Right now, superheroes are absolutely everywhere when it comes to movies, TV, pop culture, or any possible piece of merchandise or memorabilia you could possibly ever imagine.
At the heart of this boom are Marvel’s resident bunch of heroes — Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, to be precise — The Avengers. Along with the likes of Captain America and Iron Man, in and amongst the action is an actual bona fide god, The Mighty Thor.
Like his colleagues, Thor is a character who’s steeped in history. In fact, given that he pulls his roots from actual Norse mythology that’s centuries old, you could say the Thunder God has a far greater, richer history than his fellow Avengers. This history hasn’t always been great, though, and there’s so much more to this beloved comic book character than what you’ve seen on the big screen with Chris Hemsworth wielding Mjolnir in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Like many of his pals, the Son of Odin has been involved in some truly shocking, stupid, and chilling comic book moments over the decades.
So, with that in mind, here are 15 things about Thor that Marvel would prefer you to conveniently forget ever happened.
15. The Death Of Goliath
With Thor apparently dead — because we all know how permanent death in comics is… — the Marvel landscape was shocked to its core when the God of Thunder resurfaced during the comic book Civil War arc. As Captain America and his allies battled Iron Man and Co. over the concept of the Superhero Registration Act, both sides were deemed as relative equals. Well, until the Son of Odin appeared and swung the odds in the favor of the Armored Avenger.
What was most shocking is that one of Thor’s first acts was to kill giant superhero Goliath. This brutal act was enough to shock both sides into a brief truce, although it would quickly be revealed that this Thor was actually a robot clone created by Tony Stark, Reed Richards, and Hank Pym. Regardless, it tarnished the name and reputation of the real Thor to many longtime comic book fans.
14. His Liquid Form
There have been several different takes on Thor over the decades, but one of the most bizarre and odd incarnations of the Son of Odin was when he was turned into actual liquid.
During Ragnarok, which is essentially Asgard’s version of Terminator 2’s Judgment Day, it’s said that Thor and the dreaded Midgard Serpent will ultimately kill each other in battle. Well aware of this, the Thunder God basically looked fate directly in its face and taunted it, deciding to attack the situation head on when confronted by the Midgard Serpent. It’s worth noting that, at this point in time, Thor had been made immortal, and so rather than death, his supposed final battle instead turned him into actual liquid.
13. The First Thor
In terms of comic book characters, Thor wasn’t the first, err, Thor to appear. Whilst the Son of Odin as we know and love him would debut in August 1962’s Journey into Mystery #83, a version of Thor actually first appeared back in 1951’s Venus #12.
Here, in the “Trapped in the Land of Terror” story featured in the issue, we see Thor come to the assistance of Loki to rescue the titular Venus. In this tale, Thor was every bit the classic Norse figure as depicted in the original mythological stories of centuries past, including him controlling the actual weather at one point.
The character’s ever-so-brief run at that time lasted for just two issues, and it wouldn’t be until that 1962 issue of the Journey into Mystery title before he’d resurface. From there, he would quickly go on to cement his spot as a big-time player in the comic book world.
12. His Rogues Gallery
Where comic book heroes are concerned, the old saying claims that a hero is only as good as the villains he faces. As such, Batman and Spider-Man are loved by the masses due to the fantastic rogues gallery that the pair have.
For Thor, he sadly comes up short when looking at the foes he regularly faces. Sure, so many of his villains may be huge in terms of scale and powers, but the majority of them feel boring or lackluster. Hela, the ruler of the Norse version of Hell, is an interesting and sinister character, and then there’s Loki, of course, but the likes of Mongoose, Mister Hyde, Human Cobra, Grey Gargoyle, Zarrko, Radioactive Man, and even the awesome-in-principle Fing Fang Foom are all largely bland and boring bad guys and come off as nothing more than mild fodder in the villain stakes.
