Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

I have to admit I wasn’t super wowed with the first Thor trailer. Maybe it was the costumes. It just seemed a little Tim Burton-ish, to me. A little too larger than life. But now- NOW- with the second trailer blazing across the internet, I find myself jumping everytime I hear the name, searching through pages of internet rumor and gossip. O Mighty Odin- WHY is May so far AWAY!? Two months? It’s not fair.

If I was going to give an award to the Marvel comic that has transitioned, I think, from least likely to captivate an audience in the modern era to most wildly and epic story you could be spending your five bucks on it would be this comic. I’ve said this before but I suspect this Thor movie is going to bridge the gap between what (to me, anyway) are the two greatest incarnations of the character.

The first is Walt Simonson’s run in the 80’s which I’ve already elaborated on in a few past posts. Long story short, Simonson made the cast and mythology of Thor sort of come alive. Up until Simonson, I always kind of felt like Thor was a ridiculously powerful guy, flying around in a cap and cape, fighting bank robbers. It was ludicrous. Yet everyone knew he was the Norse God of Thunder and they were fine with that. It just DIDN’T add up.

Under Simonson’s dedicated hand we got an upfront seat to the alien and breath-taking Asgardian ‘Nine Worlds’ as well as all the relationships and ambitions of the Norse Gods and their brethren- Odin, Sif, Heimdall, Baldur, etc. Even long-time sappy Thor villains like Amora (the Enchantress) and her love-struck henchmen Skurge (the Executioner) developed a complexity and personality that made them compelling. Simonson’s Thor is like Shakespeare. Or modern day Arthurian and Greek myth. This run on Thor really IS this epic. Skurge’s death (while, like all comic book deaths, has recently come into dispute, but, to Marvel’s credit, they let this one ride for about twenty years) is still one of my all time favorite moments in all of Marvel history. Seriously I won’t ruin it for you with the details, but it’s so poetically badass it’s practically heartbreaking. I’m always surprised people don’t notice this more, in their top ten lists of Marvel deaths or whatever!

And Simonson’s stuff was all very self-contained. The Thor ‘universe’ suddenly became a BIG place for Thor and his buddies, sort of like how elaborate X-Men had been for so long. Thor, the individual comic, suddenly really didn’t need cameos and crossovers to get by. It's more like the events unfolding in the comic seemed so pressing and central, it was tough to fit the events of others comics in the same scope. It kind of dominated, in a way. Now all that being said, who's the other great Thor that I suspect is going to be brought to bear in this movie? Mark Millar’s Ultimate Thor (introduced in Ultimates- in the spotlight for what seems now like far, far too short. Oh Ultimate Marvel- what did they do to you? Just when you were turning into something great.).

I have never seen anyone portray the CHARACTER as well as Millar. That is, not just that you, the reader, understand Thor’s motivations and personality. But exactly what it’s like to have Thor walking around, in our world. Notably, it’s the following touches that Millar put in there that I think really just bring it home: 1. Thor is all about nature. As the God of a natural force, Thor is more into letting nature (and, events) run their course than he is into letting humans scramble around chopping down trees and putting up skyscrapers left and right. It isn’t that Thor doesn’t come to love- and even champion- the human race. It’s just that destroying whaling ships in the Atlantic ocean is actually more likely to be on his agenda than stopping a bank robbery. 2. Thor does not work for ‘the man’. The God of Thunder doesn’t exactly go around taking orders from government employees. Hell, from Thor’s perspective human governments are petty children compared to the Asgardian one. In fact, Thor might very well decide that he doesn’t like something that America or China or Russia is doing and he has absolutely no moral compunction against taking action to stop it.

My favorite scene from the Millar’s Ultimates features a Sam L. Jackson based Nick Fury hitting up Thor for an Ultimates (Avengers) membership. The dialogue is lazy, cynical- kind of giving you the impression that they’ve already had this conversation too many times and now they’re just going through the motions as a joke? Fury says: “C’mon Thor. I thought you said you were here to save the world.” Thor’s respone: “Oh, I AM here to save it, Colonel Fury. From people like you.” 3. Thor sounds like a paranoid schizophrenic. Seriously! Like I said before it just doesn’t add up, right? If some blond guy with a hammer started spouting off about the Rainbow Bridge and frost giants you’d think he was crazy, right? So he’s a big guy with a hammer talking crazy talk! Isn’t that a little worrying? I’d love to see some of this subtle tension in the actual Avengers movie. Throughout Millar’s run, Cap and Iron Man seem to ‘tolerate’ Thor more than accept him. Everytime he starts to go off about his father, Odin, and Ragnarok you can just picture them shooting glances at each other out of the corner of their eyes.

This tension finally boils over when Thor insists that his half-brother Loki has traveled from another world as part of a plan to conquer all of reality leading the Ultimates to actually hunt Thor down for psychiatric treatment. Of course, what I REALLY love about this is that little element of doubt- just that little opening- for Loki to grab onto and use. Loki’s greatest weapon to use against Thor is, of course, trickery. And in this case maybe just convincing the God of Thunder, and everyone around him, that he and Thor don’t exist is his greatest trick. Could all of Asgard just be in Thor’s head? I mean, it isn’t like anyone has been practicing the Norse religion any time recently. So with no followers to speak of and being supposedly ‘banished’ to ‘Midgard’ who’s to say Thor ISN’T some former mental patient who’s developed some wild delusions? Will the God of Thunder be able to do much…if he doesn’t even believe that he’s real?