I’ve been trying to figure out how best to approach this topic. Much ink, tears, and maybe blood has been spilled on the topic of Marvel’s character updates this week. Some has been helpful and contributed to it, some has been vitriolic and takes away from the discussion. I’m certainly not passionate about either side – I can see the basic point about being concerned about a major character shift such as gender bending, for Thor. But I am curious about the uproar when comic books have been uprooting, altering, and replacing heroes and villains using the same name for decades.
The list of Thor versions within the Earth-616 continuity (the main continuity of Marvel’s opus, and generally the version of events to which all alternate histories and issues are compared) is fairly extensive already:
Beta Ray Bill.
That doesn’t include the actually alternate versions of Thor.
And then there’s Ms. Marvel, who goes through all sorts of shifts, including the most recent to Muslim New Jersey teenager Kamala Khan (which is a pretty great series). Clearly she’s not tied to one person, or even one side of the fight (Karla Sofen was a super villain sometimes.)
And Captain America. Isaiah Bradley was intended as an alternate version of this, but was eventually rolled into the Earth-616 continuity, where he is a superhero recognized with the African-American community, but unheard of to characters like Wolverine.
Comics have never really been limited, but they have always been hesitant. Much like the call for a female Doctor in the BBC’s Doctor Who series, and the argument against it, it can be hard to separate actual reasons regarding the character/plot, etc from sexism/racism/general curmudgeonry.
I’m just curious as to why this messes with people so much more than any of the other digressions. Is there something about a gender switch that is particularly disturbing?
Even Thor weighs in on the value of anyone who lifts Mjolnir: “When you first spoke to me about your problems, I had doubts…about you. They were quickly erased…when you lifted Mjolnir…for only a man or god worthy — pure of heart and noble of mind — could have done so! … A sacred bond unites all those who have e’er been privileged to wield Mjolnir! A bond which stretches far into infinity!” Sure, he’s talking to Captain America, but the only thing that matters is the purity of heart and nobility of mind when it comes to lifting Mjolnir and wielding the power of Thor.
So, if Thor, as we know and love him, wouldn’t have a problem with it, why should we?