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Tuesday, January 06, 2015 

An unworthy article about the female Thor

The Asbury Park Press wrote a short article about the female version of Thor. It's only 5 paragraphs long at best, and begins with:
It’s hard to believe now, but there was a time not long ago when I and my like-minded comic loving friends felt the need to defend the medium of comics, to evangelize about their cultural value and broad appeal, particularly to folk who had little in common with the age old stereo-type of the comic fan, which we still largely resembled. Having convinced a sneering significant other or a particularly snobby teacher to investigate one of the garish picture books we kept insisting were literature was considered a serious point of pride among our circle of fanatics. Of course, the changes we were trying to implement were already well under way, and probably would have gotten along fine without us; the impossibly vast and dense crowds I encountered at New York Comic Con this year, as heartwarming a sight as it was anxiety inducing, bore down on the convention with all the magnitude and momentum of the inevitable.
We may not have to defend them as a legitimate brand of literature anymore, but we still have to convince people they're worth buying and reading proper, because even today, not many care to try, and there's still quite a few who won't read the books even if they're willing to watch the movie/TV adaptations and play computer games based on them, and buy the toy merchandise for children to play with. In fact, what if the crowds the guy writing this piece speaks of at the NYCC attended more for movies, just like in San Diego?

The writer also fails to acknowledge that, just like novels, movies, theater and TV shows, comics too must be judged according to how good or bad the writing/drawing is, and acting like any comic, old or new, is above criticism for poor work on the script and art, is not the way to go.
But comic fandom hasn’t just grown in size, it’s expanded demographically in practically every direction, but particularly across gender lines. For most creators and fans, this change is seen as welcome and long overdue, and content across the medium is gleefully growing, changing, and evolving to reflect that.
That may be so, but not in mainstream superhero comics, which are taking those steps artificially, and the female Thor, subject of this article, is just one of those recent cases.
Of course, in a culture with as many rigid traditionalist and stubborn lifers as comic fandom, there’s going to be push-back against any change, so it’s no surprise Marvel Comics’ rising star Jason Aaron drew a chorus of controversial whining from the wrong side of history when it was announced that the mantle (and more importantly, the hammer) of Thor, the Marvel hero based on the Norse god, and one of the tent-pole characters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, was going to be taken up by a woman in the pages of the monthly comic.
Predictably, he can't seem to understand that it's not that a woman would be a star in a solo book that bothers anyone who approaches this objectively, but rather, that they cannot introduce a lady character who can stand on her own without taking over an established character's role, or why they can't take the more daring and challenging path of starring Sif and Valkyrie in their own books, and marketing them based on the merits of story quality. Is their marketing talent so poor, and their faith in the properties they're managing so weak, they really can't succeed the way I suggest?
In addition to a plethora of indie hits and some very high profile work on Marvel’s recent “Original Sin” crossover, Aaron has spent the last few years building a noteworthy and much acclaimed run on “Thor.” It’s hard to dispute his passion for, or intimate familiarity with the character, and any fan whose read the first few issues of the all new “Thor” series, or even a halfway decent synopsis, can see that it’s with this chapter that he intends to delve the deepest into one of the core themes of the Thor mythos (the Marvel version, anyway): the question of worthiness that lies at the balance point between power and responsibility.
If the reporter were the contestant for worthiness, he'd fail miserably. He doesn't even bother to mention how Nick Fury obliterated Thor's worthiness in Original Sin by whispering something in his ear! How does that qualify as an organic exploration of worthiness? And what synopsis are we talking about? The article's too short for one, and if the writer can't be honest about the connection with Original Sin, then his fandom and passion are even more disputable than Aaron's is.
The funny thing is, apart from the hardly radical core concept, and the book’s villains making subtle mockery of its premature detractors by sleazily hurling the epitaph “Lady Thor” around, the series has so far barely touched the theme of gender, treating it as almost inconsequential to the story at hand. After all, when you’ve got Frost Giants, attack sharks, minotaurs, and a sorcerer king wearing the severed arm of a god like an epaulet to face off against in the first three issues, and an epic story brewing up in the background, who has room to waste talking down to cave men?
So the villains in the book are written like fanfiction metaphors for anyone who disagrees with the publicity stunt involved in real life? That's hardly a way to write up serious entertainment. And how can gender really be taking a back seat when there are some cast members pushing it up front via the epitaphs? Again, the writer makes no attempt to address the connecting storyline in Original Sin, and comes off more as an insular cave man talking down to the newspaper readership, clearly ashamed to admit it hasn't been handled organically, nor that Marvel's modern staffers have a very poor MO. In that sense, this article is almost pure comedy gold.

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Conventions are usually multimedia events now. It's even possible that most fans attending them are uninterested in comics, and are there for TV, movies, and gaming.

Comics fandom has "grown in size" and "expanded demographically"? That claim is not supported by sales figures for comic books.

And, as is often the case, the Asbury Park Press gushes over the latest cynical marketing ploy, and pretends that it is a sincere attempt to Do the Right Thing.

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