Thor is a twit.
He’s boastful, arrogant, temperamental, and downright stupid. His half-brother, Loki, got the advantage on him more times than not, and Thor’s ususal response was to hit him with a hammer or come crying back (well, ok, screaming and yelling – that’s more manly, after all) to the Allfather, Odin. I can’t blame Loki for playing games with the Asgardian; he kept falling for them. He was quite possibly the easiest Mark in Norse myth, and for the trickster Loki, a source of endless entertainment.
Marvel Comics, in the form of their landmark title The Mighty Thor made Thor a little less of a buffoon, but he’s hardly a bastion of scintillating intelligence. He mostly, like in the myths, just hits things with his hammer and tells people of his strength and power. That his human guise on Earth was for a time Doctor Donald Blake, surprised even me at a young age. Blake would be far more likely to smash his lab assistants with beakers than engage in slow and meticulous work that depends on Reason.
Thor doesn’t have any reason. His modus operandi is pretty clear:
1. Hit (why The Hulk is often known for “HULK SMASH!”, and Thor is not known for the implied “THOR HIT!” is beyond me – his capacity for debate is on par with Bruce Banner’s gamma-radiation-driven alter-ego)
3. Espouse nonsense involving a series of th-form pronouns from late medieval English
4. Twirl his hammer, Mjolnir, around and about
5. Fly away
That’s a pretty standard battle for Thor unless he’s fighting Loki, who, like Doctor Smith of Lost in Space, should have been introduced to a very sticky end after their first encounter. Admittedly, it would take away the main adversary from the comic, but unlike other classic superheroes who let their enemies live (X-Men and Magneto; Batman and Joker; Superman and Lex Luthor; Fantastic Four and Doctor Doom…), Thor is a god and he really should have just caved in Loki’s double-horned helmeted skull the first chance he could. As the comic character continually reminds us – “You are but mortal.”
The same could be said of the original Norse myths, but unlike the comics, Loki is a trickster figure (I can’t really call him a god, as he is the child of giants and not truly one of the Aesir, though he does live in Asgard) and not a truly evil figure like he is in the monthly series. There is a distinction; Marvel’s Loki is, for all intents and purposes, a supervillain, albeit a deified one, and pretty much evil through and through.
There’s a difference between a malignant figure like Medusa of Greek myth and a trickster like Coyote, Anansi, or Loki. The latter very rarely inflict harm themselves, but their capricious natures facilitate destruction through other agents or through the arrogance and boastfulness of their tricks’ victims. Thor, while rightly annoyed a lot of the time, didn’t have a real reason to kill Loki in the myths; he certainly does in the comics.
As an Asgardian and a god, Marvel’s Thor always tells us, he is above us, and despite his professed love for our planet/realm, he’s hardly the personification of altruism. He’s noble on occasion, I’ll give him that, but he’s the embodiment of self-serving arrogance. Thor, if you really thought about it, wouldn’t think twice about turning his supervillain half-brother into pulverised mincemeat, but then, that sort of story wouldn’t have jibed with the editorial board.
It would have made a great double-panel spread, though.
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Check out this wonderful article discussing our favourite Marvel Asgardian pare.