Tracing its origins all the way back to the original Norse mythology, the Thor series (created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby) debuted during the 1960s and has maintained steady popularity in the years since. He's especially grown in popularity with the help of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, being portrayed by Chris Hemsworth.
However, Thor only became Thor because he was worthy, and other people haven taken up the mantle for one reason or another over the years. This list ranks the very best of these heroes in Marvel Comics, judging them based on their abilities as Thor, how they came to be the mighty Avenger, and what sort of a legacy they left on the series and comics as a whole. As a rule, no one who's solely lifted Mjolnir counts, since both comics and movies have proven that lifting the hammer doesn't automatically make you the God of Thunder.
So prepare yourself for the might and power of the 15 Best Thors In Marvel Comics!
The most recent character to acquire the title, Volstagg is better known as a friend and ally of Odinson. Though he has the appearance of being no more than a fat and jolly warrior, he's proven himself multiple times to be brave and resourceful. Having known one another for a while on Asgard, Volstagg has assisted Thor and his allies in many an adventure, whether it's against fellow Gods in the cosmos or engaging with more familiar heroes of Earth.
He came to be the most recent Thor in issue #20, Vol. 2 of The Mighty Thor. During this time, Volstagg (being a senator of the Congress of Worlds) traveled for a diplomatic mission to Nidavellir. The Dark Elf Malekith -- aka the hyper-generic villain of Thor: The Dark World -- had previously run the Light Elves out from their homes, and they were seeking refuge there in Nidavellir. There was an attack, and while Volstagg attempted to save a group of children, they were all caught in an explosion, and only the former member of the Warrior's Three survived. Seeking retribution, Volstagg was called upon by the Ultimate version of the hammer of Mjolnir. One lift of the hammer, and a new God of Thunder was born.
14 Jake Olson
Not the most noble of men, Jake Olson was an EMT with a drug addiction, as well as a history of robbing pharmacies. During a battle between the Avengers and the Destroyer, Jake is killed. An undercover cop following Jake later broke the news to his girlfriend Hannah; she goes to his apartment and finds Jake alive and well...except it's not really Jake.
Hiding from the Dark Gods, Thor Odinson now inhabited the body of the once-deceased Jake Olson. All good and well, unless you have a brother named Loki who wants to use the original spirit of Jake Olson for their own nefarious means. And so the original Jake Olson was out on the street, and due to Loki forcing him to commit crimes, Thor himself had to step in. He knocked Jake unconscious, prompting Loki to push his soul to the demon Mephisto and inhabit the body...only to be trapped in it as punishment by Odin. On the bright side, Jake's soul was granted peace.
13 Dr. Donald Blake
The very first version of Thor to appear in the pages of Marvel, Donald Blake was a mere human who had attended medical school and set up a practice in New York City. At some point, Dr. Blake decided to take a trip to Norway; it's here that he encountered the Stone Men from Saturn, and he fled to a cavern. Little did he know that this was the same cavern that served as Thor's birthplace. Taking a wooden crane, Dr. Blake struck a boulder and instantaneously became the Mighty Thor.
It turns out that Dr. Donald Blake was just a body Thor Odinson inhabited so that he could learn humility. Odin had wiped his original memories, so even when he became the God of Thunder once again, it took him months to fully recall who he was. However, even after he reclaimed his identity and powers, Thor chose to keep this human form to continue being a part of and appreciating the human race.
It's hard to believe, but it's true: Superman managed to wield the power of Thor (if only briefly) during the JLA/Avengers comic event that lasted for four issues between late 2003 and early 2004. The story involves Krona (of DC) and the Grandmaster (of Marvel) playing a game that can save the latter's universe. It involves members of the Justice League and members of the Avengers collecting artifacts from each other's universes. It doesn't exactly go as planned, and when it seems like the Grandmaster has won, Krona merges both realities together.
The merging of the universes proves to be threatening for (almost) all involved, so the two teams come together to take Krona down. During the insane battle that ensues in issue #4, Thor hands Mjolnir to Superman (much to his surprise) so that he can use it against Krona's final line of defense. Overwhelmed by the power bestowed upon him, Superman is able to harness the mighty power of the Gods and take down Krona's wall.
11 Wonder Woman
Where Superman became Thor for a desperate brief moment, Wonder Woman proved she was indeed worthy. Happening in the pages of DC vs Marvel Comics issue #3, Diana comes across Mjolnir after Thor himself loses it in a battle with Captain Marvel (no, not that Captain Marvel). Reading the inscription and questioning what it means to be "worthy," she picks it up and immediately is infused with the power of the Gods, change in clothes and all.
