The comic titan Marvel caused controversy when they announced Thor would now be a woman. The internet was clearly torn on whether or not this was a good thing and a huge debate broke out. Recently, in an interview, Jason Aaron (the writer behind the change) shed some light on the reasoning behind changing such an iconic character and responded to skeptics who believe female Thor is just a gimmick for publicity:
Set the scene for our readers: How did Thor, the male superhero, lose his worthiness to wield the hammer Mjolnir?
I’ve been writing Thor for about two years now in the pages of a book called “Thor: God of Thunder.” One of the themes of that book was always worthiness. I always liked the idea that Thor was the god who’d wake up every day and look at that hammer and not know whether he was going to pick it up. Only the worthy can lift the hammer of Thor, and I love the idea of a god who was always questioning his own worthiness. This summer in a book I did called “Original Sin,” Nick Fury was empowered by all the insights of The Watcher, who’s an old school, Stan Lee-Jack Kirby character who’s the cosmic observer of the Marvel universe.
In the midst of the fight, Nick Fury whispered something to Thor, and suddenly Thor dropped his hammer and couldn’t pick it up. It was really just a whisper that made Thor unworthy. It wasn’t just something he did that we know, it was really just that whisper. It’s still a mystery as to exactly what Fury said to him, and that’s a mystery we tease a little bit more in Thor #1, and will continue to be a part of that version of the character’s story. I’ve always been building to this moment, towards Thor getting to the point where he can’t confirm his worthiness with his magic weapon. His mother tries to tell him in that first issue that worthiness should not be left to the whim of magic hammers, that he’s hero whether or not he can pick it up, so he continues on even without the hammer. With him not being able to pick it up, it opens the door for someone else to come along who can lift it.
When did you decide that Thor, in terms of who can pick up the hammer, would be a woman?
That was pretty much the only story. We plan all our stories out months, a couple years in advance sometimes. We have these creative retreats, where a bunch of writers sit in a room with all the Marvel editorial [staff], and we talk about all this stuff far in advance. I don’t know exactly how long we’ve been talking about this now.
Like I said, I always knew I was building toward this story of unworthiness, and when we hit that point, someone else would be picking up the hammer. I didn’t know exactly who, but once I started trying to figure out who that was going to be, I knew this one would be a woman because that’s not really a story we’ve seen much of in Thor’s past. Thor’s been around for about 600 issues at this point, and in all that time, we’ve only rarely seen a woman pick up that hammer — in scenes here and there, in kind of a what-if story, like an alternate-universe story.
Wonder Woman picked it up at one point in a Marvel-D.C. crossover. But I didn’t want someone just to pick it up. It wasn’t about bringing in a character to pick it up for a scene or two. This is a story of someone picking it up and carrying it for a period of time. We certainly haven’t seen a female character do that. And, if you look at Thor’s supporting cast — like the supporting cast I’ve been writing for the past couple years — most of them are female. You’ve got his mother, you’ve got Sif, you’ve got ex-girlfriend Jane Foster, you’ve got some new characters we’ve introduced like Roz Solomon, who’s a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and the Girls of Thunder, who are Thor’s own granddaughters from the far future. So there are all these female characters already around Thor. I wanted it to be someone from his corner of the Marvel universe. I didn’t want this to be a brand new character we’ve never seen before. So just in pulling someone from his supporting cast, chances are it’s going to be a woman.
The first time I read through the new issue, I got the impression that Thor’s mother, Freyja, picked up the hammer. But the second time, it came across a little more ambiguous. Is it his mother or another character?
I’m not just going to tell you!
So it’s not a mystery that’s going to be revealed in the first issue.
No, no, no. You didn’t miss anything. We don’t see this new Thor until the very end [of the issue] when she’s wearing a mask, so that’ll be an ongoing mystery for a bit as to who she actually is. Yeah, there’ll be multiple “suspects.” Looking at Thor #1, the first one would seem to be Thor’s own mother. She’s got her own story beginning here, as well. Odin, who’s Thor’s father, has been away quite a while in the pages of the Marvel universe, so he only recently came back to Asgard. While he was gone, Freyja, his wife, was ruling in his place. She was the All-Mother, which is something we hadn’t really seen before in Thor comics.
Now you’ve got Odin coming back — the guy who was the be-all, end-all in Asgard for pretty much the entire run — and now he comes back to a very different Asgard. And now his wife has shown herself to be a very capable leader. There’s also, basically, a house of representatives that he has to deal with in Asgard now. … Where Odin used to say, “Make it so,” and everyone jumped to his wishes, now he’s got a very different sort of political situation to deal with in Asgard. So we’ll be having a lot of fun with that, and clearly Thor’s mom, Freyja, is at the heart of this battle between these two very traditional roles for these characters in Asgard. Freyja had always been secondary to Odin. Odin was the one and only All-Father. Now it’s a very different situation, and Freyja’s not about to get back into the shadows.
