There have been many incarnations of Thor the God of Thunder since his reintroduction to the world of fiction by Stan Lee in 1962 for Marvels comic Journey into Mystery.
Since this time Thor has battled all forms of Alien, Mutant, Supernatural and just plain old humans. For the purpose of this blog, however, I will be looking at the most recent incarnation of the team Thor is most associated with; The Ultimate Avengers.
Thor is introduced in this comic series as an eco-terrorist who is leading revolts against whalers around the world. His followers believe him to be Thor, the God of Thunder of Norse mythology.
The intelligence gained by the powers that be at S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic, Hazard Intervention, Espionage Logistic Directorate) explain him to have been a psychiatric nurse named Thorlief Golmen who suffered a nervous breakdown before declaring that he had remembered who he was and why he had been sent.
He wears the belt Megingjard and wields a mighty hammer called Mjolnir with which he can control the tempests. He also has enhanced strength and durability, can fly and can create temporal portholes.
These abilities mark him as the exact type of candidate that the newly formed Ultimate team are recruiting. Under the watchful eye of S.H.I.E.L.D., the Ultimates plan to be a task team that will be dispatched to deal with any situation deemed too difficult to be dealt with by normal military action. This team will be led by the newly returned Super Soldier; Captain America and funded by billionaire, playboy industrialist Tony Stark in his guise as Iron Man.
In terms of a modern hero, Thor provides the reader with several interesting insights into what it is to be a hero in contemporary society. Thor is very political in his actions. His interest in the redistribution of wealth is more Socialist that Communist but would more adequately be described as anti-capitalist.
When approached on joining the team by S.H.I.E.L.D’s Director, Nick Fury, Thor refuses, saying that he will not be the lapdog of America, clearly stating that his concerns are for all of Earth. This rather tense meeting is soothed somewhat by Captain America who eventually convinces Thor to pledge his aid should there be a world catastrophe.
This catastrophe arises sooner than anyone would have anticipated when Bruce Banner, who is working with The Ultimates comes to the conclusion that the only way they will ever be taken seriously by the public is if they can prove that they are needed. With this rather deluded sense of duty he takes a serum he has been working on and becomes The Hulk and begins to tear apart down-town New York.
Just as the battle seems to be going in The Hulks favour, Thor intervenes and together they manage to get The Hulk to revert back to Banner. This intervention is later revealed to only have happened due to Thor managing to convince the President of America to double the country’s foreign aid budget.
Thor’s decision to only involve himself in a conflict, should the issue be worth it for the masses, implies that today’s hero should always be looking out for the rest of society before themselves. The fact that this also has fiscal rewards is a troubling one however, although this is also the case with Robin Hood in that he is robbing the rich to pay the poor.
Thor now realises that the team may be worth working with and so teams up with them for a while until he finds out that they have been running Black Ops missions in Afghanistan. He leaves and goes back to the eco-warriors, decrying their actions and saying he will never work with them again.
His refusal not only to be involved in action but to even be associated with acts of inter Country aggression mark him out as what a contemporary society would call “a man of conviction”. By this I mean that in today’s society we judge a man’s actions more in the breech than the observance of what the status quo deem appropriate.
The next chapter of the story revolves around Thor’s origin story when while working with the European Defence Initiative (EDI), who are the European counterparts to the Ultimates, The Ultimates meet a scientist called Gunnar Golmen who is responsible for having made the suit and hammer that Thor uses. He explains that he is Thorlief’s brother and that the latter has stolen the advanced technology and is suffering from schizophrenic behaviour.
Various uprisings and a surge in eco-terrorism lead The Ultimates into direct contact with Thor who in order to save lives runs away from the team rather than do battle. Taking this as a sign of cowardice, the team pursue and a fight ensues. Thor is eventually bested by the combined forces of The Ultimates and his reluctance to take a life.
While in captivity we learn that Thorlief’s brother Gunnar is in actual fact Thor’s half brother Loki, the trickster God of Norse Legend. Loki uses Thor’s absence to bring about calamitous changes in the world so as to take control of the Earth for himself.
Odin arrives and frees Thor from captivity, returning him to full power and re-gifting him with his belt and hammer. Thor finds Loki and battles him until he is vanquished and sent back to Asgard to be punished by Odin.
Having proved his Divinity and origins and upon learning that The Ultimates have vowed never to work for the government again, Thor rejoins the team where he now remains.
This idea of divinity is fascinating. Thor’s origin story being in doubt allows us to look at how religions can be viewed by those who don’t believe. Be this from an Atheist point of view or as we see in anti-Christian and anti-Muslim campaigns that are going on in today’s society. Thor proves his Divinity but rather than be revered by the masses he is welcomed to the world for his ability to help without being judged. This rather reasoned approach to the idea of faith makes the reader think about what it is that makes one fear the unknown or mistrust someone else for their beliefs when we are all fighting on the same side.
Thor continues to entertain in his various comic titles but will also be making a film appearance next year in his own movie. The fact that such a titanic figure from Old English culture has survived the textual transmission in such a preserved way makes the enjoyment for this reader all the better.
Welcome to HEROES IN HYPERTEXT, a website that helps you discover the heroes of today and from long ago. We have links to modern heroes like Thor from Marvel comics, or ancient heroes in the form of Beowulf. We hope to introduce to you a range of critical concepts concerning the text in a variety of media ranging from manuscript culture, through film, to the mobile screen. We hope to identify key concepts in textual transmission and explain the socio-cultural impact of literacy in the medieval world.