Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Thor is a Woman and the Comic Industry's Love for Publicity Stunts

If you haven't heard yet, Thor is set to become a woman.  No, he's not getting a sex-change, though I imagine it's only a matter of time before Marvel or DC does something like that with one of their signature characters.  Someone else (someone with a vagina) is going to take the hammer and replace the Thor many of us know and love.  I suppose this makes perfect sense; the character has only thrilled millions upon millions of readers (and cinema patrons) since 1962.  This comes after recent reports that we're also going to see a new Captain America shortly, with the odds-on favorite to wear the shield being Falcon.  A female Thor is a definite, a black Captain America is likely.


Look, I don't care what color a comic book character is, nor do I care about the character's gender.  Yet as a Spider-Man fan, I can assure those of you who aren't keen on comics that shit like this is the medium's biggest flaw.  Spider-Man and Batman have probably suffered more than most in this regard, though Superman has also been a frequent victim of the industry's love affair with publicity stunts.  Sometimes it's just about shaking things up dramatically and sometimes I think they really do things just to piss fans off, knowing the ensuing uproar will make enough noise to translate into sales to curious parties who just want to know what all the fuss is about.  Give me another logical explanation for the the Clone Saga, perhaps the most wretched of all these affairs, or that "One More Day" nonsense--which seemed to be engineered solely for the purpose of taking a shot at doing something fans would loathe more than the Clone Saga.

Look, it sells, and I get that, and when you're as big as Marvel or DC, there will always be new readers--so who cares if you turn the old readers off?  Yet comic fans are loyal, spending entirely too much money on their hobby.  Believe me, I know what I'm talking about here.  We are passionate about comics and we have absurd hypothetical discussions about them on a regular basis.  If you don't believe me, ask a Batman fan how the caped crusader would fare in a fight against another comic book character.  Hell, ask them how he would fare in throwdown with God himself and they're going to tell you that with enough planning and the right strategy and equipment Bats would win.

I guess that's why I hate the publicity stunt nonsense so much.  It sells, it's good for business in that sense, and the effects are usually only temporary, but it's like a thumb in the eye to the fans who pay the company's bills.  Dude with a thousand Thor comics and a tattoo of Odin's favorite son on his bicep doesn't want his boy to get replaced by a girl.  Batman's biggest fan doesn't want to read about Bats getting his back snapped like a twig by some second-tier villain dressed like a luchador.  Superman fans don't want to attend his funeral after he gets killed by The Thing's cousin, and Spider-Man fans don't want to learn that the webhead is a clone or see everything they love about the character erased in a deal with the devil.  I'm sure it would be the same if it was the other way around.  Luke Cage passing on his powers to a white accountant named Stanley wouldn't go over all that well with Power Man fanboys, and I doubt She-Hulk readers want to see her replaced by yet another male Hulk.  Maybe a purple one this time.

Think about it: Stephen King could make a fortune if he announced that he was going to write a book where Roland, his beloved gunslinger, died in a car accident.  The publicity would be staggering and the outcry from the fans would only add fuel to the fire.  It would make money, but he wouldn't do that, not in a million years, not unless it happened organically while he was writing a book.  CBS isn't going to replace Pat Sajak with a black guy tomorrow just to get a bump in ratings.  Your favorite sports team isn't going to trade your favorite player tomorrow just to get a little buzz.  The View isn't going to swap Whoopi Goldberg out for Chris Rock next week for a few headlines.  Why?  That isn't how you treat your fanbase, that's why.  Yes, there's money to be made and publicity to be gained, at least in the short term, but there's something to be said for delivering a consistent product to your fanbase--a product that they support and encourage, no less.

I love comics.  The medium has a lot to offer and I treasure the way it requires such collaboration and puts so many different talents on display.  I just can't stand the industry's addiction to constantly shaking shit up just to shake shit up and sell a few more copies in the now.  99% of the time, that's all this boils down to.  Superman rose from the grave, Batman healed, Spider-Man isn't a clone*,and I bet we'll have both the Thor and the Captain America we know and love back shortly.  The issues that caused so much fuss when these sweeping changes were made will become dollar bin fodder and the casual readers who tuned in to see why the long-term fans weren't following their favorite characters anymore will have moved on to something else. 

Like I said before: Yawn.  Call me when it's over.  Also: I'll pass on the special debut issues for these developments, even if they have foil covers or come with 72 amazing variants.  Sometimes the variants are mere sketches.  Sometimes they are blank covers.  True story.  You know what?  I think we're pretty much finished here.

*I don't think he is, anyway.  The more Marvel tried to erase the Clone Saga, the more confusing it got.  I challenge anyone to explain it in a coherent paragraph.  Wikipedia has a whole page on it (see link above) and it reads like something someone suffering from severe head trauma jotted down after waking up from a weird dream.

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