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I have never been terribly interested in Thor as a title.  It just isn’t my sort of genre.  But today Marvel announced the next worthy person to wield Mjolnir will be a woman and it caught my attention.   My Dad’s a longtime Thor fan and I’m sure he’ll have some huffing and puffing to do (just like he did when Bucky picked up the mantle of Captain America).  I get it.  Change is tough for fans who’ve read and loved a character for years.  It’s hard to see the characters you’ve grown attached to get shunted off to the side (my heart goes out to fans who love secondary characters).

Obviously, this is something Marvel’s had in the pipeline for a while.  I saw some comments on Twitter and Tumblr accusing Marvel of offering platitudes to female readers.  And of course there’s the deluge of male protest on Twitter and in the comments section on the above linked Marvel announcement (she’s already being called “Whor”).  The timing is certainly suspect on the heels of the #FireRickRemender controversy.  Reactions to the news run the gamut from excitement to wariness to calls to boycott the title and / or Marvel.

Writer Jason Aaron told Time:

If you’re a long-time Thor fan you know there’s kind of a tradition from time to time of somebody else picking up that hammer. Beta Ray Bill was a horse-faced alien guy who picked up the hammer. At one point Thor was a frog. So I think if we can accept Thor as a frog and a horse-faced alien, we should be able to accept a woman being able to pick up that hammer and wield it for a while, which surprisingly we’ve never really seen before.

This indicates Thor isn’t a person, per se, but a sort of power that can various people can possess “if they be worthy.”  Marvel has shown us several worthy characters who’ve picked up Thor’s hammer:  Beta Ray Bill, Storm, Captain America.  It isn’t so hard to imagine that some new person, a woman this time, can pick up the hammer and thus embody the power of Thor.  On its face, this isn’t a simple switching of anatomy.  It’s a new person having the power passed on to her.  (As I said, I’m not any sort of authority on Thor and these are all things I’ve discovered via some quick Google research.)

Wired posted a great article on why this new Thor is important (spoiler: it isn’t the lack of a penis and presence of a vagina).  The article speculates that the choice to take this route with Thor is due to the character’s visibility thanks to his appearance in three films in the MCU.  Perhaps it’s that sort of visibility that’s making now the right time for Sam Wilson to take up Cap’s shield.

Visibility is important.  Representation is important.  It’s why characters like T’Challa, Sam Wilson, Storm, Miles Morales, America Chavez, and Kamala Khan are so important.  It’s why female-led titles are so important.  I’m excited about Storm getting her own title and joining the ranks of Black Widow, Elektra, Captain Marvel, and Ms. Marvel in my pull-list.  But all the outcry from male readers who can’t imagine their favourite hero without genitalia that matches their own makes me wonder how much male readership those female-let titles have.  And then, at the end of the day, there’s the mean-spirited part of me that wants to laugh at them, to remind them that there are plenty of other titles they can read if it’s just oh-so-hard for them to take Thor seriously when she lacks a penis.  Oops.

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