Lightning Strikes Twice as THOR's Origin is Retold

Lightning Strikes Twice for THOR

 [** Marvel is busy this afternoon with Thor news - check out this preview of the upcoming September limited series Thor: For Asgard]

The God of Thunder is making his presence known in a big way leading up to the new Thor film, and Marvel is introducing his history to a new generation of readers with Thor: First Thunder from Bryan J.L. Glass (The Mice Templar) and artist Tan Eng Huat (Ghost Rider).  

This new interpretation of Thor’s origin pays homage to the stories of the 1960s as it reexamines Thor’s human alter-ego of Dr. Donald Blake, and the events that lead to his discovering his true identity.  We talked with Glass, with editor Bill Rosemann occasionally popping in, about what to expect from this new miniseries, and found one thing is clear – this writer loves the Thunder God.

Newsarama: Bryan tell us about this particular Thor origin, or "Thor-igin."  That pun doesn't really work.  I'm assuming it won't involve Stone Men from Saturn?  NASA kind of screwed us on that one.

Bryan J.L. Glass: Verily...forsooth doth thou grant voice to that most intriguing of all thy queries...upon what rock doth the Stone Men ply their foundation?

We can laugh today about 1963's "Stone Men From Saturn," but even Stan and Jack found a way to revisit those aliens and clarify their galactic origin in Thor's later space-faring adventures. And the brilliant writer Greg Pak brought the Stone Man Korg into his incredible Planet Hulk saga. Korg is now just as much a part of the ongoing Marvel universe as any other established character.

Nrama: Bill, how does this fit into Marvel's overall plans for Thor over the next year?

Bill Rosemann: Over the last several years, Marvel’s publishing team has very smartly become experts on making sure retailers have plenty of comics and collections to offer readers when our movies hit. Expect the same plan to be in effect for the Thor movie – and for Thor: First Thunder to be leading the charge!

Nrama: What do you want to accomplish with this miniseries?  Did you feel it necessary to provide a more modern perspective on Thor's back story with the movie coming out?

Rosemann: Our goal is to use the best of modern storytelling techniques to reveal – and expand upon -- the origin and first year of Thor’s “super hero” career on Earth. Whether you are a long-time reader who wants to dig deeper into his past or a curious movie-goer who wants to learn more about the Thunder God’s early days amongst us mere mortals, Bryan and Tan will present the story with all the grandeur, drama and excitement that the son of Odin deserves.

Glass: I felt my job, as assigned, was to take these moments that are canon to Thor's Marvel mythos and make them work by contemporary standards. It was not my place to judge 1963 execution through the filter of today's lens.

My task was to honor all that has come before, and I took that mission to heart. Thus my interpretation of Thor's origin will be filled with everything that rings familiar--Dr. Donald Blake, Norway, the Stone Men from not around these here parts, finding Mjolnir in a cave, Loki, Jane Foster, Sandu-Master of the Supernatural, Radioactive Man, All-Father Odin--and yet all presented in a way that no one has ever seen before.

This is an incarnation of the Thunder God that tugs at the heart just as much as it ramps up the adrenaline, and should give readers a soul to empathize with. This Thor is an angry deity, bitter, spiteful, and revealing just why Odin felt compelled to deal with his beloved son as he did. Thor's lesson from Odin is portrayed more as a curse, and its up to our hero to break its hold over him...that which denies him Asgard.

Nrama: Bill, what qualities in Bryan's past work, particularly The Mice Templar, made him a good fit for this story?

Rosemann: If you’ve had the pleasure of reading The Mice Templar, you know why Bryan deserved the Harvey he won for writing it. The weaving of the myths of the past with hardships of the present, the building drama of the path of the hero, the inspiring and despicable actions of the intriguing cast of characters, the noble heart at the center of the saga…Bryan’s writing delivers it all, and these were exactly the qualities needed to bring the origin of Thor to life.

Nrama:  Thor represents one of the earliest example of modern-age retroactive continuity, in the sense that the initial story was about a mortal that got the powers of a god, and just two issues later became about a god who transformed into a mortal, requiring Lee and Kirby to explain this a few years later.  

Comics have explored these two ideas on and off throughout the years -- Thor disguised as a construction worker, Thor with Eric Masterson's mind, Thor merged with Jake Olson, etc.  Both represent a compelling premise, but which do you prefer and why

Glass: It is a fundamentally human question that is explored by almost all religions on Earth: the relationship between God and man, the gods and men, is the issue that comes right after asking where do we go when we die, and does anything we do in this life truly matter?

Even the storytelling device of the king who disguises himself as one of his own subjects to gain the tenor of his kingdom is an expression of the man/god relationship.

We are mortal beings, and science hasn't found anyway around that yet, so we are trapped by a finite span in which to matter. While the gods man has devised are said to be immortal, they are still what we desire. I believe, mythologically speaking, that is why so many gods possess human attributes, human flaws, as mankind projects upon its deities what we aspire to be.

