Essential Avengers: Thor

Marvel’s The Avengers” hits theaters on May 4, and in anticipation of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes assembling on the big screen for the first time we’re bringing you the Essential Avengers. From accounts of the characters’ epic stories from the original comics to looks back at the character with some of their most prominent creators both past and present and interviews with the designers of the heroes cinematic costumes, the Essential Avengers give you everything you wanted to know about the team, its allies and its enemies.

By Jim Beard

Thor with fellow Avengers Iron Man and Captain America

God of Thunder. Hero of legend. Son of Asgard. Mighty Avenger. Thor Odinson claims many titles, but above all he exists as a protector to all – a cause he’s passed through heaven and hell to uphold. His fellow Avengers see him as a staunch ally, his foes as a living nightmare; he’s the wielder of one of the most powerful weapons in the universe and he’s definitely someone you want on your side in a fight.

Many tales swirl about the galaxy and the Nine Realms concerning Thor and most of them represent the truth…or as much of the truth as we meager mortals can bear. Thor’s life stands as one of valor and justice and to hear his history is to be inspired to greatness. Read on, oh ye of Midgard! The son of Odin and his adventures await you!

Born Better

To be born and grow up in fabled Asgard as Thor did meant being a witness to wonders beyond imagination. Though he often got into mischief alongside his half-brother Loki, the young thunder god knew he was destined for great things – and fantastic adventures. Once he gained his magical Uru hammer Mjolnir, Thor swiftly became a force to be reckoned with throughout the Nine Realms. In fact, the mortals of Midgard – Earth – saw him as a mystical being whom they came to love and cherish.

Sadly, Odin grew to believe his son Thor needed an abject lesson in humility and humanity, and so Thor found himself banished to Earth and transformed into a crippled mortal doctor. Every memory of his life in Asgard – gone. Eventually, Doctor Don Blake discovered mighty Mjolnir – magically altered to look like a gnarled wooden cane – and used it to once again regain his true identity as Thor, God of Thunder.

For early tales of Thor’s formative years in Asgard and of his first adventures as a hero on Earth in the present, see THOR: SON OF ASGARD, THOR: TALES OF ASGARD and MARVEL MASTERWORKS: MIGHTY THOR VOL. 1.

Avengers Adventures

Thor on an early adventure with the Avengers

Not long after his debut as a super hero on Earth, Thor fell in with a band of costumed crusaders to defeat the latest bit of evil from his half-brother Loki. Together, they acted swiftly and won the day, deciding to form a permanent team to confront menaces no one of them could handle alone – from that day on Thor counted himself as one of the mighty Avengers. The God of Thunder’s tenure with the team waxed and waned, but he’s been an Avenger through thick and thin and will most likely always be there to lend a hand in times of dire peril for the planet.

Thor’s first adventures as an Avenger can be found in MARVEL MASTERWORKS: AVENGERS VOL. 1 and some of his greatest challenges with the team can be found in MARVEL MASTERWORKS: AVENGERS VOL. 10, AVENGERS: AVENGERS/DEFENDERS WAR, AVENGERS: UNDER SIEGE and AVENGERS ASSEMBLE VOL. 1-4.

Aliens, Identities and Armor

Tales of Thor’s adventures rate high on a scale of weird and wonderful, as they have for centuries on end. During one such mission, Mjolnir fell into the hands of a worthy alien named Beta Ray Bill, who later was gifted with a magical hammer of his own by Odin. Bill also became a champion for good and eventually one of Thor’s greatest allies. At this time, Thor also lost the ability to change back and forth into his mortal Donald Blake identity and took on a new private life as Sigurd Jarlson, construction worker. Then, a transformed Dark Elf called Malekith achieved an incredible victory over the thunder god, beating him so badly that Thor sought a suit of special armor to preserve his broken body and continue in his life as an adventurer.

These life-altering tales may be found in the THOR BY WALTER SIMONSON OMNIBUS.

A Fall into Madness

A mortal friend of Thor’s, Eric Masterson, took a blast of energy meant for the Son of Asgard and, hovering near death, became merged with Thor by Odin to save his life. After several adventures, Eric regained his separate existence and became a hero in own right, Thunderstrike. Thor then fell prey to the dreaded “Warrior’s Madness” and confronted the sickness on a spiritual journey through his own mind. Alas, once hale and hearty again, his duty to Asgard brought him into conflict with the mad Egyptian god Seth, who tried to bring about Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods.

To add insult to injury, Thor then found himself transported along with his fellow Avengers into a strange new universe after a battle with the psychic monstrosity Onslaught. There, he lived a new, refreshed existence until that, too, crumbled around him and he made his way back to his original reality.

Eric Masterson’s story and tales of Thor’s madness and his subsequent adventures may be found in THOR VS. SETH THE SERPENT GOD, THOR: GODSTORM, HEROES REBORN: AVENGERS and HEROES REBORN: THE RETURN.

The Throne of Asgard

Thor takes the throne of Asgard

After a crushing battle with the mystical Destroyer, Thor became merged with another mortal soul, that of EMT Jake Olson. A few adventures later, the Destroyer returned, thanks to evil Loki, and Thor fell under its withering blows. After healing in Asgard, the thunder god witnessed the fiery destruction wrought upon the Earth by Surtur the fire-demon and wept bitterly for his father Odin who sacrificed his life to stop Surtur’s attack. Thor reluctantly accepted Odin’ place as King of Asgard, but even that lofty position could not aid him in stemming the tide of the true Ragnarok and the disassembling of the Avengers–fabled Asgard fell, and along with it all of its god and goddesses, including the mighty Thor.

The tales of Jake Olson and Odin and Asgard’s final days can be found in THOR BY DAN JURGENS AND JOHN ROMITA JR. VOL. 1-4, THOR: ACROSS ALL WORLDS, THOR: THE DEATH OF ODIN and AVENGERS DISASSEMBLED: THOR, CAPTAIN AMERICA, IRON MAN.

A Return to Greatness

Thor with the modern-day Avengers

But nothing fades away forever, and most certainly not our myths of gods and demons. The mighty Uru hammer Mjolnir fell to Earth after the dissolution of the Asgardians, heralding their return. Thor regained his magical weapon and his life as a hero, eventually restoring both his fellow gods and the glories of Asgard. That legendary capital city rested upon Earth after its resurrection and became prey for the machinations of the mortal Norman Osborn and his lust for power. Thor and the Avengers saw through his guile and fought back against his siege on Asgard, striking a victory for truth and justice and reforming their tradition as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

Asgard’s reconstruction and Thor’s latest solo adventures and with the new Avengers can be found in THOR BY J. MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI VOL. 1-3, SIEGE: THOR, THOR: SIEGE AFTERMATH and AVENGERS BY BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS VOL. 1-2.

Ultimate Thor

Ultimate Thor

The Ultimate Comics Universe version of Thor appeared out of seemingly nowhere as a powerful man with a hammer claiming to be a god and gaining many converts to his beliefs. He joined with some of Earth’s costumed adventurers in the government-sponsored Ultimates team, and aided them against such menaces as the incredible Hulk and an alien invasion.

The story of Ultimate Thor can be found in the ULTIMATE ULTIMATES COLLECTION, ULTIMATES 2 ULTIMATE COLLECTION, ULTIMATE COMICS THOR and ULTIMATE COMICS NEW ULTIMATES: THOR REBORN.