In issue #4, she proclaims that the hammer grants her power like she never had before, "...the power of a god." Storm of the X-Men soon appears to let Diana know that she and her have to engage in battle. Diana realizes that she'll be able to easily defeat Storm with the power she currently wields, but Storm says she will not yield. With that said, Diana drops the hammer and battles Storm fairly....and (somehow) loses.
10 Awesome Andy
A unique entry on this list, Awesome Andy was once known as Awesome Android and was created by the Mad Thinker. He was created using DNA research from Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four, and splicing the molecules with the DNA of a gorilla. He was made to do battle for the Mad Thinker against various foes, but lost each time.
After various other fights and adventures, Mad Thinker improved the Android and sent him to Asgard to attack Thor. Since he was able to copy the traits of others, the Android was able to duplicate Thor's nobility, and thus, his worthiness, allowing him to pick up Mjolnir. During his time with Thor, the Android also developed an independent personality and intelligence; the two defeated the Mad Thinker, and the Awesome Android renamed himself Awesome Andy....and got a job at a law firm once he realized he had no money.
9 Roger "Red" Norvell
Red was part of a documentary crew that, through the power of Loki smuggling them into Asgard, encountered Thor's beloved Sif, whom Red immediately fell in love with. She of course rejected him, and Red angrily accepted Loki's offer to become Thor's equal, since surely if he out-matched Thor, Sif would change her mind. However, giving Red the power of Thor (and in a way, making him the new Thor) was all part of Odin's plans. Using certain equipment imbued with Thor's essence, Red became Thor's equal, allowing him to take his place during Ragnarok (where Thor is destined to die against the Serpent).
However, Red was mad with power, and he kidnapped Sif when a challenge against Thor caused the death of one of his documentary crew mates. Sif was able to talk Red back to sanity, and like that, Red took the place of Thor and died battling the Serpent, with his spirit going to Valhalla. However, Red would show up again later on, protecting Asgard and battling the Hulk, among many other adventures.
8 Dargo Ktor
Dargo Ktor has one interesting characteristic others on this list do not: he's from the 26th century. Existing in a world where everyone is a slave to The Corporation, Dargo is part of a cult that worships the Son of Odin, and has just recently discovered his hammer Mjolnir. Dargo himself had never truly believed in the stories of Thor, but during a surprise attack (led by Loki, of all people), looking for a weapon, he unknowingly grabs the hammer and turns into the God of Thunder. He fends off the attackers, and the cult now see an opportunity to fight back against The Corporation.
Dargo is at first unsure how to go about being Thor, but decides he needs to help his people and accepts the title. However, Tyrus, leader of the Rock Trolls (who helped Loki with the surprise attack) knows it's not the "real" Thor and tries to fight him. As Loki took down The Corporation, Dargo took down Tyrus, thus ending his people's era of fear. Opening a portal, Dargo threw Mjolnir into it so that it could locate its original owner. What a guy!
7 Eric Masterson
Eric Masterson was an architect when he met Thor in his then-civilian form, Sigurd Jarlson. After an attack at the site by the supervillain Mongoose, Eric was rushed to the hospital after suffering injuries. Mongoose later kidnaps Eric and injuries him so much that Odin merges he and Thor together to save his life. In this state, Eric is now the God of Thunder's new body (the same way Dr. Blake and Jake Olson were), which, while thrusting him into adventure, leaves his social life damaged.
At some point, Eric and Thor are separated, then again merged, and not soon afterward, Eric's son Kevin is kidnapped by Loki. Feeling he's left with no other option, Odinson kills Loki, and is thus banished by his father from being Thor. With the position now open, Odin makes Eric the new God of Thunder from this point forward (until Thor later comes back and reclaims the title). Eric would later strike out on his own as the heroic Thunderstrike.
What began as a strand of Thor's hair became a science project headed by Tony Stark, and it all resulted in the birth of a new Thunder God. Originally conceived to be a clone of the original, this Thor came into existence during the Civil War storyline. The clone proved to be too violent, however, killing Goliath and needing to be put down by Sue Richards (and later, to be analyzed by Reed Richards). At the end of the story arc, the clone was destroyed and replaced by Hercules on the Avengers.
