So, Thor Is A Woman And Cap Is Black: Is This A Big Deal Or Not?

Marvel plans to make big changes to two of its iconic characters, announcing that Thor will be rewritten as a woman and that Captain America's identity will be assumed by an African-American. To learn more about the decisions, Audie Cornish speaks with Maggie Thompson, the former editor of Comics Buyers Guide.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And now, seismic movement in the world of comic books. This week Marvel Comics announced that Thor, that hammer-wielding Norse God, will be a goddess in the next storyline. And Captain America, one of Marvel's earliest superheroes, he'll hand over his shield to sidekick Sam Wilson. And stay with me here - Sam Wilson is the Falcon. And he's African-American - so a black Captain America. To talk more about these changes, we're joined by Maggie Thompson, the longtime editor of the former Comics Buyers Guide and blogger about the many comics of things. Maggie Thompson, welcome to the program.

MAGGIE THOMPSON: Thank you so much. It's a delight to be here.

CORNISH: So Maggie Thompson, give us a sense of how big a deal this is in terms of Thor's story. I mean, the definition of who gets to be Thor is basically whoever holds the hammer - right? - has the power. So how significant is this shift?

THOMPSON: It's actually been done before. They've played around with the Thor identity a lot. And a lot of the long-time fans have said, hey, Thor used to be a frog. Thor used to be an alien. And so there's a continuity that the old hands are comfortable with I think. And on the other hand, it's got people talking. And that's what we're looking for in comics.

CORNISH: Perish the thought. Now I want to play a little clip of Joe Quesada of Marvel Comics because he actually was talking to Stephen Colbert this week about the replacement for the current Captain America.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOE QUESADA: Sam Wilson, his partner, the Falcon, is becoming the new Captain America.

STEPHEN COLBERT: The Falcon?

QUESADA: The Falcon.

COLBERT: OK. But let me ask you something. This guy's - this new guy is black.

QUESADA: Yes.

COLBERT: Doesn't that make him Captain African-America?

CORNISH: Maggie Thompson, lots of joking around this week, and some people actually upset, of course, on Twitter. You see lots of comments. Is this a big deal or not, having the Falcon, Sam Wilson, a black character, becoming Captain America?

THOMPSON: Well, one of the tweeters is a man named Kyle Baker, and he tweeted, wow, whoever came up with this black Captain America is a genius. I'll bet they give him a parade or something. The reason that he did that is he's the artist on a comic book called "Truth" in which Captain America, not Steve Rogers, but Captain America was black in the storyline that he drew. And that was about a decade ago, so nothing new.

CORNISH: So this is one of the former artists behind the comic saying, hey, I've done this before.

THOMPSON: Yes.

CORNISH: So I don't have a good sense of Marvel's track record here when it comes to diverse characters. But what do you make of what they've done? And what should we be looking for in terms of its success?

THOMPSON: I think that the creators of comic books today are in a constant quest to tell interesting stories. If the interesting stories have more diverse characters, you can have more diverse stories and, therefore, more opportunities to sell comics.

CORNISH: What did you make of the reaction to this?

THOMPSON: I think it's very typical of comics. You'll have the people who think it's wonderful. You'll have the people who say they shouldn't do it. It wasn't that way when I read it originally. And there's the kids who are saying, wow, this is really great. And maybe it'll be a collectible. I think I'll buy five.

CORNISH: Which is the goal, essentially, right?

THOMPSON: (Laughing) It's one of the goals.

CORNISH: Maggie Thompson - she joined us from Wisconsin Public Radio. Thanks so much for talking with us.

THOMPSON: Thank you so much, Audie.

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