11. The Failed TV Show
Many people may well be aware that Thor made his first live-action appearance in a TV movie — 1988’s The Incredible Hulk Returns — based on the famed Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno-starring Incredible Hulk series. What most aren’t aware of, though, is that this project began life as a backdoor pilot of sorts for a Thor-centered show.
The plan was for this Hulk/Thor crossover to be the launching pad for a solo series for the God of Thunder. Looking to pull on the appeal of The Incredible Hulk, the idea was to follow a similar path of two separate entities struggling to exist — only, in this case, it was Donald Blake and Thor, as opposed to David Banner and the Green Goliath.
Interestingly, the concept saw Blake and Thor as two separate people, with the Son of Odin serving as a servant of Blake’s instead of them sharing the same body. Regardless, for the most part of this feature, Thor was an unlikable jackass, and the planned series never happened.
10. The Over-reliance On Loki
Granted, Tom Hiddleston has brought the big-screen Loki to life in an absolutely magnificent way, thus increasing the God of Mischief’s popularity to no end, but even before we saw a cinematic Loki, the character was often overused in the comic book world.
Of course, every hero has a greatest nemesis, the one most notable rogue — Batman has The Joker, Captain America has Red Skull, Superman has Lex Luthor, and Spider-Man has The Green Goblin (or possibly Doc Ock to some fans) — and Loki is most certainly the villain most closely associated with Thor. The problem is, though, due to the so-so nature of the rest of the Thunder God’s rogues gallery, it has often felt like Loki has been far too frequently used over the decades, with the various Thor books having far too much of an over reliance on this much-loved bad guy.
9. The God Complex
Being a bona fide god, Thor has been known to be quite the arrogant sort at times over the decades. The problem with his role as a god, however, is that Marvel Comics has often struggled with making him appealing to the regular man.
Despite some huge surges in popularity at times, so often, the various Thor titles would find themselves selling poorly or struggling to find an audience. After all, while we all want to see over-the-top heroes, we also like to be able to relate to them on some sort of level, so Marvel used various everyday alter-egos for Thor over the years, with him inhabiting the likes of Donald Blake, Eric Masterson, and Sigurd Jarlson at times.
Of course, when sales would pick up, Marvel had the stupid habit of removing the everyman element and going back to having Thor just be, well, Thor. That would quickly be followed by backtracking and having him bond with a Blake or Masterson once more, though.
8. He Single-Handedly Defeated Thanos
Yes, as in that Thanos.
While Marvel Studios and Disney are doing all they can to make Thanos seem like a major, major deal in the Marvel Cinematic Universe these days, there’s a little secret they likely don’t want you to know. Given that the cinematic Mad Titan is being lined up to be more powerful than the combined might of The Avengers, he doesn’t seem all that tough when you remember that Thor single-handedly defeated the villain in the comic book world. Not only that, but the Son of Odin barely broke a sweat in doing so.
So negative was the reaction from fans and even writers/artists to this whole event, Marvel quickly rejigged the implications of the battle by explaining that it was actually a Thanos clone called Thanosi that had been bested by the Thunder God. Right…
7. Thunder Frog
In fairness, these days, the character is revered by many longtime comic book fans and seen as something of a cult favorite, but when the decision was first made to turn Thor into an actual frog, it caused outrage amongst the comics community.
The person who did this to our beloved Thunder God? Why, of course, it was Loki. Using Surtur’s magical Sword of Doom, Loki manages to turn his half-brother into a frog. As in ‘ribbit, ribbit.’ Lasting for three issues, this Thunder Frog would even have his own miniature armor, cape, and version of Mjolnir.
6. Asgard, New York
Whilst Asgard may well at one point have been part of Oklahoma, more memorable was when the relaunch of the main “Thor” title in 2007 saw Asgard placed above New York. As the Thunder God was now ruling the roost in Asgard, he decided to work on the relationship between Asgardians and humans by bringing his realm down to Earth.
