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The God of Thunder, Mighty Thor

By Bert Ehrmann
May 6, 2011

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Chris Hemsworth as the title character of Thor

I think it's safe to say that I've written about comic books enough times over the years to cement my geek cred in the genera. I've been a collector most of my life and have a closet full of comics as well as a few shelves of collected editions in my office to act as additional proof of my sickness/devotion.

So, I thought when I sat down to write this column about the comic book character of Thor and the upcoming Thor movie it would be an easy one to write, but it turned out to be just the opposite. Though I might have a wide range of knowledge in comics and most comic characters I found my overall grasp on Thor is quite limited.

According to the book "Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World's Greatest Comics" (1991), Thor was created by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby as quite literally the Norse god of thunder who originates from the fantastial realm of Asgard. There, amongst the other Norse gods and with his father Odin, Thor battles other mythical beings and creatures that threaten that place.

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The first appearance of Thor

Thor first appeared in the comics nearly 50 years ago in the series Journey into Mystery (1962) and began life as "frail Dr. Don Blake." Blake "discovered Thor's magic hammer hidden in a cave, and used it to transform himself into a being of incalculable might. Eventually, it was revealed that Blake was a fraud with no real existence at all and (sic) Thor took center stage."

In an updated incarnation of the character, Thor might be the actual god of thunder or he might be some crazed hippie-scientist who created a belt that can control lighting much like the real Thor does naturally. Regardless, on his own and as a member of the super-hero team The Avengers, Thor is a being of incredible good and equally incredible might who fights for the people of Earth as well as the beings of Asgard in a never ending battle against the baddies.

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Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman and Idris Elba in Thor

And now, on the heels of a very successful Iron Man franchise is a feature film based on Thor. Which begs the question; why now and why not some other character? I can only imagine after the success of the Iron Man film, and previously the X-Men and Spider-Man franchises, Marvel Entertainment began looking at their slate of characters they thought could support a new franchise and Thor seemed the best/safest bet. (I'm not counting Captain America who's got his own movie due out later this summer.)

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Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman share a moment in Thor

I'm not quite sure how familiar the general public is with Thor? To be sure I don't think the general public knew much about Iron Man before that movie premiered and it did well enough at the box office. But there were also movies about other unknown characters like Daredevil, Ghost Rider, The Punisher and The Incredible Hulk that found much less success at the box office so Thor is anything but a guaranteed hit.

Marvel describes the Thor movie as, "At the center of the story is The Mighty Thor, a powerful but arrogant warrior whose reckless actions reignite an ancient war. Thor is cast down to Earth and forced to live among humans as punishment. Once here, Thor learns what it takes to be a true hero when the most dangerous villain of his world sends the darkest forces of Asgard to invade Earth."

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Comic book Thor vs. Loki

However good or bad an idea a Thor movie is, I can't quite shake the feeling that this upcoming movie is less about Thor and more about this film acting as a stepping stone to launch a movie franchise for The Avengers. The Avengers, a sort of super-group of super-heroes, consists of (reportedly) Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye, The Incredible Hulk and Nick Fury. And, in fact, a The Avengers film is already slated to open in theaters May 4 of next year.

So why Thor? Because the audience needs to know who he is if Marvel expects them to line up in droves at the theaters next summer to buy a ticket to The Avengers. And why now? Because next summer is too late!

Thor is currently playing in theaters.

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