Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Marvel NOW : Sister Thor, Brother America

I have often post poned this but since the handymen were in my home, which confined me to my room for a few hours, I finally had the time to read Peter Garcia´s article about the new Thor and Captain America in DOLMEN 236. And while it is true that there have been people before who posed as Thor and Captain America - or picked up the mantle - I can´t agree with his statement that we should all embrace these new versions.

Now you can boo me all you want and call me a male pig, a chauvinist, an opponent of racial and gender diversity or even a comic Nazi ( which is very popular when it comes to shutting up people from Germany with an opposing opinion, which is sadly ineffective when the person in question is genetically speaking spanish ) but there is a reason for my veto here.

Years ago I was at a panel at the International Comic Salon Erlangen about the german comic industry and when the reason was discussed why so few german comic readers buy german comic books - by german creators - a german comic artist who had just received an award for best comic of the year the day before said that you can´t expect people to buy a german comic book JUST because it is a german comic book. It also has to offer something people are willing to spend money on. It has to be a good story.

Now you might ask what my point is here but I am not an advocate for change for change´s sake because that leads to such intellectual and artistic disasters like DC´s NEW 52 and Disney´s Marvel NOW. I know there are people out there who enjoy it and also people out there who say that it is an experiment and only time will tell if it´s a good idea or a bad idea. Which is total nonsense. As somebody who has experienced such fiascos in comics a few times over the last decades I can tell you that the people responsible KNOW what kind of crap they are selling to people. They just don´t care because they are money grabbing bastards. If you don´t believe me just read the interviews with all the people who were responsible for the Clone Saga. NOW they are saying that they knew they were producing Dreck but because it was selling the marketing people said produce more of this and what started as a good story got dragged out so long that even the most adamant Spider - Man fan was fed up. Now they admit that they should have stopped it before it got out of hand. The same goes for all the crappy grim - and - gritty comics of the 90s.

Most of those were horrible. Now you can read in interviews that EVERYONE in the comic industry at that time knew that the bubble was going to burst at some point but they were just too busy stuffing their pockets with money from all the various special metallic foil glow in the dark covers to care. But back at that time you heard nothing of the sort.

And I´m sure in a few years you will read in interviews that making the Falcon the new Captain America and Jane Foster the new Thor ( which is not a spoiler at this moment ) were not the greatest ideas but that it was mandated from the higher ups at Disney that they wanted to diversify for diversities sake and damn the consequences. Now I´m all for diversity.

But I´m also a realist. There are people out there who say that if fifty percent of the world populace are women fifty percent of the super heroes in comics should also be women. Now why hasn´t that been so in comics for the last decade ? Because not all of these fifty percent read comics. Or write comics. Most comics were produced by men and read by men. So the argument was made that if more comics are written by women with female protagonists that more women would read comics. Which I would like to argue. First of all : does anybody remember CrossGen comics ?

They had really good comics and a lot of them had female leads or at least a lot of strong female characters. Now they went bankrupt so it´s hard to make definite assumptions but I don´t think that in the years they made comics the female readership spiked to fifty percent. So I don´t subscribe to the idea that if you write them they will buy them. Is it really helpful to make a female version of an already existing comic character or is it a better idea to create new characters that appeal to female readers like Dark Horse´s brilliant BANDETTE by Paul Tobin and Coleen Coover

Because here is where your whole argument of me being against more female heroes goes off the rails. I read a lot of the CrossGen comics - with female protagonists or without - because they were just good.

They had great artists like George Perez or Jim Cheung who later became superstars at other comic companies. In fact, comic artists like Steve Epting developed their style that makes them so popular now on those CrossGen books. And Steve Epting is right now doing a comic for image with a female lead, VELVET which I read. Not because I need to read comics with women as the protagonist but because it´s a really good spy versus spy story by Ed Brubaker. AND of course great art by Steve Epting.

Marvel has had comics with female leads for decades but the question if they sell or not has always been a question of quality not if the creators were female or male. The new CAPTAIN MARVEL comic is not selling so well because they called Miss Marvel Captain Marvel so they could have a new Miss Marvel without getting rid of the old Miss Marvel Carol Danvers and keep the copyright for the Captain Marvel name at the same time.

It´s because the latest incarnations of the MS MARVEL comic have been crap. And I know that because my brother had it on his pull list and I read it. And it was not good. It was not horrible - they had a good idea that after the events of HOUSE OF M where Carol Danvers was the biggest super heroine in the Marvel universe she realized that she could be more.

