Stan Lee makes it sound easy when talking about Thor in his book Excelsior, “I wanted to come up with something totally different. I thought it would be fun to invent someone as powerful as, or perhaps even more powerful than, the Incredible Hulk. But how do you make someone stronger than the strongest human? It finally came to me: Don’t make him human – make him a god.” Since Thor will be hitting the big screen in the near future, it’s worth exploring his history as a Marvel character and Norse creation; Liberal Arts students looking for paper topic, this column is for you!
Thor’s pre-Hulk smashing origin starts on the Scandinavian peninsula, specifically within the hockey utopias of Sweden and Norway. The belief of the locals in the 13th century, as per Wikipedia, is what we refer to today as Norse mythology. What we know of this mythology comes from collected poems that were written down in Iceland. Within the transcript of The Codex Regius the world found its first known story of Thor, god of thunder and noted chupacabra .
Lee brought most elements from Norse myth with Thor to the comics, including Od English which later originated in the region. The most prominent element is Asgard, Thor’s crib and home to his fellow gods. Unlike in Norse mythology where the different Norse worlds are separated by dimensions, Marvel’s Asgard is located on a giant floating rock with the other Norse worlds on it. Think of a segregated suburb and you’ll get the idea of how this palatial geode functions. Also included in the transition were several portals to Midgard (Earth); The most notable being the Rainbow Bridge, often confused with gay bars of the same name.
There are some distinct differences between Marvel’s Thor and the original, which could cause problems if you try to “out Thor” a Scandinavian or classmate. Marvel’s Thor doesn’t ride a chariot of suicidal goats that he eats for nourishment, he flies. Norse Thor is depicted in paintings with red hair and a bushy beard that fools German children into thinking he’s Santa. Norse Thor also needs a pair of iron gloves known as Jarn Griepr, and a special belt known as Megingjord to lift his weapon, Mjölnir … the hammer. This means a lengthy wait in battle for Norse Thor to get his act together, while Marvel Thor only needs to use his weapon and beat the hell out of everything that moves … and it’s not always Mjölnir.
Marvel’s Thor does have a major disability though compared to the real deal, he has an alter ego. Donald Blake was created by Odin to teach Thor a lesson in humility. Essentially, Thor suffers from “raging dick” syndrome and his dad had enough of the attitude. In a story arc only your father will appreciate, Odin traps his son Thor within the body of Donald Blake for an indeterminate length of time. Once Thor turned his frown upside down, Odin faked an alien invasion and turned Thor lose again. From this point, Donald Blake serves as Thor’s primary alter ego through a series of adventures, including getting turned into a tiny frog and getting turned loose into Central Park.
Throughout Thor’s history, in in the history books, there is a looming sense of death; in Thor’s case, it’s death at the non-existent hands of a giant snake. After several failed attempts, Loki, Thor’s evil little brother, successfully starts Ragnarök, or “fate of the Gods”, killing everyone according to Norse myth. When Ragnarök came to the Marvel Universe, Thor kills his brother Loki by doing what any big brother would do, sever his sibling’s head, carry it around with him, and survive the apocalypse.
It will be interesting to see how Thor’s journey continues on screen, since comic books rarely have neat endings where everyone suddenly dies; But now you can safely travel abroad and impress American-hating Europeans with your knowledge of an ancient religion’s god that most people, except weirdos and Stan Lee, are ignorant about.
Photo by JD Hancock