On -isms: Thor Thoughts

By | Thursday, May 14, 2015 Leave a Comment
Not every character is for everyone. I never liked Iron Man, for example. I never cared for Captain America, either, but I wound up buying quite a few Cap comics just to figure out why. For me, Thor was a character that I didn't dislike, but he never really sparked any interest with me either. He was more interesting than Cap, I thought, and more likeable than Iron Man, but not so much as I had any particular interest.

When Marvel announced that the new Thor was going to be a woman, there was some media hype, of course, and a lot of fanboys started screaming that Thor couldn't be a woman for this irrational reason or that irrational reason. That seemed to have mostly died down in the wake of, you know, the story evidently being pretty good. ("Evidently" because, as I said, I have little interest in Thor and haven't read the issues in question.) What I hadn't realized until this week was that Thor had so far just been presented as Thor with no secret identity. With no backstory at all, for that matter. But with some preview images this week, readers have learned that Thor does indeed have a secret identity and a rather fleshed out backstory.

(I'm assuming my audience here either doesn't care about Thor comics to worry about spoilers, or are involved enough to have already seen the preview images. I'll try not to spoil anything here regardless, but I don't know exactly what is "common knowledge" at this point.)

I'd recently read a piece (which I can't find at the moment) about how the current Thor's lack of history allowed the character to be a sort of everywoman. Does putting a specific identity on the character negate that? Yes and now, I think. I think anyone who has been along for the ride thus far can continue to identify with the character as an everywoman (as much as they could before, at any rate, given the very European features she's shown with, even with the mask) but I suspect newcomers won't be able to step into her shoes quite as readily. With her identity known, she's got a backstory that people will be at least passingly familiar with (even if only through the movies) and that could skew their perception and ability to relate since she's no longer a blank slate to project onto.

Interestingly, that backstory also serves as a "shut the fuck up" message to haters. Their cries of discarding continuity or whatever are thrown aside by pegging her identity to one very much involved with past Thor continuity. She was one of the three characters that I immediately thought of when I'd heard that her identity was revealed, and it's the one that makes the most sense from the perspective of an old school fanboy. Marvel is effectively throwing their bitching right back in their faces, and making it look EVEN MORE hypcritical than it was. Whether that was a specific intention or not, I don't know, but it's certainly an amusing side effect.

I suspect all of this was actually done from the standpoint of telling an interesting story. Providing a reveal like this is more dramatic from a storytelling perspective than simply announcing it at the outset. But it happens to work well from a marketing perspective too, allowing A) the same event to pop up in the news cycle two different times several months apart, and B) a lesson to be provided to many of those who obnoxiously complained of the change initially. Hopefully, it's a lesson that they'll take to heart, and one that can also be applied elsewhere.
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