Superhero Character Changes: Thor is a Lady, Batgirl is a Hipster

There have been two superhero changes announced this week, both to fairly big-name characters. That means nothing in the long run, because big-name characters always revert back to the original form after a while, but that’s also what’s sort of cool about these mainstream comic book characters – they can continuously be retold and rebuilt in different ways, and if you don’t like the new version, just check back again in a year or two.

First of all, Marvel Comics announced that Thor will be a woman (thanks to Guthrie for pointing this out in comments). See, in the Thor comic book, anyone who is worthy (noble, brave and so forth) and picks up the big Thor hammer becomes a new incarnation of Thor (a fairly blatant imitation of Green Lantern’s ring). I don’t think this has come up in quite a while, but in the classic Walt Simonson run in the 1980s this feature was used to make Thor an orange-skinned alien named Beta Ray Bill for an extended plotline. He was also a frog for three issues.

Anyway, the new Thor:


I’m feeling underwhelmed by this costume design. First of all, boob-plates suck as armor. And is that a belly window below the boob plate? No, no, no. Plus it’s sort of a dull design – if Marvel had gone for a female Thor a quarter-century ago, it might have looked like this. It says “female Thor,” but it has no personality beyond that. Points for giving her pants, I guess.

But what about the coolness factor of Thor being a woman? Well, it might be cool, if the comic is well-written – but this costume design doesn’t bode well, because it suggests that they didn’t give much thought to this beyond the gimmick. Also, this particular character change comes with an exparation date, because there is no way Marvel won’t have Thor revert to being a big buff guy by the time either Avengers 2 or Thor 3 come out.

Meanwhile, over at DC, fan-favorite feminist writer Gail Simone’s run on Batgirl is coming to an end.1 Interestingly, rather than continuing the mood of Simone’s run – which has been classic Bat-book grimdark – the new creative team has decided that Barbara Gordon will lose all her possessions (and her current costume) in a fire, move to Gotham’s equivalent of hipster Brooklyn, attend grad school, and have a tone that they claim will be a mix of “Veronica Mars,” “Sherlock,” and – implausibly – “Girls.” Here’s the new costume design:


This is a MUCH better costume design – recognizably Batgirl, but full of personality and telling a story. (After the fire, the character puts together a new costume out of thrift store finds.) Dean Trippe at Project Rooftop (a superhero costume design blog) writes:

This look, a collaboration from Babs and Cameron, features such wonderful clarity and control. The overall vibe reminds me of the jacketed look of my first Batgirl redesign (don’t look at it, it was ages ago), which helped launch this entire enterprise here at P:R, but this has so much more detail and cleverness. It’s physical. It’s stylish. It’s practical at every level. The over-the-ears cowl, the snap-away cape, everything about this new Batgirl is wicked.

Also, all the seams in DC costumes since the “new 52” design have really annoyed me, because they look inauthentic – as if the designer doesn’t know what seams are or how they function. In contrast, the seams here not only look good, they look plausible.

Will the comic be any good? I hope so. It’s possible that the creators will end up doing a charmless book full of sexist “she’s so girly and silly” cliches. But the costume bodes well – it suggests that they have a strong concept and have thought it through. And I like that there are women on this creative team (as there were on the previous team, of course).

P.S. There’s an amazing amount of new Batgirl fanart already.

P.P.S. The “NOT spandex” note and illustration cracks me up. (“Spandex” is a superhero term of art meaning “body paint,” it appears.)

  1. I’m not going to get into how much it sucks that DC turned Oracle into Batgirl, but it REALLY SUCKS. It does demonstrate that even great and long-lasting changes to major Marvel and DC characters eventually revert. []
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15 Responses to Superhero Character Changes: Thor is a Lady, Batgirl is a Hipster

  1. 1
    Grace Annam says:

    Frog. Wow. I had no idea, but that is hilarious.

    This is cool. It won’t last, but it’s not supposed to. It’s worth it if only to watch the most juvenile fans clutch their pearls and then compete to see who can be the most misogynist asshole. (And that competition is already well underway, judging by the comments at the first site I came across.)

