Moderator Whoopi Goldberg’s revelation on Tuesday’s edition of The View that Marvel Comics’ Thor God of Thunder is about to become a woman set the fanboy community abuzz, but what is truly interesting are the implications the announcement has at the corporate level.
A quick deconstruction of the three-minute clip, where the show’s line-up chats over the development reveals an almost chemically tooled shout out from ABC to Marvel Comics, two divisions of The Walt Disney Company. Goldberg opens the segment referencing not the Marvel movies, but the Marvel comic book universe, a rarity in mass media. The June issue of the Thor comic sold less than 37,000 copies, placing 55 on the Diamond Top 300 list.
After some good-natured joking, Jenny McCarthy provides details, and we learn that the Thor we know “messes up” and a woman inherits the mantle and hammer to become the new God of Thunder, and “role model” for young girls. Attitude, unsurprisingly, was overwhelmingly positive, and several audience cheers punctuated the segment.
Superheroes in comic books routinely retire, are (temporarily) killed off, and spawn female versions of themselves (Spider-Woman, She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel), so why the big to-do about a fairly routine development in a mid-selling comic book The segment exemplifies how well Disney’s children are playing with one another. Before Disney CEO Bob Iger came to power, the various units of the company were isolated silos, with Michael Eisner’s focus on feature films and home video far and away dominating the conglomerate.
After Iger acquired companies like Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm, declaring that each would continue to run autonomously, but receive the support of the Disney corporate hub, the popular sensibility was that this was hard to believe. After all, most media empires operate in silos. If there were any synergies or multi-platform efforts to be made, they would be in support of the year’s biggest and splashiest events. The View’s Thor segment—with nary a mention of Thor movie star Chris Hemsworth—proves Iger good to his word.
Iger has already proven that a transmedia approach to the expansion of their properties can be monstrously successful. Storylines generated out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Star Wars will traverse everything from PlayStations to novels to Netflix originals. Now Disney is traversing media with conversations about the stories, with a focus, it seems, on what might be interesting to certain segments of the audience, rather than necessarily on the bottom line or lowest common denominator.
Jeff Gomez is CEO of Starlight Runner Entertainment, a New York based production company that consults with Hollywood studios on some of their most popular entertainment franchises. Follow him @Jeff_Gomez.