The main Thor book itself treated this rightly as a huge deal, but that title was let down by the rest of the Marvel Comics world. Considering how many of Marvel’s biggest names were based in New York at the time, you’d think it would be a pretty big deal or at least deserve a passing mention to see a floating planet full of actual gods above their heads.
Instead, Marvel completely fumbled the ball with what could’ve been a huge title –crossing plot points and the Thor tales themselves would lose any sense of consequence due to this huge change hardly being even mentioned elsewhere.
5. People Preferred Beta Ray Bill
So often in the comic book industry, a character will have a run that is seen as pivotal to the overall legacy of the hero — such as what Frank Miller did with Daredevil, what Chris Claremont did with The X-Men, and what David Michelinie did with Iron Man — and for Thor, that iconic run came when Walt Simonson took over both writing and art duties.
In his very first issue, Simonson introduced a character by the name of Beta Ray Bill. Looking like a racehorse with a cocaine habit, Bill was one of the most visually unique characters in the Marvel realm, and he’d prove himself by actually beating Thor and somehow even lifting Mjolnir. So impressed was Odin by all of this, he created a new hammer — dubbed Stormbreaker — for Beta Ray Bill.
4. He Was Long Seen As A C-Lister
Sure, these days you can barely go anywhere without seeing some sort of merchandise with Chris Hemsworth’s Thor on it, but, much like his fellow cinematic Avengers, the Son of Odin was often seen as a C-list player in the Marvel comic book world.
While Spider-Man and The X-Men were so often seen as the crown jewels of Marvel Comics, fans had long since grown bored of the tales of the likes of Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, and The Hulk. Simply put, nobody cared about these characters anymore. In fact, nobody had cared about them for decades. Until the introduction of Winter Soldier or Civil War, Cap hadn’t been relevant since World War II came to an end. As for Stark, no one had ever really been all that fussed on ol’ Shellhead bar the time in the 1980s when he became an alcoholic. Then there was Thor, an almighty god who talked like an extra in a Shakespeare play.
3. Ultimate Thor
Marvel’s Ultimate line of comics is certainly a mixed bag. Regardless of how successful or acclaimed they were or were not, you can’t say that Marvel didn’t at least take some bold decisions with this world. While poor Peter Parker was tragically killed off, another standout part of the Ultimate realm is its handling of Thor.
Played as a comical figure, Thor was initially deemed unhinged and deluded by his fellow Avengers. Known officially as a nurse called Thorleif Golmen, this take on the character had a nervous breakdown on the eve of turning 30 and would spend 18 months in a mental institute due to his frequent claims of really being the Norse God of Thunder, Thor.
It’s a fairly obvious point to make, but nearly everything about Thor is completely unoriginal and merely just pulled directly from Norse mythology.
We can all get carried away by the grandeur and spectacle of seeing the Thunder God cracking skulls on the big screen, and Marvel would have you believe that this is all them. But the reality of the matter is, with Thor, they simply took a long-established figure of a mythology that has been around for centuries and brought him to comic book life. So much of the comic book Thor is lick-for-lick taken from previously known facts of the Norse figure, including his roots, his name, his world, his allies and enemies, his supposed powers, and even Mjolnir.
1. Stan Lee’s Minimal Credit
When people think of Thor, it’s often referenced how he’s yet another of the many superheroes to be created by the legendary duo of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Now, as much as we all love Stan “The Man,” when it comes to Thor, he actually deserves very minimal credit.
As mentioned, Thor himself was largely pulled from established Norse mythology, but comic book-wise, his creation is put at the door of Lee, Kirby, and occasionally Larry Lieber. What you may not actually know, though, is that it was really Kirby and Lieber (who is actually Stan’s younger brother) who were the main minds behind Thor.
Sure, it was Stan Lee who thought to seek inspiration from the gods, but he has since gone on record to say that he was too busy to write the stories for the character and so had his brother Larry — and, to a lesser extent, Robert Bernstein — do that work. As for the design of Thor, that was entirely the work of Jack Kirby.
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