Last summer, Marvel comics announced it was revamping the character of Thor—as a woman. The decision was controversial, as you’d expect. But comparing the numbers of the first five issues of female Thor with the last relaunch of male Thor, Diamond Distributors finds that the lady is outselling the fella by about 30%. We at Heavy Metal aren’t too surprised—our own cover girl and movie star Taarna has quite a bit of Valkyrie DNA, after all.
Toni Darling (Facebook | Official site) isn’t surprised at all, though—she’s a spokesmodel who began cosplaying as Thor a full three years ago, and the positive reception told her immediately she was onto something.
When did you first put on your Thor costume, and what gave you the idea?
I first put it on in 2012 and originally it was meant to be a part of a group calendar called Women of Marvel. It was actually my first cosplay. I was asked to participate rather late in the game and all of the good Marvel heroines were taken so I said, well, I’ll just be my favorite Marvel character Thor, but as a woman. I picked Thor because my heritage is Scandinavian so I was already a big fan of both the Thor comics and the folklore about Thor. So this costume is more than just my first cosplay, or the cosplay that was the beginning of my career—it is an homage to my family and our values. Thor is an incredibly strong character and I always strive to invoke that strength in my own life.
Did you think there would ever be a female Thor in comics? Do you think you helped it happen in some way?
I had NEVER imagined that would happen. I was both shocked and incredibly pleased when I saw the news. I think that the way I may have contributed is just in popularizing the idea of Thor as a woman. When I first made the costume, I looked and looked online for reference photos of woman and cosplayers as Thor and only a handful of woman had done the male version of him with the body suit. Some cosplayers had made the Lady Thor jumpsuit, but no one had taken Thor and made it their own as a woman. When my Thor went viral, in the next year the number of female Thor cosplayers definitely increased. And I saw alot of cosplayers using designs that were similar to my original. I can always tell based on how they did the belt. Would this have happened without my cosplay? Absolutely. Someone else would have done it eventually for sure. I can’t take credit, I think I was just one of the first to really make it popular. And, cross-playing—cosplaying the opposite gender—was also becoming really popular during this time too. So I think these factors all contributed to the rising popularity of Thor as a woman. And perhaps the popularity of ladies cosplaying Thor is what encouraged Marvel to try it out in the comics. I like to think that it was our collective powers as female Thor cosplayers that made it happen! And I was particularly touched by the new comic that Thor is a woman, its not “Lady Thor” or “Thorina” or an off shoot of Thor in that way. The new female Thor IS Thor in her own right, which is what I was trying to accomplish with my costume three years ago. I think this distinction is important because it signifies that a woman is equally worthy of being Thor, to not only wield the power of the hammer, but to wield the great power of Thor.
They’ve crunched the numbers and it seems that early issues of female Thor are selling better than early issues of (obviously male) Thor the last time the series was relaunched. Why do you think she’s so popular?
I honestly can’t put my finger on it. There’s the basic answer—more and more women are getting into comics so the more heroines the better. Men are also increasingly interested in strong female characters in our culture. But I think there is something deeper here. Something deep within me that really admires not only strong female characters, but warriors. The idea of a strong woman in armor is really appealing, and in a different way than a heroine in spandex. I think a lot of other women probably feel this way. The Valkyries, Wonder Woman, the Amazons etc. are all inspiring in that same way. There’s a certain je ne sais quoi about these types of woman that I really admire and even relate to, and clearly this is true for many people. And I think there is something very attractive to men about not only a powerful heroine, but a seriously strong warrior of a woman. This must be true because my Thor has always gotten more support, likes, praise and positive comments than any other costume I have done. While it’s sexy, it’s certainly not my sexiest, and it doesn’t show the most skin compared to my Lady Death or Mother Russia. But it shows the most strength, and I have to believe that this is part of the appeal. I also think people just really love Vikings in general and the show on the History Channel has made Vikings very hip, so that could also have something to do with it.
What other traditionally male hero or comics characters would you like to turn into a woman through the magic of cosplay… and why?
I have turned Dr. Manhattan (my all time favorite character in comics) in to a woman, and for me that was the ultimate crossplay. I had been wanting to do that for years. I have also done a female Leonardo from TMNT. I would really love to do Mad Max and Hellboy as a woman. I like characters with demons and with depth. I like the struggle they face when they’re on that line between doing the right thing and going a little crazy. I mean, I have an entire to-do list of cross-plays, to tell you the truth—Ichigo from Bleach, Aquaman, Daryl Dixon (Walking Dead), Apocalypse. I choose to crossplay because for me, cosplaying is about paying homage to characters I love regardless of gender. I also like crossplaying because it allows me some artistic licence and I get to really interpret the character in my own way.