Earlier this summer, news broke on The View of all places that a massive change would be coming to one of Marvel Comics’ most iconic characters: Thor. It was revealed that Thor, the Odinson we know and love, would be deemed unworthy of wielding Mjolnir, the mythical uru-metal hammer that grants Thor his God of Thunder powers, and a woman would be taking it up in his stead. Change can be a difficult thing to accept, but this announcement proved something of a lightning rod, sparking think pieces, some truly heinous comments, and a lot of unnecessary debate over what was happening in the House of Ideas.
This week, Thor #1 finally hits store shelves and, having read an advance copy, I can assure you that it is a tremendously enjoyable read. The story, by writer Jason Aaron and artist Russell Dauterman, picks up on the moon in the wake of a massive battle with Nick Fury and the heroes of Earth. Fury, using secrets he obtained from the Watcher during the also-Aaron-penned Original Sin, was last seen whispering something in Thor’s ear. Whatever he whispered caused the God of Thunder to drop his mighty hammer Mjolnir, and he has since been unable to pick it up. Whatever he whispered made Thor realize that he was unworthy to wield the powers of the God of Thunder, and now he is depowered, in a severely weakened state.
Without spoiling anything, the first issue is a tense, high stakes story that sees the return of classic characters and, by the issue’s end, the brand new female Thor. Although we only see her in silhouette and her identity remains a mystery, Aaron manages to pepper in plenty of clues, winks, and nods to the reader as to just who it might be. Recently, I had the chance to catch up with Aaron over the phone to talk with him about his motivation behind the story arc, what readers can expect from both New Thor and Old Thor going forward, and how this plan has been in the works for a lot longer than you likely realized.
Editor’s note: This interview contains mild spoilers for Marvel’s Thor #1. If you prefer to go in blinder than Ben Grimm’s girlfriend Alicia Masters, then squirrel this away for later reading.
Nerdist: So let’s talk about Thor. I really enjoyed the first issue. I liked how it didn’t give everything away, but it also felt like a nice Thor story. I really appreciated that, especially after all the think-pieces and internet hullabaloo since the announcement.
Jason Aaron: Thanks. I’ve said all along – I’ve been writing Thor for two years now, for 25 issues – this wasn’t me stopping and throwing all of that out, and starting over and rethinking how I write Thor stories. This was a continuation of everything that I’ve been doing, so I feel like I have hopefully a pretty good handle on what it takes to make a decent Thor store. So this is just kind of continuing on with that same formula, just sort of putting a different sort of character at the center of it.
N: Personally, I was sold after Thor: God of Thunder #1, so I did not have any doubts in my mind. You’ve mentioned in past interviews that this was part of your plan, that you always wanted to have Thor be deemed unworthy at some point. How far in advance was this planned, and what was that conversation like when you took that to Marvel?
JA: I knew from the beginning that I was moving towards a story where Thor – the male version of Thor – would become unworthy, where he wouldn’t be able to pick up his hammer. I didn’t know initially who would pick it up in his place, but I knew from early on that I was getting to that point. I started thinking about who should it be, who should pick up the hammer after him, and I pretty quickly focused in on it being a female character for a couple of reason.
One, that it’s not a story we’ve really seen before. We’ve rarely seen female characters pick up the hammer, kind of only in scenes here and there, and one-shots and whatnot. So I liked the idea of doing, of course, a story we hadn’t seen before. But also, if you look at the supporting cast that I’d built up around Thor, most of those characters are female. More of them are characters that have been around a long time, but I’ve also introduced some new characters, like Roz Solomon, who’s a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and sort of a new love interest for Thor, and the Girls of Thunder, who are Thor’s own granddaughters from the far future.
So looking around in Thor’s corner of the Marvel Universe, someone he knows is going to pick up that hammer, and chances are, it’s going to be a woman. All that said, we still had to have an actual story. So it wasn’t just about, yeah, let’s make it a woman and release a press release, and I’ll figure out later who it is and what we’re shooting for and what her story is. I pretty quickly figured out who it is underneath that mask, and the story I wanted to tell with her.
That, to me, is the important part, you know. Everything else is sort of build-up to that. The mystery, the initial surprise of this new Thor is really just the lead-in to the reveal of who she is and telling her story. That’s the part I’m really excited to get to. If I didn’t have that, I’d be really nervous right now. But I still feel as strongly about her story as I did when I first started telling Thor stories back in God of Thunder #1.