Man isn't comfortable with a deity so far removed from the human experience as to be our moral judge. And yet we all identify with the power we've attributed to our gods, because even if we don't possess any ourselves, each of us can fantasize what we would do with such power

Marvel's Thor is an expression of those ideas, idealized. Marvel's Thor is a god on Earth who fully empathizes with the plight of humanity, and chooses to defend us despite our flaws. He represents an expression of god that we all wish we could believe in.

Exploring the relationship between Thor and Blake has turned out to be my favorite aspect of First Thunder. Again, we're not changing anything that has come before, but I'm striving to portray it in a way you've never seen or read before.

Nrama: Who is Don Blake in this story?  How do you envision him going through life?

Glass: I mentioned previously that our Thor is definitely an angry god. Yet conversely, our Blake is a man who reveals he has every reason to be just as angry and bitter as his divine counterpart...and yet isn't. He is a man who has been dealt a raw deal in life and has chosen a different path of response.

Don Blake is no longer a man who just happens to be in Norway in order to stumble upon a life-changing discovery. Our Blake intentionally challenges the world, a mere mortal who pits his own physical limitations against whatever the world can dish out, and under every condition the far corners of this planet can offer: "From the summit of Everest, to the poles...both of them." as the opening first person narrative of our tale reveals.

I'm hoping first time readers, as well as long-time Thor fans are receptive to this interpretation of Dr. Blake, and grant him the opportunity to develop over the course of these five issues.

Nrama: What's it like working with Tan?  Jason Aaron was raving about working with him on Ghost Rider when we talked a while back.  What's your collaboration been like?

Glass: Tan has been an inspiration from the day I received this assignment, and editor Bill Rosemann sent me Tan's preliminary character sketch for Thor. There was this sense of the unbelievable: Thisis the guy that's going to breathe life into my script?

As of the conducting of this interview, issue one pages are arriving daily. And I get up every day wondering what amazing piece of art will be sitting in my mail box!

Our Donald Blake contains a dichotomy of both weakness and strength. And Tan captures all the subtle nuances of my script, in body language, facial expression; you the reader/viewer actually feel what the characters feel. No writer in comics can ask for more than that. It is an awesome feeling, and I am so blessed to have Tan provide the art on my first high-profile assignment.

Thus I can't wait to see him cut loose on drawing Thor as a powerhouse!

Nrama:  Bill, did you bring Bryan on board before or after Tan was attached, and what does Tan bring to the world of Asgard?

Rosemann: I cast the writer and artist spots during the same week. About six months ago, Michael Avon Oeming was nice enough to send me a copy of the first Mice Templar collection, and halfway through reading it I knew I had to eventually find the right spot for Bryan in the Marvel Universe.

When the Thor: First Thunder assignment came my way, that spot became clear. Then, while I was reaching out to Bryan, I scanned my bookshelf for the right look, and remembered the amazing “Kirby Meets Moebius” visuals that Tan delivered in the  Silver Surfer: In Thy Name mini.

Fortunately, the planets aligned and both creators were available and interested in the story…and their passion shows on every single page!

Nrama:  What aspects of Thor's mythology -- either in the original Norse myths or in the comic series -- do you feel could be explored more in the comics, and what are you focusing on for this story?

Glass: As First Thunder deals with Thor's first year on Earth, my focus has to be upon the origin of his banishment. As I said, this Thor is an angry Thor. It's definitely a story that deals with daddy issues.

And I've weaved that theme throughout not only the obvious relationship between Thor and Odin, but in Loki as well, and with Don Blake in ways that should surprise readers.

Nrama: For that matter, what are your favorite Thor stories, be they Norse or sequential?

Glass: I feel I have pretty basic choices. As a comics fan, I was truly a child of the ‘80s. Therefore, the first Thor issues to capture my imagination were those of the legendary Walt Simonson run.

That first issue (#337) that introduced Beta Ray Bill...and left Don Blake on the hull of Scuttlebutt screaming, "Father!" into the rain. Followed by the battle for the hammer. Surtur. That stunning moment when the Executioner holds the bridge...simply incredible stuff!

The next great tale for me was when my friend and frequent storytelling partner Mike Oeming brought true Ragnarok to Asgard in the classic Avengers Disassembled: Thor! Along with his partner on that effort, Dan Berman, I was truly in awe of what they brought to the character, and the story they had to tell. I love when even comic stories stir the emotion, touch the heart. Mike and Dan did that, and gave us one of the Thunder god's most memorable tales.

Last for me would be the incredible return that J. Michael Straczynski brought. I absolutely loved his slow, yet deliberate pace that brought Asgard to Oklahoma; a true blend of epic adventure, subtle humor and stunning pathos.

