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Monday, June 27, 2016

Tell Me All Your Thoughts on Thor, Cause I'd Really Like to Meet Her

For years I've watched as the American graphic novels sections have shrunk in bookstores and libraries as more and more space has been allocated for manga and it makes me mad. I don't have anything against manga except that I hate how everything about it, from its crappy little paperback size to the art that angers my eyes such that I feel my glasses prescription getting even worse somehow. Honestly, the fact that you read it backwards is so far down the list in grievances I only bring it up because what's up with that?

I don't care if it exists, and if you like it I don't think it's a personality flaw or anything (though I would not rule it out as a cause for suspicion). I try not to be one of those people who get angry that something they don't care about is popular. There's a real danger in thinking that because your friend group is into something, it should be the only thing.

Like when fans of a certain TV show assume that if anything else has better ratings it's because the system was rigged against them. All of my friends like my show, and everyone I know on social media do too, how could the other one win? If that kind of reasoning worked, Game of Thrones would be the most popular show on TV right now because it's literally all I hear about ever. It's not even in the top ten for cable shows. Walking Dead, WWE Raw, and something called Fixer Upper; all have way more viewers. Even The Talking Dead has better ratings. And that's not even talking about the juggernauts that are The Big Bang Theory, Dancing with the Stars, and Empire.

But who talks about Empire? Not me. Not anyone I know. Empire must not be good because my friends don't like it. I see zero Empire memes on Facebook OR Instagram. If Empire were a political candidate, it would win by a landslide and white people would be reminded, again, that it doesn't matter how noisy and entitled we act, and how much we assume that this world is still made just for us, there are millions of people who see the world way differently. Hmm. Interesting. I wonder if there are any parallels to this today?


Here's the thing, even without the TV shows, it's just such a good time to be reading comics. I just read the first book in the new run of Archie, and holy crap, you guys. Archie is good. It's funny and modern and self-aware. There are some super weird, one-off books like Archie vs. Predator and Afterlife with Archie (Archie vs. zombies!)!! that are also great.
Anyway, in recent years I've been pleased to see American comics reclaiming their shelf space. At my library, for example, the graphic novel section has steadily increased alongside the popularity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and to a lesser extent the DC one, whatever they call it. Comics are everywhere. Walking Dead is, I hear, a popular show. We've got a Preacher show now, and Powers, and a bunch of great TV shows about people who dress up in bright colors and fight crime and actually do all kinds of other things. We can't get enough of it.

The Jughead books are being taken over by the writer of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, which I've mentioned before but is deeply satisfying and hilarious.

That writer is Ryan North, who some of you may know from the webcomic Dinosaur Comics which makes me laugh a lot.

That's not what I wanted to talk about, though. It was just an example. Like, comics are so good right now that even Archie is killing it. Indie comics are good. Like Lumberjanes. Check out Lumberjanes, you guys. It's what you get if you cross My Little Pony's obsession with friendship with the overall aesthetic of roller derby. Cool, tough girls at a haunted girl scout camp who fight monsters! Gleeful violence! Great visuals!


This list can go on and on. Check out Delilah Dirk! Disney is making a movie about her. People call her the girl Indiana Jones but I haven't seen any Indiana Jones with moves like this.

There's more! American Born ChineseZita the Spacegirl, Cleopatra in Space, Lady Killer (about a 50s housewife who is also an assassin), there's probably a jillion more. I am but one man!

But you guys, that's not even what I wanted to talk about. What I wanted to talk about is Thor.

OK, do me a favor. Go find the Thor: God of Thunder run by Aaron Ribic. I've never been a Thor guy. Even as a kid I thought he was ridiculous. If you're not a Thor guy you'll like this. My wife was not a Thor guy and now she totally is. After that run, where we learn a lot about Thor and his early days before the hammer, and his later days in the future, and when past Thor annoys present Thor and future Thor is annoyed by both of them, we get to the real good stuff.

