Exclusive: Esad Ribic's
cover to Thor: God
of Thunder #1.One week ago, Marvel released a teaser featuring the word "Worthy" prominently positioned along with the names "Aaron" and "Ribic," leading to nearly universal speculation that it was promoting a new Thor ongoing series from writer Jason Aaron and artist Esad Ribic. Well, that speculation was exactly correct. Aaron and Ribic are indeed the team for Marvel's new Thor: God of Thunder series, starting in November as part of the publisher's Marvel NOW! relaunch. Fitting the Marvel NOW! mandate, the series takes place in established Marvel Universe continuity but also is intended to be a fresh start for new and lapsed readers. It's introducing a new villain — the ominously named "God Butcher" — who is set to plague Thor through three different eras. Newsarama has the first interview with Aaron on Thor: God of Thunder, where he discusses what motivated him to write the character, the past Thor stories that have inspired him along the way, his plans for the current series — which he describes as a simultaneous "Year One," present-day adventure and Dark Knight Returns-esque tale — re-teaming with his Dark Reign: The List — Wolverine collaborator Ribic and his deeply rooted affection for Mangog. Newsarama: Jason, though you haven't really written much of Thor in the past, instinctually, it certainly seems like a character that you might gravitate towards. What can you share about what got you interested in Thor, and the process of landing the new series?
Jason Aaron: I haven't written much Thor before, you're right. Just a couple of small appearances here and there. But I think that's one of the great things about the whole Marvel NOW! initiative: getting to see so many Marvel U creators tackling characters that are completely new to them.
One of the things we talked about while putting together Avengers vs. X-Men was that all of us at Marvel right now feel like we have a pretty deep bench of creators, a pretty solid group of guys and gals doing all sorts of interesting work. So Marvel NOW! just came about as a way to shake things up and really show off that deep bench. And it happened to dovetail nicely with Brian [Michael Bendis] wrapping up Avengers, and Jonathan [Hickman] finishing Fantastic Four and such. So there was a period several months back where suddenly every major title that Marvel publishes was up for grabs. Suddenly we were all trying to figure out, "What are we going to be doing come the end of AvX?" In the midst of that, it was like, "Well, if there's something you've always wanted to write, now is the time to speak up." And kind of out of the blue, I thought, "I'd really like to write Thor."I remember when [Matt] Fraction did his first Thor stories a few years back in the Ages of Thunder standalones. I remember reading those and thinking for the first time as a writer, "Oh, Thor's really cool. I could see me writing Thor." But I never really thought much more about it, other than enjoying the book as it was coming out. But suddenly, once Thor was on the table, that's the one I instantly gravitated towards. Before I even had a story, I just kind of made my play and tried to plant my flag. "Stay away! I want Thor!"
Nrama: So would you say what you have planned has something of a similar sensibility to material like Ages of Thunder?
Aaron: In part. I do flash back and show a young Thor in action, but he's actually just one of three Thors that I want to focus on. This first story is an epic tale that plays out over the course of thousands of years. So we spend time with young Thor in the Viking age — the young, hotheaded god of the Vikings, who loves to come down to Midgard and get into trouble.
In the present, we see Thor the Avenger on a journey that takes him to the far corners of space, interacting with all sorts of new space gods and wondrous new locations.
And then we also see old King Thor, who's the last king of Asgard, thousands of years in the future, where something has gone horribly, horribly wrong.
Linking all these eras and Thors together is one villain, an all-new character, who is basically, at least initially, a serial killer of gods. He's a guy with a serious axe to grind against all immortal beings in the cosmos, and he's going around doing his best to kill them all off, one at a time, as brutally as possible. That villain's story unfolds over the course of all these different eras. He starts as a serial killer of gods, but by the end, he has become something even more frightening.
Nrama: That's "the God Butcher," correct?
Aaron: Yes. Gorr the God Butcher.
Nrama: In a lot of ways, the appeal of Thor seems to be that he can work in so many different settings, and you seem to be targeting that in the opening arc, with putting him in different places from what readers might expect. So does that in turn mean we're not going to be seeing much of Thor in his familiar Marvel Universe setting among the Avengers?
