Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

It’s funny how your preferences for characters and ideas change over time, isn’t it? I was a pretty hardcore X-Man fan back in the day. All that teen angst and coming of age stuff must have really appealed to me.

Nowadays? I think I’ve made it pretty clear what a big Thor fan I’ve become.

I know that most of the time giving a character a weakness of some kind makes them interesting. But for some reason, what I love about Thor is that he doesn’t HAVE much of a weakness. I mean, okay, he’s a guy out of time and space.

But Thor’s problems aren’t really related to his difficulty balancing his personal life with his superhero activities or that he’s feared and hated by the general population. It’s just that Thor is playing such a bigger GAME than everyone else, you know? He’s up against things that most people don’t even know exist. Hell, he’s up against things most people don’t BELIEVE exist.

But that’s not even what I attribute this comic’s surge in popularity lately. I think we love Thor for the same reason that we love Shakespeare.

There’s been this big resurgence of this kind of entertainment lately. From HBO hits like the Sopranos and Deadwood to serial adaptations like Game of Thrones we love character driven drama. We love seeing how human, how like us the characters in the story are. And above all we love stories about families. Lovers, brothers, fathers and children, etc. Something about those kinds of relationships conjure our imagination.

It’s Thor’s family that really makes that story (and its film adaptation) work. It’s like a cracked out version of Hamlet or something like that. For me, my favorite part of the Thor movie is the following:

Thor: “This is madness!” (implicating that Loki is acting out like a child)

Loki: “Is it? IS IT!?” (implicating that Loki has had plenty of time to think about what he’s doing and why he’s doing it, really driving his betrayal of his brother home)

It’s just so dynamic. It hits us where we live, somehow. The intensity feels classic, theatrical. The kind of thing the Greeks wrote about.

Of course, Anthony Hopkins as Odin was just a polishing touch on this film. I feel like with so many big names running around playing superheroes and villains left and right, it’s easy to miss just what a stellar performance this guy gave in this movie.

He just fit this role so perfectly. A stern, powerful father. Almost the Jungian ‘archetype’ of father: mysterious, distant, benevolent. But far from perfect, too.

Does Odin do right by Loki? It’s hard to say. On the one hand, he takes him in as his son and (I think) tries to love him as best he can. But is it FAIR to deny Loki his heritage? To lie to him, to keep him in the dark about his origin?

You can really FEEL Loki’s pain here because maybe it’s in the realm of “Oh yeah, you love me Dad? But do you still love me when I’m THIS instead of THAT? Do I have to live a lie in order for you to really accept me?”

I’m not saying what Loki is doing is right. What I'm saying is that his motivation to rebel against an identity that he feels has been forced on him--to grab on to something that feels more real to him--is at least understandable, isn’t it? If you found out your father wasn’t really your father wouldn’t YOU act out? Try to act like the polar opposite of him, just to separate from him?

Like I said: Shakesperean.

Of course despite Loki’s beliefs to the contrary, I don’t think Odin exactly showers Thor with love and attention. Quite the opposite. As a potential heir to the throne of Asgard, Odin has high standards for his son. And he knows that some lessons can only be taught through experience.

From the very beginning of this comic’s inception, the concept behind it was that Thor had been banished by Odin for arrogance and for threatening the peace in Asgrad. Odin forsook his own son in order to teach him humility. In order to make him stronger.

This is by no means an easy experience for Thor to accept. But that’s the thing. We all want our parents to love us, perfectly. To take care of us, perfectly. To never let us down. But they CAN’T. Not every lesson is an easy one for us to take in. Not every lesson can be conveyed through perfect love and care. If it could be every parent would do so, without hesitation.

Thor at least makes peace with what his father puts him through. Growing up is understanding your parents and understanding why they made the choices they did. Even if it didn’t make you perfectly happy.

So maybe that’s the thing that ‘hits the spot’ in Thor’s story and dynamics. There’s something human there. Thor’s greatest virtue is not hating his father for disappointing him. He learns from his father, becomes more like Odin by understanding him.

Loki? He just can’t tolerate that dad let him down. He refuses to grow up and take any responsibility. There’s something tucked away in here about life that we all need to accept. And that’s why when you see these characters hit the screen with big name actors, no matter how bizarre Frost Giants and Rainbow Bridges may seem it pulls at you from this place that’s really powerful.

While the Avengers film is certainly a chance to see Iron Man and Cap go up against Loki I’ll still be waiting on the edge of my seat to see Thor and Loki go toe to toe. It’s drama in a really classic sense I think.