Okay, the last few days have been a rollercoaster, one where I’ve been grinning like an idiot and occasionally lapsing into giggles for reasons known only to me. Oh, and listening to Rainbow in the Dark on constant repeat.
JANE FOSTER IS GOING TO BE THOR IN THE MCU.
I dared but hope – hell, the article I’ve been linking recently (Calm Thine Tits) expresses a lot of hopelessness re: Jane Foster’s future in the MCU. It aged… badly, but in the best way.
For the record: I always knew Natalie Portman would come back if they just asked and it turned out I was right the whole damn time. Just ask any of my mutuals on Twitter, I was a full on ‘Natalie Portman Jane!Thor’ conspiracy theorist for years… and I was right.
God it feels good to be right.
It feels even better to know that Taika Waititi talked about reading Jason Aaron’s run in that Hall H panel and it inspired him to go down that road for the next movie.
He said it was “full of emotion and love and thunder” which… if you’ve read the run, that’s probably a deep cut. What does Jane die for? What does she have in her veins?
I’ve been writing about how brilliant Aaron’s Thor is for a while and knowing it’ll be a huge influence on a whole MOVIE is just… yes. Seeing something influenced by Russel Dauterman’s art brought to life? I’m half convinced this whole thing is a wonderful dream. Or an elaborate prank.
But the last couple of days have generated a lot of content about Jane and her history in the comics – it seems like a bit of a deluge and I don’t blame you for feeling a little overwhelmed. I’ve been in seventh heaven myself, but anyway – you probably have a ton of questions/concerns!
Fear not! For I, the most obnoxious Jane Foster stan in the whole world, am here to help. After extensive research on twitter (that’s what I’m calling it, no further questions), I’ve compiled the most common ones into this little FAQ.
I have just finished a part of my War of the Realms retrospective about Jane, but that was a discussion of how she fit into an overall theme in Jason Aaron’s entire run. This isn’t a strict primer either, since tons of other people have done that already – including Marvel themselves. I’d rather answer some questions – some of these are actually in good faith, some are probably not.
Either way, I feel they need to be addressed in the context of this new movie. Here we go.
Thor’s a name? How can it be a title?
Short answer – as far as Marvel comics are concerned – it’s both. Or rather, it’s a name and a title, though I prefer the term “legacy.” Thor is Thor Odinson’s first name, but it’s also the title of a superhero who happens to be a literal Norse god. In fact, I’d argue the reason he’s a better god than most is because he’s a superhero; but that’s for another article.
The interesting wrinkle is that because the gods are… well, gods, that means they live long enough to see themselves become a legacy. How they then deal with said legacy, whether to be hands-on or not, has the potential for great storytelling, in my opinion.
Thor has the right to pass on his role as “the” Thor to anyone he wants. He had his identity taken from him – he is no longer worthy – and sees Jane being amazing with the hammer, leading him to decide to let her be “the” Thor.
For Thor, specifically this Thor, being a legacy to be passed on makes a lot of sense. Jane is not the first person to carry the mantle of “Thor” in 616.
You think that doesn’t make sense? I guess not in a literal real life sense, but what does make sense in comics if you applied its logic to the real world? It’s established in the comics, specifically by Walt Simonson and Jason Aaron, in order to tell great stories about identity, legacy, redemption, and starting again. It’s a thematic device that dates back to the start of Thor’s story way back in 1962, when a disabled doctor named Donald Blake picks up the hammer and is worthy to be Thor. Only, it’s usually employed solo to teach Thor a lesson. In the case of Jane Foster, it’s also a chance to let a character shine.
But in Norse mythology-
Yeah. This is not Norse mythology. It’s Marvel Comics. I mean, you might as well ask why Thor isn’t a redhead or Odin isn’t a thin old man in a broad brim hat. Laufey isn’t Loki’s father. Is it based on a lot of Norse mythology? Sure. But only loosely. It looks a tad suspicious you’re getting hung up over this particular thing?
But why couldn’t she have her own identity?
Because then no one else but me would buy her books. Hell, prior to Jason Aaron, most people forgot Jane Foster existed, and even if they did remember her, she got called either boring or a damsel in distress. Fans harped on about how Thor’s better off with Lady Sif (as if women are phone upgrades). Even if she was made into a new superhero, someone would still ask “why her” because again – most people wrote her off as an also-ran. There were a few writers who gave Jane a chance to shine, even within a pretty limited capacity, but not many people cared enough about her to make her a hero in her own right.
If Marvel had put out a comic called Jane Foster, MD and had it be Grey’s Anatomy but with superheroes, Gods, and various other strange entities from the Marvel universe, I’d buy that in a heartbeat, but I would probably be in the minority. Ditto for a movie. Her becoming Thor was a chance to tell a classic Thor story with a new spin.
Before you ask – she could be called “Thunderstrike” instead or given some other title, but… that wouldn’t tie into the overall theme of Aaron’s run. In the movies? We’ll see, but there’s a reason in the comics…
She stole Thor’s identity! Just because you pick up his hammer doesn’t make you Thor! If I took your clothes that wouldn’t make me you!
No. He lost it, she found it, and he gave it to her. She inherited a legacy. It happens all the time in comics. This isn’t just a guy’s name – it’s a legacy, too. No one is saying that Jane is the same person as Thor Odinson, any more than Sam Wilson is the same person as Steve Rogers. She’s her own Thor. Just as if you put on my clothes (good luck to you, as I haven’t caught up on my washing yet) you’d be a version of me. My family would know immediately you weren’t me. My daughter would be super confused, but you could still be a version of me. You’d be different, you’d approach being me differently, but you could take my name and occupation if I wanted you to. I mean… please don’t. You wouldn’t be me, you’d be like… a new version of Roz.
