On Tuesday's episode of "The View," Marvel revealed a bombshell: Its new "Thor" series will star not a male god of Thunder, but a female one. Not a Thor sidekick. Not a simply a gender-swapped Thor-ess or Lady Thor. Just "Thor," a woman worthy of wielding the hammer in her own right.
— Marvel Entertainment (@Marvel) July 16, 2014
The announcement comes on the heels of encouraging efforts by major comic book brands to put female characters in the spotlight this year. Marvel debuted "Captain Marvel" earlier this year, a series following the adventures of former Ms. Marvel Carol Danvers, "Ms. Marvel," starring Muslim-American teenager Kamala Khan (another progressive decision), the badass "Black Widow" and "She-Hulk," among others.
By creating quality comics of powerful female superheroes, the comic book world is opening up to a new audience of women and girls as well as giving already hooked fans more of the powerful women they've come to know and love.
DC Comics, another major player in comics, has also joined the trend of bringing female characters to the forefront. It has "Wonder Woman" flying solo in a self-titled series, as well as "Supergirl" and even Batman characters like "Batgirl," "Catwoman" and "Harley Quinn."
What's more, many of the issues starring female heroes sell in the top 30 of comics. The latest "Harley Quinn" was the fourth most-bought comic of June with over 90,000 copies sold. The first issue of "Ms. Marvel" sold out its first run and had to undergo a second printing, selling over 50,000 copies in its first month.
Both Marvel and DC Comics are also pushing for more racial diversity. Marvel recently announced that Steve Rogers will be handing over his title as Captain America to Sam Wilson, formerly Falcon, making it the second time an African American has taken on the title (Isaiah Bradley being, arguably, the first). And DC recently introduced a Cree teenager with seasonally-influenced powers called Equinox, who joined the Justice League Canada team.
There's no denying the fact the female-centric comics are excelling both creatively and financially, but they are also tackling a more important issue at hand: representation. At a time when only 15 percent of lead characters in major movies are female, it's important for audiences of all ages to see people like them saving the world, including people who don't happen to be white heterosexual males.
"The all-new Thor puts an exclamation point on our commitment to populating the Marvel Universe with smart, powerful, diverse female Super Heroes," Axel Alonso, Editor In Chief of Marvel Comics, told The Huffington Post. "Our catalog is filled with characters that are defined by their actions, not by their gender. From Ms. Marvel to Black Widow, She-Hulk to Elektra, these unique women exhibit the same strengths and flaws as their male counterparts. If Peter Parker, an awkward teenager from Queens, can connect with generations of male fans, why can't Kamala Khan, an awkward teenager from Jersey City, connect with young girls now?"
When this new Thor hits the scene, her thunderous entrance to the pantheon of comic book heroines will certain cause the comic world to take notice -- and perhaps the rest of the entertainment industry will, too.