To follow in the footsteps of those men...let alone Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Roy Thomas, Tom DeFalco, Ron Frenz. This has truly been a humbling assignment.

Nrama:  What do you feel has made Thor such an enduring character?  Big action?  Epic scale?  Iambic pentameter?  Conversely, what do you feel makes the character difficult to write or to connect with an audience?

Glass: For all of Thor's power, he is still an outsider to this world, our culture, our very time period. I believe much of the appeal is that empathy so many of us have for the outsider; a variation of what I believe is the answer to the Hulk's success.

While conversely, that same designation as an outsider is where many disconnect with the character. Thor is not of our culture or time, and nothing identifies him more, from those prone to alienation, than his language. Those "thees," "thines" and "thous" can be a killer. They're probably what kept me from embracing Thor in my youth.

I needed an event like Walt Simonson coming aboard the series to give me an opportunity to allow this Norse god a chance to touch my heart and stir my imagination. All these years later, I cannot fathom Thor speaking any other way. His language is part of his charm for those willing to lend him an ear.

Once you get past the language, Thor's story is one we empathize with. And when the time comes to lay any kind of smack-down...we all love expressions of savage power fighting for the noble cause...and that's when the Thunder god taps into our love of primordial characters like Conan.

There is a reason that Thor and Mjolnir are one of the greatest expressions of power in the Marvel Universe, reserved for those moments when true might is required.

Rosemann: An amazing visual, the magical fusing of myth with super heroics, the inspiring tale of a powerful being who chooses to protect us, a big freakin’ war hammer…take your pick!

Nrama: Who are some of your favorite Asgardian characters/monsters, and why?

Glass: I've always been a fan of Balder, probably because I identify with his personal characteristics a bit more than I do with Thor. Much is always expected of Balder, yet he often fails to deliver to expectation. Oops, don't let my editor read this. I'm mildly disappointed that First Thunder doesn't provide an opportunity to write Balder.

But it does allow me to write my second-favorite Asgardian: Heimdall. Heimdall holds the bridge. That is what he does. That is all he does. He watches. He guards. He defends the portal. We all wish we had a Heimdall in our lives. The scene I got to write between Thor and Heimdall in First Thunder #2 is as powerful as, I believe, it will be unexpected.

And Loki is a disturbing pleasure to write. Truly. Or make that, Verily! As this story covers Thor's first year on Earth, it also chronicles Loki's initial escape after centuries of imprisonment. This Loki has far too much embittered rage fueling him for mere mischief to be his first motivation.

Loki is about vengeance--in your face retribution--for what he perceives as an injustice perpetrated upon him. I'm not sure if anyone has ever approached Loki with as much malevolence as he we give him in this new debut.

Nrama: Any other Marvel characters you want to tackle?

Glass: I've had a soft spot for the Wasp from way back in the Way Back Machine!

My true Marvel Universe debut, shipping in September, the same month as First Thunder #1, is a Valkyrie One-Shot...and in that I got the opportunity to script Janet van Dyne into that particular story, in what is, I'm sure, one of the most peculiar pairings of characters ever (along the lines of Spider-Man & Wolverine teaming up inAstonishing Tales). I was stunned that it made it past editorial, but the folks tell me they like it!

So as soon as they bring dear Janet back from the grave (as they must), I'll be pitching my Wasp mini-series, you can be sure!

Nrama: Anything else you'd like to talk about that we haven't discussed yet?

Glass: I am so appreciative of Marvel editorial, particularly Bill Rosemann, for seeing my previous work, and believing I had what it took to make the most of these writing opportunities they've offered.

 I remember being at dinner with Brian Bendis mere weeks after I received the Valkyrie assignment (and Thor wasn't even on my horizon yet), and he was describing how neat a feeling it was the first time corporate Marvel allowed you in the back room, opened the private toybox, and showed you which toys you were allowed to play with. Several months later, I gotta say, Brian called it perfectly. It is an experience and an honor like I can scarcely believe.

In addition to these Marvel Universe opportunities, I've also adapted the Raymond Feist novel Magician Apprentice for the company, and anxiously await my chance to return to that franchise. And my baby is The Mice Templar, the Image Comics series I created with Michael Avon Oeming for which I won my 2009 Harvey Award.

As High Fantasy, I feel that anthropomorphic tale really helped prepare me for writing the Grand Opera that is Valkyrie and Thor. Volume Two: Destiny has only just wrapped up, and we're preparing even now for this fall's release of Volume Three: Mid-Winter Night’s Dream with covers by Mike, interiors by the amazing Victor Santos, and colors by Marvel's very own Veronica Gandini returning to the series that first brought her to Marvel's notice!

Verily, verily...’tis an age of wonder and blessing indeed!

Thor: First Thunder strikes this September.

What Origin moments have to be included?

 

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