Look, it’s a thing in Thor comics, it’s a thing in all superhero comics from the Big Two. Hell, there’s been legacies of legacies in the Bat family. How many Batgirls have there been? And yes, Thor being his birth name doesn’t change this. He’s an identity unto himself and whoever picks up the hammer could become a Thor.
Getting hung up about this in the context of Thor comics is like getting upset about Spider-Man needing that Uncle Ben origin story. Or Batman being an orphan. It’s part and parcel of Thor’s gig – you become a version of him if you are worthy of Mjolnir – though it’s important to remember that it’s the person who makes their version of Thor, not the hammer itself. It’s just a conduit… but that’s something explored more fully in the War of the Realms, which I will get to in my retrospective.
For people who have gained the power of Thor – see also Erik Masterson – it also means being Thor, too. A Thor. Not Thor Odinson specifically, but a Thor. Thor is a guy’s name, but in the context of Marvel comics and now the MCU, it’s also a role to play and a legacy to take on. That means you become “Thor,” complete with that mantle.
Well, if that’s the case, why are people getting hung up over people calling her “Female Thor?”
Because Thor, in this context being a job/title/legacy, should be gender neutral in the same way doctor, scientist, teacher etc should be. It honestly doesn’t bother me all that much as a way of distinguishing the Thors – much like we call Throg “Frog Thor” – but I get why it bothers other people. I mean, in this context, it is like saying “Lady Doctor” or “female scientist.” Taika Waititi himself weighed in, saying she’ll be called “Mighty Thor,” the name in her solo series. I appreciate that.
But why Jane Foster? Why not [insert long list of other female characters here]?
In Aaron’s run, the gods are deemed unworthy. Therefore no gods, including Sif, Freyja, Valkyrie and Angela, would be worthy. It had to be someone who’s mortal and, like Steve Rogers, knows what it is to be weak but willing to try anyway.
Jane Foster is back-to-basics Thor – like Dr Blake, she is a doctor with a disability/terminal illness* and she picks up the hammer. Because of her nature as a dedicated person who’s always tried to help despite her inherent mortality and weakness, she’s worthy. It isn’t about inherent strength – it’s about knowing weakness and being compassionate.
That’s why MCU and 616 Steve Rogers is worthy. He challenged a bully and threw himself on that (dummy) grenade when he was tiny, skinny, chronically ill, and an asthmathic. Eskine gives him the super soldier serum because he’s a good man. He’s so determined to fight despite his physical shortcomings that Eskine’s like, “Put that man in a science oven immediately and set it to medium rare swole as hell.”
That’s almost painfully worthy.
But MCU!Jane is boring, etc.
You may argue otherwise, but MCU!Jane does display that Steve Rogers streak too. Just watch her. Like her comics counterpart, she runs into danger to help/follow her passion despite being a tiny mortal woman. She drives into a highly guarded SHIELD facility. She rescues people from a town being laid waste by the Destroyer. Throws herself over Thor’s prone body twice to shield him from harm. She punches/yells at several gods literally twice her size if she feels they wronged her. Runs/drives into cyclones (once to study, then again to save the universe) and is strong enough to carry a literal infinity stone in her body without dying for several days.
I know I’m the only person in the whole world who likes Thor:The Dark World, but I remember the line, “She’s stronger in ways you’ll never know.” Jane’s got a lot of strength, it’s just… mostly packed into the body of a tiny pixie woman with fragile pixie woman bones.
That’s pretty comic book accurate – Jane Foster, MD, uses her passionate drive to heal. She’s brave to the point of suicide. She’s thoughtful, cool, and calm in a crisis, whip smart and selfless, even as cars whiz past her head and buildings are exploding around her. She intervenes when people can’t afford medical treatment. She risks her life trying to save people even when the action puts her in both physical and legal trouble. That’s enough to make Steve Rogers worthy – it’s sure as hell enough to make Jane worthy, too.
She’s an astrophysicist in the MCU, a profession not as immediately selfless as a medical doctor’s, but what hasn’t been explored is why she chose this field. To better mankind? To elevate humanity? Because of an innate curiosity about the universe that everyone needs to know about?
There’re hints of that in some Dark World deleted scenes and she’s, again, shown to be very compassionate and brave, not to mention thoughtful, to the people around her. Maybe that’ll be explored in Love and Thunder somehow. I hope so!
Wait… isn’t she also Valkyrie?
Oh boy… we don’t have time to get into that here, but feel free to read my review of Jane Foster: Valkyrie #1! I don’t know if that’ll answer any questions, but… it’s a really great comic and I’m very excited about it.
Right, so… does any of this make you want to read the comics? I hope so. It’s actually a pretty straightforward run – you don’t have to read any others to understand this story – made up of seven collected volumes.
If they pique your interest, there’s more, but I know starting a comic book run can be pretty intimidating, so let’s start slow.
They’re also pretty cheap on Comixology these days, or you could be a dear and support your local comic book shop or library!
How will any of this play into Love and Thunder? I don’t know.
In the meantime, I’m going to be deeply annoying for the next… 840-plus days and googling any metal songs from the 80s with the words “thunder” or “lightning” in the lyrics.
*She’s actually not terminal when she picks up the hammer, but holding the hammer makes her illness worse and she decides that her own life is a small price to pay in order to fight as Thor.