Gender issues in the Marvel Comic Universe

Posted: July 19, 2014 in Comics

By Sean Gallagher

Unless you’ve been under a rock this week, you will have undoubtedly seen trending through the online wavelengths the buzz that Marvel Comic’s iconic character Thor is now a woman. Thor, in case you didn’t know, is the Norse God of Thunder. He is the son of Odin and is the protector of Earth. Marvel maintained much of the original mythos about Thor when they adopted him in to their comic universe. However, comic book characters are always changing, costumes, teams, even publishers have been shifted re imagined over the decades and these changes can often be good. Like the changing of the guard, sometimes a hero will step down and a new one will pick up the mantle; after all heroes can’t be heroes forever! Things can get bit messy during these transitions and although for the intentions Marvel might have for the new Thor relate to female empowerment (and sales), it may have just done the opposite.

This new lady becomes Thor after proving her worth by picking up Thor’s mighty hammer, Mjonlir, after he becomes unworthy to carry it. But unlike the new Spider-Man or Captain America, both who is / will be African American, Thor isn’t a title – it’s his actual name; God of Thunder is his title. Problems arise when you look at what she will be compared to. Take for example, Wonder Woman. Now imagine that Wonder Woman was still named Wonder Woman but Diana Prince was now a guy named Dave Prince. That would be weird, right? The new Thor is a lady yet she will be under the scrutiny of everything that her male counterpart has done. Without even giving her a chance, Marvel has sold the character short by not allowing this woman the chance to create her own space. The Marvel press releases have mentioned nothing about the new Thor carrying over the title, but they’ve drilled it in that this character is simply the new Thor. So she is a fierce Norse hero but is slapped with a male name, I just don’t get it.

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                     Lady Thor, erm, Thor, as she’ll be seen in the comics. Cool design, but it looks                                         awfully familiar, why does she have to be so dependent on old Thor…

There is also the case that the inscription on the side of Thor’s hammer. It reads, “whoever holds this hammer, should he be worthy, shall wield the power of Thor”. You’ll note that it specifically refers to “he”. And yes, that passage is from the good ol’ mythology days. Now, I get that the company and the writers are trying to stay modern and keep up with the times here, saying that anyone, gender or species aside, can be worthy. But she does not have to be called Thor. Why can’t this new character be the daughter of Thor for example, who has the traits and strengths of her father yet must carry on and continue her father’s legacy through her own unique history and by using her own skills and background to empower the name. By doing this, she wouldn’t be a subjected to constant comparison to the male Thor and would be free from the constraints and expectations ofwhat Thor would/should do. This Thor is still technically the offspring of Odin, yet instead of being Thor Odinson, which is his real name; this new Thor just tramples on its own source material.

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Like I said, change is great, and so is female empowerment. It would be great to see more female characters in the limelight and being awesome, especially in the male dominated comic book genre. But when that power comes from emasculating the iconic mythological source, it loses its credibility especially when the source is so popular, more so these days of the so called comic film renaissance. Time will have to tell how this incarnation of Thor holds up with fans.

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