Learn About the Impact of Thor on Pop Culture

In Norse and Germanic mythology, Thor is a god of thunder who carries a magical hammer (that only he can lift) and is associated with lightning, storms, strength, sacred groves and trees, the protection of mankind, hallowing, and fertility. 

Based on this prominent figure, comic book editors Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and Scripter Larry Lieber created a Marvel Comics superhero named Thor Odinson or Mighty Thor. The character bears a lot of superhuman attributes, including being able to fly and manipulate the weather with his enchanted hammer. He uses these abilities to protect his home Asgard and planet Earth.

In comic books and a few movies, the character of Thor often swaps lives with a New York physician, Dr. Donald Balke, while learning humility on Earth. As the founding member of the famous fictional superhero team, the Avengers, Thor has many supporting characters and enemies. 

Impact of Thor on Pop Culture 

Like many other fictional superheroes, Thor also got featured in multiple comics, films, TV shows, video games, animations, short stories, and comics and reshaped popular culture. Let’s read more about the impact of Thor on pop culture.

1. Thor in Comics 

Although a different version of Thor appeared in a comic, Venus, in 1951, Thor officially debuted in 1962  in a comic (a science fiction/fantasy anthology) titled Journey into Mystery #83. One of the co-creators of Thor, Lee, described the origin of Thor early in the Marvel pantheon. In one of his interviews, Lee said he wanted to make the “strongest” superhero, which was only possible by making him a God and not a human.

Lee further described that comic book readers were already familiar with the Roman and Greek Gods, so he tried to delve into the old Nurse legends. He pictured a Nurse god with horned helmets, flowing beards, and battle clubs and named him Thor. During an interview in 1984, Kirby said, “I did a version of Thor for DC in the fifties before I did him for Marvel. I created Thor at Marvel because I was forever enamored of legends, which is why I knew about Balder, Heimdall, and Odin. I tried to update Thor and put him into a superhero costume, but he was still Thor.”

In 1957, the DC version of Thor, created by Kirby, was included in the Tales of the Unexpected. The character had a different design, but some details were reused by Kirby while creating the Marvel Comics version. Kirby said in an interview that he was well aware of Thor legends but wanted to modernize them. Subsequent stories of Tales of the Unexpected featured The Mighty Thor, plotted by Lee and variously scripted by Robert Bernstein or Lieber. 

Over the next few years, various artists played their part in writing the character of Thor, including Joe Sinnott, Don Heck, Jack Kirby, and Al Hartley. Thor’s first appearance in Journey into Mystery was a success, and after the release of the comic’s 101st issue in 1964, the series began a long and continuous run by the two writers and co-plotters, Lee and Kirby. It lasted until the by-then-retitled Thor#179 in 1970. 

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  • Inclusion of Thor in the Avengers

In 1963, Kirby and Lee included Thor in The Avengers as a founding member. As a result, the character appeared in every subsequent volume of “The Avengers” series. In the same year, a five-page featurette, “Tales of Asgard” was added in Journey into Mystery #97, followed by Thor appearing as a  dominant cover logo with issue#104 in 1964.

The writers were successfully converting Thor from a strange-looking superhero into a spectacular saga. According to Chic Stone, writer of several early Thor stories, “Kirby could just lead you through all these different worlds. The readers would follow him anywhere.”

  • Journey into Mystery Retitled as Thor

In 1966, with issue#126, Journey into Mystery was retitled Thor or The Mighty Thor. The following year, Tales of Asgard got replaced by a five-page featurette starring Inhumans (a fictional superhuman race of superheroes), after which featurettes were dropped.

As a result, Thor stories expanded to Marvel’s standard length of 20 pages. In 1967, Marvel filed for a trademark, “The Mighty Thor” and the United States Patent and Trademark Office issued the registration in 1970. 

  • Creative Changes in the Character of Thor

After Kirby and Lee stopped working, a new team of creatives took over the writing and design of Thor. One of those writers, Roy Thomas, incorporated many elements of traditional Norse mythology into the title, translating specific stories into comics. 

In 1976, Steve Englehart (a renowned comic book writer) published a Thor story, and in the next year, a black-and-white Thor story appeared in Marvel Preview #10. From 1984 to 1985, the character was actively involved in the year-long Marvel Super Heroes Secret War storyline written by Jim Shooter, covering his mysterious disappearance in The Mighty Thor #341 and The Mighty Avengers #242.

