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 Life Skills for Fanboys:  Female Thor

 written by Tony DiGerolamo, Copyright 2014

To further my goal of helping fellow fanboys, I have included an index of links of previous columns with their topics.  Don’t take it personal, I’m just trying to help.  Previous columns are indexed at the end.

The “New” Girl

So Marvel is going to make Thor a mystery woman, this October.

Here’s my question:  How is this not exploiting women?

You might remember a few weeks back that female geeks were up in arms over a Teen Titans cover.  Admittedly, I’d agree that the art was subpar and yes, they appeared to be adding boobies to bump sales.  How is this any different?

At least one article I found thinks that the new Thor is actually just Thor as a female.  I suspect they are not grasping the announcement that Thor is now a position in the Marvel Universe.  This is weird because “Thor” is the character’s name, not his job.

But other articles all some to be a bit more coy and point to a “mystery woman” who takes over the mantle of Thor.  Again, how is this not exploiting women?

The Story

So while I’m sure the talent has found a way to make this transformation or transfer of power to work, the question is, why do this?  I think the answer is that Marvel is looking to appeal to a broader demographic.  (Sort of the way I think The Walking Dead was constantly trying to do with their bizarre return of the Governor character towards the end of one of the seasons.  It turned into a Movie-of-the-Week-type plot where a woman in trouble was trying to “save” her man.)

Seems to me this isn’t so much a story as yet another cynical marketing ploy to lure in fans.  I think it’s bound to blow up in Marvel’s face for two reasons:  1)  the female demographic is unlikely to be swayed by a pair of boobs on what will probably be the same Thor stories and 2) the regular male demographic will quickly start itching for a return of the original Thunder God.  It will be another example of trying to please everyone and ending up pleasing no one.

The Mighty Thor character has been around for decades and yet, no one up until now thought to turn him into a woman.  Is there really a compelling reason to do so other than marketing and the female demo?  And why does it have to be a blonde, beautiful woman?  Why not an average woman?  Or a woman short, squat and muscular?  Wouldn’t that make more sense for someone that wields a hammer with power and skill?  Muscle building women don’t usually have such large breasts, but somehow I think Ms. Thor will.

The Important Part

So let’s imagine the story rises above the gorgeous, model-like beauty of the new female Thor.  It makes women look strong and sets a new bar.  Well, that might be good for a while, but anyone that’s been in comics a few years knows that when sales slip, titles get canceled and the pendulum tends to swing back to the classics.  Remember Thunderstrike?  Remember Beta Ray Bill?  Both characters were wildly popular for a while, then it went right back to Thor.  If previous history is any indication, that’s exactly what’s going to happen to this mystery woman.

That’s going to confirm to fans what they probably suspected all along.  Turning Thor into a woman is a gimmick.  It’s temporary.  Female characters, female strength or whatever positive aspects of the female role model—  That’s all just temporary until we can get back to the “real” superheroes.

Here’s five other things Marvel could do other than making Thor a woman to make female comic book characters better.

1.  Make an original, strong female character with a strong, effective personality that doesn’t look like a supermodel and put her in an original story and title.

2.  Have Thor meet said original character above.

3.  Revamp Sif, Thor’s wife, who is already in the Marvel Universe or one of the many other female characters that exist in the Norse Mythos.

4.  Keep Thor basically the way it is and find a better title with a female protagonist that could be strong and effective.

5.  Hire a really good female creator and let her create or revamp a title.

Where is the Outrage?

Fangirls, you really need to ask yourself, is this what you want?  Marvel throws you a bone and you just accept it because you can’t expect better?  I mean, I can hear the marketing guys talking about this now:  “Yeah, let’s slap some boobs on Thor.  The male demo will go nuts for it and at the same time, we can claim we’re catering to women!  It’s a win-win!”

If you can be bought this easy ladies, it’s no wonder mainstream superhero comics aren’t aimed at you.  If publishers can buy you off with gimmicks, why should they put any real effort into catering to you?  And let me take a moment to at least acknowledge DC’s Catwoman: a title that was added and created a strong, female protagonist, even if she’s a little shifty.  And sure, I heard back in the 90’s they were planning on cancelling the title at issue 10, but it was such a hit, they kept it going.  I think it was a brilliant character to add mainly because she’s more than a two-dimensional superhero.  As a villain or near-villain, she’s more complex, adding a little depth to the Batman rogues gallery.  It’s also not as cynical as, for instance, when Marvel tried to rebrand Venom as a hero (I thought it was ridiculous, considering all the people the character had killed).   Catwoman kept her edge and kept being a criminal, but she was never as bad as some of the other rogues.  She had a code to live by.

I’m sure, deep in the archives of Marvel, there lies some trademark character they could revamp that happens to be female.  I’m sure Marvel could take one or more of my handy suggestions.  But the bottom line is, they’re a company and they want to make money.  The female demo is popular now, so is Thor—  So is Loki for that matter— Companies and corporations are about making the most money.  Period.  End of sentence.  They are not about placating angry feminists fans unless there is money in it or a chance at avoiding a loss of money.  So placing your faith in Marvel, in my view, is like placing your faith in, say, BP Oil or Union Carbide.  You’re just going to be disappointed when they don’t serve your needs and deluding yourself when they do.

Companies and corporations are not about creating role-models for young women unless there is money in it.  However, there are plenty of comic creators that don’t work for Marvel, DC or any big company that care more about creating role-models for young women than money.  It is those creators feminists should seek out.  Conversely, if Marvel and DC aren’t churning out the characters you want, don’t buy them and especially don’t buy comics that are just a gimmick.  Maybe they’ll change their titles, maybe they’ll just wait you out until the next wave of fans.

And quite frankly, if Marvel and DC fans want male Thor and scantily clad babes, why can’t their fans have it?  Instead of complaining that companies aren’t catering to your needs, why not just make what you want and ask others to support it?  I mean, there’s lots of female-centric soap operas out there.  If I want to see daytime TV that appeals to me, my first thought isn’t that the soap operas should change, it’s that I should channel surf until I find something that I like.

Fangirls, life is too short to waste your time on comics you don’t like.  And it’s really too short trying to change decades-old comics into something they are not.  Think twice before picking up that next gimmick.  Your money can be better spent on a creator that really needs it.

Previous Columns
Obesity at Cons
The Art of Conversation
The Line Between Fans and Pros
Geek Elitism
Convention Panels
Convention Volunteers
Food Gifts
Women and Cons
Get Your Room Party Together
Stop Bringing Your Kids to Cons
The Face of Geek Needs Work
Fixing the Face of Geek
Franchise Worship
Presenting Your Project
The New Image?
Stop Trying to Make Geek Cool
 Rethinking the Comic Book Con
Zombie Stories Should Still Be About People
Geek Stereotypes and the Big Bang Theory
Con Locations
Traveling to Cons on the Cheap
Con Economics
Comics, Sexism and Trolling
Searching for the Words
How to Fix Comics?  Stop Reading Them
Shopping at the Con
The Hollywood Double Edged Sword
Beware the Geek Scams
Success Kills
In Response to Chuck Dixon, Paul Rivoche and Janelle Asselin
Fanboy Reporters
Dealing with Critics and Haters in the Internet Age

Who Are the Creepers?

The Cosplayer Treaty of 2014: A Proposal