    I like the fact that it’s a different person, and not just Thor transmogrified. Superman has been zapped into a woman so many times that it would be hilarious and totally believable to have him join in to a discussion between Wonder Woman and Black Canary as when they complain about which parts always chafe in superheroine costume design.


    It will all depend on the writing. At least it’s not DC.

    I agree that the Batgirl redesign is pretty cool. I like the construction boots, especially. I’m not so sold on the “aw… giggle giggle tee hee you SHOULDN’T have!” pose.

    It will all depend on the writing. Unfortunately, it’s DC.


  2. 2
    Jake Squid says:

    From my perspective as a very occasional comics reader:

    That Thor costume is both bland and awful. I’m not sure the character has a human face. Is that what they’re going for?

    I like the Batgirl costume for the rocking, fairly realistically drawn boots contrasted to the very cartoony everything else.

  3. 3
    Hugh says:

    It’s nice to see that there are people who have creative ideas for Bat-characters that aren’t just “Turn the grimdark up another notch”.

  4. 4
    Doug S. says:

    I don’t think that’s actually a belly window. It looks like something that’s placed on top of the brown leather (which is covering the metal armor), but I could be mistaken, because it’s drawn with the same colors as her arms…

  5. 5
    Ruchama says:

    I hate the boob armor because of the indentation in the middle — forget about needing a sword, any strong pressure on her chest will send her own armor hard against her sternum.

  6. 6
    Grace Annam says:

    Don’t be silly, Jake. Women don’t have faces until they put them on in the morning.

    Ruchama, that’s actually a feature. If she requires CPR you can do chest compressions by applying pressure on the… ah… handholds.


  7. 7
    Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I don’t believe Thor would wear lipstick, but perhaps people who are more familiar with the character have a different angle on the question.

    I’ve been told Batgirl’s cape is tearaway– very reassuring to anyone who’s read Watchmen or heard of Isadora Duncan. I’d kind of like to see it with a lizardtail pattern printed on it.

    Yay for sensible shoes.!

  8. 8
    NancyP says:

    Thrymskvitha comic poem: Thor’s hammer is stolen, the responsible giant demands as the hammer’s ransom to get Freya as lawful wife. Freya refuses. Gods are in a pickle – Thor is their main defense against the giants. Loki proposes that Thor dress up as Freya and go to the giant. Thor does so. False “Freya” demands a bridegift and blessing from the giant, who then places the hammer on “Freya’s” lap. The disguised Thor grabs hammer, kills giant, etc, returns home with hammer.

  9. 9
    Brian says:

    Great. The FanFiction crowd now has it even easier to ship Thor and Loki in amazing permutations.

    On the bright side, my favorite fanfic-ers now officially have better plot twist ideas than the editors of Marvel or DC so that’s a plus.

  10. 10
    Ampersand says:

    Hey, Brian, have you been reading the recent Hawkeye series (starting with this book)? I think you’d really love it.

  11. 11
    Brian says:

    Looks great, BUT the reviewer said,

    Matt Fraction pens a Hawkeye thriller that spans the globe…and the darkest parts of Hawkeye’s mind

    I am BEYOND burnt out on grimdark stuff at this point. I’ve been so into silver age nostalgia and optimism the past few years just to get the past decade or two of pop culture out of my mouth.

    I’ll give it a try, but the first woman in a refrigerator or traumatic back story and I’m out to go re-read TOM STRONG for the 30th time. I counsel drug addicts for a living and volunteer to help suicidally depressed people for “fun.” My reading needs to be light as a helium hammer.

  12. 12
    Myca says:

    I’m out to go re-read TOM STRONG for the 30th time.

    Laugh! As I was reading the first couple sentences of your post, I was literally thinking to myself, “Man, I hope he’s read Tom Strong.”



  13. 14
    Phoenician in a time of Romans says:

    You know, IIRC, _The Dark Knight_ included a little bit of steel plating under the logo on Batman’s outfit – he couldn’t armour the whole thing, so he stuck a big target on his chest and armoured *that*.

    I wonder if anyone will come up with a boob window that includes a small but extremely hard force-field…

  14. 15
    Brian says:

    Phoenician in a time of Romans:

    OMFG, I am going to base a whole Invisible Woman fan fic around that…. KUDOS!