July 15, 2014 at 3:51 PM ET
Thor, the macho thunder god who has been a Marvel Comics headliner for more than half a century and was portrayed by brawny actor Chris Hemsworth in several blockbuster movies, is now a thunder goddess.
So decreed Marvel Comics Tuesday, calling the news "shocking and exciting." The new female Thor, in the form of artwork, was unveiled on "The View" Tuesday.
"This change wasn't made just to add another female hero to the Marvel Universe, it's a change that comes from the Thor story that writer Jason Aaron has been telling," Thor editor Wil Moss told TODAY.com. "We can't tell all the story secrets at this point, but once the whole story is out there, it will become clear why this woman has become the new Thor."
Marvel's superheroic interpretation of the thunder god of Norse mythology first appeared in 1962. In Journey into Mystery No. 83, a frail physician named Donald Blake stumbled upon Thor's mystic hammer on a trip to Norway and found himself transformed into a mythological muscleman. (In later stories it was revealed that he was really Thor all along: his father, Odin, had given him amnesia and turned him into a meek mortal to teach him humility.)
Over the ensuing 50 years Thor became a key Marvel Comics character and a mainstay of the comics publisher's premier superhero team, the Avengers. Still, he has gone through some changes over the years.
"There's a long history of other Marvel characters picking up the hammer and becoming Thor, most notably back in the '80s when writer/artist Walter Simonson had an alien named Beta Ray Bill pick up the hammer and become Thor for a while," Moss pointed out. (It was also during the Simonson era that Thor became a Frog of Thunder in a memorable storyline.)
Why is Marvel giving the venerable character a sudden sex change? "Marvel seems to be courting a female audience with this and other characters," Gerry Gladston, co-owner of Midtown Comics, New York City's largest comics retailer, told TODAY.com. He called the development "a very good thing, since women and girls were not the primary target for super hero comics over the years.
"So far the fan reaction is mostly positive, with some skepticism, as to be expected," Gladston added.
Unlikely as the gender switch may seem, "this isn't new continuity, it's a continuation of stories from the current 'Thor: God of Thunder' series," Moss said. "But since we have a new Thor — plus a new artist, Russell Dauterman — and it's a great jumping-on point for new readers, we thought this deserved to be the start of a brand new series."
On Twitter, some comics fans expressed dismay:
Others welcomed the news:
"We've gotten a ton of positive feedback already," Moss told TODAY.com. "I'm sure some people aren't happy about this change, but if they actually read the story, I predict they're going to be surprised how much they like it."
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