Odin adopted Loki as his own after his Frost Giant parents were killed in battle, but what if the roles were reversed? What if the Frost Giants killed Odin, Freya, and the Asgardian royal family and took a pre-teen Thor as their own to be raised in frigid Jotunheim?
Next week readers will find out in a new What If? Thor one-shot from writer Ethan Sacks and artist Michele Bandini.
Coming as part of a group of What If? specials, this one-shot goes full alt-comics history a la Amazon's Man in the High Castle, but making it more like Asgardi's Demi-God in a High Ice Castle.
Newsarama spoke with Sacks about the upcoming one-shot, how he figured out this divergent path in Marvel Comics continuity, and also the idea for doing more in the future.
Newsarama: Ethan, how'd you come to this idea of Thor being adopted by the Frost Giants?
Ethan Sacks: Actually the idea came from deep inside the dungeons of the Marvel offices. Well, more specifically, editor Dan Edington. He called me and asked me if I was interested in the premise for Marvel's upcoming slate of What If? stories. I didn't waste any time, saying “Yes.”
From there the task of finding a specific answer to that "What if Thor was raised by Frost Giants?" question fell on me. So, the basic starting point became how would these characters change if through a quirk of the fates, Odin fell in battle against Laufey instead of the other way around.
Nrama: Laufey is relatively overlooked in the scheme of thing in comics - are you delving into him more in this one-shot?
Sacks: Laufey is definitely a big part of this storyline. Spoiler alert: He's not a very loving father and the effects of his brutal parentage has ramifications on the development of Thor... and on Loki. But he's not a two-dimensional tyrant, either. Everything he does is for the betterment of his people, in his mind at least.
Nrama: What role does Loki play in this - I believe he was raised in secret by Laufey, right?
Sacks: One thing we know from the regular continuity is that Laufey wasn't exactly pleased to have his heir be such a pathetic runt by frost giant standards. That carries over here. This story is very much a two-hander - the story of both Thor and Loki and how they develop in the cold (literally and figuratively) environs of Jotunheim. Poor Loki, there's no universe where he doesn't play second fiddle to Thor in his father's eyes.
Nrama: What does Thor think of this predicament - and how old would you say he is, in terms of human years?
Sacks: This story spans from Thor's early childhood, say six in human years, through his early adulthood. We see him grow and become indoctrinated by Laufey. He's the hero we recognize from the 616 Universe Thor books... only when he feels compelled to defend his people, they are bigger and bluer than the Asgardians and Midgardians we are used to him defending.
Nrama: Did any other members of the Asgardian royal family survive, or is this pretty much just Thor in Jotunheim?
Sacks: Ah, that would be telling...
Nrama: Had to ask, didn’t I?
What comics did you refer back to when researching for this one-shot?
Sacks: Much of the origin that I flipped comes straight out of the back-up tale in Journey Into Mystery #112. You can't go wrong with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. I also looked at the slightly different Loki origin story from J. Michael Straczynski back in 2009 (Thor Vol. 3 #12). It's kind of a synthesis. As for Loki, there's a little tip of the horned cap to Tom Hiddleston's portrayal of him in the Marvel movies. I read through more, but those were my touchstones.
Nrama: For this you're joined by artist Michele Bandini, coming off a run on X-Men Gold. What have you seen so far in the pages turned in? How's it look?
Sacks: Michele is absolutely amazing. From the first rough sketches he sent in, he really got both the idea that these characters are growing up radically differently than the versions we know, but that they also have to retain a recognizability. This is a particularly dense story for a 20-page comic, so we didn't have a lot of free real estate to do full splash pages as you'd want to give an artist of his caliber. But what is so amazing is that he broke down the structure of a page so that even if had six panels, there would be this great big panel for the kick-ass action shot. He'd find a way to make it look so cinematic.
He is a gifted storyteller. And it wasn't just the action scenes: Michele draws such depth into the facial expressions that readers' hearts will get broken when the characters' hearts are broken. He also worked so well with colorist Matt Milla, who really added an extra dimension to the art.
Nrama: What are your big goals for this one-shot?
Sacks: From a story standpoint, I wanted to tell a story of nature vs. nurture. Would Thor turn out to be the same hero if raised in much different circumstances? Would he be cruel? Would he fit our definition of a villain? Would Loki turn out differently, or would he still be desperately seeking validation from his father...albeit a different father? From a longer term perspective, I would love to explore that world in another story. I think there's potential to revisit this Jotunheim. Certainly, I'd want to work with Michele Bandini and editor Dan Edington again in this realm or any other.
Nrama: What If? is an interesting concept - could you see yourself doing more of these in the future?
Sacks: So... you're basically asking me, "What If...you are offered more What Ifs?" I would do it in a second.