Thor: Comparison of Myths and Comic Books


23 Mar 2015 14 Dec 2017

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The modern day image of a superhero consists of either Superman or Batman riding in a high-speed car and swinging off of buildings hundreds of feet from the ground, desperately trying to save the innocent victim. A Norse God with long blonde hair, a winged metal helmet, and a bright red cape with blue leggings is probably not an ordinary image being pictured in one's head. Superheroes come in all varieties, shapes, and forms, but behind each superhero lies a secret to why they were created. The reasons for creation range from events that previously occurred in history to recent changes in today's society. Comic book superheroes were indeed influenced by history, but the comic book superheroes also continually influence history itself. This reciprocal influence continues to affect the generations of comic book fans for years on end.

Comic book creators have been known for using a strategy to create characters which tend to resemble infamous gods to separate the common ideal mortal heroes from the indestructible immortals. By using this strategy, comic book creators are able to give their characters a fierce outer shell with a scholarly uplift (Reynolds 53). With the creation of the Mighty Thor comic book character in 1962, Lee and Thomas used this strategy perfectly (54). Asgardian characters were just ready-made superheroes waiting to be transformed into the comic-book world (57). Being named one of the most unusual creations in comic book history, Thor truly defined “…the first successful attempt to harness existing mythology on a large scale to construct the mise en scene of a superhero” (54).

In relation to history, Thor was the son of Odin, the universal father, and Frigga queen of the gods. His name dates back to ancient Norse Mythology where he was known for his incredible strength and enormous size. This continually amazed the gods (Guerber 59). Recognized as the god of thunder with a magical hammer, he was “honoured as the highest god in Norway” (60). Thor was always right in the middle of action when it came to battling against raging monsters, deadly giants, and prehistoric forces. There are three main properties that define Thor's character when he becomes involved in battle. The first is his infamous hammer Miollnir which symbolizes the crushing skulls of monsters and giants. The second is his belt of strength which when buckled, makes his godlike powers multiply. Last are his iron gloves which he must wear in order to swing his hammer (Page 40).

There is a direct correlation between the mythical Thor and the comic-book character the Mighty Thor. From both the physical aspects and the characteristics of their personalities, Norse legends have heavily influenced the modern comic-book superheroes (Knowles 29). The Mighty Thor is visualized as a tall robust man, with strawberry blonde locks, and blue eyes. He also speaks in a very distinct old English accent. An example is when the mighty Thor proclaims, “Thy work is done, father! Let it be known far and wide that the full might of Mjolnir is restored” (0000). Whereas the mythical Thor is closely described “…as a man in his prime, tall and well formed, with muscular limbs and bristling red hair and beard…(Guerber 60).” Both characters also share the same love of being involved in battle, and depend on their mighty hammer. Although, the mythical Thor depends on his hammer for security and power, the Mighty Thor uses his hammer to transform into Don Blake and back into Thor (Page 13). The mythical Thor was also known for his outlandish and dangerous outrages which eventually became uncontrollable. Consequently, his mother sent him away from home and placed him in the care of Vingir and Hlora. This is where his other names “Vingthor” and “Hlorridi” derived from (Guerber 59). Much like the mythical Thor being sent away from his homeland, the Mighty Thor was sent away from Asgard to earth as a punishment from his father because of his arrogance (Reynolds 54). From these comparisons one can obviously conclude that the artist, Jack Kirby, was truly fascinated with Norse legends. Since his childhood, Norse legends formed the basis for his imagination and gave him great inspiration when it came to graphically representing the Mighty Thor on paper (Misiroglu 599).

History has indeed influenced the creation of the Mighty Thor, but another question should be raised. Has the Mighty Thor influenced history? With the debut of the Mighty Thor in 1962, the hippie era was on the rise. Long hair, bell bottom jeans, and tie-die were some of the trends getting ready to appear. The country was also getting ready to be faced with the Vietnam turmoil which would greatly influence comic-book creators and their story-lines to come. The Mighty Thor has always been known for fighting out against powerful Communists and mad scientists (Knowles 191). Throughout most of the Marvel comic-books, villains were represented as Communists. Some superheroes would actually have to travel straight into the heart of the Viet-Cong for battle. In the famous 1965 series, Journey into the Mystery, the Mighty Thor was found in South Vietnam assisting a group of anti-communist peasants. Both the peasants and Thor were taking on the merciless Viet Cong military. Along the way, Thor also liberated a Vietnamese family from Communism where he promised a village he would return (Wright 222). With the Vietnam conflict raging among citizens all over the United States, young adolescents were getting ready to burst out. The Mighty Thor's heavy anti-communism propaganda, influenced readers of all ages. One way Thor truly influenced the youth culture was actually unintentional towards young men. Preceding a couple of years after the Might Thor's debut, his long golden hair would become a fashionable trend. This long hair then became a symbol of rebellion and rage for young people all over the nation (213). The hippie era had begun.


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