As one of the founding members of the Avengers, Thor Odinson has had a huge impact on comic books as we know them. Thor’s mythical space opera adventures, written by Stan Lee and brought to life the legendary Jack Kirby, soon garnered a ton of fans after his appearance in Journey into Mystery in the early 1960s.
The character has remained a staple of Marvel’s output ever since, often proving himself to be an invaluable ally to the Avengers in some of their toughest ever battles.
Fittingly, Thor also played a key part in shaping the Marvel Cinematic Universe, introducing the cosmic and magic sides of the Marvel universe to audiences with his first solo movie in 2011.
With his third solo outing, Thor: Ragnarok, due to hit American screens in a few days’ time, we felt it was worth collecting some of the misguided notions and ideas some regular folk and casual fans may have about the Son of Odin and his Asgardian family.
Considering the heady mix of ancient myth and far-off space adventures in the comics and the ever-growing cinematic universe, it’s no wonder some people may have their wires crossed.
15. The Asgardians are the most powerful gods
This is more of a technicality, but the Asgardians aren’t your classic gods. They’re actually a massively advanced alien race that are granted their youth, vigor, and near invincibility from consuming the Golden Apples of Idunn. This special fruit only grows in Asgard and can only be picked by their guardian, the benevolent Idunn.
While the Asgardians are gods to us lowly Midgardians, they’re actually at the mercy of some of the universe’s oldest and most powerful beings such as the Celestials. There are even mysterious celestial beings referred to only as “Those Who Sit Above in Shadow,” who have been manipulating Asgard for untold millennia and feeding off the Ragnarok energy.
With Thor’s mother being one of the Elder Gods, Thor probably has a better claim to the title of an all-powerful god, but even then, he’s still dwarfed in power by some of the universe’s cosmic beings.
14. Loki’s origins
Like his adopted father and brother, there has always been a version of Loki living in Asgard before Ragnarok happens and starts the process all over again. Loki’s most widely-agreed upon origin is that he’s the son of Laufey, the leader of the Giants of Jotunheim. After Laufey was slain in a battle with Odin, the All-Father lived up to his name and took the orphaned child in. While this is true, it’s considerably more complicated than that.
Loki took a more active role in proceedings. He went back in time and killed Odin’s father, Bor. He then pretended to be Bor’s ghost and manipulated Odin into taking in the fallen father’s son. Loki also visits his boyhood self and tells him to put on a show for the All-Father, crying crocodile tears over Laufey’s body.
It works and Odin takes the boy under his wing. Future Loki finds the wounded Laufey on the battlefield and gruesomely hacks him up, all the while screaming at his abusive father. As he tosses the sword aside, Loki coldly remarks that if humans could do what he just did, they’d save millions in therapy bills.
13. Only a select few have been worthy to wield Mjolnir
Thor’s awesome magical hammer Mjolnir bears the all-important inscription of “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor” on its side. As even the most casual of Marvel fans will know, this stops Mjolnir’s might from falling into the wrong hands and being used by someone for nefarious purposes.
There have been many heroes who have taken up the mantle of Thor, including Earth’s own Jane Foster, but the list of characters who have managed to pick up the enchanted hammer may surprise you.
First shout-out must go to Beta Ray Bill, a Korbinite alien who defeats Thor in a fistfight and picks up Mjolnir, now disguised as a simple stick. He gains the power of Thor and he and Odinson battle over who gets to keep Mjolnir.
Captain America (during the phase he was simply “The Captain”) was also able to pick up Mjolnir from the ground and hand it to its rightful owner. The list also contains Hulk, Squirrel Girl, and Simon Walterson, aka Thor’s frog counterpart Throg. Even two of DC’s holy trinity have lifted Mjolnir, with both Wonder Woman and Superman able to use it in two of the companies’ big crossover titles.
12. Frigga is his biological mother
If you’ve only seen the movies, you could be forgiven for thinking that Odin’s wife Frigga is Thor’s biological mother. After all, some of Loki’s resentment comes from his deep-seated notion that he was never truly a part of Odin’s family, having been adopted and taken in by Odin when he was an infant.
However, the comics tell a different tale. While Frigga Freydottir raised him, Thor’s biological mother is Gaea, one of the Elder Gods. Thor is unaware of his true parentage until he’s saved by Gaea in Thor #300 and she tells him the truth.
Gaea is basically Mother Nature personified and many years previously, Odin had approached her with a proposition. He wanted a son whose power came from a different source to his own. The two dieties fell in love and soon Thor was born. Odin and Gaea agreed to keep their union and Thor’s heritage a secret until he was older.
11. His first appearance
A quick glance at Thor’s Wikipedia page will tell you that Thor made his blockbusting comic book debut in Journey into Mystery #83 in 1962. While this certainly marks his first proper Silver Age appearance, it’s worth noting that his actual first appearance was in Venus #11, pre-dating his given debut by 12 years.
