Today Marvel Comics made a big announcement on The View: Thor is becoming a woman.
Or more specifically a woman will be wielding Mjolnir, the hammer of Thor. Thor is going to keep on being Thor, since that's like his name and stuff. But he won't be wielding the hammer. This eventuality has been getting set up for some time; in Avengers comics the characters have been hopping through time and they keep meeting future versions of Thor who is now unworthy of the hammer. If you know your lore you know that only the worthy may pick up Mjolnir (among the worthy in the comics: Captain America), and that means some action Thor takes in the near future renders him incapable of picking up the weapon. In these future iterations he's been seen holding a blade he used to use as a younger god, a blade that has been stealthily reintroduced into Marvel Comics.
This isn't the first time somebody else became Thor! A space horse named Beta Ray Bill wielded Mjolnir thirty years ago, and a guy named Eric Masterson (who happened to look just like Thor) had the hammer as well. He later became Thunderstrike. This means anyone complaining about this change is either a) ignorant of the character history (and thus sort of in no position to complain) or b) a misogynist.
Marvel has found some success in these semi-switch stories. Captain America was replaced by Bucky for a couple of years and Peter Parker has been dead for about two years, with Dr. Octopus living inside his body and running around as Spider-Man (that status quo has recently switched back). These are always temporary situations, but Marvel has been very good about using these stories as opportunities to spin off intriguing new characters and storylines. Everybody thought killing Captain America and Peter Parker were cheap stunts and they ended up being high point stories for each title.
Who is the new Thor? Marvel isn't saying, but they are making sure you know this is a real character. Jason Aaron, who has been writing Thor, God of Thunder to great acclaim for a while, says:
“This is not She-Thor. This is not Lady Thor. This is not Thorita. This is THOR. This is the THOR of the Marvel Universe. But it’s unlike any Thor we’ve ever seen before.”
Marvel boasts that this will be their 8th female led title, which is an impressive number in the boy-centric world of superhero comics.
This opens up intriguing possibilities for the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well. Everybody's talking about how the Winter Soldier could take over in the Captain America movies if Chris Evans opts to not renew his contract. Now there's a new Thor in town to continue the movies should Chris Hemsworth think he's had enough Norsing around.
Final thoughts: Aaron will continue writing this new book, it seems, and the old Thor will be sticking around. Meanwhile, Captain America is getting replaced again (it seems too soon for it to have an impact, imo), and it looks like the Falcon will be donning the star-spangled outfit. That means we'll have a black Cap and a lady Thor in a few months. Who knows what could happen to Iron Man (who has also been replaced in the past, once by his own teenaged self).
The press release says this is an all-new hero, but I wonder. Marvel recently bought the rights to Angela, a character that Neil Gaiman co-created in the pages of Spawn, and they introduced her as Thor's long-lost sister. Could Angela be the new Thor? Her hair is the wrong color, to be fair, but surely cosmic beings can swap hair color at will!
The final question: is this enough? Is making a male hero female the right way to do representation in comics? I don't think there is another good way; the comic-reading audience has proven resistant again and again when it comes to new female heroes. Yes, Old Thor will be back at some point, but hopefully Lady Thor will be so established by then that she can, in whatever new identity she has, continue carrying a book.