Thor in Myth, Comics and Film
With the Marvel/ Paramount Pictures production of Thor (directed by Kenneth Branagh) being released on May 6, 2011, we thought it would be interesting to see how Thor has been portrayed in times past. The gallery presented here is far from inclusive, but should give you an historical overview of Thor in comics and other media.
The Mythic Thor
The original Thor was the god of thunder and lightning in ancient German and Norse mythology. The son of the chief god Odin, Thor was the primary focus of many Norse tales and legends (the day of the week Thursday, originally “Thor’s Day,” comes from his name). He was the most valiant of the gods, visualized as a red-haired, red-bearded, and fiery-eyed warrior—an idealized image of the Viking fighter. Thor continually battled the Frost Giants (also known as Ettins) with his hammer Mjollnir; thunder and lightning were supposed to be the physical manifestations of these titanic struggles. Thor came to be seen by the Norse as not only the defender of the gods against the chaos represented by the Giants, but as the defender of mankind as well, and as such he was the deity most beloved by the Norse people.
Like the other Norse deities, Thor made his home in Asgard, the country of the gods. His chariot, which could fly through the clouds or travel on the land, was drawn by a pair of magical goats that he could kill and eat when food was short; as long as he saved the bones he was able to bring the goats back to life the next day. His wife was the goddess Sif (a character who turns up in the Kirby/Lee version and proves that Jane Foster never had a chance). In Norse mythology, Thor is fated to die in the world-ending battle of Ragnarok, after killing the monstrous Midgard-Serpent and being poisoned when the dying serpent spews its venom over him.
The Comic Book Thor
Since Thor is a character out of Norse mythology, he falls into the realm of public domain, which means that any comic company (or anyone period, for that matter) can use a Norse god known as Thor in any way they desire. As a result, Thor appeared numerous times before he became a character at Marvel and, after the Marvel character was introduced, still continued to be used, just so long as he didn't resemble the characterization trademarked by Marvel.
The Marvel Thor
At Marvel, Thor debuted in Journey Into Mystery #83 (August 1963) and continued in that title until #126, when the title of the comic was changed to The Mighty Thor—a title that stayed in place until #503, when it reverted back to Journey Into Mystery (without Thor). Other appearances would include numerous mini-series, annuals, guest-appearances in other titles and, of course, numerous issues of The Avengers, where Thor was a founding member. For a good overview of Thor at Marvel, and the numerous variants at Marvel, we'd suggest you read through this article on Wikipedia: Thor (Marvel Comics).
Controversy as to credits has long dogged the early Marvel stories and the creation of Thor is no exception. The credits to this first story list Stan Lee and Larry Leiber as the writers and Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott as the artists, but who actually did what cannot be determined at this late date.
Following Simonson's departure, the look of The Mighty Thor reverted to a "Kirby by way of Buscema" style. Eventually, variations on the costume began to appear, multiple versions of the Thor character showed up, and it wasn't until around 2007 that the look and current mythos of the character became set.
Thor on Film
Thor, either as the Norse god or the Marvel character, has appeared very infrequently in live-action films. The bulk of his screen appearances have been limited to animated cartoons—most prominently the Marvel Superheroes series done in 1966, where the stories used panels from the comics which were then "animated" (and looked pretty much like Clutch Cargo!). If the feature film does well, there will be more...
And, in a case of giving credit where credit is due, Stan Lee, Larry Leiber and Jack Kirby all get a writing credit on the 2011 film, according to the IMDB.
This gallery was prepared by Dave Miller, Dan Neyer and Bob Gay...honorary Asgardians all!