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If the idea of a female Thor seems surprising, it really shouldn’t. Not only is it not the first time such a thing has happened—it’s not even the second—but the shift towards a gender-swapped replacement manages to tie into many recurring themes in Marvel’s comic book output, especially when it comes to Thor comics.
Firstly, let’s get this out the way: Although current Thor writer Jason Aaron goes out of his way in the official announcement of the new character, “This is not She-Thor. This is not Lady Thor. This is not Thorita. This is THOR. This is the Thor of the Marvel Universe.” While that statement is intended to clarify the impact of the announcement, it accidentally reminds us that we’ve seen this kind of thing before.
After all, female versions of male Marvel heroes is a very, very familiar trope by this point: Hulk has She-Hulk (Actually, he has at least three She-Hulks, at last count). Spider-Man has had multiple Spider-Women and Spider-Girls. Captain America has unfortunately-named American Dream, and even the Fantastic Four’s Thing has had both She-Thing (No, really) and the far-more-recent Miss Thing.
Female-franchising Thor has proven slightly more problematic in the past—Thor is, after all, the character’s name, not an alternate identity—but not impossible, which has led to both Thor Girl and, uh, Thordis. Yes, really; “Thordis,” who actually shared the same origin that Marvel’s new Thor is reported to have—a woman who turned out to be “worthy” enough of handling the mythical figure’s magical hammer of Mjolnir back in 1978’s What If? No. 10.
Replacing Thor, of course, has precedent in Marvel continuity. It’s happened at least three times before, with the traditional blonde Marvel take on the character having been replaced by an alien space horse (Beta Ray Bill, in Thor No. 337) and two regular guys (Roger Novell, in Thor No. 273 and Eric Masterson, in Thor No. 432) in the past. There was even a frog Thor at one point, but that was simply the “regular” Thor magically transformed into a frog thanks to Loki’s machinations (Well, until Marvel simply created a second one).
Loki, also, provides a good example for the female Thor having precedent. Starting in 2008, Thor’s half-brother was actually a half-sister for some time for reasons best left unexplored for a couple of years, and in the current Loki: Agent of Asgard series has again displayed the ability to cross genders at will. On a different level, Odin has been replaced as the “All-Father” of Asgard in current comic book continuity by the “All-Mother,” and in the current Thor/Loki: The Tenth Realm series, Thor has met his previously-unknown sister. The argument can be made that the invention of a female Thor is simply continuing a trend that the mythology has been pursuing for some time.
Perhaps that should be pursuing trends within the larger Marvel mythology: Steve Rogers is to be replaced as Captain America soon, and we’ve just finished a year-long storyline where Spider-Man wasn’t exactly Peter Parker, either (Iron Man was temporarily replaced as recently as 2012, but there are rumors that’s about to happen again, as well). Something is in the air in the Marvel Universe, it seems, but there is little doubt that these changes, as has always proven to be the case, will turn out to be temporary aberrations as opposed to permanent changes to the status quo.
For those troubled by the news of Thor’s replacement by… well, a different Thor, there are two obvious things to consider. Firstly, they’re all fictional characters. Why not wait and see what the story is like before acting like it’s the end of the world? And secondly, even if it is Ragnarok, it’s comic books and it’s Thor: history has shown over and over again that the traditional Thor will come back sooner rather than later (if nothing else, he’ll return in time for the third Thor movie; not even a mythical apocalypse is enough to hold him down.
The real question might be, what does Marvel do with the female Thor after the one fans are used to returns? Maybe she will end up becoming She-Thor in the end…
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