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Thor! The Superhero God: Happy and Historic!

thor the superhero god

Unlike many of his peers, who were created for American comic books in the mid-to-late 20th century, the history of Thor goes back…way back. No, even further way back. The first written reference to Thor was in the historian Publius Cornelius TacitusGermania towards the end of the first century, but even that is in reference to a character who was already part of Northern European lore for some time. Tacitus interpreted Thor as the Germanic version of Hercules, not entirely accurate but not the worst assumption either. Many earlier references to Thor had versions of the name spelled or pronounced differently, understandable given different language groups and alphabets, with his name often sounding like the Thunder he is so connected to. So, in the 6th, 7th, and 8th centuries, one might hear tales of Thunor, Thunaer, or other variations. 

thor hammer symbol

By the Viking Age of the 11th Century, Thor was not only the consistent name, but he was also notably “mightiest,” although he was also said to wield a mace, not a hammer, although one could see the similarity between two short-handled blunt weapons. From there, he has appeared consistently in Northern European myths, stories, folktales, and art. As you can imagine, any character who has existed for 2000 or more years has been “rebooted” in many ways, ranging from the object of worship to a symbolic, fictional character, from the focus of oral tradition to the subject of works by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Rudyard Kipling. Thor is the namesake of the chemical Thorium, the PGM-17 Thor missile, Scutisorex Thori- the Thor’s hero shrew, and the day of the week, Thursday.

Versions of Thor appearing in comics include a villain in Savage Dragon and a foolish figure in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman*. Jack Kirby created several short-lived characters named or inspired by Thor, including one in the DC comic, Tales of the Unexpected #16 in 1957. Another version of Thor appeared in Marvel’s own Venus comics issues 12 and 13. Of course, the version of Thor we’re here to talk about is not the redheaded Northman of myth, but the blonde superhero. This incarnation was the joint effort of  Kirby, Stan Lee, and Larry Lieber, appearing in Journey Into Mystery #83 in August, 1962. This led to the recurring comic Tales of Asgard, which itself was renamed Thor, or, on most covers, The Mighty Thor.

While Thor has not seen as many different retellings of his story as, say, Spider-Man, his comic background and MCU story aren’t exactly consistent, aside from key factors like his hammer, Mjolnir. Speaking of Mjolnir…we have a huge selection of Thor items,

Many of which feature his hammer, such as this keychain, these cufflinks, and both this and this necklace! Or, if you’re keeping with the newest updates, his mighty axe, as seen in the latest MCU adventures.

*Gaiman also wrote a more rounded version of Thor in American Gods.

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