The world of comic fans is all a-ricking right now. Soon, Marvel will have a female Thor and a black Captain America. Sam Wilson as Cap isn't that much of a stretch, having been Cap's buddy for most of the hero's post WWII adventures, but the idea of a female-wielder of Mjolnir seems to be most upsetting to some.
Even though no less an authority than Politifact shows it's happened before.
Still, the common comment I see most often is derisive sneers and the sentence, "It's just a cheap gimmick." My response to that is, "Of course it's a cheap gimmick. It's a superhero comic book. All they are is cheap gimmicks."
Let's pause for a moment and consider what it means to be a hero in the Marvel universe. Take Peter Parker for example. He starts out his heroic life using his powers to enter pro-wrestling, literally the most gimmicky profession on the entire planet (Take it from someone that was once a professional wrestling mime, OK?). Then, after Uncle Ben blah blah blah he takes to the skies as the amazing Spider-man.
Why does he need to be Spider-man at all? Why does he need a costume and brand recognition? Don't tell me it's to protect his loved ones because that has never, ever worked in the history of comics. There are one-handed crocodile handlers with better pattern recognition skills than most superheroes.
Peter Parker would best serve himself by keeping a ski mask and extra web cartridges in a fanny pack and wearing comfortable, non-descript clothes. There's danger? Boom, mask on and into battle he goes. Danger over? Now he's just a dude in sweat pants running away from super powered shenanigans.
The real reason he's Spider-man is so that people will pass a comic on a rack and go, "Dude, check it out. It's a spider-themed crimefighter." That's a sentence with as much artistic meaning as "Dude, check it out. He's a wrestling undertaker." Gimmicks sell comics.
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It's even acknowledged that this is true in the Marvel universe itself, the need for a good hook if you want to get over. In Superior Foes of Spider-man (Please, comic gods, keep that book going) Boomerang remarks how he lied to some outfitters he was born in Australia and, boom, now he's Boomerang. He remarks with chagrin, "I should be grateful I didn't end up Kangaroo-man or something." Even the fictional characters understand the silly necessity of a gimmick, accept it, and move on.
"But why this gimmick," screams the strangely outraged comic fan that has clearly never typed "Thor Rule 63" into Google image search and seen the internet's massive need of a god of thunder with boobs. "It's just feminists taking over and political correctness gone mad and and and..."
Because we're talking about it. That's why.
A female Thor is major entertainment news. Politifact spends most of its time keeping the highest lawmakers in the land on the side of truth, and even they took time out of their schedule to debunk the idea that a female Thor is completely unprecedented. Joss Whedon, who rules the Marvel universe from atop Avenger Movie Mountain commented on the idea on Twitter, leading to speculation that we may see a game change in a billion dollar franchise.
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It's news the way the deaths of Steve Rogers and Superman were news. It's one of the reasons there's a new Doctor Who every four years or so, and why they got Batgirl out of her wheelchair. Radical shifts in beloved pop culture properties results in free media advertising (Hi, Marvel!) and increased public awareness of the current state of the properties.
Just because it's good marketing doesn't mean that it's not a great idea, too. Barbara Gordon as Batgirl reborn is a fantastic book that I started reading just to be pissed of at and grew to love. The Death of Superman was a great arc that is honestly the most interesting thing Supes had done in years. The mixed race successor of Peter Parker in the Ultimate universe was way better than Parker himself.
So is handing the hammer to a woman a gimmick? Yep. I can see it on a whiteboard in a marketing department meeting right now circled and underlined. On the other hand, that's how a lot of great stories get started, too. Just a wacky idea on a whiteboard that eventually becomes something great. I'll take a tacky gimmick over stagnation any day.