Asgardian Wardrobe Malfunction.
I didn’t mean for this weekend post to be a discussion of the comics industry at present, but doing the sketch cover, and teaching where I do…it wandered into that territory. If you follow the stream of consciousness, you’ll see how I got there.
It’s hard to think about Science-Fantasy Comics without thinking of Marvel’s Thor and Eternals comics, since they sort of defined the modern Science Fantasy approach. Certainly, the High Evolutinary and the New men, who first appeared in a run of Thor’s book starting in No. 132, describe a large number of the influences on later work, such as He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, or even the current run of Adequacy. As a result, while thinking about content, I was thinking about Thor, and the current series of that book.
Right now in comics, a large number of Marvel’s A-list characters are showing a pretty major amount of diversity. There’s Miles Morales, a biracial (African American and Latino) Spider-Man, as well as Sam Wilson as an African American Captain America. Laura Kinney is the current (and female) Wolverine, and Jane Foster is the current Thor. Comics always return to the status quo though…it seems only a matter of time before Marvel announces a second Thor book, so that current thunder god Jane Foster can share the gig with the one-armed Odinson.
The elevation of characters like Sam Wilson, Miles Morales, Laura Kinney, and Jane Foster, is definitely in the win column for readers who want more diverse heroes in the books they read. New and old fans of these characters can be grateful to Marvel for giving the characters a chance to shine, with compelling story direction as well…something hard to keep fresh with protagonists that have been around since the 60’s. It’s great to see Marvel finally responding to the changing marketplace demand in this way….although being fair, responding to the marketplace does mean that the company does what it sets out to do—moves more units, and makes more money.
Every time one of these characters lands an A-list super hero gig, the same fear echoes through the minds of those readers. “How long will this last?” When does the straight white guy come to take his job and costume back from the “stand in”? After fifty or more years of that straight white guy, how long does someone else get to be the one-and-only Captain America, or the one-and-only Wolverine…or even the mighty Thor?
Thor, of course, is the easiest….since it’s the hammer that gives you the powers, and the suit, and makes you Thor. It’s harder to find a stand in for Wolverine, or for Spider-Man.
I think Marvel’s instinct to promote diverse legacy heroes is a great one, if it’s part of a broader effort to introduce and promote original and diverse heroes as well. Comics have this problem of introducing new material infrequently…the last real creative boom was in the early 90’s, when Image was forming. The Big Two could stand to invite more diverse creators to the table as well, and give voices that ring true for these characters. Acknowledging that Spider-Man or Captain America can be black, or that Thor or Wolverine can be women, sends an important and valuable message. So can their writers and artists as well, guys.
Not that creator diversity hasn’t increased as well…it has. But the message gets muddled and compromised when we’re effectively told that Spider-Man can be black so long as he’s not the only Spider-Man, or Wolverine can be a woman so long as she’s not the only Wolverine. It’s a subtle point, but it’s right there.
These are the growing pains, I think, of settling into a more diverse marketplace, and a new time in comics. Questions like this come up, like whether it diminishes the diversity effort if there are two Captain Americas, and they share the name. I don’t know if it does or it doesn’t…I do know that comics now are more representative of the larger world of people than ever before. Growing pains are going to happen, and mistakes, much like the mistakes made in the seventies, when Marvel published books like “Luke Cage: Hero for Hire.”
I’d rather we make mistakes looking for better comics, than just continue a status quo. Sort of like the “Push Comics Forward” idea posited by Boom! Comics’ publisher last year.
That being said, while I was drawing, I was thinking about something practical. Movie Thor does not have the 60 second rule…that is, he’s always Thor. He can leave the hammer just laying around, and just call it to him to power up…we see him do that in “Thor: The Dark World.” Comics’ Thor, though…for the overwhelming majority of its run, has the 60 second rule: whoever is currently Thor can’t have the hammer away from them…not on their person, for more than a minute, or they turn back into whoever they were to begin with. It would be a huge hassle to hold it all the time…you use two hands for a bunch of things. Clearly, Thor has to have a way to kind of stash the hammer.
The thing is…on the Old School, Traditional Thor Costume, and even on the current female Thor costume…the only place to really do that is on the belt. A quick bit of internet research suggests that actual medieval war hammers had heads that ranged from three to ten pounds. Her worthiness would keep the hammer from being infinitely heavy, since she is still holding it on her person…but it’s the same belt that holds up her costume’s pants. A belt that doesn’t have a loop for the hammer in any way…she’s just arguably loosening the belt, and stuffing the hammer in.
Which, in turn, would create the practical problem above. It wouldn’t be a problem at all while actively being Thor…your hammer is in hand, and your belt cinched up. It’s afterward, just hanging around the Avengers Mansion…where you can’t put it down…that would reveal your identity in a minute…literally. You have to just kind of shove the big ol’ hammer in your belt, and then your costume pants sag like the unfortunate baggy pants worn by teenagers who are trying too hard.
An unforeseen problem to being Thor, huh?
I usually don’t draw any figures from that kind of angle, so that was a challenge. Also, Thor’s costume has a cape…which is good given the pants/belt issue, but was a bit of a chore to figure out…even with art references, how to define and shade. I mean…the cape has to be there…but if the cape is doing anything that capes actually do, like hanging behind you, the punch line of the one panel just goes up in smoke.
On a weekend where these kind of things are my concerns, clearly, things are going well enough at school. Today I should get a bunch of drawing done as well…in theory, getting me a few days ahead for once, since I have art planned out all the way to Wednesday. Whoa, right?
Since I haven’t ended like Stan Lee would in a while, and the post was mostly about the comics industry, and Asgardian Problems…