Spending this weekend at the 2014 New York Comic-Con I realize how far things have come since I attended my first con back in 1973. Back then it was more about comics than popular media although Star Trek original series episodes were often the entertainment in the early days. Things would continue to grow over the years until by the early 1980’s the San Diego Comic-Con had grown in size to become the biggest con in the country. Throughout those early days I can tell you there was one very common aspect to all of them, very few women. This year as I walk around the convention hall there are lots of women. Some of this is due to the expansion of Comic-Con to cover a wider swathe of pop culture as it is more than just comic books. Even with that as a disclaimer over the last couple of years there have been a lot of female characters added into the mainstream superhero comics.
The biggest indicator of this change is the recent change in gender of Thor. For those not up on your comic book mythology Thor has been the embodiment of the Norse God of Thunder son to the ruler Odin. Thor has a hammer called Mjolnir which only he can wield and which only he can pick up, because he is worthy. The new story line outlined in the latest issue of the comic is the male Thor has lost the ability to pick up Mjolnir. Part of the mystery to be resolved over the next few issues is why this happened. What has changed is a woman walks forward and picks up Mjolnir which makes her Thor Goddess of Thunder. Her face is shrouded and the other mystery to be resolved is her identity. Along with a female Thor, Odin’s wife Freyja has been ruling over the Norse Gods recently and seems reluctant to let go the reins of power. The women are taking charge in Asgard, the Norse Gods home.
This is a big event within comic book mythology and it has much to do with the changing demographics of who is reading. In the third quarter of 2013 young women aged 17-33 purchasing comic books increased by 20%. They are drawn to the books which show women superheroes. They eventually may show up at a con dressed as their favorite superhero which represents their ability to find fun in imagining themselves saving the world.
The trend isn’t going away as Wolverine of X-Men is being killed off in the comic books and the new version will be his genetically engineered daughter X-23 who will be the new lead in her own series of books.
I am looking forward to reading the adventures of Thor Goddess of Thunder, and X-23, and hopefully many more female heroes over the next years because there is nothing like a woman who can be as tough as she needs to be.