N: This first issue is a real doozy, with the frost giants returning and invading Earth, attacking a sea base. Malekith is back, and you see old Thor’s disastrous attempts at playing hero in his weakened state. I’m very excited to see where it’s going in the weeks ahead. What kind of stuff can we expect in the issues to come?
JA: Well, I can just say that we tell you that the first tease of New Thor that you saw at the very end of Thor #1, so in issue two, we see her in action for the first time. We start to see how she’s a little bit different than the previous version. There are things she can do that he couldn’t quite do, or her powers are just a little bit different. But her relationship with Mjolnir, with the hammer, is a little bit different.
That kind of continues on in issue three. The battle with the frost giants and Malekith – by the time we get to issue four, the Odinson returns. Clearly he is very interested to know who is this person who is running around with ‘my’ hammer? So we will get a Thor vs. Thor showdown by the time of issue four.
N: Awesome! Now I have to ask – I was very excited, you see the one panel where Freyja is sort of eyeing Mjolnir, but I feel like that’s almost a red herring, and I know that you’re not going to give it away who is actually picking up the hammer, but what is the craziest candidate you’ve heard? Is there one that made you go, “Wow! No way in hell, but that’s an interesting idea”?
JA: Um, you know, I don’t think I’ve heard anybody who is that off-base. I said all along that this is not a brand-new character that we’ve never seen before. This is someone from Thor’s circle of influence, so that sort of narrows it down. So within that, I think I’ve seen every character it could possibly be mentioned. I think people have covered all of the bases, so as the book goes along we` will start to lay out all those different suspects, and at some point we’ll start to mark some of them off the list. But clearly the Odinson, the previous version of Thor, is going to be very interested in knowing “Who are you under that mask? Why are you worthy when I’m not?” He’s going to have a lot of questions, so he in particular is going to be trying to figure out who this person is. But again, that history is something that we’re going to play out for a while – it’s not something I’m going to stretch out for a year, two years, because the mystery is not the focus of the story. The real story is once we reveal who it is, then follow her from there.
N: With that being said, will we learn what it was that Nick Fury whispered to Thor on the moon?
JA: We’ll learn who’s under the mask before we learn that.
JA: That mystery will kind of be a continuing part of the Odinson story. But if you look at what I’ve been writing with him, it should be obvious – it’s kind of been leading towards this moment, that worthiness has always been a part of his story. I’ve always written him with the idea that he wakes up every morning and looks at that hammer and doesn’t know if he’ll be able to pick it up. So he’s always been questioning his worthiness. He’s always been questioning what does it mean to be a good god? Am I a good god?
So this all kind of ties into that idea, and I love the idea that he’s always been able to have that hammer to verify it, to confirm his worthiness. As long as he can pick it up, that means we’re good to go, I’m worthy. So I like taking that away from him, so that he can’t confirm that anymore. What does that mean for him? Does he give up, or does he still fight and try to be the hero he’s always been? Clearly, in Thor #1, we see that he’s not giving up the fight.
So bringing in this new version of Thor is not about casting him to the side. He very clearly has his own story, his own character arc that will be played out in the pages of this book and in others.
N: That is something that is particularly interesting about Thor. More so than any other hero, he actually has that binary between “Is what I’m doing worthy? Is this moral? Is this just?” No other hero really has that sort of stipulation for their power set, so it’s really fascinating to see – you know he did something bad if he can’t pick up the hammer anymore, whereas everybody else walks in that gray area.
JA: Sure. I will say this is not – Thor not being able to pick up the hammer, we’re not going to find out that he once did something truly terrible, that he once pushed an old lady down the stairs. That’s not it. Again, it ties into how I’ve been portraying him. He’s always sort of been, in his own mind, walking this line between worthiness and unworthiness. So yeah, at some point we’ll find out what Nick Fury said to him, but it’s not going to be some secret, dark revelation.
N: This change comes also on the heels of the announcement that Captain America is going to be getting a new identity; Falcon is going to be taking over for him. It feels like the Marvel Universe is undergoing some pretty seismic changes right now overall. How has the reaction been thus far, and why, in your opinion, is now the right time for these types of sweeping changes?
