Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Thor and Cap: Big Changes? Big Deal

Beta Ray Bill as Thor
There's of course been a ton of churn in the last week or so about Marvel's announcements that their comic book versions of Thor and Captain America are going to be changing, specifically being replaced with a woman and a black man, respectively.

A lot of people are either deeply upset by these changes, or are hailing them as some progressive victory for diversity, or whatever. But honestly I don't see what the big deal is; these characters have been "played" by different people for years. The latest changes aren't anything special, and they are most certainly not the last changes these characters will see.

For instance, let's take Thor. He started off as the alter ego of Dr. Donald Blake in the 1960's. He's also been human Red Norvell, korbinite (which an alien race) Beta Ray Bill (pictured above right), human Eric Masterson, and 25th century human Dargo Ktor. Hell, even Captain America has hefted meow-meow Mjolnir.

Jane Foster as Thordis
(From 1978 or so)
For that matter, we've already seen a female Thor, and more than once!

In What if? (vol. 1, #10), we had the story "What if Jane Foster had found the hammer of Thor?" (she is called Thordis). And again, this time in What if? (vol. 2 #66), the mutant Rogue absorbed Thor's powers and became the goddess of thunder.

So Thor has already been an alien, and two different women, not to mention four different men. Forgive me if I'm neither up in arms nor excited about yet another change. It's just par for the course.

Although I should point out that I am on record as saying that I would love to see Thor 3 be the Ballad of Beta Ray Bill, acting as a bridge between the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy. Just sayin'.

Captain America has similarly seen several different hefting the stars-and-stripes shield. He was originally Steve Rogers, of course, but when Rogers went missing, he was replaced by the Spirit of '76, then the Patriot (real name Jeff Mace), then William Burnside in the 1950's fighting communism, then the real Steve Rogers was recovered from his icy sleep, then Roscoe Simons took his turn when Steve Rogers became the hero Nomad following Watergate, then Rogers became Captain America again, then John Walker, then Rogers again, who eventually gets shot in the Civil War and replaced by Bucky Barnes, the former Winter Soldier who was his sidekick way back in World War 2, but when Steve Rogers is brought back to life, he becomes Captain America again. That's eleven change-overs by my count, and I'm sure I missed a few. *whew!*

Truth: Red, White, and
Black, #5 (2003)
Oh, and guess what? We've already seen a black man with the super-soldier serum wearing Cap's costume during World War 2. I give you Isaiah Bradley (although in fairness he wasn't officially called Captain America, but he's still there with the costume and the super-strength, fighting Nazis, and that's good enough for me).

So once again I fail to see why swapping out Steve Rogers for someone else as Captain America (especially someone who has already been established for decades as a superhero in his own right) is at all something to either cheer or be angry about. They've been doing it for years, and even the new Cap being black isn't quite the novelty some people are making it out to be.

Plus, if history is any guide, neither of these changes are going to stay in place for very long, anyway. Maybe just long enough to get people used to the people behind the masks changing, against the time when the actors playing these characters in the MCU need to change...

4 comments:

Scott Anderson said...

Thor: cool. It's from the Norse legends.
Cap: lost me when he went to fight the tea party and called us racists.
PC box-checking: snore

jdh417 said...

There's also already two female Norse heroes, Valkyrie and Lady Sif. Why not introduce a female Greek pantheon heroine (since Hercules is an established Marvel character), like Athena, and it'll also piss off DC.

Given that for the movies the studio had found the perfect actors for Thor and Captain America, I can't believe they'd do something radical with the parts whenever the actors leave.

Race, gender, and sexual preference flopping seem to be the only things superhero comics are capable of doing to get attention instead of doing good stories. They're completely out of new ideas, but they're not done hyping bad ones.

Meanwhile, Archie dies protecting the series' gay character, which is a good metaphor for the company itself.

eldersprig said...

I want a few more Thor Frog of Thunder, books. Thats the real deal.

Herb Nowell said...

I think Scott is on to what is a big part of the negative reaction: the idea that this is mostly PC-box checking.

The only prior version you've discussed that I'm familiar with is Beta-Ray Bill. That was very controversial when it happened but it didn't grate as much because it was part of a very cool story. I also don't remember it being hyped, much less hyped as "look at how cool and inclusive we are by making Thor an alien."

I'm not reading either book right now although as an active Guardians reader for both of the current time incarnations (I missed the future incarnation back in the 70s) I'm down with your Thor 3 idea. However, neither change has my interest because I can get PC box checking plenty of places.

Here's a wild idea, how about doing something interesting and challenging with existing female characters (and male characters for that matter). One of the few new 52 books I really bought into was Wonder Woman. Why? Because I think it has been an exceptional take on the character and her history.

Instead of box checking Thor why not bring that kind of creativity to Thor and start a Valkyrie book or as jdh417 suggested maybe start an Atalanta book or Artemis or maybe Kali using a torn soul idea a la Son of Satan from the 70s?