  • Thor Got Removed from the Marvel Universe

In the 1990s, as a consequence of the crossover story arc of the Heroes Reborn, Thor was removed from the mainstream Marvel continuity. The character returned to the Marvel Universe in 1998, and Thor got relaunched with Thor vol. 2, which ran until issue #85. The third volume debuted as Thor#1 in 2007.

When Thor was about to appear in a movie, Marvel launched multiple new series starring the character in 2010. These included Thor: First Thunder by Bryan J. L. Glass and Tan Eng Huat, Thor: The Mighty Avenger by Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee, and Thor: For Asgard by Robert Rodi and Simone Bianchi. In 2011, Thor reverted to its original title, Journey into Mystery. After that, Thor’s comic journey is summed up below.

  • Thor became part of Uncanny Avengers in 2012.
  • Thor starred in a series titled Thor: God of Thunder.
  • The Mighty Thor was signed up for a second volume.
  • Thor was featured in a series titled The Unworthy Thor.
  • In 2020, Thor volume#6 debuts following the story of Thor as the new king of Asgard.

2. Thor in TV Shows

Thor made its first appearance on TV in 1966, way sooner than in films. The character was featured in the segment “The Mighty Thor” of the animated series “The Marvel Super Heroes”, consisting of 13 episodes. In 1981, the “Donald Blake” identity of Thor appeared in the Spider-Man episode of another animated TV series, “Wrath of the Sub-Mariner”.

The same year, Thor also appeared in an episode of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends titled “Vengeance of Loki”. The character made multiple memorable appearances on TV over the last few decades. Some of them are listed below. 

  • The Incredible Hulk Returns (1988)
  • Fantastic Four (1994)
  • The Avengers: United They Stand, (1999)
  • The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, (2010)
  • Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H (2013)
  • Marvel Future Avengers (2017)
  • Loki (2021)

3. Thor in Movies

In 2011, Thor made its first appearance on the big screen in a film titled Thor. Chris Hemsworth played the character of Thor in Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film was successful and bagged $449.3 million at the box office. In 2012, the superhero appeared in another movie, “The Avengers“. This superhero mashup blasted through nearly every record in cinema history. After that, the character was featured in several movies. Some of them are as follows.

  • Thor: The Dark World (2013)
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
  • Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
  • Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
  • Avengers: Endgame (2019)
  • Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)

In 2016, Hemsworth also appeared in the mid-credits scene of Doctor Strange. In 2020, Hemsworth stated that he wishes to continue playing Thor after Thor: Love and Thunder, saying, “I’m not going into any retirement period” because the character is “way too young for that”. 

4. Thor in Video Games

While Thor hasn’t been a part of many video games, he has a playable character in some fantastic and average games. Fans can also call down explosive lighting by wielding Mjolnir (Thor’s hammer) in several RPGs (role-playing games), fighting games, and co-op puzzle platformers. Some of the video games featuring Thor are listed below.

    • Marvel Heroes 
    • Fortnite
    • Marvel Vs. Capcom Infinite
    • Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3
    • Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order
    • Marvel Ultimate Alliance
    • Marvel’s Avengers
    • LEGO Marvel’s Avengers

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5. Thor in Novels and Short Stories

In addition to comics, the Nurse god appeared in many novels and short stories. These are as follows.

  • Two Avengers novels: The Man Who Stole Tomorrow by David Michelinie (1979) and The Avengers vs. The Thunderbolts (1998) by Pierce Askegren.
  • Loki’s storyline by Michael Jan Friedman in The Ultimate Super-Villains (1996).
  • Two Ultimates novels in 2006-2007, i.e., The Tomorrow Men by Friedman and Against All Enemies by Alex Irvine.
  • Solo novel in 2015, named “Marvel’s Thor: Dueling with Giants” by Keith R.A. DeCandido, Book 1 of the Tales of Asgard trilogy. 
  • Two Subsequent books, Marvel’s Sif: Even Dragons Have Their Endings and Marvel’s Warriors Three: Godhood’s End.

Thor – Marvel’s Strongest Superhero

Thor in comics might be a little different from Thor in movies and films but the character has been equally praised by the masses in every form. The fictional superhero is considered the strongest Avenger. His unique attributes and powers set him apart from other superheroes and the character has been featured in multiple media types and used in clothing, toys, and Marvel Comics merchandise, attracting the superhero fan base from all over the world.