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PC or not PC? Questions about the new Thor & Captain America

July 30, 2014
By Evan Bevins , Graffiti

There will be a new Thor and new Captain America this fall.

Just as with "Superior Spider-Man," an entertaining, compelling story could very well emerge with these unexpected takes on classic characters. But I have a feeling more of the discussion will be about the ethnicity of one and gender of the other than about the stories themselves.

When Thor loses his hammer, the person who picks it up is going to be (gasp!) a woman.

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And when Captain America hangs up his shield, the next guy to wield it will be Cap's longtime partner Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon, who is (double gasp!) black.

A whole lot of superheroes are white guys, and changing them from that can be a source of fan rage. It's not for me in these cases, but I'd be lying if I said minor changes, let alone major ones, to a character never got me bent out of shape before.

But it's not because we fans are backward, racist misogynists.

Many of us like black superheroes (fact: Black Panther is awesome) and female superheroes (have you met Valkyrie?). But we tend to think the characters we've followed for a long time should act and look the way we're used to them acting and looking.

Some folks may think these changes are being made solely for the sake of being politically correct. And if the folks at Marvel actually got together and said, "We need more diversity. Let's make Thor a woman and make the Falcon Captain America, cause he's black," that's no good. Hopefully, the Thor discussion went more like this: "OK, what if Thor lost his hammer? And what if the person who picks it up is... a woman? What kind of story would THAT be?"

Story first; marketing and the appeal of diversity flow from it.

As for Cap, frankly, it makes sense for Sam step up. This is a change that comes organically, not something shoehorned in in the name of diversity for diversity's sake.

If people are really bent out of shape about this, they should also keep in mind, this isn't a first for either character.

Last month, I mentioned Thor Girl. She was a cosmic being called the Designate who modeled herself after Thor for a while. She didn't take over the series, but there's precedent.

And it's not like a woman would be the weirdest version of Thor. In addition to Thor Girl, last month's column also referenced horse-faced-alien-cyborg-Thor (aka Beta Ray Bill) and frog Thor.

Meanwhile, the white Steve Rogers was retroactively revealed to be the second super soldier, in the 2003 limited series "Truth: Red, White and Black." Based somewhat on the real-life Tuskegee experiments in which black men were monitored to study the effects of untreated syphilis, this comic showed black soldiers as the guinea pigs for the super-soldier serum that eventually produced Captain America. One of them got the powers, grabbed the shield and battled the enemy in the red, white and blue before Cap.

And there have been a number of other people to take up the star-spangled mantle as well (even a female version in one future-set series).

I suggest reading or not reading these stories and liking or disliking them on their own merits, not because you think there's a political agenda at work. Comics could use some diversity, and if it tells a good story, why not give it a shot?

And remember, the status quo will return soon enough: I'm guessing by May 1, when "Avengers: Age of Ultron" - starring Thor and Cap - hits theaters.

Evan Bevins is the writer of the webcomic "Support Group."

 
 

 

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