JA: I never write a story and feel like “Now is the time to tell the story.” I just kind of like the story that I want to write. Sometimes one story may strike more of a chord than others, but I think everything has to begin and end with the story itself, so that’s what this has been like for me. This has never been me thinking, “Yeah, this would be the perfect time to change Thor into a woman,” or “This is the press release that’s finally going to get me invited on to The View.” That was never – those are the things that happen after you come up with the idea for the story.
This all started with me wanting to tell this story, and Marvel jumping on board. Then this being something that coincides with the story that Rick [Remender] is telling gives Marvel the chance to sort of brand those stories together. But I never write a story and think “Well, Tumblr is going to love this one.” It’s a very selfish pursuit that I do. I write comics that I want to read, and then I get to sit back and watch some awesome artists draw them. It all feels like it’s just for me, so hopefully when we go out in the world, other people feel the same. I always find that if I can honestly look at the stuff that I’m doing and say “I’d pay $3 or $4 to read that if I saw it on the shelf at my comic book store” – if I can honestly say that, then other people out there will say that as well. I feel very strongly about this new Thor story.
The response has been overwhelming, for good and bad reasons. I was actually at the Marvel offices the day it was announced on The View, and I didn’t even get to see it because we were in meetings. I just knew at some point that my Twitter feed started exploding, and my phone was ringing, I was being pulled out of the room to do interviews. I’ve never had a story break that big in the mainstream before, to the point that it’s something that everyone’s sort of talking about it – from people who know nothing about comics, who look at comics from, like, “Hey, have you heard about that new Thor?” [laughing] Yeah, I’ve heard about that. So that was cool.
The response was mixed between people who were really excited but never read Thor, and some of the long-time fans who seem to be grumbling. Whenever you’re doing a big change to a character, there are going to be some fans who are concerned, which you completely understand. The only part I found discouraging and disappointing was the part of the response that seemed to solely focus on being annoyed that it was a female character. I don’t think we would have gotten the same sort of grumbling response if we had just replaced Thor with another dude.
So that part was disappointing, but again, that seemed a small segment in response to the people who were excited. In Thor #1 in the Letters column, we run two different columns – one for and against, so we kind of cover both sides of the story. But hearing from people who are picking up the book and who are excited about the change and never read Thor before – that gets me excited. I feel like I hopefully built up a little equity in the character over the last two years, to show Thor fans that I have a lot of love and respect for this character, and hopefully have a pretty good handle on what it means to do a good Thor story. A lot of those people are carried over into the new book, so I’m just saying if you like the previous stuff, I think you’ll like this new stuff. I’m not trying to change how I write Thor, just because the person holding the hammer has changed.
N: I appreciate that you guys included both perspectives in the Letters column. I think it’s important for people to see both sides of that argument. Comic fans and comic book readers, they’re more resistant to change than most, and that’s part and parcel of the fact that Thor’s been around for fifty-plus years, especially in his most recent incarnation.
But having read the first issue, it really hit all the bases of what I want from a good Thor story, and I think that people, whether they were on-board or not initially, will be pleasantly surprised. I think they’re really going to dig it.
JA: Cool. Thank you.
N: I know Chris Hemsworth has also voiced his support for this new Thor. If she were ever to appear on the big screen, who would you want to play her?
JA: [chuckles] That kind of decision is above my pay grade. I love the Marvel movies, I go see them just like everybody else. I don’t really have any extra insights. They’re doing it all on the West Coast. From me, from my perspective, one of the things they’ve done well, the reason they’ve been successful, is that Marvel Studios has been really great about pulling back to the original stories for these characters, and mining everything exciting that there is to be mined from those comics. So I just like the idea of doing the sorts of comics that, hopefully, in a few years they’ll be looking to mine, as opposed to just chasing after the movies.
I love the idea that when Avengers 2 comes out, that the comics are going to have different version of Thor and Cap – that we’re not just trying to do exactly the same story that they’re doing on the films. But at the same time, I think that if you like those characters in the movie, you should like these comics as well. You’re not going to pick up the book and get something radically different in a Thor story. So I like that. I like that we’re doing our own thing in the comics.
N: Exactly – they share the same DNA, but they’re different entities, and they’re both worthwhile. Also speaking of Hollywood adaptations, I was very happy to hear that Scalped is being turned into a series. Do you have any updates on that? How involved are you with that process at all?
JA: Not a lot – nothing really more to report on that. Nothing I can say at this point.
Marvel’s Thor #1 by Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman is available Wednesday, October 1.