Odin's son and king of Asgard, Thor is the 'god' most likely to answer humanity's call in times of need

Vinay Viswanath

Apr 26, 2019 09:17:02 IST

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The Marvel universe has never had a shortage of heroes, but the near endless cavalcade of potentially world-ending threats only seems to get stronger. In the face of these seemingly insurmountable odds, sometimes what’s needed most of all, is a little divine intervention.

Lucky for us then, that of all the ‘higher beings’ that we once revered as Gods, the one most likely to answer humanity’s call in times of gravest need is also among the strongest to ever live, The Mighty Thor.

“I've butchered more giants and trolls and wicked Gods than you could ever imagine. I might mourn your death for a thousand years. But if you insist on doing all you threaten... I will kill you.” – Thor Odinson

Odins son and king of Asgard, Thor is the god most likely to answer humanitys call in times of need

Hammer(s) Time! | Marvel Comics

Before we go any further I should clarify that in this profile we’re only going to be discussing Thor Odinson and not any of the others who have, over the decades, wielded Mjolnir and gained powers similar to Odinson such as Beta-ray Bill, Jane Foster (who recently completed a fairly lengthy stint as the New Thor)… or that one time a frog was Thor for a little while.

The first time it was Thor in frog form, but this actually happened more than once | Marvel Comics

The first time it was Thor in frog form, but this actually happened more than once | Marvel Comics

Origin and Background

The character of Thor was created by Stan Lee, Larry Leiber and Jack Kirby — making his debut in Journey into Mystery #83, published in August 1962. With the Incredible Hulk marking his comic debut just a few months prior, Marvel was quickly expanding the scope of their comic universe by introducing heroes far more powerful than any that had ever been seen previously.

But while the Hulk may indeed be the stronger in a fight, The Odinson can usually be counted on to be far better company. A fact that quickly made him a popular hero to the people of Earth despite his extra-terrestrial origins and the difficult religious conversations that are bound to come up when a God right out of ancient myth is flying overhead (and also admits to being a mortal).

Thor Odinson is the oldest son of Odin Borson, King of Asgard and Jord (Gaea) an elder god of Earth.  Odin entreated Jord to bear him a child as he wanted his future son to be connected to both Odin’s realm of Asgard and Earth (Midgard). This ensured that Thor, as a child of two realms, could draw power from both, ultimately making him stronger than practically any other Asgardian in history.

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While Odin does apparently love his son, and certainly has great expectations for his lightning wielding offspring; by some accounts, Asgard’s Sovereign is not above manipulating his own children if he believes that it is beneficial to do so.

According to one story from a source of dubious reliability, Odin sent Thor to Earth to retrieve a powerful magic ring. To do this Odin apparently sent his son to Earth as the soon-to-be legendary Norse hero Siegmund and, when he got killed, resurrected him as his equally heroic son Seigfried (Yes, if it’s true, Thor played both parts in a father-son duo…which gets weirder the more you think about it). After obtaining the nefarious artefact, Odin apparently wiped any memory of this multi-generational caper from the mind of his son.

Then again, all of this information comes from Odin’s severed eye, which apparently gained sentience and a propensity to spin unlikely yarns to passers-by. If you want to take the word of a thinking, self-propelled eyeball, that’s no one’s business but yours.

Would eye lie to you? | Marvel Comics

Would eye lie to you? | Marvel Comics

However, Odin is well known for playing his cards close to his chest and while this would be the first instance, it certainly wouldn’t be the last time that Odin mindwiped the crown prince of Asgard and sent him wandering around a backwater realm, so maybe the eye is telling the truth.

In his youth, which for Asgardians stretches for several centuries, Thor led a life of thrill-seeking and adventure as he battled his way across the nine realms fighting the enemies of Asgard. At one point, Thor even visited Earth in the early 1940s and was convinced by none other than Hitler himself to fight for the Nazis, although he soon realised, he was backing the wrong horse and withdrew his support.

The All-Father, already tired of Thor’s ever-growing arrogance could tolerate no more when, one day, Thor violated a truce between Asgard and the Frost Giants of Jotunheim. Odin, horrified by how callously his son has brought his people to the brink of a needless and devastating war, stripped him of his power and his memories before banishing him to Earth.