But the writers at Marvel had no idea what that should be and in the end the reader got the same old cliche ridden comics like with all the other series. Or what about She Hulk ? The last time that title was really groundbreaking and worth reading was when John Byrne was on the book.

Also not a female creator ( the beard kind of gives it away ). I have read a lot of comics with female protagonists and when they are good I don´t stop pimping them like James Robinson´s and Paul Smith´s LEAVE IT TO CHANCE. In fact one of my favorite comics is not only about a female super hero it´s also the female version of an already existing superhero AND from an alternate universe. How´s that for embracing diversity ?

SPIDER - GIRL was the best spidertitle when most of the spiderfranchise books were utter crap. Mayday Parker was a really interesting character ( seen above in a pose worthy of Milo Manara´s Spiderwoman cover but that will be the topic of an upcoming post ) her book that lasted hundred issues before it was restarted and renumbered had lots of readers - male and female - and all Marvel did was trying to kill it in the worst way.

If it hadn´t been for the support - and vehement protests - of the readers the series wouldn´t even had reached that number. So EXCUSE me when I find it a bit hard to believe that Marvel cares so much about it´s female heroes now all of a sudden. And it´s not like there are no other asgardian gods who are female in Marvel comics. They did a great Herkules series after WORLD WAR HULK ( before he became bi - sexual ) why can´t they write a great series about Sif ? If Thor who has no secret identity in norse mythology could have a human alter ego, no, make that various alter egos in the Marvel comics for decades why can´t they do the same with Sif ?

It´s not like there is no potential for a comic there. She´s a strong and independent character who has been around for decades and who has shown that she can go toe to toe with the likes of Thor or Beta Ray Bill.

Anybody out there remember Beta Ray Bill ? Here we have another version of Thor even if technically he did not take up the mantle of Thor.

Beta Ray Bill appeared in Walter Simonson´s first issue on THOR as artist and writer ( I know he drew a few issues before THOR 337 ) and he earned his stripes by kicking the living daylights out of the mighty Thor.

And that was BEFORE he got his hands on the hammer. Which he could lift because he was worthy. You see ? Back then they knew how to write comic stories with the parameters that were established. They didn´t have to come up with crap like somebody whispered something ( which hasn´t been revealed because even the writer who wrote it has not the bloodiest idea what that should be ) into Thor´s ear and suddenly Thor was not worthy or the hammer changing the inscription on his own accord or doing things he can´t do. Because it´s only a hammer. A magic hammer but still only a hammer. A tool. Odin made it. Or made the dwarfs make it an then added his magic. But it´s something Odin made. And when it some day stops working for Thor he simply throws it away to make another one. He´s Odin, dude. Okay ? Anyway, Beta Ray Bill had an impressive debut.

There also was another new character who made his debut in the THOR series but this time during one of my favorite periods which started right AFTER Walter Simonson had left the book : the Eric Masterson Thor.

And Eric did not become the new Thor because the hammer chose him or any such crap. He did it the old fashioned way : he earned it. Eric was a supporting character who became involved with Thor and they became friends. When Eric Masterson was mortally wounded because he saved Thor ( which happened in the BLACK GALAXY SAGA which contains the only issue from this run I was missing until I got the trade a few months back ) Thor merged with Eric Masterson and Thor´s life energy saved him. Eric Masterson became Thor´s new alter ego and whenever Eric hit the ground with his walking stick he transformed into the mighty Thor.

But they were still two beings. Thor and Eric Masterson. Now later when Thor killed Loki ( say what ? read the issues, dammit ! ) Thor disappeared and Eric transformed into Thor but it was still Eric in the drivers seat.

At first Eric didn´t want to carry on as the new Thor but he soon realized that without anybody to fill the void left behind by the original Thor his enemies would rum amok and terrorize everybody. So he took on the role of Thor to keep appearances up and make people believe that Thor was still around  while searching for the original Thor. Even when he was with the Avengers he pretended to be the old Thor although he had to fill in some of the members on occassion when it was necessary like with Captain America who had to train him to become an effective Thor.

There also was another Thor introduced during the Tom DeFalco run ( which I already mentioned in this post ) : Dargo, the Thor from 2537.

Yep, still another version of Thor. And to add another wrinkle - just for diversity´s sake - when both of them clashed hammers because of the usual trademark Marvel misunderstanding Beta Ray Thor intervened before they all team up against the real villains : Zarrko and Loki.

