SPOILERS for Thor: Ragnarok ahead.
Marvel’s latest cinematic offering, Thor: Ragnarok, is loaded with intergalactic action and hilarious moments. It's an expansion of the God of Thunder's own franchise and the MCU as a whole; and with the fate of the galaxy hanging in the forthcoming Avengers: Infinity War – a few short months away – acts as a key staging grounds for the massive follow up.
But that doesn't mean it's not, above all, a character-driven story. Director Taika Waititi, of course, brings back Thor, Loki, Hulk and more, but he also introduces an army of new heroes and villains. Many have already become firm favorites, but where do they originally come from? Here are the comic origins of the Ragnarok additions.
In the comics, Valkyrie (or more specifically Brunnhilde) led a band of female goddesses, or Valkyrior, who selected the bravest warriors for Valhalla, the realm of the honored dead. As with many Asgardians, she’s based on a Norse figure, Brynhildr. She technically debuted in The Avengers #83, although that was actually just the Enchantress and the actual Valkyrie arrived in Incredible Hulk #142. Later, she joined the original Defenders (as opposed to the group featured in the Netflix series), battling alongside Hulk, Doctor Strange, and Namor, before joining the Secret Avengers in 2010.
In the MCU, Tessa Thompson plays one of the elite Asgardian warriors. After they’re defeated en masse by Hela, Valkyrie works for the Grandmaster as a bounty hunter and enforcer known as Scrapper 142. She’s also responsible for discovering Thor amidst the rubble of Sakaar. Saving the day as part of the Revengers, Valkyrie has already been confirmed to return in Infinity War.
The Grandmaster is the ultimate intergalactic showman. As an Elder of the Universe, one of a handful of nigh-immortal super-specialists (the Collector collects, for example), En Dwi Gast was "born" in The Avengers #69 (1969). For his first outing, he nabbed the Avengers to compete against Kang the Conqueror, who recruited the Squadron Sinister (a takeoff of the Justice League). He's since popped up multiple times to kidnap Earth’s heroes and satiate his need to for contests on a cosmic scale.
Thor: Ragnarok introduces Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster. In the film, he's set up shop on Sakaar, recruiting agents like Valkyrie to capture potential brawlers for his Contest of Champions, where his top dog, the Hulk, eventually faces off against Thor. Unsurprisingly, things don’t go quite as planned for the Grandmaster, who is toppled in a Thor-catalyzed revolution. Seeing as James Gunn and Kevin Feige have confirmed a lot of cosmic elements in Marvel’s future, we probably haven’t seen the last of the Grandmaster (who also happens to be the Collector’s brother in the MCU).
Originally a part of Marvel rival Malibu Comics, Topaz arrived on the scene in Giant-Size Mantra #1 (1994). She originated on a female-dominated world (Gwendor) and was shocked to discover Earth’s patriarchy. Eventually, she joined up with Ultraforce. In 1995, Marvel snapped up Malibu comics, eventually incorporating their Ultraverse into their own multiverse.
With Ragnarok, Topaz (played by Waititi favorite Rachel House) becomes the first character from beyond the standard Marvel comic realm to make the leap into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the film, she serves as one of the Grandmaster’s bodyguards and continually butts heads with Valkyrie.
First appearing in Journey into Mystery #83 (1962), Korg is a member of the Kronan race, once known as the “stone men of Saturn”. During the Planet Hulk arc he wound up a prisoner of Sakaar's tyrannical ruler, the Red King. There, he befriended fellow enslaved gladiator, the Hulk, aiding in return to Earth.
His race first appeared on screen in Thor: The Dark World as the invaders Thor handily defeats in the opening (an amusing reference to Korg's comic fate). In Ragnarok, Korg is voiced by director Taika Waititi, who also provided the motion-capture. Like the comic storyline, he and the Jade Giant are combatants in the Grandmaster’s Contest of Champions.
The planet Sakaar where Thor and Hulk do battle isn’t devoid of life. In fact, buggy gladiator Miek, who debuted during the Planet Hulk saga in The Incredible Hulk #92 (2006), is a native to the planet in the comics. It’s later revealed that his family hive was destroyed by the Red King and he was forced to compete in the gladiatorial games. He befriends the Emerald Avenger, eventually accompanying him to Earth on his vengeful mission in World War Hulk.
Miek has a small but hilarious part in the film, and according to Marvel Studio head Kevin Feige will return to the MCU at some point.
Introduced in Journeys into Mystery #102 (1964), Hela is an analog to the Norse goddess Hel, who ruled over the dead. She’s also the daughter of Loki and Angrboða, a giantess. Often jealous of her limited mandate over the lifeless (and the living), Hela regularly fought Odin and Thor for greater control of the Nine Realms. Since Civil War II, she also found a new lover and ally in Thanos, the Mad Titan, whom she aligned with to regain her realm after Odin’s long-lost daughter Angela deposed her.
In similar fashion, Hela starts Thor: Ragnarok locked away, although her backstory is very different - she is Thor's sister - and draws on a range of other inspirations.
Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby for Journeys into Mystery #103 (1964), Skurge hailed from the Asgardian realm of Jotunheim, gaining the name “Executioner” after a valiant and brutal battle against the Storm giants. Under the thrall of Amora the Enchantress, he menaced Thor repeatedly, aligning with Loki, the Mandarin, and Baron Zemo’s Masters of Evil (when exiled to Earth) at various points. However, Skurge is more complex than a simple villain and even proved himself an honorable warrior during the “Ragnarok” story arc when he sacrifices himself to help Thor and his cohorts escape death.
In Thor 3, Karl Urban's Skurge was equally complex: although he betrays his Asgardian brethren for Hela, in the end he sacrifices himself to save Asgard.
Fenris Wolf also derives from Norse mythology (although his name was originally Fenrir). In the comics, he’s a man that can shape-shift into a wolf and vice-versa who also happens to be the son of Loki and - in the Marvel Universe at least - the inspiration behind the Little Red Riding Hood myth. He was first seen in Journey into Mystery #114 (1965) and played a significant role in the comic book version of Ragnarok, swallowing the sun and moon and bringing an end to Asgard.
In Thor 3, he allies himself to Hela after she revives him from the dead, but he's more a hench-wolf than an Asgard-threat, fighting the Hulk in the finale.
When it comes to fire demons, few rule the roost like Surtur. Initially rearing his horned, lava head in Journey into Mystery #97 (1963), the Norse myth-based flame creature rules over the blistering realm of Muspelheim. Imprisoned indefinitely within the Earth’s core by Odin, he’s none-too-fond of the All-Father and often finds himself at odds with Thor and Asgard.
The demon-king is responsible for kicking off the cataclysmic portion of Ragnarok in the comics, so it was hardly surprising that he found himself at the center of the apocalypse in Ragnarok, although this time it was actually under Thor's will.
Beta Ray Bill and Prior Champions
Technically, these “characters” don’t actually appear in the film, but their heads do. A number of busts adorn the Grandmaster’s massive tower, representing prior gladiatorial champions. Among the likenesses is the distinctive equine face of Beta Ray Bill, a member of the Korbinite race and ally of Thor. In the comics, Bill so impressed Odin that he gave the Korbite Stormbringer, a potent Asgardian hammer of his own. Classic, two-faced Hulk adversary, the Bi-Beast, who's an android capable of resizing himself, is also on display.
Man-Thing, the alter-ego of a Dr. Theodore Sallis, who was mutated by his own version of the super soldier serum, is also present. Last but certainly not least, Marvel’s own Greek god of war, Ares, gets a shoutout. Of course, how these characters all wound up on Sakaar is a mystery Marvel may (or may not) solve at another time.