When Marvel introduced the newly rebooted Thor comic book last October, some fans were bothered by the fact that Thor is now a woman. "Bothered" is an understatement—the comments ran the entire length of the field between the goalposts of sexist and misogynist while deeply entrenched fans failed to wrap their heads around the fact that in a made-up universe you can do whatever you want, which includes changing the race and sex of long-standing characters.
While the audience breakdown is not available and there's no way to know if the new Thor is bringing in more female readers, it is clear that she's outselling the last series by A LOT. The first five new Thor books are currently selling more copies than the last five Thor books from 2012 by close to 20,000 copies per month, not including digital copies.
The new Thor also premiered with crushingly high numbers compared to the premiere of Thor: God of Thunder, selling 150,862 copies in October 2014 to Thor's 110,443 in November 2012. NPR's Mallory Yu wrote about the new Thor and talked to former DC editor Janelle Asselin, who commented on the backlash and overall negative comments female fans receive.
"There's a growing and outspoken contingent of female fans that are fed up with being treated as not important," Asselin says.
But as the conversation has gotten louder, so has the backlash.
Earlier this year, in April, Asselin criticized a Teen Titans cover. "Beyond [the] positive aspects, there's just too much wrong," she wrote. It was too cluttered with distracting detail and, editorially, it wasn't the right way to introduce the series to new readers. She also took issue with the way a young female character was portrayed — wearing an impractical strapless costume that barely supported breasts the size of her face.
Asselin's article touched a nerve. Some comics professionals accused her of not knowing what she was talking about, dismissing her previous experience as a DC editor. Then fans chimed in.
"It escalated fairly quickly from name calling of things like feminazi, all the way up to rape threats," Asselin says. She wasn't surprised. Female comics professionals and comics fans are frequent targets for online harassment, especially if they comment on feminist issues.
Thor's being a woman is really important in the scope of representation, but the fact that the books are selling well in an industry that sometimes uses poor sales to cancel a series makes it hard to ignore how powerful a statement this is overall.
(Hat tip to Matt Binder for tweeting about this)
Update: The sales figures for November 2012 Thor #1 issue were originally reported incorrectly as 65,533. Those are the sales figures for Thor issue #2 of the same month; the post and graph have been updated to reflect this change.
Danielle Henderson is a lapsed academic, heavy metal karaoke machine, and culture editor at Fusion. She enjoys thinking about how race, gender, and sexuality shape our cultural narratives, but not in a boring way.