A valid knock on superhero comics is that the majority of the people saving the world are white males. This goes on to be reflected in the various TV shows and movies based on these comics. Marvel made two big changes to the status quo this week: announcing both a female Thor and a black Captain America. They’ll debut this fall as part of a revamp called Avengers Now!
Thor’s power resides not in his own body, but inside his magic hammer Mjolnir. The inscription on it reads: “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.” The “he” has never been a big deal. Storm and Wonder Woman are among the people it has deemed worthy at one time or another.
Wil Moss, editor of the Thor series, told Time Magazine that for some reason Thor can no longer lift the hammer. One of the women in Thor’s life picks up the hammer and is worthy to hold its power. It will take a while for the character’s true identity to be revealed. The outrage has been swift and predictable. Marvel executive director Ryan Penagos said he’s been called a gay slur and told to get cancer by one angry reader. Thanks for defying the stereotype, comic fan.
While the readers were still processing that, Marvel confirmed a development it has been teasing for a while. Sam Wilson, the former Captain America sidekick known as Falcon, will now be Captain America. Cap has also had numerous stand-ins, but before now they have always been white males. This change became necessary because the original hero’s super soldier serum isn’t in his body anymore, turning him into a frail old man. He’ll be a mentor and strategist now, directing the battle from behind the scenes.
Here’s where things get a little confusing. Wilson will be the first black man public acknowledged by the government as Captain America, but a man named Isaiah Bradley underwent super soldier testing during WWII. This was some secret operation stuff and even a lot of Marvel characters don’t know it took place.
These types of changes happen pretty regularly in comic books. Spider-Man just recovered from his “death.” This is the second new Captain America in a six-year span. At this point, every major hero has seen themselves replaced at least once. The original Thor and Captain America aren’t even presumed dead. If sales drop too low for either book, we’ll see the classic return storyline even sooner than planned.
Marvel’s getting a lot of publicity for both these moves. The female Thor reveal came on The View. The Colbert Report broke the Captain America news. The timed reveals are certainly great PR, but make these storylines look like publicity stunts.