Now believing himself to be Donald Blake, a student at Harvard medical school, Odinson learned a great deal about empathy through caring for the sick. A partial disability in the form of a crippled leg also taught him about the value of humility and perseverance. These qualities would help him become a better doctor, and soon he had established himself as a successful surgeon in New York City. Apparently, a free Ivy League education in medicine followed by a successful medical career is just your typical penance for an Asgardian prince.

I wonder if Odin got him in to Harvard on an ‘Athletics’ scholarship | Marvel Comics

I wonder if Odin got him in to Harvard on an ‘Athletics’ scholarship | Marvel Comics

Blake would eventually be subliminally guided back to a cave in Norway where, upon touching Mjolnir, Thor’s powers returned, followed shortly thereafter by his memories. This extended trip to Earth changed Thor for the better in many ways and instilled in him a kinship with humanity that would endure for millennia.

Since that time, things have only grown more exciting for Thor, although not more enjoyable. He has endured through the destruction of the realm of Asgard, the death of his father, and the fall of his kingdom. He’s been killed at least twice and had to fight his way back from the afterlife to settle the score.

On the bright side, Thor does appear to have managed to permanently end the cycle of Ragnarok, once and for all. By temporarily becoming an ultimate version of himself (referred to as Rune King Thor) he is able to defeat a mysterious group referred to as ‘those who sit above in shadow’ sort of a secret group of elder gods who rule over other gods who are responsible for maintaining the cycle. However, several attempts to rebuild Asgard, on or above the Earth ended in the reborn city’s destruction, once in Oklahoma and a second time in space. Even without Ragnarok, Asgard sure does still seem to keep getting destroyed a lot.

I’m sure it’s just coincidence and not at all some kind of karmic revenge | Marvel Comics

I’m sure it’s just coincidence and not at all some kind of karmic revenge | Marvel Comics

Sometime later, the Original Sin storyline demonstrates just how much information the All-Father hides from both his family and subjects. Thor discovers that there is actually a tenth realm of space named Heven and that the inhabitants of this realm were once at war with Asgard. In retaliation for what Odin believed was the abduction and murder of his first born, Aldrif Odinsdottir, the All-Father placed a curse upon the entire realm seemingly severing its connections to the rest of the universe in the process (How on earth do you manage to cover up the fact that there are ten realms?). It turns out Aldrif, who is now named Angela is still alive and Thor reunites with his long-lost half-sister

You have no idea how hard it was to find a picture where she wasn’t wearing a metal bikini as ‘armour’ | Marvel Comics

You have no idea how hard it was to find a picture where she wasn’t wearing a metal bikini as ‘armour’ | Marvel Comics

More recently, while tracking an enemy of Asgard named Gorr, the god butcher, Thor began to question the role of the Gods and their place in the universe. Even after Gorr’s defeat, these questions would stick with the God Thunder and continue to trouble him. This came to a head when Nick Fury, now a near-omniscient entity called The Unseen (Don’t worry about how he got that way), told Thor that Gorr was right all along. The Gods are petty, selfish and are overall a blight on the universe. This revelation caused Thor to lose faith in his convictions, becoming ‘unworthy’ in the process and thus unable to wield Mjolnir.

Now going by the name Odinson, the Asgardian prince set out on a soul-searching trip after giving up both Mjolnir and even the name of Thor to its new wielder, his former nurse, one-time lover, current cancer patient and newest Goddess of Thunder, Jane Foster.

He didn’t take his usurpation lying down though | Marvel Comics

He didn’t take his usurpation lying down though | Marvel Comics

Following the death of Jane Foster, who succumbed to her cancer (she was resurrected in the very next issue!). Odinson has retaken the title of Thor, although Mjolnir was destroyed when it was used to launch a devastatingly powerful villain called Mangog, into the Sun. While the hunt is on for a worthy replacement, Thor was able to dig his trusty old enchanted axe ‘Jarnbjorn’ out of storage, though it certainly isn’t anywhere near as powerful as his dear departed mallet.

Powers and Abilities

As befits his Asgardian heritage, Thor is immune to all poisons and diseases and while not immortal, does enjoy vastly greater longevity than the average human, already over a thousand years old and, assuming he doesn’t fall in battle, several more ahead of him. He can also survive unaided in the vacuum of space and can endure for an extended period of time without air, food, water or sleep, possibly indefinitely if needed.

