One of the core superheroes of the Marvel Universe, the Mighty Thor is a wonderful blend of science fiction and fantasy. A god who lives among humanity as its protector, Thor has fought alongside the Avengers for many years and even sided against his fellow heroes when necessary (he had a bone or two to pick with Tony Stark during the Marvel Civil War). He is a formidable adversary to evil doers and a noble hero cut from a different cloth hearkening back to Norse Mythology… interpreted as an adventure comic.
Initially bound to the human physician Donald Blake, Thor has had many guises and was once even a member of something called the Thor Corps (no kidding). In Earth-X, Thor was tricked into female form by his half-brother, Loki. In a ‘What If? ‘ take readers were given a glimpse of Jane Foster as a female Thor and there is also Thor-Girl from recent years.
But when Whoopie Goldberg breaks comic book news, people notice.
Today, the talk show The View debuted the news that the God of Thunder will be undergoing a major change. The decision has been made to make the bearer of the mystical uru hammer Mjolnir will be female. The general consensus is that the traditional Thor will take another weapon, the axe called Jarnbjorn and continue to knock skulls throughout the Marvel Universe. Meanwhile a new Thor will be unveiled.
Members of the Marvel Comics Bullpen spoke to Time.com about the decision, the history of controversy in Thor comic books as well as the dedication to making this more than a gimmick.
TIME: Why make Thor a woman instead of creating a whole new female character in the series?
Wil Moss, Marvel Comics editor of the upcoming Thor series: We can’t give away all the story details now obviously, but once the story is out there, it becomes clear why there’s a new female Thor. It’s not about filling a certain quota. It’s about providing a shot in the arm to the Thor titles definitely, but it’s something that’s a natural part of where this story and the Thor title is going.
TIME: Has there ever been a female Thor before?
Moss: There have been occasional alternate universe stories where there have been female Thors. And there have been occasional stories where a female has picked up the hammer; like there’s an X-Menstory where Storm picked up the hammer. But there’s never been a female Thor.
Axel Alonso, Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief: She wields the hammer because Thor can’t. This is different because for reasons we can’t disclose quite yet, Thor is unable to pick up the hammer. There are a number of women in Thor’s life, and we’re going to tease out for quite awhile the identity of who this woman is. But one of the women in Thor’s life picks up the hammer. She is in fact worthy. And she becomes Thor.
There’s only one Thor in the Marvel Universe. The character we know as Thor will not refer to himself as Thor anymore.
TIME: How many times has the hammer changed hands?
Moss: For the majority of the character’s history with the company, it has been this Thor. There have been periods when other people have had the hammer. Most famously Beta Ray Bill picked up the hammer and was Thor for a while. But for the majority of the character’s whole history with us, it’s been the same character.
Alonso: There’s been plenty of moments also in Marvel history where characters have attempted to pick up the hammer. The Hulk, who is arguably the strongest character in the Marvel universe, has tried on numerous occasions and not been able to lift it. So it’s not a matter of how heavy it is but whether that character is worthy.
TIME: How do you think this will impact fans who have been following the male version of Thor for such a long time?
Jason Aaron, writer of the Thor series: If you’re a long-time Thor fan you know there’s kind of a tradition from time to time of somebody else picking up that hammer. Beta Ray Bill was a horse-faced alien guy who picked up the hammer. At one point Thor was a frog. So I think if we can accept Thor as a frog and a horse-faced alien, we should be able to accept a woman being able to pick up that hammer and wield it for a while, which surprisingly we’ve never really seen before.
Alonso: There really is this one Thor for an extended period of time for which we have no real exit plan.
Moss: The male Thor—he’s still going to be around. He’s still a character.
Aaron: I’ve been writing Thor: God of Thunder for about 25 issues now. This is in some ways a continuation of everything that I’ve been doing on that. We’re not throwing out everything that’s come before.
TIME: There are a lot of female comic fans who are excited about this because they always love to see characters and superheroes who look like them. Is Marvel conscious of trying to engage with its female readership more?
Alonso: Yes, we absolutely are. We see fans of all shapes and sizes and genders in comic stores and at conventions. And we perceived there to be a real thirst for characters that reflect what we see in the mirror. From Miles Morales, the African-American Spider-Man, to the new female Thor, our goal is to make our characters reflect the outside world.
Right now we have eight titles that are anchored by female leads where it’s that character’s name on the masthead. We’re definitely committed to growing that audience.