But wait. Wasn´t Loki dead ? Unlike the identity of the new female Thor I don´t want to spoil too much of THIS story so let it suffice to say that I highly enjoyed this story because it was one of those wibbly wobbly timey wimey things which played into the issue guest starring the Ghost Rider which brought me back to the title ( I mentioned the issue in this post ).

And speaking about bringing people back to the title : eventually the real Thor returned and Eric Masterson became Thunderstrike. His series lasted 24 issues until the writers didn´t know what to do and killed him.

Which is what writers usually do when they run out of ideas and don´t have the balls to let the hero retire or go to an alien planet or another dimension or such. Anyway, as you can see there have been 4 different Thors in this run alone. And there have been a few more afterwards some of whom were even female. So what´s the beef with the new Thor ?

Quite simple : the writer didn´t do his homework. Again, Mjolnir is just a hammer. He has no magic powers of his own and he has no mind of its own. It´s not the Tardis which is a living sentient being that goes off and does things. The hammer can not heal people. Or else Thor would just go around and zapp all the sick people. Because if he didn´t he would be a colossal prick. Or he would use it on himself with all the times he died.

But that´s not how it works. I recently read ESSENTIAL THOR volume 6 which also contains issues 235 and 236 in which Jane Foster was dying.

Yeah, I guess most comic readers of Today have all forgotten about this story and the writer of the new Thor comic probably never read the story. And here´s why : in the story Sif saves Jane Foster with the help of the mystic runestaff of Kamo Tharn but Sif has to transfer her own living energy into Jane´s corporeal form. They basically become one being.

The stories were back ups in Condor´s DIE SPINNE and I remember two things. One is that Thor had to fight the Absorbing Man and defeated him by getting him to absorb a cardboard Mjolnir toy and keeping him in a big cardboard box so he could not escape. The other was Sif going on a quest with Herkules for the runestaff which had a lion´s head on top. Now if the hammer could have cured Jane why didn´t Thor use it ? Surely he would have even given up the hammer to save his beloved. I mean he even risked being banned from Asgard forever for loving her. The answer is that the hammer could not heal Jane Foster. Even becoming Thor by proving worthy of the hammer cannot heal people. Throughout Thor´s history in the Marvel universe there was only one cure for dying mortals : merging with an immortal and sharing his life force. Which is what happened with Eric Masterson and Jake Olson and with Jane Foster. In none of the cases did just being worthy and becoming Thor cure anybody.

It also doesn´t fend off the illness as long as that person is Thor. So I have to cry foul on that front. But that is not the only problem here.

There have been many alternate versions of Thor, some like Eric kept the name of Thor because at that time the real Thor was gone and nobody knew where he was and to keep things easy he pretended to be Thor.

But Beta Ray Bill never pretended to be the real Thor. Even when he got his own enchanted weapon Stormbreaker and took on a more Thor - like appearance he called himself Beta Ray Thor. And in the case of Dargo, he never pretended to be Thor even when Thor had disappeared again. There was Thor Girl and she also never called herself Thor. Because that would be ridiculous. Thor is not a title, it´s the name of the Thundergod who is son to Odin and Freya ( or Earth depending on which stories you believe ) and who is a founding member of the Avengers. He is unique and nobody else can claim to be him. But Jane Foster does now. And it just doesn´t work. I can´t be Robert Downey Junior even if I somehow managed to become an actor and star in an IRON MAN movie or in an AVENGERS movie. Robert Downey Junior is Robert Downey Junior and nobody else. So Jane Foster can become a new god of thunder, she can dress up as Thor and she might be even worthy of Mjolnir. But all that doesn´t make her Thor. She can be Janeima the new goddess of thunder but she can´t be Thor. So this whole thing of Thor going by another name now - that´s pure bs. That´s some kind of political correct bs because some women keep their husbands name after the divorce or some crap.

And the other thing is the costume. Because that just looks like bad cosplay. Cosplay gone wrong so to say. There are lots of cosplayers who come up with better female Thor costumes and they do it alone and in their dank garage. Or in whatever room they make their costumes.

Now that a big multi million corporation like Disney is behind the Marvel comics you might think that they put top notch people on a big publicity thing like this but every other female Thor version I have seen on the internet so far looks better than what they are selling as the new Thor.

And to add insult to injury some artists are apparently not aware that some poses might come off as suggestive when a woman is posing with a hammer. Or where exactly is she going to put the handle of the hammer ?

But maybe that´s the way Disney wants to go with this. A woman and her hammer and sisters are doing it for themselves. Hey, if Supergirl can do it with her superhorse ..... and if you look at the title´s logo Thor IS getting penetrated by Mjolnir. Maybe he finally wanted to get lucky too.