He would later be found repaired by one of his original designers, a Skrull who had disguised himself as Henry Pym. After being told he was merely a clone, he took his hammer and proceeded to go on a rampage, as well as christen himself Ragnarok. He would later confront the real Thor in Asgard, only to be defeated...and again repaired later on to be used by Norman Osborn.
5 Ultimate Thor
With a life as full, rich, and expansive as the original Odinson, the Thor from the Ultimate universe has much in common with the one most are familiar with, with a few key differences. For starters, his brother Loki uses Frost Giants and Nazis to attack Asgard in 1939. Killing Odin, Thor was enraged and used the full power of Mjolnir to wipe out enemy forces, but also decimating Asgard, thus leaving him exiled to Midgard (aka Earth).
On Earth, Thor believes himself to be a human by the name of Thorlief Golmen. He would later remember who he really was and be the Thor for the Ultimate universe, with his own unique characteristics. He was last seen during the grand spectacle that was Secret Wars (2015), where, on Battleworld, he was named Thunderer Thorlief (subtle!) and a part of the Thor Corps, who served as God Emperor Doom's police force. One other thing to note is Ultimate Thor's version of Mjolnir: tt's shaped more like an ax than a traditional hammer.
It's true: Thor was once a frog, but that's not who we're focusing on in this entry. Originally a football player who had a career altering injury, Simon Walterson lost his wife and unborn child, which coerced him into pursuing a science that would allow him to talk to his wife again. He eventually gets his wish, but is unable to pay the witch for her services -- so she turns him into a frog.
Renamed Puddlegulp by a frog clan in Central Park, he encounters Thor in a frog state when a war among the frogs and rats is occurring. A piece of Mjolnir is chipped off by a goat, and this chip turns into a smaller version of Mjolnir (named Frogjolnir) which Puddlegulp is able to lift. He is given the power of the Gods and is now known as Throg, the Frog of Thunder. From here, he becomes a part of the Pet Avengers, who include Lockjaw and Redwing, among others.
Comics are fun.
3 Jane Foster
Introduced in the same issue as the original Thor (Journey Into Mystery #83), Jane Foster has been an important supporting character for the series, even serving as a longtime love interest for Odinson (much to his father's dismay). Starting off as a nurse, Jane would eventually become a doctor herself, helping out many a wounded patient, including New York-based superheroes.
Most recently, Jane Foster became the current Goddess of Thunder and Wielder of Mjolnir, after Odinson is deemed unworthy and unable to use the hammer. The added twist is that Jane was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, but being Thor allows her to keep her illness at bay. Even so, the cancer continues to weaken her, since Mjolnir cleanses her body of both toxins and treatment.
Additionally, and before becoming the current Thor, What If? #10 asked the question "What If Jane Foster Had Found the Hammer of Thor", resulting in a storyline where Jane becomes Thordis and ends up marrying Odin.
2 Beta Ray Bill
Part of a dying alien race who chose him as their champion to shoot into the stars, the alliteratively (and awesomely) named Beta Ray Bill made his first appearance in Thor #337. Traveling through space in the sentient Skuttlebutt, S.H.I.E.L.D. detected the ship and sent Thor to investigate. Thor awakens Beta, who fights him off and gets him away from Mjolnir long enough to return him back to his human form (Dr. Blake) and knock him unconscious. He takes Mjolnir in incognito-wooden-cane form, strikes it, then becomes the Mighty Thor himself.
After another battle ordained by Odin, Beta wins the right to own his own hammer (Stormbreaker) and become a new God of Thunder, making him the first new Thor outside of the traditional Norse gods. From here on out, Beta has remained a notable and popular ally to Thor, showing up in the aforementioned Thor Corps during Secret Wars (2015) as well as the more recent Unworthy Thor limited series.
Although he most recently was seen as being unworthy courtesy of comics writer Jason Aaron, the original Norse god himself can't be counted out. From his beginnings as Donald Blake to his continued evolution as a character, he's always fighting for what's right and exploring who he is as a God and person. Even when lost in outer space, searching for answers in a universe that seems to have abandoned him, the Odinson has more than proved his worthiness as the greatest God of Thunder.
He's continued to exist in the world of Marvel Comics for more than a half-century, being a prominent member of the Avengers, showing up in the 1970s Incredible Hulk TV show, and of course, being a major player in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. His legacy in Norse mythology managed to transcend into American mythology as a cosmic hero with adventures beyond our imagination, and he doesn't show any signs of stopping anytime soon.
Did your favorite Thor miss the cut? Let us know in the comments!