Even among Asgardians, Thor is considered to be exceptionally strong and resilient with many considering him the strongest of their race to have ever lived. When Thor inherits the Odin Force (Thor Force) in the future as he takes up the mantle of All-Father, his powers are said to outmatch even his father’s.

There’s no Thor more awesome than Old King Thor | Marvel Comics

There’s no Thor more awesome than Old King Thor | Marvel Comics

Thor wields two important relics, the first being his iconic enchanted Hammer Mjolnir, a weapon of Dwarven design that is made from a rare and incredibly dense metal called Uru. An already fearsome weapon that was practically without equal, Mjolnir was further enchanted by Odin.

The hammer was impossible to lift for any not considered ‘worthy’ of wielding it. It would always return to its current wielder when thrown, allowing it to be used as an effective ranged weapon. And most importantly of all, it heavily enhanced Thor’s ability to control the weather and even enabled him, and its other ‘worthy’ wielders, to fly.

A less known artefact associated with Thor is an enchanted belt that he wears called Megingjord. This too is enchanted by Odin and actually allows Thor to access small amounts of the Odin Force. The belt is said to double Thor’s already formidable strength and stamina.

Following the destruction of Mjolnir, Thor has suffered a major step down in strength. But even without his enchanted hammer, the God of thunder is still a force to be reckoned with. While he can no longer regenerate limbs and may not be able to resurrect the dead like he used to, Odinson sans Mjolnir remains one of the toughest and most durable non-celestial beings in the Marvel Universe alongside The Hulk.

As falls from grace go, ending up looking like a cyborg spartan with a magic axe isn’t really that bad honestly | Marvel Comics

As falls from grace go, ending up looking like a cyborg spartan with a magic axe isn’t really that bad honestly | Marvel Comics

One of Thor’s rarely used powers is the (very creepy) ability to remove or alter the memories of others, similar to what Odin has done to Thor himself during his multiple banishments to Midgard. And when he finds himself away from Asgard (willingly or unwillingly) the ability of ‘All-tongue’ ensures that any sentient being he encounters will be able to understand him in their native language.

Thor has no major weaknesses save one, the teeth of the mythic world-serpent Jörmungandr, whose unique properties allow it to pierce the Asgardian’s otherwise almost impenetrable flesh with ease. Though Thor has slain Jörmungandr, he remains extremely vulnerable to weapons that have been hewn from the beast’s teeth.

Allies and adversaries

As Asgardian royalty and a founding member of the Avengers, Thor has no shortage of powerful friends and allies

When not fighting alongside the Avengers, Thor is often accompanied by his trusted ‘battle-brothers’, the swordsman Fandral, the agile skirmisher Hogun and the vast, brutal Volstagg. These three warriors have accompanied Thor on countless adventures across the universe and are among his closest friends. The mighty Korbinite champion Beta-Ray Bill, one of the few deemed worthy to wield Mjolnir, is also a frequent and steadfast ally to Odinson.

Bill himself wields, Stormbreaker, a gift from Asgard, that is almost as powerful as Mjolnir | Marvel Comics

Bill himself wields, Stormbreaker, a gift from Asgard, that is almost as powerful as Mjolnir | Marvel Comics

For a man over a thousand years old, Thor has had very few long-term romantic partners, of them, he often appears to rebound back and forth between his on-again, off again girlfriend for the last few centuries, Lady Sif and his much more recent squeeze, human nurse Jane Foster whom he worked with when he first started his medical practice as Donald Blake.

As a (mostly self-appointed) defender of all that is just and righteous in the nine realms, Thor can be found attempting to help anywhere there is strife, specifically where helping involves punching or hitting something until it no longer poses a threat.

His successes have made him deeply unpopular among the more villainous elements of the Universe, such as the demon Surtur (who currently partly inhabits Odin and Frigga’s youngest child, Laussa Odinsdottir), the relentlessly deicidal Gorr (who cut a bloody swathe through many pantheons), The living embodiment of a dead race’s hatred, Mangog, or even the great serpent Jörmungandr, who successfully killed Thor (for a while).

But while these threats and others have proved formidable, none of them can claim to be Thor’s arch-enemy (well, arch-frenemy in any case). No that ‘honour’ is reserved for is his adoptive brother, the trickster God, Loki Laufeyson. Loki isn’t the smartest or the strongest foe the Thunderer has ever faced, but he knows just how to push his brother’s buttons, often inflicting more harm through anger and frustration than he ever could through physical harm.