Written by Stan Lee and drawn by Werner Roth, Thor made a single panel cameo in the story “Beyond the Third Dimension.” Just in case you were wondering about the context, goddess heroine Venus runs afoul of the sinister Doctor Buffanoff. Using classic Golden Age science, the doctor traps Venus in his mind and all sorts of creatures attack her. The doctor ends up exploding and the monsters are released.
Venus high-tails it back to Olympus where her God friends grapple with the oncoming horde. During the battle, a red haired Thor is briefly seen wielding a club and a shield, although he and as his deity dudebros struggle against the onslaught of horrors. This Thor is more akin to the mythical version, although it would have been nice to see him swing his signature hammer.
10. His origin story
The important thing about Ragnarok as a concept is that, while it’s the end of Asgard, it’s a necessary part of the cycle. Birth, destruction, rebirth. This dance has been going on since before the universe began and as a result, Thor, Odin and the rest of the Asgardians have multiple origin stories. The Thor we’re familiar with was born in a cave in Norway, but the gigantic, severed and sentient Eye of Odin tells of a former God of Thunder from a previous Ragnarok in Thor #292.
Odinson confronts the giant eyeball and stops it laying waste to a fairytale-like dwarven village. They fight, but Thor soon has questions for the eye about a vision he had of Odin bowing to a group of Celestials. It turns out this is snapshot of an Asgard past, complete with an alternate All-Father.
This Asgard’s version of Thor looks similar to his Venus debut, possibly even being a canon explanation for the differences in appearance. In this particular Ragnarok, Odin was munched by the Fenris Wolf, Loki and Heimdall killed each other in a climactic face-off on the Bifrost bridge and Thor battled the Midgard Serpent, defeating it– only to succumb to the snake’s venom soon after. Cheery.
9. His strength
While the MCU movies have consistently portrayed Thor as one of the strongest Avengers, it has to be said that he’s had a big downgrade from his power level in the comics.
Adam Warlock believes Thor to be one of the strongest beings in the entire universe and considering his competition, that’s really saying something. In the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, Thor has been stated to be a strength Class 100+, meaning he’s capable of lifting over a hundred tons over his head.
So just how strong is he? Well, he’s lifted the Midgard Serpent off the ground (while he was mindtricked into thinking it was an extremely heavy cat- long story) and considering the snake could easily envelop Earth and crush it in its coils, that’s seriously impressive.
He’s crumbled enchanted Uru to dust and he’s even resisted the gravity of a neutron star. We’re not asking for Chris Hemsworth’s Odinson to be quite as planet-shatteringly powerful as his printed counterpart, but here’s hoping Thor: Ragnarok gives him a bit of a power boost.
8. His powers
In his more modern portrayals, Thor is essentially a lighting powered Superman, but over the years he’s had way more abilities than super strength, weather manipulation and being able to take flight.
The Asgardians are a hugely powerful god-like race, but Thor’s unique parentage means that his powers eclipse those of “regular” Asgardians by a huge factor. One of Thor’s lesser seen abilities is that he’s able to manipulate energy itself, with powers comparable to the Sentinel of the Spaceways himself, the Silver Surfer.
Once Thor accepted his true heritage, he was given the ability to control Earth, able to conjure landslides and earthquakes that make a mockery of the Richter Scale.
In addition to all that, Thor has also exhibited super breath- able to blow hurricane force winds. Hmm, sounds rather familiar. If he didn’t sound overpowered enough, he’s got the power to wipe minds, which he used to purge Jane Foster’s memory of her kidnap at the hands of Loki in Journey into Mystery #115.
7. Donald Blake was his only time as a human
One of the biggest ways the comics differ from the Marvel movies is that Thor originally had a secret identity – that of crippled medical student Donald Blake. The story was that Thor was sent to Earth and had his memory completely wiped of all traces of his previous Asgardian life. He learned humility as Dr. Donald and after ten years as Blake, Odin revealed the truth behind his heritage.
However, this wasn’t his only time as a mere mortal. Divorced architect Eric Masterson lifts Mjolnir before he dies and Odin merges Eric and Thor together, keeping their personalities intact. After Thor kills Loki in a fit of rage, he’s banished from Earth and Eric takes over the God of Thunder’s duties on his own.
In a much later battle between the Avengers and the Destroyer, paramedic Jake Olson is caught in the crossfire. Thor is escorted back from the land of the dead and given Olson’s form, without any of Jake’s memories. It’s also been suggested that Thor was both legendary Germanic hero Siegmund and his equally heroic son, Siegfried.
6. Mjolnir is his only Asgardian artefact
Thor and his hammer are as as emblematic as Captain America and his shield, but it isn’t Thor’s only magical artefact. One of his lesser seen magical items is a belt named “Megingjord,” first appearing in Journey into Mystery #91. The enchanted belt doubles Thor’s already incredible strength and makes him nigh-on unbeatable.
