By now, pretty much everyone has heard about the drastic changes that are coming to some of Earth’s mightiest heroes. Sam Wilson is going to become Captain America, and some un-named woman will be taking up the mantle of Thor. These are indeed big changes, and at first I had some thoughts about why Marvel was doing it, and most of those thoughts centered on the word gimmick. As in, this must be a sales gimmick. And maybe, on some level it is, but I’ve allowed myself a little bit of time to digest the announcements that seemed to be coming fast and furious yesterday (3 concerning Thor, Cap and Iron Man). That time has helped look at the whole thing differently, and I’m not sure it is all about the sales, and I’m not sure that the changes will be all that bad. So let me break them down one by one and offer my thoughts, for what their worth.
First, Iron Man. The announcement concerning Iron Man was small in comparison to the Thor and Cap announcements, so it should be easy to break that down. Tony will continue to be Iron Man, but he will have a new suit that will be silver and black, and he will be leaving Stark tower and New York, and moving to the West Coast, San Francisco. The moving part is the biggest news, i think. Marvel has always been a New York centric publisher. All of their major characters reside in the Big Apple, so to move one that is as big a deal as Iron Man is right now to San Francisco is a surprise. The release about the big move mentioned that he has some big ideas for his new city and not everyone will be on board. That’s about all we got. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I personally believe that this is the beginning of the return of The Avengers: West Coast. One can only dream, I suppose.
Next up, Thor. This announcement was a little bigger. Basically, Thor will no longer be Thor. He won’t be worthy to wield Mjolnir, the mighty hammer, for some reason. The person who will be worthy to have the hammer will be a woman. She will take on the mantle of the Thunder God…er… Goddess. This is a big departure for the character, obviously. This is not the first time that someone else has had the hammer, so that part is not new, but it is the first time that someone is a woman. This shouldn’t be a big shock to those who have read Thor recently. It is a series full of strong female characters, especially once Odin was out of the picture and Asgard was protected by three queens. So, it is not a huge stretch for this series to go in this direction. The timing was a little weird, I thought. Thor 2 had a pretty good run last year in the theaters and then on blu ray and digital download. Plus, we have The Avengers: Age of Ultron hitting theaters next year. I know that the success of these movies has caused a few people to walk into their local comic book store (mine is Black Cat Comics in Sugar House, stop by and see Greg for all your comics needs) looking for these characters. I thought this was just another way to get people to continue to talk about Thor in between theatrical runs. The reality, though, is that when people go in and look for these titles on the shelves, what they want to find is the comic book version of Chris Hemsworth, and might be disappointed when it is some woman they don’t know. Then they will probably put it back and slowly walk away. Meaning, that if this is just a ploy to sell more issues, it’s actually a little counterintuitive.
So, then why do it? I began to think maybe it was just the opposite of all that. What if Marvel was doing this right now because of the success the Avengers have had in the theaters lately? What if they were wanting to springboard off this success and introduce just a little more diversity into the ranks? When I thought of it that way, I started to warm up to the idea. The success of the Avengers has brought Black Widow into the forefront as far as strong women characters, so why not try to capitalize on that more. How many other sting female characters have their own title in the Marvel universe? This could be a great opportunity to establish a new , positive role model for girls in the comics. I’m not saying there aren’t any out there, but it doesn’t hurt to add more, and they are still drastically outnumbered by male characters, especially in leading roles. The biggest key will be the writing and the story. There are strong women out there, but they seem to be overlooked because they are under-developed and poorly written (DC and Wonder Woman, I’m looking at you). This could be a big opportunity to change that for Marvel, and I for one hope they do. I think this change is worth checking out.
Finally, we have Captain America. I have always felt that Captain America should be bigger than Steve Rogers, and in some ways he has been. There have been others that have donned the stars and stripes and shield, including when Cap (Rogers) “died” a few years back and Bucky Barnes took over for a while. For whatever reason, I have always thought of Captain America and Batman as symbols larger than Rogers and Wayne, more than other heroes, like Superman who should always be Clark Kent, and there should only ever be one. I don’t mind the idea of Steve getting a bit on in age and needing to step away from the front lines and passing this on to Sam Wilson. Sam is a great choice, in my opinion, and will make for some interesting stories. One major difference is that Sam has never had any super serum like Steve was, so he has no super powers. He is just a regular guy. I think this makes for some potentially good story telling. Think about it. We all like that Steve Rogers was just a regular guy with a big heart, and he got the serum and became Captain America. Sam Wilson is all of that, minus the super serum part. The biggest deal, at least in the media, is that Sam Wilson is black. The fact that it’s a big deal is why that part of the story is still a big deal. Really, it’s about time that we had one of the big flagship titles have a black lead. Again, I think this is Marvel taking the success and popularity of the Avenger characters and using that to promote and push more diversity, which is not a bad thing. I am intrigued to see how Sam and the new Thor work out. I think there is a lot of potential for some great story telling, I just hope Marvel will deliver.