Aaron: Not initially. We do see Iron Man in issue #3, so certainly you'll be reminded that this is the same Thor we've seen before. This is the Thor who's the Avenger of Earth, who's a big part of the Marvel Universe. But one of the things I'm trying to do initially is kind of strip away Thor's existing supporting cast and really focus in on Thor himself. Really, the supporting cast for this first arc is Thor. We've got three different versions of Thor, so we're looking at this character at three very different, very important times in his life, which I think focuses in on his character in a profound way and asks, "Who is this guy? Or this god, I should say. Why does he do this? What does he want?" The answers to those questions will unfold over the course of the story.So yeah, we don't initially see The Warriors Three or Sif, or even much of Asgard itself, not in the present day at least. But certainly the culture of Asgard and the mythology of Thor's life there will always be a strong presence in the book, no matter where in the universe Thor happens to be. Basically, I don't want this book to ever have one specific setting. In this first arc alone, we go from Iceland of the Viking Age to all sorts of strange new corners of deep space to an Asgard at the end of time. I've been reading a whole bunch of old Thor stories since I got this gig, and I like how in the old Lee/Kirby issues, Thor would go on an adventure on Earth for four issues and then he'd go off and be on an adventure on Asgard for the next five. They mixed things up a lot like that. And I think for as long as I'm on the book, I'll be looking to do the same. I think Thor is too big a character to be confined to just one setting. His adventures should span every nook and cranny of the Marvel U, giving him as grand a stage as possible.
The opening of issue #1 has Thor hanging out with a bunch of Vikings, which was a blast to write. I could write a whole series just of that. That'll be a fun setting to return to, again and again.
We will see Asgard again in the present day, but not initially, because I want it to feel special and exciting whenever we do finally go there. Thor is a god who's lived in Asgard most all his life, but I think he still has a sense of awe and wonder about the place. I want us as readers to have that same sense of awe whenever we see finally see the golden spires of Realm Eternal.
Nrama: The Marvel NOW! launches are, at least in part, designed to be new reader friendly. How much did that aspect influence you as you approached the opening arc of Thor: God of Thunder? Obviously a new #1 would aim to be accessible to some extent anyway.
Aaron: I always try to make my stuff as accessible as possible, but yeah, I certainly felt that responsibility even greater with a big new initiative like this. This is definitely a new reader-friendly Thor #1.
If you've been reading Thor for years, well, so have I. I'm a fan, and I love the stuff that's come before, and I will continue to sprinkle in as many of the characters from the past as I can, but I want to be smart about it and try to balance that with new allies and new villains. We'll get a real mix of all that going forward.This first villain is all-new, but man, I can't wait to do a Mangog story. I've had a Mangog statue sitting on my desk for months now, and he begs me every day to write him in somewhere. Soon, Mangog, soon.
Nrama: You had two series launches last year — Incredible Hulk and Wolverine and the X-Men — but both of those, to an extent, were direct continuations of previous stories. But it sounds like the new Thor series is even more of a fresh start, right?
Aaron: I would agree. Certainly Wolverine and the X-Men carried right on from Schism. Hulk, there was kind of a prelude, but that was really more of a lead-in as opposed to something that I was playing off of when I wrote the issue. This is definitely even more new reader friendly and standalone than that, but again, it's not me trying to change who Thor is, or completely rewrite his history, or any of that. This is definitely a continuation of everything we've seen before, which I think will be pretty obvious from the get-go. We will be exploring a big section of Thor's past, but when you have an immortal who's been around for thousands of years, it leaves a lot of backstory to explore.
I'm also trying to take this character to his natural conclusion in some sense. To do, all in one fell swoop, a sort of "Year One" story with a young Thor; focus on present-day Thor who is of course the great hero of the Avengers; and then also do kind of a far-future, Dark Knight Returns sort of story — to do all of that at the same time.
Nrama: That certainly sounds like a big story — how many issues is that planned for? Or is it kind of an over-arc that will play out for a while?
Aaron: The first arc is five issues, but the story of the God Butcher will play out over the course of a couple of arcs. And really, in terms of the three different versions of Thor, those will be characters and stories that I return to again and again, for as long as I'm on the book.
Nrama: And speaking of some of your past work, do you see similarities between what you're doing in Thor: God of Thunder and anything else you've written, or is it pretty much new territory for you?
Aaron: I think this is a different kind of story than I've done before. It's certainly different than the other stuff that I'm doing right now. It's very different from Hulk, and Wolverine and the X-Men. I never walk into a project saying, "I want to strike exactly this kind of tone." It all just kind of happens as I work on what the story is going to be. Thor has developed into a much darker book than what I'm doing on Wolverine and the X-Men, but it's still balanced with all sorts of fantasy trappings, and the kind of things that come with Thor's world — there are flying horses, and magic weapons, and references to trolls and dragons and all that sort of stuff. But in terms of tone, this is probably about as straight and serious a Marvel book as I've done.