Loki is annoying in the way only a younger sibling can be | Marvel Comics

Loki is annoying in the way only a younger sibling can be | Marvel Comics

Few villains can as effectively rob a hero of their will to fight and fewer still can be so missed when they are dead that the hero chooses to resurrect them. To have a villain that can be both at the same time is practically unheard of (with due exception granted to Batman and the Joker). Although the idea of an adopted brother being a hero’s arch-villain could not be a bigger comic stereotype if it tried, their relationship remains one of the most complex, entertaining and (very) occasionally heart-breaking in the Marvel Universe.

You know who else is a stereotype villain? Evil Clones. Pictured: Thor’s evil cyborg clone ‘Ragnarok’ | Marvel Comics

You know who else is a stereotype villain? Evil Clones. Pictured: Thor’s evil cyborg clone ‘Ragnarok’ | Marvel Comics

Philosophy and Character

Thor can be considered a lawful good character, though the ‘lawful’ part might irk a certain All-Father whose son is highly selective when it comes to heeding the words of his king. Both as a prince and later as a king, Thor feels heavily burdened by the responsibility to use the power and authority he is entrusted with for good. This is an obligation that he feels so strongly that it has driven him to claw his way back from death itself on more than one occasion.

Perhaps it is because he views the Throne of Asgard as a burden and not a birthright (unlike his covetous brother), that he has proven to be a gifted and attentive ruler despite his reluctance. On at least one occasion, he has installed his half-brother Balder Odinson as king who ruled, mostly competently, in his stead while Thor split his time on Asgard and Earth.

Thor may not enjoy being king, but the man looks good on the throne | Marvel Comics

Thor may not enjoy being king, but the man looks good on the throne | Marvel Comics

On the surface, Thor as a character can seem rather played out. A strong, honourable and steadfast young prince who wants to make the world(s) a better place is hardly a rarity in any form of fiction. But beneath the rippling muscles and old-timey English dialect is a character that is far more complex than he’s letting on. Despite his eagerness to fight and bravado in battle, Odinson’s insightfulness and good head for statecraft contradicts his public persona as ‘meathead’ with good intentions. It would appear that this thick-headed warrior act is in fact, just that; an act designed to deceive opponents with bluster and trash-talking so that when he makes his move, it catches those who have not tangled with the thunder God before completely off guard.

Thor philosophically appears to be right in the centre of the divide between utilitarian and deontologist lines of thinking. As a centrist, Thor does believe in the morality of actions, often refusing (at least initially) to agree to plans that involve deceptive or dishonourable actions, preferring an honest fight even against a superior opponent who harbours no qualms about resorting to the most heinous of tactics to win.

However, as a leader and a future king, Thor perfectly understands the necessity of sacrifice in order to achieve victory. In an attempt to resolve these two lines of thinking, the young prince appears to have developed something almost akin to a martyr complex, always ready to put himself in danger or make a heroic ‘last stand’, but unwilling to sacrifice any lives except his own, which is the only one he feels entitled to give. While steadfastness in the face of death is both noble and courageous, the fact that the God of Thunder at times appears almost eager to die in battle has left some questioning the prince’s mental state.

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Thor’s mental health is known to have been fragile in the past, given that over his multiple banishments to Earth, the identities that Odin placed upon him often developed their own sentience, even becoming entirely independent entities that Thor either allied with, such as Erik Masterson (Thunder Strike) or fought against such as Jake Olsen. Naturally, this constant splitting and tearing off of various pieces of his psyche came at a cost and at one point, Thor did actually lose his sanity for a while, although it was eventually restored without too much harm being caused

But despite these hardships, make no mistake, the Thunderer is as tough on the inside as he is on the outside. Despite the loss of Asgard during Ragnarok, despite his once proud people being reduced to a stateless refugee population, despite the loss of faith that caused him to become unworthy and the crushing depression that followed when he ceased to even be ‘Thor’ at all; Odinson has never been one to give up.

So, a word of advice to those who count Thor among their enemies, if he’s not dead, the fight’s not over. And even if he is, you should probably still tread lightly, because death has never been able to stop him for long.

Correction: No Thor is more awesome than Rune-King Thor | Marvel Comics

Correction: No Thor is more awesome than Rune-King Thor | Marvel Comics

Read more from the series here.

Updated Date: Apr 28, 2019 13:57:50 IST

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