Agent of S.T.Y.L.E. - THOR the God of Fashion
Marvel 1st Look: THE MIGHTY THOR #2
Don initially concluded that Thor must have been a real person once and that somehow, by obtaining this hammer, he had been given the ancient warrior's strength and powers. He embarked on a double life as a superhero, becoming Thor whenever a super-villain or some otherworldly menace threatened innocent life. Later, he was brought to Asgard, home of the Norse gods, and eventually he learned the truth. The Asgardians were power, long-lived alien beings that used a form of cosmic science that was indistinguishable from magic and who had been worshiped as gods by humans for a time. Donald had originally been born as Thor, son of Odin, the All-Father and ruler of Asgard. But after many centuries of battles, he had grown arrogant and Odin eventually had enough. The All-Father then sent the thunderer to Earth, transforming him into the human named Donald Blake with no memory of his true identity, crippling one of his legs so he would have to learn humility and the strength of willpower over physical ability. After several years, Odin had been satisfied with how Don had dedicated his life to healing others and so he had mentally guided the doctor to Norway, leading him to his birthright. Mjolnir could only be lifted by someone it deemed worthy and the fact that Thor could now wield it was the final proof of how he had grown.
Considering himself as much a part of Earth as he was of Asgard, Thor continued his life as a hero, both on his own and as a founding member of the famous super-team the Avengers. He has fought aliens, cosmic forces, super-villains and, most often, his stepbrother Loki, god of lies and mischief. He’s a pretty epic hero and he can also be seen in the cartoon Super Hero Squad Show, in the animated series Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, in the film Thor (and its upcoming sequel), and in next year's film The Avengers, where he'll team-up with Captain America, Iron Man, the Hulk and others.
KIRBY’S CLASSIC LOOK
This outfit is simply inspired. It says both “superhero” AND “viking warrior.” You have a standard superhero cape, but clasped onto shoulder pads rather than tucked into a shirt collar like Superman or tied around the neck like Captain Marvel. The circle designs on the shirt give an impression of the armor discs that some old warriors would wear to help deflect arrows and blades, causing the weapon to slide away from the body rather than pierce a flat armor plate.
But this outfit doesn’t only speak of the past and that's why it's effective. A sleeveless black tunic extending over the sleek blue trousers marks this as a very superhero style of dress. Notice also that this outfit is all primary colors, another classic comic book hero trait. In fact, Thor’s blonde hair acts in tandem with his golden belt and boot bandages, giving balance to the color.
So it's natural and significant that Thor, god of thunder, wears a cape as well. This makes him seem a bit grander when standing next to other Marvel heroes and it gives a great sense of wind and motion when he’s summoning a storm or hurling his mighty uru hammer Mjolnir. It's also a subtle reminder that he is technically a prince of Asgard.
As snazzy as this design is, there are a couple of problems I have. First, we again have the issue of too much gold being used. Second, I question how much Thor can really move when he has such thick, golden plates covering his limbs. Even his skirt is metal. When you consider how much gold weighs and how thick all those plates are, it makes Thor seemed seriously weighed down (even though we know he has superhuman strength) and that’s not a great impression to leave when you’re dealing with a God of Thunder who’s supposed to be able to ride the winds.
THE ’90s STYLES
In some ways, this outfit puts Dargo’s to shame. Again, we have metal pants which indicate Thor isn’t too into mobility. We’ve got spiked kneepads that I’m guessing would slam into each other if Thor tried to run. We’ve got huge shoulder pads that seem to be attached to nothing since Thor forgot most of his shirt. What are the yellow octagons here meant to imply? “Slow down, red light is next”?
And let’s talk about this helmet. A widow’s peak cut worked for Beta Ray Bill but it does not work for Thor. This new helmet makes him look older and implies he has a receding hairline.
This is just a lazy look. There's nothing to imply that Thor belongs to a world of superheroes or of mythological gods and warriors. The only thing you can take from this is that Thor may be trying to start a new hair metal group or a Bon Jovi cover band that only plays 1980s songs.
And why is there a protective jockstrap on the outside of his pants? Did the clerk at the Sports Authority deliberately lie to the thunder god about how you’re supposed to wear that? The jerk! And let's not forget my favorite useless addition. There’s now a huge chain attached to the hammer Mjolnir. Because, you know, chains are cool!
