Thor is a woman and Captain America is Black–and?
There has been a lot of exciting news from Marvel comics recently. First off there was the announcement that Thor would be a woman in the upcoming series. Then shortly after, we found out that The Falcon (Sam Wilson) would be replacing Steve Rogers as Captain America. The announcements were both made on popular television programs (The View and The Colbert Report), two unusual platforms for comic book news, but telling of how mainstream Marvel films have made the fandom. I’ve seen positive and negative responses to the news but my reaction mainly consisted of: “And?”
I want to preface this by saying that I haven’t read the Thor or Captain America comics. I’m a huge fan of the characters in the movies, cartoons, other comics and I like to glean as much knowledge as I can about them. On the surface the news looks great. However, there are a few reasons that the new Thor and Captain America just don’t impress me:
These Are Temporary Story Arcs
While I haven’t read Thor or Captain America in particular, I have read a few other comic books and I know how they generally work. Generally speaking, absolutely nothing sticks. Even Superman (DC Comics) broke death. Therefore the new female Thor and black Captain America can take up the mantle for now, but how long will it really last? Steve Rogers is aged into his 90s, the male Thor is depowered and mortal. Even if it takes months or years, Marvel will eventually bring the original heroes back to status quo. The stand in characters will not be the ones to own the series.
It’s Not Groundbreaking
There have been black Captain Americas before. Other women (like Storm) have picked up Mjolnir. The only difference here is probably that this mystery woman is going to go by the name of Thor (oddly that could take away from her identity as she’s usurped into Thor) and the new black Captain America will appear in an ongoing series. None of this is really anything that hasn’t happened before but now Marvel can sell it as such to the media.
A Stunt To Shake Up Comics
Marvel said they wanted to “shoot life back into the Thor comics”. Well, introduce a female Thor–something potentially controversial that they can build up some hype around–and it’s a win-win. On the other hand, current Captain America writer Rick Remender isn’t the most reliable of comic book authors. He has a history of problematic story-lines having most recently put Falcon himself in a controversial situation. That does not make me feel hopeful for what Remender has in store for him as Cap. I don’t think it’s lost on Marvel that Anthony Mackie made Falcon a popular character in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Why haven’t they opted instead to give Falcon a standalone comic?
Not Translating To Film
Comics are wonderful and niche (and expensive), but what’s pushed superheroes into the mainstream? What’s the fastest way to reach the widest audience? Movies. Marvel studios –partner with Marvel comics–has no intention of changing Captain America, Chris Evans, or Thor, Chris Hemsworth, anytime soon. As previously mentioned, Anthony Mackie was well received as The Falcon, but he’s not getting a chance to put on the Cap costume and lead a film. The progressive attitude of the comics has not crossed over well into the movies so far. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is popular and brand new and doesn’t have years of unbalanced portrayal to catch up on…yet.
Marvel is clearly making a push towards the mainstream and progression, and I’m happy about that, but I think they kind of missed the point on this one. The announcements and the surrounding media hype were a way to get people talking, but they’re shallow gestures. It would be impressive to see diverse new characters genuinely have their chance to shine in both the comics and other media.