to see” the announcement, Aaron recounted to Comic Riffs. “I just know at some point in the day, my Twitter feed started exploding, and suddenly I was getting pulled out of the office to go do interviews.”
As the interview requests kept coming, Aaron realized that his newest creative adventure was also going to be a new commercial realm for him, too, in terms of the broader interest. Friends of Aaron’s family who were not comic-book readers began calling his mother with questions. Even his own friends, who never before had asked about his day job, were wanting to know about the big news.
And then…Bette Midler tweeted about it.
On The View, Marvel Comics revealed a new female Thor! She immediately interviewed to become one of the co-hosts.— Bette Midler (@BetteMidler) July 16, 2014
To those who claimed to be fans of Thor, but had maybe been away for a while, the surprise news came like bolt out of the blue. Yet, Aaron says, the readers who had been along for the two-year ride of his current run on “Thor: God of Thunder” could probably see the clouds of change gathering above Asgard.
This new story has “grown out of everything that I’ve been doing on the character,” Aaron told Comic Riffs. “I’ve been writing Thor for a couple of years now, like 25 issues. So this is not me coming to a stopping point and throwing out everything I’ve been doing. I’ve been laying a lot of tracks for future stories over the course of those 25 issues.
“I’ve introduced some new characters, brought back some old villains,” Aaron continued. “All of that really plays into the new series. This was always the plan: to get Thor to a point where he was unworthy and have someone else pick up that hammer.
“The question was always: Who was that someone going to be?”
That someone for the moment remains a mystery. The first issue of the new Thor series, which will hit comic book shops and digital devices Wednesday, does not let fans see the face of Mjolnir’s new owner; instead, it sets the tone for the multiple mysteries to be solved within its pages. Mysteries that the former Thor — a now hammer-less male — will be driven to solve.
“The Odinson, the previous version of Thor, he’s going to look at all the women around him and start to try to figure out which one of [them] is running around with [his] hammer,” Aaron told Comic Riffs. “It’s a suspect list that’s going to include his mother, Freyja, who plays a big role in [the first issue]; Roz Solomon, who is Thor’s new love interest and also a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent; [his] ex-girlfriend Jane Foster; and Sif [who is a big part of the movies].
“All those characters will have roles to play in the new book, and not just as red herrings,” Aaron continued. “A lot of them have been a big part of the book for the past couple of years, so those roles will continue on, and then one of them ultimately … has a very different story to tell.”
Aaron says this Thor won’t just be a book about secret identities, noting that the mystery of who lies underneath the new mask of Thor is something that won’t be stretched out for too long.
And just as important to the title will be the emergence of Mjolnir, which has a few mysteries of its own.
“Odin [Thor’s father] was the one who put the enchantment on the hammer in the first place,” Aaron said. “He was the one who gave this hammer the power to determine worthiness. As we can see in the first issue, the enchantment has grown beyond even the enchanter. So I really like that idea that this hammer has taken that power onto itself. The hammer will decide who is worthy and nothing can change that.
“It’s really just the beginning of Mjolnir having a very different sort of role in this new Thor series,” Aaron added, “and becoming more of a character in and of itself.”
Part of Mjolnir’s new role will be having a different relationship with its wielder.
“It wouldn’t make sense to do a change if [the new Thor] was exactly the same in every way as the previous version of the character,” Aaron said. “Her powers will be a little bit different — her interaction with the hammer will be a little bit different. There will be things that she can do that we haven’t seen before.”
As for what motivated Aaron to make the decision to debut the new Thor as a woman — once he decided that the original Thor would go on a journey that would expose him as not worthy of his hammer or the title of Thor — Aaron says looking back on the few who have held Mjolnir up to the sky revealed an elite few that, though different, were all still men.
“I knew pretty quickly that I wanted it to be a female character for a couple of different reasons,” Aaron said. “We haven’t seen very many female characters pick that hammer up over the years. We’ve seen lots of different people in the Marvel universe, from Captain America to horse-face alien guy Beta Ray Bill lift that hammer, but hardly any female characters. And if you look at Thor’s supporting cast these days, like the one he’s had in the book I’ve been doing, most of his supporting cast is female. So if it was going to be someone from Thor’s world that was going to pick this hammer up, then it made sense that it was going to be a woman.”
For all the fan excitement about this new Thor era, some were not pleased with the announcement. There were fans who claimed that Marvel Comics was running out of ideas, and that yet another male superhero mantle being passed to a female character was something that had been seen too many times. Aaron begs to differ.
“Whenever there’s a big change like that with a character that’s been around for so long, there are going to be people who freak out,” Aaron told Comic Riffs. “I don’t think we would have gotten the same amount of backlash if we just announced that it was a different dude that was picking up the hammer. So that’s pretty disappointing.
“I think a lot of people who were taking that [view] on it, who claimed to be big-time Thor fans, they didn’t seem to know too much about what the character had been up to for the last several years. If they’re freaking out that much just because Thor is a woman, I think they’ve missed some of the lessons that maybe the character has been trying to teach them over the course of the last 600 issues.”
For fans coming over to Thor comics after seeing the last two “Thor” movies or “The Avengers,” Aaron says that a new Thor awaiting them in the pages of the comics isn’t a bad thing.
“I love the idea that someone will go see that Avengers movie next year and maybe want to go read some Thor comics,” Aaron said, “and they’ll go pick it up and it’s not exactly the same version of Thor that they saw on screen, but it’s not so profoundly different that they would be turned off and lost. It’s still very much a Thor story it’s just a different version of Thor. I love that.”
“I love the Marvel movies, but I always feel like we should be a step ahead of the movies,” Aaron added. “One of the reasons those movies have been so good and so successful is that they’ve been very good at mining the comics. They go back to where these characters started, to those original stories. I think it’s our job as writers for Marvel Comics to continue to create those type of stories that can be mined instead of just trying to give readers exactly what they see on film.”
Amid all the heightened attention and anticipation, Aaron approaches his new take on Thor with conviction.
“I feel as strongly about this new story, about her story,” he said, “as I did when I first took over [Thor] a few years ago.”