Your favourite superheroes are over 50 years old! Before they got dark and gritty, they did some goofy things. Welcome to Midlife Crisis on Infinite Earths where we look back at the less than illustrious adventures of some of the biggest characters in comics. You can read past editions here.
In the last part of our series we poked around the mire pit of continuity that is the origin of Thor. Particularly, we looked at the often confusing nature of Thor’s alter-ego, Doctor Donald Blake. As I said previously, Thor’s origins are a hodge-podge of Norse mythology and 60s era science-fiction and super-hero tropes. This time we’re taking a specific look at Thor’s mythological origins, or rather how they are depicted in the comics which are equally as baffling as the whole Don Blake debacle. Such as…
In Norse mythology, Thor is depicted as having red hair and a beard. Remember when I made jokes about the Thor that appeared in issues of Venus in 1951? Apparently, that was a more historically (mythologically?) accurate version of Thor. This fact apparently kept Roy Thomas — who wrote Thor in the late 70s and early 80s - awake at night, apparently. So much so, that he decided to explain it. From Thor #292-300, Thor was revealed the “real history” of the Asgardians by Odin’s severed eye and that’s not the weirdest part of this story.
Thomas decided to painstakingly explain why the Thor in the comics (and all the Asgardians for that matter) are greatly different than source material that Stan and Jack cribbed from 20 years previously. As the Eye explains, the Asgardians live in a perpetual cycle. After every Ragnarok, Thor and the others die only to be reborn to relive Norse mythology again and again, only slightly different. In one of those incarnations, Thor had red hair.
As it turned out, that last Ragnarok cycle happened nearly 2000 years prior, and what was the precipitating event that brought about the twilight of the gods?
Yeah, apparently the birth of Jesus spelled the end of the Asgardians, at least for a little bit. The version of Thor that has been palling around with the likes of Captain America and the Avengers is about as old as Jesus.
There’s more to where Roy Thomas went with this, and we’ll get into that in a minute. This concept was only addressed by Thomas until years later when Marvel was trying to boost hype for the Thor movies by doing a series of one-shots in 2008-2010 that visited these past cycles of Asgardian myth.
raping and PILLAGING as the gods intended
For example, in 2008’s Thor: Ages of Thunder one-shot, Thor was depicted as a violent hedonist. When he wasn’t slaughtering Frost Giants he was boning multiple women and gorging on the Golden Apples that gave the Asgardians their immortality.
When the Enchantress — who creates these apples — is captured, Odin has to convince Thor to pull himself out of the maidens and then out of bed to save the day.
After pages of Thor being a dick to his friends and family then giving dick to women all night long you’d expect there to be an epic battle against the Frost Giants responsible for kidnapping the Enchantress right? Well…
In 2010’s Thor: The Rage of Thor one-shot, Thor has enough of the life of a god and decides to establish a normal life on Earth. He shacks up with some Vikings, has a wife. Then, taking a page from The Godfather 3, no sooner did Thor figure he was out, he got pulled right back in. When he tried to go back to new life, well things didn’t turn out so well for Mrs. Thor.
Chronologically speaking, this is followed by Thor: Reign of Blood (also published in 2008) which told a story that is so much more fucked up than anything previously mentioned above that it needs its own subheading.
Dwarf Sex, Zombies, and blood robots
This story starts with Odin paying reparations for slaughtering Frost Giants, which is the most progressive thing these ancient Asgardians did in these stories. Anyway, the Enchantress wanted one of the golden trinkets for herself that she allowed herself to get gang banged by the trio of dwarves who made them.
Seeing the Enchantress wearing the golden necklace he commissioned Odin totes reacts like a mature adult.
When Odin takes the necklace away, the Enchantress responds by placing a curse on the Earth so that makes the dead rise up and terrorize the vikings who worship the Norse gods. Thor is then sent to Earth to help repel this invasion. His solution? Using the blood sacrificed by his followers to turn himself into a massive creature called the Blood Colossus.
This isn’t the most fucked up part of the story. That distinction is saved for the fact — for some reason — Thor has a tattoo of his father on his chest.
With that out of the way, let’s get back to what Roy Thomas was trying to do back in the 80s. It’s got less brutal murder and beds with wench infestations, but it is as equally as fucked as the rest of everything above.
That time thor’s life was a 19th century opera…
In Thor #294-295 — this being the Post-Jesus era — Odin just magically recreated all his people in the Kirby-eqsue forms that were popularized in Marvel Comics. Thomas then began adapting “Der Ring de Nibelungen” the 19th century opera created by Robert Wagner. I’m not a scholar of Germanic operas, but I can tell you this much: Thomas took some liberties in his plodding attempt at explaining modern day Thor.
Remember the story above when Odin created golden objects to appease the giants? Well that appears here as well, only its stripped of the Dwarf orgies, zombies and blood robots because these were the days of the Comics Code.
