It’s really no secret at this point since anyone with any real interest in all this will know by now that Jane Foster has been revealed as the new Thor. However, I thought it would be worth commenting on and providing some personal insight into the latest goings ons in the world of Thor and Marvel Entertainment in general.
On some level I’m quite comfortable with Jane assuming the mantle of Thor. Admittedly, the execution of it all is lacking somewhat, for as other’s have pointed out, Thor is the given name of the Odinson and so Jane’s incarnation should have been handled along the lines of Walt Simsonson’s Beta Ray Bill… The power, the mantle is his but not the name.
Interestingly enough, Marvel had Jane assume the Thor identity back in 1978 when she appeared as the goddess of thunder in one of the “What If?” titles, (issue #10 to be exact).
In this “imaginary” story Jane decided to call herself Thordis and performed admirably as a female incarnation of the Mighty Thor. Since, the story was clearly a fantasy and not meant to be seen as part of the Thor canon no one seemed to take umbrage over this representation of Thor (And no, the irony of it being an imaginary tale within an imaginary universe is not lost on me).
However, old timer’s like myself will hearken back a decade earlier still when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby finally resolved the Thor-Jane Foster relationship by granting her the powers of an Asgardian goddess! Yet, within the very pages of that memorable issue, they had her fail so miserably so, irrevocably, that poor Jane was forcibly removed from the cast of Thor’s main supporting characters and immediately replaced with the goddess Sif.
The transition was awkward and abrupt and not even Kirby’s amazing pencils or Stan’s eloquence could blunt the jolting impact of such a major change in the direction of their golden haired protagonist. It was definitely heavy handed, but fortunately, Sif proved an interesting character in her own right, and her courage, fearlessness, and innate character as a goddess born stood in stark contrast to the timid, gentle, and decidedly human, Jane Foster.
But like the old Virginia Slims cigarette ads once noted… “You’ve come a long way baby!” The current Jane Foster not only has become The Goddess of Thunder but in her human form is currently battling breast cancer. Either way, this Jane Foster is a definite bad-ass and possessed of an indomitable spirit.
In many ways the character of Jane Foster is symptomatic of the wider Marvel push for diversity. Canon iterations (whether as part of the Cinematic or Comic Book Universe) of an Afro-American, Captain America, Nick Fury, and Human Torch among others have become the status-quo. Expect to see further steps in this direction. Certainly, GBLTQ characters are gaining more press and it won’t be long before we see one or more 1st tier characters coming out as gay or representing some other sexual minority.
Thor writer, Jason Aaron may had some creative fun at his critics’ expense when he had Jane/Thor go up against old school villain, Crusher Creel AKA The Absorbing Man is issue #5. The choice of villain was deliberate. Creel is overtly male, bestial, guttural, and to no one’s surprise, misogynistic in the extreme. In facing our female protagonist for the first time he screams out at her:
“Thor? Are you kidding me? I’m supposed to call you Thor? Damn feminists are ruining everything,” he says. “You wanna be a chick superhero? Fine. Who the hell cares? But get your own identity. Thor’s a dude. One of the last manly dudes still left. What’d you do, send him to sensitivity training so he’d stop calling Earth girls ‘wenches’?”
Thor retaliates by breaking his jaw.
Creel’s scathing contempt echoes many of the sentiments felt by critics of the new Thor and I’m sure Jason Aaron was smiling to himself as he put together this artful and clearly symbolic contest between himself and his critics 🙂