These words were inscribed on the war hammer Mjolnir, the name of which means "breaker" or "thunder" depending on who you ask. Created out of mystical uru metal, the weapon allows Thor to control the weather, fly through the air, travel between Earth and Asgard, and triggers his transformations from a warrior of Asgard to a human being named Donald Blake. If Thor ever became unworthy of such a weapon, it would fall to the ground and he would be unable to lift it again, despite his superhuman strength.
But notice that first word. "Whosoever." So technically, anyone truly worthy (by the hammer's standards) should be able to lift Mjolnir and gain its powers, along with Thor's incredible strength, resiliency and armor. Captain America once lifted it, but did not get any armor nor did he keep it for long, returning it to Thor very quickly. But others have been able to lift it as well. And there are also warriors who may not have lifted Mjolnir but still found ways to emulate Thor and his methods. Last week, we examined the design evolution of the god of thunder. Now let's check out the many alternate Thors that have existed in the mainstream Marvel Comics universe.
RED NORVELLThe first alternate Thor was Red Norvell, introduced in 1978. Red was a cameraman who wound up transformed into a god of thunder thanks to the mischief of Loki, Thor's adopted brother and long time enemy. Now, in mythology, Thor was supposed to have red hair and a beard rather than be clean-shaven and blond. So on first glance, this is a clever way of sneaking an interpretation of the traditional Thor into the comics. But it definitely isn't superior to Don Blake's alter ego. This is too much "Viking warrior." Nothing in this outfit implies modern-day super-hero. The horns on the helmet are so large that they make me worry he’ll knock into door frames at any given moment.
There's also too much gold. In ancient times, Thor’s worshipers saw him as a god who fought for the common man. And in the Marvel Comics universe, Thor sees Earth as his home as much as Asgard. His birthright connects him to Earth, he lives among its people, and he led a double life as human physician Dr. Donald Blake. This is a guy who, despite having godlike powers, has been known to go to New York pubs after a battle and contemplate his life over a glass mug of beer. But Norvell’s costume of all gold is antithetical to that. It implies someone who flaunts wealth and power.Over the years, Red Norvell tried out a couple of other suits, many of which were pretty lame. A couple of time he tried to just wear leather and black muscle shirts but this, added with the Thor-ish helmet and his own version of the hammer, just made him seem like a rock star from a 1980s music video. At least with the golden armor, we understood where he was coming from.
BETA RAY BILLIn 1983, the true Thor encountered an alien named Beta Ray Bill on a ship traveling through outer space. Bill was a member of the Korbinite race and had been genetically engineered to be a large, superhumanly strong warrior to protect his people aboard the ship. When Thor came to investigate, Bill believed him to be an enemy and the two fought. During the battle, Beta Ray Bill reached for Mjolnir and, to Thor's amazement, lifted it. Deeming him worthy, the hammer instantly gave Bill a Thor-like suit of armor and similar powers of weather control, lightning blasts, and flight.
After a quick contest to confirm Bill's worthiness, Odin decided that the alien warrior would continue to keep his power. But since he wasn't about to leave Thor without a weapon, Odin had a new war hammer created especially for Bill. This hammer, called Stormbreaker, became Beta Ray Bill's signature weapon and bonded him and Thor as blood brothers.
So with all this in mind, the resemblance to Thor's armor makes sense. They are bonded by Mjolnir deeming them both worthy and their hammers grant them similar powers. But there's a twist on things to let you know that Bill is an alien rather than a creature from Asgard.This is a neat twist on things. Beta Ray Bill is an alien who was genetically engineered to be an incredibly powerful warrior. Along with Captain America, he’s one of the few beings in the universe aside from Thor who is actually worthy enough to lift the mystical hammer Mjolnir. When he did so, it made him more powerful and gave him this version of the thunder god’s outfit. The metal boots and shoulder pads give a more space-age feel to the outfit and the lines that lead into our circle pattern change the impression from metal discs to perhaps a circuitry design. This all says “outer space” and “science fiction” to me. Perfect for an alien version of our hero.
The helmet has also been altered to give a widow’s peak impression. When you consider the shape of Bill’s horse-like face, this works. It draws your attention to his eyes and his oft-times vicious expression. Beta Ray Bill was intentionally designed to look like a monster so that readers would be surprised when it turned out he was quite heroic and so that Thor would be reminded that appearances did not determine the soul of a person.
The major problem with this suit is that it gets a little too busy in places. For instance, Bill seems to be wearing longer boots underneath his boots. Seriously what’s with those strange blue add-ons over his thighs? Accessories are important, but too much can take away from your look and give the impression that you just threw stuff on without thinking about it.
Recently, Beta Ray Bill had a slightly altered version of the outfit during his adventures with the team Omega Flight. The circuit designs were replaced with raised metal that house actual lights of some sort. Nice effect and stayed true to the original design. The gold coloring helps let Bill stand a little more apart from Thor and his color scheme.DARGO Wait a second, did Thor join Van Halen?
Ah, of course. That's not actually Thor. You see, this is a man named Dargo, an inhabitant of a "possible future" timeline where he inherited the hammer of Thor. But somehow when he got Thor's power, he didn't quite get his uniform. Granted Mjolnir seems to adjust the armor to fit the style of the person worthy enough to wield it (just look at Beta Ray Bill), but that only tells me that Dargo has terrible taste, not that we should forgive his look. The fact that the middle of the tunic is now missing gives an impression of a wrestler’s costume. The chains are unnecessary, unless they’re meant to be holding the two halves of Dargo’s shirt together. The spikes make me think “biker” rather than “Norse warrior.”
