Thor (Marvel Comics)

Cover of Thor #272 (June 1978). Art by John Buscema
Publication information
PublisherMarvel Comics
First appearanceJourney into Mystery #83 (August 1962)
Created byStan Lee
Larry Lieber
Jack Kirby
In-story information
Full nameThor Odinson
Place of originAsgard
Team affiliationsAvengers
Warriors Three
Thor Corps
God Squad
Avengers Unity Squad
Notable aliasesSiegmund
Dr. Donald Blake
Jake Olson
Sigurd Jarlson
Eric Masterson
  • Superhuman strength, speed, durability and longevity
  • Abilities via Mjolnir:
    • Dimensional transportation
    • Electric manipulation
    • Flight
    • Weather manipulation
Thor battles Hercules on the cover of the character's first self-titled issue, Thor #126 (March 1966)
Art by Jack Kirby and Vince Colletta
Series publication information
PublisherMarvel Comics
FormatOngoing series
Publication date
Number of issues
Main character(s)List of Thor (Marvel Comics) supporting characters
Creative team

Thor is a fictional superhero appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character, based on the Norse deity of the same name, is the Asgardian god of thunder and possesses the enchanted hammer Mjolnir, which grants him the ability to fly and manipulate weather amongst his other superhuman attributes.

Debuting in the Silver Age of Comic Books, the character first appeared in Journey into Mystery #83 (August 1962) and was created by editor-plotter Stan Lee, scripter Larry Lieber, and penciller-plotter Jack Kirby. He has starred in several ongoing series and limited series, and is a founding member of the superhero team the Avengers, appearing in each volume of that series. The character has also appeared in associated Marvel merchandise including animated television series, movies, video games, clothing, toys and trading cards.

The character was first portrayed in live action by Eric Allan Kramer in the 1988 television movie The Incredible Hulk Returns. Chris Hemsworth portrays Thor Odinson in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films Thor, The Avengers, Thor: The Dark World, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Doctor Strange, Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Infinity War and will reprise his role in the fourth Avengers film. Additionally, archival footage of Hemsworth as Thor was used in the episodes "Pilot" and "The Well" of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.[1][2] Thor placed 14th on IGN's list of "Top 100 Comic Book Heroes of All Time" in 2011,[3] and first in their list of "The Top 50 Avengers" in 2012.[4]

Publication history

The Marvel Comics superhero Thor debuted in the science fiction/fantasy anthology title Journey into Mystery #83 (cover-date August 1962), and was created by editor-plotter Stan Lee, scripter Larry Lieber, and penciller-plotter Jack Kirby.[5] A different version of the mythological Thor had appeared previously in Venus #12–13 (February–April 1951).[6] Lee in 2002 described Thor's genesis early in the Marvel pantheon, following the creation of the Hulk:

[H]ow do you make someone stronger than the strongest person? It finally came to me: Don't make him human — make him a god. I decided readers were already pretty familiar with the Greek and Roman gods. It might be fun to delve into the old Norse legends... Besides, I pictured Norse gods looking like Vikings of old, with the flowing beards, horned helmets, and battle clubs.  ...Journey into Mystery needed a shot in the arm, so I picked Thor ... to headline the book. After writing an outline depicting the story and the characters I had in mind, I asked my brother, Larry, to write the script because I didn't have time. ...and it was only natural for me to assign the penciling to Jack Kirby...[7]

Thor, as depicted by Jack Kirby in Tales of the Unexpected #16 (1957).

In a 1984 interview Kirby said "I did a version of Thor for D.C. in the fifties before I did him for Marvel. I created Thor at Marvel because I was forever enamored of legends, which is why I knew about Balder, Heimdall, and Odin. I tried to update Thor and put him into a superhero costume, but he was still Thor."[8] The story was included in Tales of the Unexpected #16, from 1957; and although the character had a different design, some details would be reused by Kirby when he created the Marvel Comics version.[9] And in a 1992 interview, Kirby said "[I] knew the Thor legends very well, but I wanted to modernize them. I felt that might be a new thing for comics, taking the old legends and modernizing them."[10]

Subsequent stories of the 13-page feature "The Mighty Thor" continued to be plotted by Lee, and were variously scripted by Lieber or by Robert Bernstein, working under the pseudonym "R. Berns". Various artists penciled the feature, including Jack Kirby, Joe Sinnott, Don Heck, and Al Hartley. With Journey into Mystery #101 (Feb. 1964), the series began a long and definitive run by writer and co-plotter Lee and penciler and co-plotter Kirby that lasted until the by-then-retitled Thor #179 (Aug. 1970).[11][12]

Lee and Kirby included Thor in The Avengers #1 (Sept. 1963) as a founding member of the superhero team.[13] The character has since appeared in every subsequent volume of the series.

The five-page featurette "Tales of Asgard" was added in Journey into Mystery #97 (Oct. 1963),[14] followed by "The Mighty Thor" becoming the dominant cover logo with issue #104 (May 1964). The feature itself expanded to 18 pages in #105, which eliminated the remaining anthological story from each issue; it was reduced to 16 pages five issues later. Comics historian Les Daniels noted that "the adventures of Thor were gradually transformed from stories about a strange-looking superhero into a spectacular saga."[15] Artist Chic Stone, who inked several early Thor stories, observed that "Kirby could just lead you through all these different worlds. The readers would follow him anywhere."[16]

Journey into Mystery was retitled Thor (per the indicia, or The Mighty Thor per most covers)[11] with issue #126 (March 1966). "Tales of Asgard" was replaced by a five-page featurette starring the Inhumans from #146–152 (Nov. 1967 – May 1968), after which featurettes were dropped and the Thor stories expanded to Marvel's then-standard 20-page length. Marvel filed for a trademark for "The Mighty Thor" in 1967 and the United States Patent and Trademark Office issued the registration in 1970.[17]

