Home Culture History Nice art: Jack Kirby's Three Thors

Nice art: Jack Kirby's Three Thors


Before he designed the Thunder God whose movie opens tomorrow, Jack Kirby had designed two previous characters named Thor, and over at the Kirby Museum they look back at the Sandman version and the TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED version.

We’ve seen THOR, btw, and will have a full review tomorrow. Short version: entertaining but 3D sucks.

  1. Interesting that this Thor is a villain — and a more historically accurate version at that, prior to his later re-working into a hero by Stan Lee.

    I’ll bet some grad student could write a paper on the transformation of the Norse war-god from menace to hero as a reflection of the transforming mores of U.S. culture from peace-loving to war-loving during this period.

  2. Not more historically accurate, no. The war-god in the Norse pantheon is Tyr, not Thor. Some of the others share aspects of war, but Thor is a storm god, also oak, strength, healing and the protection of mankind, if I’m remembering Wikipedia from a few minutes ago correctly. Plus a couple of other things.

    Presenting him as a war god motivated by hate isn’t remotely accurate. Thor was a god that could certainly mix it up in battle, but not a war god. But it was likely done because you need villains in superhero stories, so if you want to do a story about Thor and you’re doing SANDMAN, using him as a villain is the simplest route.

  3. I’ll bet some grad student could write a paper on the transformation of the Norse war-god from menace to hero. . .

    I read books about mythology avidly when I was growing up, and I remember Tyr being the war god — but sources tell things differently. Thor is routinely identified as a war god online, and there’s a poem by Longfellow, “The Challenge of Thor”:

    I am the God Thor,
    I am the War God,
    I am the Thunderer!
    Here in my Northland,
    My fastness and fortress,

    So people who think of Thor as a war god aren’t mistaken.


  4. Yeah, that Longfellow. He’s a reliable source for what the ancient Norsemen believed.

    There might be an academic paper in how the storm god got confused as a war god by latecomers, but probably not in how he transitioned from villain to hero, because he started out as a heroic figure.

  5. There’s nothing to fight about here. When the question of who the Norse god of war comes up, people say what they’ve been taught, and in many cases, that is that the Norse gods generally were warlike. Odin’s been identified as the god of war, while Tyr’s been identified as the god of battle, of courage, and of honor. There’s no one, absolutely correct, answer.


  6. Longfellow poems aren’t even a reliable source for what happened twenty years before he was born. “Paul Revere’s Ride” is a lovely poem far
    more concerned with aesthetics and creating an American legend than facts. Yet despite this it wound up being an integral part of most American’s historical knowledge.

  7. There are some works that we often get to see all over the internet, in various sites, for various reasons and purposes. All of us should spend some more time researching various forms of art as they all show up in our daily lives.

  8. Longfellow’s grasp of the details of US history aside, I’d still say that a statement that it’s historically accurate to portray Thor as a menace, a villain and the god of war that was reworked into a hero by Stan Lee isn’t terribly supportable.

    “The Villain from Valhalla” tells us Thor is king of the Norse gods, and warlord of Valhalla, neither of which is historically accurate. For all the liberties Lee and Kirby took with mythology, the only thing that the Sandman story can claim as more historically accurate in it’s portrayal of Thor is his hair.

    The question of whether the US was a more warlike culture in 1962 than 1942 I’ll leave to others to decide.

  9. I do recall my young chums and I griping that the Marvel Thor didn’t look like the versions in mythology books out of the library, and wondering why that was. At least this shows that Kirby was aware of those other versions, since he had already drawn them himself, but he just didn’t want to repeat himself for the new Marvel version. That’s good to learn.

  10. Speaking of painting in broad strokes, Longfellow’s Evangeline, the poem of the Acadian woman during the 1755 expulsion from Nova Scotia by the British, continues to irritate today’s Acadians. To put it in a neutral tone, they find it to be inaccurate.

  11. I know the following is moot since the original Crisis has wiped out most of the stories from ALL STAR SQUADRON (man, I dug that book) and in issue 18 titled:

    “Vengeance from Valhalla!”

    When the Tarantula shows up for an All-Star Squadron meeting in an outfit similar to the Sandman’s, Johnny Quick insists the web-slinger explain. In the process, the All-Stars learn of the death of Dian Belmont, the Sandman’s girlfriend, and are attacked by a powerful villain who calls himself Thor.

    Turns out this foe of the Sandman is not the god of Thunder (nor war) but one Fairy Tales Fenton ( a name I could summon in an instant but I can’t tell you someones name I met last week…”sigh”) who gets his hands on the hammer of Thor. Roy T’s knowledge of golden age stories and his ability to weave them into All Star Squadron was superb.

    One thing I’ve always got out Marvel’s Thor was how Kirby used and re-used the whole Captain “Shazam” Marvel/Billy Batson two beings who traded places approach. He and Simon did it with the Fly and Jack’s attempt to do something with Spider-Man (The Silver Spider?) was a teen who had a ring who could change him into said hero. “Thing-ring do your thing!”;)

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