Replacing the winged helmet with a winged headband implies that this guy is either going to jazzercize or break into a rock ballad. And dividing the cape into two halves is NOT helping that impression either. Did he steal that cape from the ice-capades?
THUNDERSTRIKEYears after Thor had stopped transforming into the human identity of Don Blake, Marvel evidently decided to revisit the idea. But rather than have Thor and his human alter ego basically be two aspects of the same person, this time they had Thor get himself fused with an actual separate person, a human architect named Eric Masterson. Whereas Thor once had to divide time between two identities, he now had to balance his activities and responsibilities with Eric's, which wasn't always easy since Masterson had not only a job and his own life but was also a father.
In 1991, Thor seemed to be dead and gone and now Eric Masterson was left to take his place. When he wielded Mjolnir, Eric became a new version of Thor. There were some bad looks for Thor during the 1990s, but this was not one of them. This is actually a very nice update. The suit is simplified, with the trousers and shirt becoming one solid black color. The disc designs have been replaced with actual metal discs (something the real Thor would not due until years later). The boots are now metal rather than leather. Very nice all around. We have a mask added as well, which fits with the idea that Eric has a secret identity. But if the real Thor were back, I'd drop the mask.Eventually, Thor returned and reclaimed his rightful mantle, now free of the fusion with Eric. Rather than just be allowed to return to his former life, Masterson got his own similar powers and a cool mace called Thunderstike. Eric continued operating as a hero, now calling himself Thunderstrike (which is a bit confusing, I grant you). He also made himself a Thor-like outfit and continued operating as a hero until his untimely death. This costume, though, it doesn't really hit the right note. Why wear a sleeveless leather jacket over the sleeveless shirt? To advertise just how much you hate sleeves? And for someone who seemed intent to stand on his own merits, it’s pretty lame to wear Thor’s shirt and add no real flair of your own. This honestly looks like a bargain basement version of Thor.
Oh, and wearing only one glove? Yes, the myths of Thor say he wore a single glove as well, but in the modern-day, only Michael Jackson and Khan could get away with that. Likewise, get rid of the single lightning bolt earring and the pony tail.Eric later died in battle and Thor mourned the passing of his friend. Recently, his son Kevin Masterson inherited the Thunderstrike mace, which had written on its side "The World Still Needs Heroes." At first, nothing happened. But later, when Kevin found himself compelled to help a person in great danger, a change occurred. Kevin inherited his father's powers and now he is the new Thunderstrike (although some readers already saw a version of Kevin use this identity in an possible future).
This Thunderstrike outfit is pretty cool, actually. It gives a nod to Thor with the T symbol, but it stands on its own and T also stands for the hero's own name. The design is young and energetic. Not bad at all, really.
THOR GIRLFirst of all, let me say that I hate the name "Thor Girl." Thor is a name, not a title nor an alias. Spider-Man, Spider-Girl and Spider-Woman, fine. Batman, Batgirl and Batwoman, okay. Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel and Marvel Boy, these work. But Thor and Thor Girl? That's kind of like naming two characters Jean Grey and Jean Grey Boy.
Anyway, Thor Girl was introduced in 2000 and is actually named Tarene (though she has sometimes used the alias of "Tara"). She was born as a comically powered alien prophesied to one day help sentient beings evolve to a new stage of life. Her planet was destroyed by the villain Thanos and Tarene joined forces with Thor in defeating the guy afterward. Tarene then used her abilities to model herself after Thor and gain the physical attributes of an Asgardian. She also made herself a hammer with similar abilities to Mjolnir.
Tara may have a dumb alias, but her costume isn't bad at all. It's sleek, eye-catching and not totally impractical. The boots, color scheme and headwear all emulate Thor but without completely copying his style. The circles down the trousers are also a nice way of echoing Thor's shirt discs but in a way that gives Tara her own look. Not a bad design at all.Later on, Tara was temporarily replaced by a Skrull. Skrulls are shape-shifting aliens that usually fight the Fantastic Four in their quests for universal domination. And the one that replaced Tarene evidently felt that she needed to show a little more skin. And by "little," I mean "a lot." I'm not against women superheroes showing some skin, but this is a bit ridiculous. The bare legs I can live with, but what is that shirt? It seems strange that the rest of the outfit is trying very hard to say "Norse warrior" and then has this modern-day, sexually revealing design thrown into it.
The Skrull impostor was discovered and Tarene soon returned to Earth. Since then, she's gone back to her classic threads, which is definitely a good decision. Now if only she'd do something about her alias.
And that brings us to a close, folks. Hope you enjoyed this tour of the alternate Thors. Until next time, this is Alan Kistler, Agent of S.T.Y.L.E., signing off. <i>Alan "Sizzler" Kistler is an actor and freelance writer. He has been recognized as a comic book and Doctor Who historian by major media outlets. He is a contributor to the upcoming Star Trek and History by Wiley Publishing. He is the creator and co-host of the web-series and weekly podcast Crazy Sexy Geeks. His archives can be found at http://AlanKistler.com and his Twitter handle is: @SizzlerKistler