There’s been plenty skepticism about how dedicated you and Marvel are going to be to this female Thor? Do you expect to turn it back over to Thor Odinson?
Who knows what happens down the road? I’ve been writing the character for two years, and I don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon. Anyone who’s been reading my stuff can see that there’s a lot of tracks being laid for future stories. I’ve been writing for the long term this whole time. So this is not a short-term story for me. I initially had the same concerns when we started talking about this. This was my idea to do this change. I knew we were coming up on the big, new “Avengers” film next year, so I just wanted to make sure everybody realized we were on the same page, that we’d be going into that film with different versions of [Captain America] and Thor in our books than we see in the movies, and everybody was totally cool with that. I wouldn’t have wanted to do it otherwise. I wouldn’t have wanted to do it as a five-, six-issue story, and then she goes away and the regular guy is back. It’s not that kind of story. Once we get about four or five issues into the story, you’ll start to see what her story really is.
This was all my idea. This was not about Marvel coming to me and saying, “We want you to change this character to a woman. Any woman will do.” This was me having a very specific story in mind. It’s not just about her picking up the hammer. This is not just about the mystery of who she is. Even once you find out who she is, that’s really where the story begins, so there’s a very specific story in mind for her. Otherwise I wouldn’t be doing this because that’s what it’s all about. If I didn’t feel strongly about her story, I wouldn’t want to make this change and do this in the first place. It’s not about releasing a press release and getting a book announced on “The View.” It’s about having a story I want to tell with her. So we won’t get to the true understanding of what that story is until probably the end of the first arc. Going forward — when we were at the retreat, talking about stories through 2015 and into 2016 — when we would talk about Thor in connection to those stories, we were talking about her. We talked about the other guy, as well. The Odinson is still around, still has his role in things, but she will be the Thor of the Marvel universe for the foreseeable future.
You said around issue four or five the new Thor character’s story would become clearer. Is that when you’ll reveal the character?
We’ll see. I don’t want to say exactly when we’re going to reveal it. We start weeding out suspects pretty quickly. So we’ll start compiling that list of suspects, and we’ll start marking names off it. Really, the first three issues are really about introducing this new version of Thor. We see her at the very end of issue one. Issue two is all hers. We get to see her in action for the very first time, and we see how she is different from the previous guy to wield this hammer.
Clearly, she’s a different character. I wanted her to be a different sort of Thor. She can’t have exactly the same powers, exactly the same relationship with the hammer. Everything can’t be exactly the same. There are things about her, as Thor, that are a little bit different. The hammer plays a big part of that. The hammer’s role in the story — Mjolnir’s role — will change a little bit, too. We’ll start to see the hammer more as a character in and of itself in the story. Issues two and three are really about seeing her in action, and then issue four, we’ll see the Odinson pop back up again. He’s clearly interested in, “Who’s this woman in a mask running around with my hammer?” Of course, he’s going to be very interested in finding out who that person is behind the mask.
Does Marvel have plans for other classic characters along the lines of the changes in Captain America and Thor?
It begins with the kind of story the writers want to tell. We never sit around in those retreats and say, “We really need to make a change. Let’s change this character.” Or throw a dart at the wall and see what hits. It all begins with story. So, this change begins with the story I was telling and the new kind of story I wanted to tell, and Marvel embraced that. It coincided with the changes [Rick Remender] was making with Cap. It also gave Marvel a chance to put a branding on it and to get some publicity, but it still all started with story. That’s what it’s like in that room. Who knows? It’s always exciting when we do those retreats. Stories wither and die in that room sometimes. If your story can’t survive that gauntlet of writers and editors, then it’s not going to survive the gauntlet of fans, so stories disappear in that room. Some stories also come to life in that room, so you never know. The challenge of this job is that you’ve been writing characters who’ve been in publication for 60-plus years, so that’s a lot of stories that have been told with these characters. You’re always trying to do something that, on one hand, honors all those stories, that is still in some way the same character that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were doing back in the sixties. But, at the same time, you want to be able to tell new stories and not just rehash what’s come before. Sometimes that means tweaking things, or taking characters in a bit different direction than where they’ve been before. I think you can do that. I think you can do new and exciting and still honor the core of the characters that we grew up loving. That’s why you read Marvel Comics. Well, we write for Marvel Comics because we love these characters, too.