Friday, September 16, 2011

Intro to Comics: Thor (Upgrade)

(This was originally a Facebook note, I am reprinting it here with some more about the movie, as the movie had not been out at that point.  Hence: Upgrade.)
            Here is a character you'll end up seeing soon as I just saw the movie and it was pretty good, the character is The Mighty Thor.  Created by Jack Kirby who seemed to be very much obsessed with the idea of god societies, having created "The New Gods" and "TheEternals" he and Stan Lee created Thor as a cast out member of the Asgardian race of gods that existed in a world parallel to our own and had interacted with us in past centuries being the inspiration for Norse myth.  In spite of claiming to be superior to humans, who being mortal could not hope to attain the levels of wisdom and might that the Asgardians had, the truth of the matter is the Asgardians were an aloof and stagnant society who had not done anything other than internal warmongering for hundreds of years.  Seriously, they had no need of technology to supply them, or devices to fly so they just chilled in a castle all the time when they weren't out killing trolls and giants.  The movie makes it seem less stagnate and more just committed to peace regardless of their warrior culture.

But then, what would be the point of a summer cottage if you don't spend your time there?

            Thor being a forward thinking member of the society was cast out by Lord Odin and was forced to live as a mortal man, the doctor known as Donald Blake.  Unaware of his banishment Blake wandered on his spare time unaware of what he had lost until he found a walking stick balanced on its point in a cave, upon taking it he recalled his origin and struck the stick to the ground, transforming into Thor Son of Asgard, and the stick transforming into Mjolnir, hammer of the gods.  Kind of Freudian if you look at it long enough.

Tony, don't get on my ass, because you are starting to look very nail like.

            Thor, via his hammer can control the weather and conjure lightning, it also allows him to fly, and when thrown can kill or terribly wound anyone in the Marvel universe, it is an omega level weapon and can only be yielded by a select few.  You see while Thor is super strong and nearly unkillable due to his divine heritage, it is his strength of will and great personal virtue that allows him to hold Mjolnir whose weight is infinite to those of poor character.  Only a handful have been able to hold it in the past, though Captain America is a notable person who has been able to lift it.  Others have also carried it, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, and Superman have all done so in crossovers, showing how many more pure and just hearted beings per capita are in DC comics as opposed to Marvel.  I actually wonder what goes into the decision making process for who gets to pick it up, does Mjolnir work like the Sorting Hat from Harry Potter?  Regardless, in the film Thor himself falls short of holding it for a good portion of the movie (Spoilers: the title character of the movie undergoes a character arc that allows him to save the day).

            Thor's banishment was lifted after a time, and when Odin perished stopping Surtur, the fire giant that heralded the Apocalypse, Thor was made Lord of Asgard... It went to his head.  He took Asgard and transported the city to Earth, floating over New York, he then gave out medicine and became the target of worship throughout the United States, eventually coming under fire by the government, and deciding to conquer the Earth.  He succeeded killing legions of superheroes and ruled for decades till his son (Magni god of strength) overthrew him and utilized Asgardian magic to hit the reset button returning Thor to the moment when he decided to conquer the Earth, and allowing him to take a different path.  Thor instead returned Asgard to its home dimension, and set to undertaking a series of trials that would grant him Odin's insight.  Turns out Odin had not made Thor into Donald Blake to banish him, but instead to grant him a connection to mortality, wisdom and insight Odin himself lacked, the wisdom that comes with a life lived according to the laws of death and mortality.  That insight allowed Thor to use his knowledge to bring about Ragnorak, the Twilight of the Gods, in which he destroyed the home dimension of the Asgardians... And vanished.  This was done specifically because he viewed the Asgard culture as stagnating, held down by still higher gods who were feeding off the power of Asgard.  Destroying the universe to burn off cosmic leeches.

Also, Thor-Frog exists.  Yeah.

            Thor was not around for several big events in the Marvel Universe, Avengers Disassembled, where the Scarlet Witch killed people wholesale; or Civil War in which Iron Man tried to deputize the Heroes of Marvel, and Captain America thought that was a violation of civil liberties (the right to be a vigilante I guess); but Thor returned from the void of death when his wayward soul found Donald Blake on Earth and so Blake became Thor once more.  He then sought out the other gods trapped in human bodies on Earth.  Which was either a rip off of a Grant Morrison story, who had Kirby's DC creations the New Gods (space gods who often interact with and occasionally fight Superman), well the New Gods died and were reborn on Earth in the bodies of living people who slowly turned into the gods, so maybe it was a salute...

And this is his brother Loki possessing the body of Thor's wife.  Nothing weird about that.

            Thor's quest has recently come to an end, and he has taken this time to rejoin The Avengers along with Iron Man and Captain America.  Seeing how the world fell apart without these heroes at the helm of it all.  And he is awesome!  In just a short time they have had a story where he single handedly stopped an alien invasion from a parallel time line, kamikazed himself through the skull of the space god Galactus (lot of space gods, the universe is a big place), and has fought alongside the king of Atlantis and the Red Hulk against a guy hell bent on collecting the bedrock stones of the universe and remarking all creation in his own image.

Logic is relative.  Especially with the Hulk.
            Some of Thor's greatest foes include his step brother Loki, who is a god of trickery and illusion; the Egyptian god of evil Set, along with a large number of evil Egyptian creatures; the Troll King Ulik, and his trolls; the dark elves; Thor's own hubris; the Wrecking Crew, who are a bunch of super strong thugs from earth who were granted there powers by Loki; the Absorbing man and his wife Titanna, Absorbing man got his powers from Loki and Titanna got hers from Doctor Doom; and just like everyone else in Marvel comics Thor has fought Doctor Doom.  His allies include The Avengers, a gathering of the worlds mightiest heroes (of which Thor is the mightiest); the Warriors Three, who are Asgard Special Forces, Fendral, Volstag and Hogan; his brother Baulder (who wasn't in the movie); and his wife Sif (who was his platonic work girlfriend in the movie).
The Warriors Three.  No chin up requirement for entry in the Asgard Special Forces.

            Thor is a very mythic character, and is arguably the most powerful hero in the Marvel Universe aside from the Hulk (who when mad enough can crack the world with his footfalls), and the Silver Surfer (who has the power to manipulate energy across entire continents), but really I've only recently really figured out what to think of Thor overall.  He works better when he touches on but isn't confined to Earth in the Marvel Universe, when he is allowed to do his own thing in alternate worlds populated by pantheons and cross dimensional demons and giants, and only occasionally running into masked crusaders and mutants, and guys in power armor in books like "The Avengers".  I am glad that the Thor movie is good, as I have very much like the character.

            If I could be a super hero, I would want Thor's powers because he has the capacity to use his weather and other less clearly defined healing abilities (didn't list because they seem to only work when the story needs them to) to exert a positive change in the world beyond punching evildoers... He never uses them as such without losing his gourd and taking over the world, but I'm confident that is Marvel holding the status Quo over writers heads (after all superheroes are metaphors for ideas present in out current lives fighting it out, not science fiction which takes an idea like gods in the real world and rides it out to logical conclusions).

            Oh, and the guy who is playing him in the movie, was the guy who played Captain Kirk's dad at the beginning of JJ Abram's "Star Trek" movie, the guy who kamikazes his ship into Nero's to save the fleeing escape pods.  Yeah, he does look the part.  And Anthony Hopkins is Odin, and he doesn't phone in the performance like he did with "The Wolf Man", he seems to actually give a shit when things happen and conveys as such through emotion... you know acting, like when he gives a shit.

Seen here. Giving a shit.

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