By now, plenty of you will probably have already heard this, but it bears repeating: starting this fall, Thor will be a woman. Marvel Comics announced on last Tuesday’s episode of the ABC daytime show The View that the person we’ve known as Thor will soon become unworthy of both that title and his famous hammer, and both will be passed on to an as-of-now unnamed woman. Seeing as the rise of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has made Thor one of Marvel’s Big Three heroes (along with Captain America and Iron Man), it’s pretty impressive that Marvel is making this move.
It’s cool that Marvel is taking one of its strongest and most powerful heroes and making her a woman. Often female superheroes have mind, magic or otherwise non-muscle-based powers. I also mostly really love this new design. Although I’m not a fan of the boob plate armor, and I wish that Marvel would have more women of color superheroes, I love how strong, imposing and absolutely God-of-Thunder-like she looks. I mean, check out those shoulders!
It’s nice to see that both Marvel and series writer Jason Aaron are being so adamant about her being Thor and not “She-Thor” or “Lady Thor.” Although there’s absolutely nothing wrong with feminizing a name, there is a lot of clout that comes with the name Thor. By not adding “She-,” “Lady” or “Ms.” to the name, they are saying that this character isn’t a sidekick or partner to Thor, they’re saying that she isn’t “inspired by” Thor, they’re saying she simply is Thor.
Predictably, there have been a lot of complaints from “fanboys” saying that this move is “political correctness run amok” or “feminism gone too far.” There are also plenty of people who insist on calling her “Lady Thor” or She-Thor” even though it has been explicitly said that she’s simply going to be called Thor. They just can’t stand using that big, tough, manly name to describe a girl. Oh well; they’re just going to have to get over it.
Marvel also announced that this was part of a conscious effort to appeal to female readers, which is the exact opposite of what comic book companies have a notorious history of doing. In their press release about the change, they said that “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. THOR will be 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.” Marvel’s other female-led titles are Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, Black Widow, Elektra, the all-female X-Men and the new Storm series that’s debuting this week.
It’s pretty common for a younger man to take up the mantle of an older male superhero, a younger woman to take up the mantle of a female hero, or even for a younger woman to sort of take up a male hero’s mantle but then feminize the name. What’s happening here is much less common. While Thor is the most high-profile example of this, it’s not the first. Here are some of my favorite examples of this happening before.
Back in 2005, Kate Bishop was introduced as a member of the team Young Avengers. Much like Clint Barton, the original Hawkeye, she doesn’t have any real superpowers, but is very skilled with a bow. She was recently one of the stars of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s amazing run on Young Avengers and currently costars with Clint Barton Hawkeye (aka Hawkguy) and Pizza Dog in Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye.
Throughout the years, many different people have taken up the mantle of Robin, Batman’s sidekick. In the mainstream continuity, they’ve all been young men; that is, until Stephanie Brown put on the costume. Although her time as Robin has been marred by DC editors saying that “she was never really Robin,” Dr. Leslie Thomkins, Batman’s altruistic doctor friend, actually letting her die as a warning to other teen vigilantes and Batman not memorializing her as a Robin, she was still an important part of comic book history. She’s also been Batgirl and The Spoiler, which is both her original super hero identity and the one she is using in the New 52.
One of the most prominent lesbian and Latina superheroes of all-time, Renee Montoya took over the mantle of The Question from her friend and mentor Vic Sage after he died during the events of DC’s 52 storyline. Before she became The Question, Montoya was a tough cop working in Gotham City, and she even dated Kate Kane (also known as Batwoman) for a while. Unfortunately, she has not appeared in the relaunched New 52.
Although the current Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers, is probably the most famous woman to use this title, she’s not the first. The very first Captain Marvel was a male Kree alien named Mar-Vell, and before the current Captain Marvel, two other women were known by that name. The first was Monica Rambeau, an African-American woman and member of the Avengers. The second was the lesbian alien Phyla-Vell. Carol Danvers started going by Captain Marvel after she had spent years as Ms. Marvel, and is now one of the most powerful superheroes in the Marvel Universe.
Speedy is to Green Arrow as Robin is to Batman, except that until the early 2000s, only one person had ever worn the costume. While the original Speedy was off being Arsenal, Mia Dearden came into Oliver Queen’s life. He was initially reluctant to let her become the new Speedy, but she was headstrong and soon got her wish. She’s notable as being one of the very few HIV-positive superheroes to exist in mainstream comics. Sadly, however, she has yet to appear in the New 52 DC universe.
Other examples of women taking over male superheroes’ mantles without going by a feminized version of the name include Kate Spencer as Manhunter, Holly and Dawn Granger as Hawk and Dove and Beth Chapel as Dr. Mid-nite.
New Releases (July 23)
Betty and Veronica Jumbo Comics Digest #225 (Archie Comics)
Adventure Time Fionna and Cake #5 (Variant Cover) (Boom!)
Bravest Warriors #22 (Boom!)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 #5 (Dark Horse)
Tomb Raider #6 (Dark Horse)
Catwoman #33 (DC)
Wonder Woman #33 (DC)
Dejah of Mars #3 (Dynamite)
New Vampirella #1 (Variant Cover) (Dynamite)
X-Files Season 10 #14 (IDW)
Saga #21 (Image)
Storm #1 (Marvel)
Welcome to Drawn to Comics! From diary comics to superheroes, from webcomics to graphic novels – this is where we’ll be taking a look at comics by, featuring and for queer ladies. So whether you love to look at detailed personal accounts of other people’s lives, explore new and creative worlds, or you just love to see hot ladies in spandex, we’ve got something for you.
If you have a comic that you’d like to see me review, you can email me at mey [at] autostraddle [dot] com.