This outfit doesn’t say “superhero” or “Viking warrior” to me. What it does say is: “Man, I can’t wait for Mel Gibson to remake Mad Max.”
Immediately, my mind says “too fancy.” Thor is a warrior. This gold trim everywhere and the design on the skirt-let makes this seem like something he would wear for a formal event. This isn’t battle-gear. The design of the trousers is also just odd. It seems to be cloth or leather but is implying metal and I find it a bit odd that they form directly into boots. Thor later adopted a slightly suit during his time on Counter-Earth. Most of the same problems occur. The overly busy style is just not as effective as the classic Kirby design.
In this world, Thor appeared and was a mystery. Even the readers were not sure if he was truly a seemingly magical alien who had once been worshiped as a Norse god or if he were an environmentalist who gained superhuman abilities through his suit and simply had delusions of grandeur. It's not a bad take on the character and the outfit does imply that the latter may be true.
Thor's metal armor discs have been replaced by roundels that light up with energy whenever he summons the lightning. It's not a bad idea, but a bit to similar to Iron Man's repulsor discs. And what's more, since there is no sense of old world majesty or myth in this suit, it comes off too strongly on the side of implying that Thor gets his powers from technology. It's fine if you want readers to wonder, but Thor himself was aware of the truth and it seems like he would wear something that gave a nod to Asgard in some small way, especially when he was trying to convince others that he was indeed the thunder god of myth. If you had never seen Jack Kirby's version of Thor to compare this suit with, there's nothing about it that says thunder god or Viking warrior. It's just a suit with a large belt and glowing discs that may as well be CD players.
KING OF ASGARD AND MODERN STYLES
Since then, many artists have followed this idea, even placing metal discs on Thor's costume in stories that take place in the past or that modernize older comic book stories.
This look isn’t bad. The helmet implies Thor’s new authority, as does the fur trim on the cape. And this still works as a superhero costume, I think. But the chains bother me. They honestly make the metal discs look like metal bras. And frankly, I think wearing chains around your torso is a danger if you go into battle. What’s to stop the other guy from just grabbing you by the chains and throwing you off balance?
During the events of the story Avengers Disassembled, Thor and Asgard vanished for a while, seemingly destroyed. After a few years of being absent from the Marvel Comics universe, the god of thunder came back from the void in a new series written by J. Michael Straczynski. Once more, the hero was dividing his existence between being an Asgardian warrior and living as the healer Don Blake (before this, he had not transformed into Don Blake since the early 1980s). In his warrior guise, he has been wearing this new take on his classic costume/armor.
It’s still a big change from Thor usually having bare arms, but let’s consider that Thor is older now and has faced not only new responsibilities as king of Asgard but has also now gone against many opponents over the years who are strong enough to kill him. It makes sense he’d take an extra precaution or two now that he’s no longer the young, sometimes reckless firebrand he used to be. And while the chain-mail may signify a centuries old warrior, the streamlined design of the entire outfit still gives us the impression of a superhero.
A couple of times, this armor has lit up similar to Ultimate Thor's power effect. But in this case, we don't mistake it for technology because the overall design reminds us that this is a warrior of old. So the effect works here, blending a sense of science and myth rather than choosing one or the other. A nice effect for what is essentially an alien who has been viewed as a god.
Another thing going for this style is that it keeps that great silhouette that the classic Kirby Thor design had. In fashion, people always talk about how important the silhouette is. It can apply for superheroes too. Look at Batman. And it works for Thor as well. Even in shadow, before he lifts Mjolnir into the air, you can tell exactly who this guy is.
Hope you've enjoyed this look at Marvel's god of thunder. Be sure to pick up Avengers Origins: Thor next Wednesday for a crash course on the character's beginnings. This has been Alan Kistler, Agent of S.T.Y.L.E., signing off!
Alan Sizzler Kistler is an actor and freelance writer living in New York City. His work can be found on various websites and he has been recognized by publishers and news media outlets as a comic book historian and Doctor Who historian. He is a contributor to the book Star Trek and History, coming soon. He knows entirely too much about superheroes, time travel stories, Muppets, and vampires that don't sparkle. His website is AlanKistler.com and his twitterfeed is @SizzlerKistlerGot a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!