Understandably, the belt has been used sparingly since its inception. In perhaps one of Thor’s greatest feats, he used it and his combined might to crack a Celestial’s armor, something which is meant to be impossible to do.
Megingjord was last seen in Thor’s battle with Thanos in Thor vol. 2 #25, where he uses it and an Odinforce infused gauntlet and shield to finally take down the Mad Titan. We can probably assume the belt’s been retired as it hasn’t made an appearance in 17 years, but in the wacky world of comic books, anything’s possible and that’s part of the reason we love them.
5. The religion built around Thor and the Asgardians is dead
As the Thor stories are (loosely) based on ancient Norse myth, it’s easy to think that they’re regarded as such, relegated to the fairytales and legends told in children’s books. However, just as there are people who worship these beings in the real world, the various Marvel multiverses also have their fair share of true believers devoted to the old Norse gods.
In Spider-Man 2099‘s universe, there’s a thriving Church of Thor, populated by people who believe that Thor will return to Earth and “smite the frost giants of industry.” As Earth-928 is choked by big business, overcrowding, and pollution, it’s easy to sympathize with their plight.
Even the MCU has its own version present, with brief shot of the window for the Korean Church of Asgard visible in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Whether it existed before or was created around the time Thor arrived on Earth is up for debate, but we’re imagining all the indisputable television footage of a living god flying around New York gave them a huge boost in numbers.
4. Mjolnir is his only weapon
In a more recent addition to the comic canon, it was revealed that Mjolnir wasn’t Thor’s first signature weapon. That honor goes to an enchanted axe named Jarnbjorn (or “Iron Bear” in old Norwegian). It transpires that despite repeated attempts, Thor initially wasn’t deemed worthy enough to lift the might Mjolnir. Jarnbjorn picked up the slack and Thor used it in his various battles as his go-to weapon of choice.
Thor lost Jarnbjorn and after being found and stolen by Kang the Conqueror, it eventually made its way back into the Asgardian armory. When Thor became unworthy after a battle with a super-powered Nick Fury on the Moon (what an incredible few words), he returned to using his faithful axe to smite his enemies in the absence of Mjolnir.
While not nearly as powerful as his hammer, the axe is insanely sharp and is enchanted to cut through almost anything on top of being indestructible.
3. Mjolnir’s powers
As lifting Mjolnir gives the wielder the power of Thor, it’s tempting to think that it’s the be all and end all of Thor’s powers. In reality, it’s more of a conduit that allows Thor to focus his own abilities and boost them beyond his normal reach. As Mjolnir is magic, there’s seemingly no end to its incredible properties.
One of the biggest is the God Blast – a devastating energy attack which is powerful enough to send Galactus running for the space hills. There’s also its ability to transform itself and its master into civilian guises, mostly appearing as Donald Blake’s old wooden cane.
When using it, Thor can also create impenetrable energy barriers and forcefields. Thor has even used the hammer to resurrect the dead on one occasion. If that wasn’t enough, Thor can swing the hammer around his head at twice the speed of light, allowing him to travel back in time and teleport.
Don’t hold your breath for the MCU to get around to those, though, especially as Ragnarok‘s trailer shows the hammer’s destruction at Hela’s hands.
2. His intellect
Considering the fact that Thor is usually portrayed as an impetuous warrior in the movies, you’d be forgiven for thinking that he isn’t the sharpest tool in the Avengers shed. However, Thor Odinson has proved himself very capable on the academic front in the comics.
Firstly, his rise from medical student to renowned surgeon in his time as Donald Blake must be recognized. Since his time as the good doctor, Thor is said to have remembered all his medical training from the decade he spent on Earth.
One of the reasons why Thor is so successful in battle is that he’s a master tactician, able to identify enemy strategies and weakness and exploit them, winning victories over seemingly insurmountable odds.
Thor has also learned a great deal about Earth’s advanced technology from watching Tony Stark work and is knowledgable enough to modify it to suit his needs. While he’s nowhere near Stark/Banner/Pym levels, he’s no slouch when it comes to fancy book learning.
1. He can’t fly without Mjolnir
As we all should know by now, Thor flies by whipping Mjolnir around his head and casting it vast distances while holding onto the strap. This rings true for the majority of his appearances, but the God of Thunder has been shown to be capable of flight without the assistance of his trusty hammer.
In several of the early Jack Kirby era stories, Thor was shown to swoop through the skies like Superman. He levitates unaided in a battle with Storm in Contest of Champions II #3 and in the Infinity crossover event, he also took to the skies without Mjolnir.
Whether he can fly without Mjolnir or not seems to depend entirely on the writer, but while modern lore states that he can’t, there have been multiple instances where he has. Considering all of the conflicting information, it’d be easy to state that Mjolnir is his only way of slipping the surly bonds of Earth-616. Having said all that, it has to be said that Thor looks way more badass flying with a hammer in his hand.
Can you think of any other facts that everyone gets completely wrong about Thor? Let us know in the comment section!
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