Flavor of the week

July 21, 2014 by Tim

Thor is soon to be a woman, and a black man will carry the Captain America shield. Comics are definitely in need of a little more diversity, so I think this is a fantastic concept… but the execution leaves a lot to be desired.

I don’t mean from the comics side of things… Falcon has been a long-time friend of Cap, and so it makes perfect sense for him to take up the red white and blue if Steve Rogers is moving on. Thor I’m a little more confused about, mostly in regards to Marvel’s “She IS Thor” assertion. This woman can certainly be worthy of wielding Mjolnir, and she can be the new god of thunder… but ‘Thor’ isn’t a title, it’s the guy’s name. Beta Ray Bill was still just “Bill” when he wielded the hammer, if I recall correctly.

But no, my issue, and the reason I decided to make fun of Marvel today, is the company’s general handling of this thing from the business side. First of all, it’s comics, so it’s pretty much guaranteed that these changes are temporary. That makes it feel gimmicky to start with. Then they announce them with these big press releases and announcements on talk shows that just scream “Hey, look at us! Look at how modern and progressive we are!” making it seem even more disingenuous.

I feel like all of the forced fanfare and attention they give it does the opposite of the intended effect. Rather than simply having a woman take up Thor’s hammer and rock it out as if it’s business as usual like they should, they have to say “Look! Look! A woman!” That’s not equality, that’s a sideshow. If Steve Rogers picks up the shield again in a few months, do you imagine they’ll issue a big press release to say “Attention! Captain America is a white guy again!”

We know they’re trying to sell issues… and that’s fine, they’re in business. And there isn’t a huge profit margin in comic books, so it makes sense for them to appeal to as many different people as possible. It’s time to move outside the “young white males” demographic.

But gimmicky, temporary roster changes aren’t good enough. Forcing a new character into the guise of an iconic hero isn’t even fair to that character; they’re forced to contend with tons of history and pre-conceived notions, and they have a slim chance of getting out from under that shadow before they’re inevitably shelved in the return to the status quo.

Create a new hero, put some great writers on it, and stick by it. They don’t even need their own book to start with, they can join the Avengers as a lead-in. Or bring some B-list characters up to the spotlight. Put a god-damned Black Widow solo film on the MCU phase 3 release slate already. Or Black Panther.

Do both, come up with an awesome new hero, and write a movie to launch a comic book. Guardians of the Galaxy has shown that slapping the Marvel logo on a movie title is enough to get people amped up about a property they’ve never even heard of. Use that leverage as a launching pad to bring a new female or minority hero to the public consciousness.

Or you know what, fine. Change the main roster around to achieve diversity. But do it because it’s the right thing to do, not because it will create a sales spike. And then commit to it. I know they’re capable of it, because Miles Morales is still around.

If Marvel really wants create diverse heroes of all genders, races and sexuality, that’s awesome. But they aren’t toys to pull out once in a while to “spice up” the storylines. The next time they do something of this nature, I’d like to see it just happen once month. Open the book, there it is. No press release months ahead of time, no big call-out on the cover. Just do it and keep moving. People will still applaud them for the concept, without feeling like they’re being asked to applaud.

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