In this version, there was only a golden ring. It was cursed and Odin sent it to Earth. However, he was warned that this ring could bring about Ragnarok. Since he just hit the reset button on his entire culture, Odin didn’t want this to happen so soon. However, he promised that none of the gods could ever possess the ring. What’s an All-Father to do?
how to trick your son into incest
To this end, Odin recreated Thor into a mortal named Sigmund and erased all knowledge of his past life then set him up with a fake family with a mother and sister. When Sigmund’s mother and sister were seemingly slain, Not-Thor was then abandoned by Odin to fend for himself. Thanks dad!
Searching for the killer, Sigmund was then put up by a warrior named Hundig and his wife. Telling them his sob story, Hundig revealed that it was he who murdered Sigmund’s mother and was about to kill Sigmund himself when his wife reminded him how to be a good host.
This is where shit starts getting weird. As it turns out, Hundig’s wife is Sigmund’s sister, Siglinda! She survived and was forced to be Hundig’s bride! They also realize they are totally in love with each other. As a plot contrivance and a bit of convenience their pops also left a sword for Sigmund imbedded in a tree called Needful. Wow. There is a lot to unpack here.
They take the sword and flee to a cave in the mountains where they totally bump uglies with each other. This is all leads to Odin using Hundig to slay his own son.
So what was the point of all of this? Well…
we’re getting into fanfic territory here
So this was all part of a plan to have Thor’s essence transferred into his unborn child. Thor is reborn in the form of a boy named Siegfried and his mom/sister/lover dies giving childbirth. Any Sigmund Freud references at this point are rendered impossible because that metaphors head exploded.
Thor #297-299 follow the life of Sigmund who is raised by a gnome named Mime. Sigmund’s hobbies include wrestling bears and trying to forge an indestructible sword. This was all used to slay a dragon and claim its cache of gold and that is all part of Odin’s plan to recover the golden ring. Sigmund then murders his gnome-dad. Admittedly, Minme was attempting to betray him, but still, lets add step-patricide to the list of things wrong with this story.
Sigmund is then lured to a flaming mountain where he awakens a slumbering maiden with a kiss.
This is Valkyrie, who Odin also made a mortal with no memory of her past life. There’s some mental aerobics about how Brunhilda was betrothed to Sigmund by Odin himself, he gives her the ring. She gives him near invulnerability blah, blah, blah, blah… But yeah, add gaslighting a woman and forcing her into a romance with to the list of this parade of problematic plot points.
Sigmund then leaves his betrothed on the flaming mountain promising not to ghost her. He eventually ends up in the court of King Gunther and Queen Guntra, his sister. Which are appropriately disgusting names for an incestuious king and queen.
But this sexual trainwreck is not complete as Guntra (that name, ick!) uses a potion to enthrall Sigmund so he will marry her. However, the wedding can’t go on until Gunther also has his own enthralled slave to force into marriage. One thing leads to another and we get to this…
Where the hell is this going?
By this point, Roy Thomas had quit at Marvel leaving Mark Gruenwald and Ralph Macchio to quickly wrap up this very bizarre story in Thor #300.
In short order, these fucked-up forced marriages end in a tragedy — that is if you view the end of slash-fiction where the misappropriated characters are mercifully killed to be a tragedy. Sigmund is murdered and Brunhilde tosses herself onto the funeral pyre.
All of this was done so Odin could resurrect Thor and Valkyrie on Asgard and reclaim the golden ring.
This whole convoluted plan took over two human lifetimes. When it comes to coming up with master plans Odin sure needs to work on pacing.
Feeling guilty for everything he had to do, Odin gored himself with his own spear and then commanded his enchanted ravens to crucify him on Yggdrasil, the World Tree.
Odin was about to let himself die but he was then warned about an alien ship that was coming to Earth so he decided to stay alive and deal with that threat.
Oh right, I guess I should have explained this from the start. See, this whole plot was revealed during what is called the “Celestial Saga” where the Celestial (some space gods) are about to judge the human race.
In the Deviant Saga, the Celestials were about to pass their final judgement on the human race and the different pantheon gods were getting involved to try and appeal on the sake of humanity. This whole Thor-turns-into-a-mortal-fucks-his-sister-to-give-birth-to-himself plot was rammed right into the middle of it. All for a very round-about way of explaining how Odin learned about the Celestials to begin with.
I think this is a good enough place to stop for now. If your like me, your brains are slowly liquifying after reading all that.
When we come back
We’ll be cleansing the palate by going back to the early days of Thor in the pages of Journey into Mystery and making jokes about lame villains and the incredibly dated gender roles. No incest. I promise!
In the meantime, if there is a character you want us to cover in this series please leave your suggestions in the comments section below.