Thor is now a woman and Marvel have been very, very clear that this is not Thor Girl, Lady Thor, Thorella or the Vice Countess Thorkov. This is Thor. God of Thunder. Who’s a woman now. Most people’s reaction so far has been welcoming. Other people have reacted the same way they always do whenever anything changes in comics; as though nothing has ever changed in comics before.
My reaction is simpler;
Marvel’s three best titles at the moment are all female centric. She-Hulk, Captain Marvel and Ms Marvel are all consistently great fun, and all of them do different, complementary things for female characters. She-Hulk is a blisteringly clever legal perspective on life as a superhero, Captain Marvel follows a soldier trying to find the right fight and Ms Marvel is, flat out, the best teenage superpower fiction of the last decade.
All three are flat out brilliant and all three are indicative of a major sea change in how Marvel view their female characters. She-Hulk‘s principle attribute is her brain rather than her strength whilst Captain Marvel is engaged in a two-level examination of female roles in the Marvel universe and the US military, as well as what happens to a soldier when they get to the top of their profession.
Plus it has the best cat jokes in comics right now and a lot of punching.
Ms Marvel is the most revolutionary of the three for three reasons; it’s a book about a teenage girl, that teenage girl is Muslim and at no point does the book ever use her faith as a crutch. Kamala is that rarest of religious characters; someone who has a faith but who isn’t buried beneath it by a writer with no concept of subtlety. Instead she’s shaped by her belief but not controlled by it. The vast majority of the people of faith I know fit into that bracket, regardless of what faith they choose, and to see it represented so well on the page is frankly amazing.
All three of these books are great fun and if you’re not reading them, do. They’re examples of how to do western superhero comics differently and very, very right.
They’re also, like the new Thor, a good start.
Let’s take a look at the other piece of art that’s been released today.
There are three things that are really striking about that design and two of them are great.
-She’s almost entirely clothed. Female comic characters have a design history littered with the impractical, pornographic and downright painful looking so it’s a huge relief to see Thor dressed like you’d expect a warrior to be. Her legs are covered. She’s wearing multiple layers around her waist and the chest plate has a raised collar, all designed to protect her entire body from strikes. It’s not perfect; the chest plate looks overly cleavage-hugging and I’ll be interested to read what swordswomen and re-enactors have to say about it, but it’s a rock solid design base. Also her arms are exposed, allowing for freedom of movement and…
-The fact she’s BUILT. Thor is a powerhouse character and it’s, again, a relief to see the new incarnation carrying on that design choice. This Thor has the shoulders and arms of someone who throws a warhammer around for a living and it’s a massive testament to the step change in Marvel design philosophy that she looks like that. Female characters can be just as strong as male ones and the exposed shoulders are one of the most striking parts of the design. She’s physically imposing, just as the God of Thunder should be.
Now the less than good news.
-The diamond of exposed midriff under the boob plate is a misstep. Female fantasy armour is the punchline of so many jokes about this sort of thing that to have it here plays as both an afterthought and a hint of design by committee. Given the placing of the gap, it’s essentially an invitation to stab her in the chest. Hopefully it’s lighter colored material over the black underbody or will work better in context.
All in all this is a very impressive design though, and one that, placed next to the massively popular Batgirl redesign last week, shows a willingness to engage with female characters on multiple new fronts. These are costumes that are iconic, imposing, but most of all, practical. That helps not only ground the characters but the worlds they live in. Superhero fiction is by definition concerned with the physical ideal but, given that this was Captain Marvel’s old outfit;
it’s great to see that ideal tempered with reality.
But like I say, all this is one thing; a good start.
When the news item on The View was teased, there was one over riding wish I saw people mention; a female-centric Marvel movie. Four characters were mentioned; Captain Marvel, Ms Marvel, She Hulk and Black Widow. Any one of them would make perfect sense and so much of The Winter Soldier is built to set up a Black Widow movie it seems almost inevitable but the operative word there is unfortunately ‘almost’. The third phase of Marvel’s movie franchise is almost full and the market has never been more ready for a superheroine on the big screen. Marvel have four characters, at least, ready to go, a female-led TV show debuting inside a year and a new attitude to their female characters. If they announce a superheroine movie at San Diego then they’ll be dictating the tone for an entire genre, just like they have for the last six years. If they don’t, then it will be the first serious misstep they’ve made in that time. Worse, it will tar them with the same brush as DC’s perpetually stuttering movie program; overly cautious and with no faith in their female characters. She Hulk, Captain Marvel, Ms Marvel and, now, Thor, all deserve better than that. Here’s hoping they get it.