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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.

On the Three Main Gods of the Geats
On the Three Main Gods
of the Geats (Goths)

Olaus Magnus
Thor Battering the Mitgard Serpent
Thor Battering The Mitgard Serpent
Henry Fuseli
Thor's Battle Against the Ettins
Thor's Battle Against the Ettins
Mårten Eskil Winge
Johannes Gehrts

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.

Thor from Weird Comics #1
"Thor God of Thunder"
Weird Comics #1
April 1940
Splash page from Adventure Comics #75
"The Villain from Valhalla"
Adventure Comics #75
June 1942
Marvel Family #23
The Hammer of Thor (1)
Marvel Family #23
May, 1948
Panel from Brave and the Bold #3
"The Hammer of Thor" (2)
The Brave and the Bold #3
December/January 1955/56
The Magic Hammer
"The Magic Hammer"
Tales of the Unexpected #16
August, 1957
Page from Out of This World #11
The Hammer of Thor (3)
Out of This World #11
January, 1959
Batman 127
"The Hammer of Thor" (4)
Batman #127
October 1959
Panels from World's Finest #135
"Menace of the Future Man"
World's Finest 135
August 1963
Page 1 of New Gods #1
New Gods #1
February 1971
All-Star Squadron #18
"Vengeance from Valhalla!"
All-Star Squadron #18
February 1983
Panels from Sandman
Thor from The Sandman
Issue # unknown
circa 1991
Jack Kirby's Fourth World #2
Jack Kirby's Fourth World #2
April 1997
The Life Eaters
The Life Eaters
Graphic Novel
The Savage Dragon #163
Thor cover
Savage Dragon #163
August 2010

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.

Journey Into Mystery #83
Journey Into Mystery #83
August 1962
The origin of Thor-pt1
Journey Into Mystery #83
Thor Origin (pt. 1)
August 1962
The origin of Thor-pt2
Journey Into Mystery #83
Thor Origin (pt. 2)
August 1962
A map of Asgard
Map of Asgard
Journey Into Mystery Annual #1
July 1965
Thor 127 cover
The Mighty Thor #127
April 1966
Cover to Not Brand Echh #3-Sore, Son of Shmodin
Not Brand Echh #3
October, 1967
Thor #154 splash page
The Mighty Thor #154
Splash page
July 1968
Splash page Thor #182
The Mighty Thor
by John Buscema
Cover from Thor #337
The Mighty Thor
by Walt Simonson
Splash page from Thor #365
The Mighty Thor
by Walt Simonson
Simonson double page spread from Marvel Age Annual 1986
Simonson promo piece
Marvel Age Annual #2

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 #1 by Romita Jr.
Thor #1
July 1998
Cover-Earth X #5
Earth X #5
Alex Ross
August 1999
Ultimate Thor 2006
Ultimate Thor
The Ultimates 2 #12
September 2006
Poster of the cover to Thor #7 2008
The Mighty Thor #7
Poster version of cover
Ultimate Comics Thor 1
Ultimate Comics Thor #1
October 2010
Covers for The Mighty Thor #1 - April 2011
The Mighty Thor #1
Standard and Variant cover
April 2011

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...

Title card for Thor
Thor title card
Marvel Superheroes
The Incredible Hulk Returns
The Incredible Hulk Returns
Made for TV
Thor from Ultimate Avengers
Ultimate Avengers:The Movie
Chris Hemsworth as Thor
Chris Hemsworth

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!

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