After Kirby left the title, Neal Adams penciled issues #180–181 (Sept.-Oct. 1970).[18] John Buscema then became the regular artist the following issue. Buscema continued to draw the book almost without interruption until #278 (Dec. 1978). Lee stopped scripting soon after Kirby left, and during Buscema's long stint on the book, the stories were mostly written by Gerry Conway, Len Wein, or Roy Thomas. Thomas continued to write the title after Buscema's departure, working much of the time with the artist Keith Pollard; during this period Thomas integrated many elements of traditional Norse mythology into the title, with specific stories translated into comics form.[19] Following Thomas's tenure, Thor had a changing creative team.

In the mid-1970s, Marvel considered giving the character a second series as part of parent company Magazine Management's line of black-and-white comics magazines. A story written by Steve Englehart for the aborted project appeared in Thor Annual #5 (1976).[20] A black-and-white Thor story appeared in Marvel Preview #10 (Winter 1977).[21]

Walt Simonson took over both writing and art as of #337 (Nov. 1983). His stories placed a greater emphasis on the character's mythological origins.[22] Simonson's run as writer-artist lasted until #367 (May 1986), although he continued to write – and occasionally draw – the book until issue #382 (Aug. 1987). Simonson's run, which introduced the character Beta Ray Bill, was regarded as a popular and critical success.[23][24] Simonson's later stories were drawn by Sal Buscema, who describes Simonson's stories as "very stimulating. It was a pleasure working on his plots, because they were a lot of fun to illustrate. He had a lot of great ideas, and he took Thor in a totally new direction."[25] Asked why he was leaving Thor, Simonson said that he felt the series was due for a change in creative direction, and that he wanted to reduce his work load for a time.[26] After Simonson's departure, Marvel's editor-in-chief at the time, Tom DeFalco, became the writer. Working primarily with artist Ron Frenz, DeFalco stayed on the book until #459 (Feb. 1993).

As a consequence of the "Heroes Reborn" crossover story arc of the 1990s, Thor was removed from mainstream Marvel continuity and with other Marvel characters re-imagined in an alternate universe for one year. The Thor title reverted to Journey into Mystery with issue #503 (Nov. 1996), and ran four different, sequential features ("The Lost Gods"; "Master of Kung Fu"; "Black Widow", and "Hannibal King") before ceasing publication with #521 (June 1998).

When the character was returned to the mainstream Marvel Universe, Thor was relaunched with Thor vol. 2, #1 (July 1998).[27][28][29] As of issue #36, the title used dual numbering in a tribute to the original Thor series, and the caption box for said issue became #36 / #538 (June 2001). The title ran until issue #85 / #587, dated December 2004. Dan Jurgens wrote the first 79 issues, with Daniel Berman and Michael Avon Oeming completing the series.

The third volume debuted as Thor #1 (Sept. 2007), initially written by J. Michael Straczynski and penciled by Olivier Coipel.[30][31][32] Beginning with what would have been vol. 3, #13 (Jan. 2009), the third volume reverted to issue #600, reflecting the total number of published issues from all three volumes.[33][34][35] Kieron Gillen took over from Straczynski in Thor #604 with artists Billy Tan, Richard Elson and Dougie Braithwaite,[36] with his final storyline finishing in issue #614.[37] Matt Fraction took over the series with issue #615, after having been announced as starting in Thor #610[38] and #611.[39][40]

To coincide with the Thor film, Marvel launched a number of new series starring the character in mid-2010. These included Thor: The Mighty Avenger by Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee,[41] Thor: First Thunder by Bryan J. L. Glass and Tan Eng Huat,[42] Thor: For Asgard by Robert Rodi and Simone Bianchi,[43] and Iron Man/Thor by the writing duo of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning.[44]

In April 2011, Thor once again reverted to its original title of Journey into Mystery with issue #622, reuniting writer Gillen and artist Braithwaite in a series of stories starring Thor's adopted brother, Loki.[45] An ongoing series, titled The Mighty Thor, launched the same month with writer Fraction and artist Coipel.[46] The series ended with issue #22 in October 2012.[47][48]

In October 2012, Thor became a regular character in Uncanny Avengers, beginning with issue #1. The following month, an ongoing series titled Thor: God of Thunder by writer Jason Aaron and artist Esad Ribić debuted as part of the Marvel NOW! relaunch.[49][50] This story arc was voted as the 8th best Thor story by[51]

In October 2014, a fourth volume of Thor by Jason Aaron and artist Russell Dauterman debuted that featured a female character (later revealed to be Jane Foster) in the role of Thor after the classic hero is no longer able to wield Mjolnir. Aaron stated that "this is not She-Thor. This is not Lady Thor. This is not Thorita. This is Thor. This is the Thor of the Marvel Universe. But it's unlike any Thor we've ever seen before."[52] The following October, Aaron and Dauterman signed an exclusive agreement with Marvel to continue their work together in a second volume of The Mighty Thor, also starring Foster.[53]

In July 2016, Marvel announced a new ongoing series titled The Unworthy Thor by Aaron and Coipel. The series follows the original Thor, who now refers to himself as Odinson, as he tries to find his purpose after relinquishing his name and title to Foster. Aaron stated that the series finds Odinson in a dark place explaining, "He failed for a reason we still don't quite understand. He dropped the hammer and hasn't been able to pick it up since. So then we go to a pretty dark place. A darker, more desperate, more driven version."[54]

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