Thor isn't worthy to hold the hammer anymore. We don't know why, but guys, there's always gotta be a Thor. So someone else picks up the hammer. And she rules. And we start to see why American comics resonate. Why there are things like secret identities. 

The story we're always fed about secret identities is that the good guy does it to protect his family. Spiderman is tough, but Aunt May and Mary Jane aren't. If people knew who he was (which is the worst kept secret in the Marvel universe) they would go after these vulnerable people to punish him. While I get this, I also get why wearing a mask has power beyond it.

When Batman puts on the mask and the bad gruff voice he gets to forget that he's (spoiler) Bruce Wayne. He puts on a persona and is someone else for a little bit. Spiderman is confident and witty while he beats up villains, but he's a shy, bookish nerd out of costume. When Thor, whose identity we eventually learn but I don't want to spoil, becomes Thor she gets to right wrongs she's seen her whole life. She fixes old grudges. She knocks off some heads of some bad guys who have caused problems for her in the past.

Why do people dress up for Halloween? Or comic-con? Or Game of Thrones hipster parties? Because we all want a minute to be someone different. It's why some people drink and why other people (like me) simulate this drunkenness by staying up too late and getting to where I can't stop laughing about things that aren't funny.

This isn't a new question, but it's still an interesting one. What if we could wear a mask and have the power to do the things we've always wanted to do? Would you become a hero or a monster or something in between? If nobody knew who you were, how would you wield that power?

OK, let's say that you already do wield that power, but you may or may not know already. 

Online harassers use the power of anonymity and the abundance of personal information online to ruin lives. Predators target vulnerable groups, specifically victims of sexual assault and abuse, and use online personas to seduce them in the guise of being understanding and "there for them". Rapists pretend to be college students, or a certain religion, or whatever someone really wants to see while swiping on Tinder.

You guys, and usually when I'm writing here on the world wide web I include all of humanity in "you guys," so I'm not just talking to men, but in this case when I say you guys I mean you guys. You. Guys. This is the space where we can have the most impact, among other dudes. I can go into feminist spaces all day and tell them what they already know and derive a certain amount of recognition and satisfaction, because that kind of talk is welcome there. But I'm not fixing anything. I'm not changing any minds. The people who need to hear this are the ones who frequent those spaces only to harass.

 If you're somehow within the reach of my voice and you've gotten this far into my blog and haven't blocked me already because of my Facebook you need to listen: if you're using anonymity on the internet to threaten, or harass, or demean people who are vulnerable and oppressed, cut that out. We don't need you. As a society. You're done.

This war you think you're fighting? You've lost. For every post you vomit into the world about how Mad Max is anti-men because Furiosa is a better shot than Max, there are two sequels proposed. You started a boycott against Star Wars because it somehow represents P.C. culture? Frozen makes you mad because Elsa doesn't get a boyfriend? Oof, I guess they can't hear you because they're too busy listening to cash registers ding. A woman on the internet thinks it's dumb that a warrior woman would leave literally all of her vital organs exposed on the battlefield in the pursuit of fashion and that threatens what, your lifestyle? You wear that. Metal thongs aren't comfortable, I'm told, but I'm sure willing to let you find out for us. 

Those message boards that you frequent where it sounds like everyone agrees with you and there's a handful of crazies out there who need to get shouted down by your big man voice? Yesterday my daughter was telling me about how in her fourth grade class the girls won at tug-of-war and the boys said it wasn't fair. Why not? They couldn't come up with a reason other than if the girls were winning then something must be unfair.

And here's the thing. When we find out who Thor is we realize oh yeah. She's real mad. She remembers everything. And now she's got the hammer. You guys (again, here I mean you guys) you do not want to be on the business end of that hammer. 

Anonymous heroes abound, you guys (I'm back to the royal 'you guys' like how Sloth uses it in The Goonies). One of the most amazing things about the last couple years of my life has been seeing people do amazing things without needing recognition. Me, I need recognition, I thrive on it. I need to work on this. I could learn a thing or to from Thor. That's a weird sentence to write.