To me, I really like the balance I've been able to find with it, between big, fantastic elements and something much more gritty and real. Between the crazy Kirby-ness of it all and the dark little character moments that I love to write. In my head at least, I'm doing some sort of dark-Kirby story.
Nrama: You mentioned going back and reading past Thor stories as research for your run, specifically the originally work by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby — is there anything in particular that has inspired or influenced your approach ? Obviously you can't really talk about past Thor runs without mentioning Walt Simonson.
Aaron: My first experience with Thor was the Simonson stuff. I read that stuff as it was coming out, and loved it. I also read a lot of the Dan Jurgens run, and then of course followed everything since JMS. But I had never read the original Lee/Kirby stuff, for whatever reason — I had read most of the Ditko Spider-Man, and the Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four and X-Men, but for whatever reason, I never read any of those Thor issues.
So I went back and started reading with Thor's first appearance, and my goal is to read all 600-plus issues in a row. We'll see how that goes; I'm not quite there yet. But I've read through all the Lee/Kirby stuff, and man, some of those issues are just staggering, they're so good. There's a period there where Kirby was just firing on all cylinders. You've got Ego the Living Planet, Ulik the most badass troll ever and the previously mentioned Mangog; all these amazing ideas, just one after another. That stuff has certainly had a big influence on me. It all goes through this weird filter, so I don't know how much of all that readers will get, but hopefully it comes across as a mix between the fantastic and the imaginative with the ground-level and the gritty.
Nrama: On the series you're partnered with Esad Ribic, who is already known, at least in part, for illustrating Asgardian characters since the 2004 Loki miniseries. Not sure how far along you're into it at this point, but what are your thoughts on the collaboration thus far?
Aaron: We're a few issues in at this point and it's looking terrific. Just look at the first two covers, which fit together in one big image. I think once people see those two covers, it'll be obvious that this is a special moment for Thor, art-wise. Esad is doing what I think will be a defining take on this character for a long time to come. The pages have been just amazing. All I do is get out of the way and let him go. It's jaw-dropping work. I'm just trying to give him enough stuff to go wild with. He's getting to design new locations, new sorts of cities of the gods, obviously a whole new villain, and new creatures swirling around him. Esad has been sinking his teeth into all that stuff and making it his own.
Most people in the last couple of years have seen Esad's stuff on Uncanny X-Force, I think. He contributed a lot to the look and feel of that book, just with those first several covers. And then he and I previously worked together on the Wolverine: The List one-shot from a few years ago, with Fantomex and Marvel Boy. I think the covers and the pencils for these first few issues of Thor are some of the best stuff I've ever seen from Esad.
Nrama: And right around the time Thor: God of Thunder starts you're also starting your second year on Wolverine and the X-Men, which is continuing in the Marvel NOW! era which must be an interesting balance for you, since you said it's tonally very different from what you've got planned for Thor.
Aaron: What's nice is between Wolverine and the X-Men and Thor I get to write two very different kinds of stories. Both of them really seem to scratch some itches for me.With this last year, I feel like I've been kind of transitioning from all the stuff that I've been doing in comics since I first broke in, into something brand new. Scalped is wrapped up, I'm done with [solo] Wolverine stuff. Thor and Wolverine and the X-Men feel like, to me, the first books from the second phase of my career, whatever the hell that is going to be. All I know is I'm certainly having as much fun as should be legally allowed in the state of Kansas.
Nrama: So in terms of work-for-hire Marvel series, it'll just be Wolverine and the X-Men and Thor for you, for now?
Aaron: That's the plan. And I'd like to stick with both these books for nice, long runs. Right now I don't have anything else in the works Marvel-wise, just those two books. So that leaves me a lot more headspace than I've had recently, when there were sometimes five books rumbling around in my head at the same time. It leaves me time to do more creator-owned projects.Astonishing Thor
#1 (2010) cover by
Esad Ribic.And generally, I can just stay more focused. These first few issues of Thor, I think I've worked more on those than anything I've done in a long time. Which is partly just having so much lead time, and being able to write these in sequence, and go back to them to change dialogue and tweak things here and there. Just having the luxury of time, which I haven't always had. I'm happy to have it now. More from Newsarama:
- Marvel NOW-ledge: What We Know So Far About the Revamp
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- Exclusive: Brian Bendis on the Marvel NOW! ALL-NEW X-MEN
- Immonen Illustrates Classic and Current X-MEN in Marvel NOW!
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