Since unveiling the new, female incarnation of classic Norse powerhouse Thor in the pages of its comics last year, Marvel has stayed close-lipped about the secret identity of the woman holding the hammer. But now, the merry chase has finally come to a close, with this week’s Thor #8 revealing Thor’s identity as, not wholly surprisingly, the one female character most of America could name if asked to ID a woman involved with the franchise: Natalie Portman. Or rather, Dr. Jane Foster, the winsome love interest portrayed by Portman, to greater and lesser degrees of involvement, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
A long-time colleague of Thor’s original secret identity Dr. Donald Blake, Foster first appeared in 1962 as a nurse working alongside the superhero surgeon, before someone reminded Stan Lee and company in the late ’90s that women could be doctors, too. As with most comic book characters active since the ’60s, Foster has a long and complicated backstory, including time travel, villains like “Thug Thatcher” and “Zaniac,” and an increasing sense of weariness from anyone trying to make it all make sense. The salient facts, though, are these: Foster is a former love interest of Thor’s, she has breast cancer, and apparently her activities as the superheroine are making her condition worse.
It remains to be seen where Foster and her condition will fit in with Marvel’s long tradition of using its superheroes as metaphors for various social groups and issues. (Spider-Man for teenage angst, for example, or the X-Men for racial minorities, or the X-Men for gay people, or the X-Men for people who look like they’re drawn by Rob Liefeld.) It’s not clear what Foster’s condition can stand in for, besides the obvious social ill of battling supervillains while dying of cancer. It does seem, though, from the leaked image above, that fighting against both her enemies and her disease has left Foster feeling like she’s a little Thor.