And those are the reasons why I can´t stand the entire thing. Because you know it´s just one big publicity thing to get the hype going. That´s the only reason why they had to insist on Jane Foster becoming Thor. Because if she had become the new Sif that would not be news worthy. Been there, done that even if it would make more sense. And actually be possible without all this crazy crap about Thor not being worthy and calling himself Reverse Thor and Mjolnir changing his inscription and going off like a Green Lantern ring to find a new owner without fear. Yes, I KNOW that is from DC´s GREEN LANTERN comic universe and not from the Thor comics in the Marvel universe but how comes everybody else does not ? There is just so much suspension of disbelieve you can bear and even if I swallow that whole bit and the whole cancer victim thing - which is just soooo cliche like the whole " let´s make him / her interesting let´s give him / her cancer / a drinking problem / dead wife / gay / lesbian / bi - sexual / all of the above " writing school that´s so popular nowadays. And than there´s the fact that any cosplayer can come up with a better costume.

Time again to wrap things up for Today but I hope I could get across what I don´t like about the new Thor. It´s not that I have anything against shaking up the Status Quo or female super heroes or female versions of already existing superheroes but I´m not a big fan of stories which are only a big hype without much substance or logic to it. When writers say that you are not supposed to think and fell the story is when they have lost me as a reader. So far I have not heard anything that encourages me to read the series and I have only seen one picture where the new Thor looks like she could kick some ass. And guess who drew that one.

As you might have guessed we have to leave the part about the new Captain Falcon for another post but I guess I will get enough hate mail from this post as it is. But before we come to the video section I have to mention that if you want to read about the REAL Thor and a real comic master MICHEL FIFE has the big WALTER SIMONSON MASTER POST ready.

A lot of this post has been the deja vue feeling of me in front of a class trying to get some comic knowledge across in my impromptu hour long comic collecting beginners course. So why should the video section be any different ? There is a new comic fan out there every day and for their benefit our first video is about who else can lift Thor´s hammer. Any of them would have probably been a better candidate than Jane Foster.

This is in preparation for the big post about the new Captain America.

Another educational videos about why there is a new Miss Marvel who is a muslim and old Miss Marvel Carol Danvers is now called Captain Marvel.

Since I mentioned cosplay here is a video that also has other people than Yaya Han and Jessica Nigri. Maybe whoever designed the new Thora costume should have watched a few of these for inspiration before it.

Since I mentioned a few days ago to Terry Hooper that the episode A Touch of Brimstone from The Avengers - which was the inspiration for much in Chris Claremont´s Dark Phoenix Saga - was not shown in America when the series first aired because it was considered too racy we have been in a war as to who could find the best video with scenes from that episode. I think with this one with Diana Rigg´s best scenes I beat him.

New to the blog ? Everything you need to know about TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN : top ten posts / more posts of interest / best of the best


Ja D said...

That was an excellent post mate. I don't have much to add except that the effect of these changes is a lot of long term fans deciding that these comics are no longer for them anymore. It is a really odd business pr move to hate on customers who have been supporting the titles for years or decades. Comics can be like an addiction sometimes and marvel is doing a good job of breaking that addiction.

SUBZERO said...

You´re right. And I think this is a good thing because there are a lot of good books out there that are just waiting to be discovered. And no matter if the people who have been reading Marvel are switching to new books or giving up on comics all together - which will save them a lot of money - I can´t blame them.

Now another question is if Disney even cares or if it will just sell Marvel comics again when it´s all broken beyond repair like Terry Hooper suggested.

Terry Hooper-Scharf said...

You'd have to win because any compilation of Diana Rigg wins automatically -I think it's written in the British legal system! The "Lady Thor" covers (sorry, but every time someone writes "The Lady Thor" I keep getting images of a new brand of vibrator -as demonstrated on THAT cover you show. In all seriousness, unless Marvel was rebooted back to 1988 anything else would be pointless. Looking at stuff for my Great Nephews Christmas -so much Avengers merchandise (including "The Avengers -Spiderman" -I must have missed him in the movies) and so much of it vastly over priced and some of it down right crap -again, though, art from the 1970s/1980s because Disney/Marvel do not have to pay the creators!. This is what Disney wants...and the new comic fans. Pity but at least I saw the best of Marvel and DC!

Ja D said...

I do agree with you about switching to new books. I have been reading a lot of Cinebook and manga lately.