Stan Lee talks to about writing a new story for THOR #600, and how times have changed:

“When I used to write Thor, I had all the characters talk the way I imagined that Norse gods would talk. “Thou shalt not” and “get thee gone” and “so be it” and stuff like that. But I’ve been reading the Thor books lately and he talks like you or me! So I just had him talking like a regular guy because I didn’t want to throw the readers off balance.

Every balloon that I wrote, every panel, I was tempted to have him talk the way he used to, but I figured, well, that’ll confuse people.”

Would Marvel’s original THOR comics have been successful without that over-cooked, faux-Elizabethan dialogue? Verily, we say nay!

Meanwhile, in the previously-mentioned wide-ranging interview with Bookslut, Jason Lutes (BERLIN) talks about the virtues and vices of Stan Lee’s writing in the ’60s:

“Sure, it’s terribly written in the technical sense, but the kind of energy and creativity there is great…

“I do a slide-show with my students where I talk about my early influences. Marvel westerns were a big part of my childhood growing up in Montana and there’s a slide I have of the cover of a Rawhide Kid. And there’s a spiky bubble telling you why you should read it and it has “Action! Action! Action!” That’s it. It doesn’t say “Story of the Rawhide Kid.” Or “Bandits Attack Deadwood.” Or whatever. It’s just three demanding words. To a kid, you think, “There’s three times the action in here. I better pick it up.” That stuff is wonderful. I love that stuff. More and more these days, I see so much less invention and so much of the superhero stuff now is so derivative.”

Posted by Aaron Humphrey

Edit from The Beat:

Beau Smith sent along this image which may be a bit germane to the discussion:

Thor 114.jpg


  1. Not because I was a kid when I first read Stan’s THOR, but I always enjoyed the fact that he and his crew “talked funny”. (That coming from me is funny enough) It set the character on he’s own personal level and helped make him an icon.

    Did Norsemen really talk like that, no, but this is fiction.

    With THOR talking “current” as he does in Marvel Comics today, well, that’s okay. In the world of comic book writing, that’ll change many times as time marches on.

    Just look at The Sub-Mariner. He’s gone through a lot of dialogue changes over the decades. The best, in my opinion, will always be the Bill Everett days of the 50’s when Namor was a witty, rake.

    Nick Fury is another that has gone through some subtle changes as far as the way he speaks. He’s changed a lot from his core as Sgt. Fury.

    Then again, we all change.


  2. Since “Thor” is my absolute favorite superhero of all time, and one of the reasons is because of the crazy dialogue, this was the single most depressing thing I’ve read in a long, long time.

    I gave up on “Thor” when the first series ended and only bought some special one-shot recently and it was completely unreadable. Verily, I am horrifically depressed.

  3. I started fairly recently reading all the Thor books from #1 on up -and man are they great: at first they read like some tongue in cheek Superman, and then they really hit their stride… it’s fun and inspired.
    Funny story: when little no one in Norway had heard of the superhero Thor version (superheroes hadn’t really got much of a foothold yet -with the exception of the Phantom), and I was asked to bring my comics for Show And Tell… the teacher was pretty horrified and started talking about how when they had John Wayne play Ghengis Khan and whatnot. (Comics and movies same difference:))
    Anyway, it’s like Yoda speak -you can’t have him start talking normally… as a dual-citzenship-born-in-SF Norwegian I say: nay!
    It had a long run with that dialog, no? If it’s not broke…

  4. Huh? JMS and Fraction still write the dialogue in Thor with that sort of regal air to it…it’s definitely written as a more toned-down, modern spin on what Stan did, because writing ANY comic the way Stan did nowadays wouldn’t read right. The spirit of it is still there, though, and I’d almost bet money I’ve read the phrase “I say thee NAY!” in a Thor comic in the last year.

    Incidentally, Thor is pretty much the best Marvel superhero book going right now. So there’s also that.

  5. I think writers should stick to regular English with slightly more formal speech patterns for the Asgardians. I like the Shakespearean diction, but the number of writers who can do it in a grammatically correct manner can be counted on one hand. Everyone else comes out sounding like LOLThor.

  6. I agree with Jason Green above- Thor is for my money the best Marvel book out right now. This last year, both JMS’ regular Thor book, and the series of “one-shots” by Matt Fraction were terrific. And, I do like the way JMS and Fraction write the dialogue now– not Shakespearean English, but a slightly more formal speech pattern (as Michael says above)— sort of like the characters in the Lord of the Rings movies. Love it.

  7. Michael: I know that “wherefore” means “why,” I just thought that “where for” sounded like something Stan Lee would write Thor saying. Maybe I should have used “Where forth!”
    I haven’t read the current THOR books, but they have been well-reviewed and I think they at least use a gothic-looking font for Thor’s dialogue if nothing else. Smilin’ Stan was probably exaggerating his case a bit, but then — when isn’t he?

  8. “Where for” is not and doesn’t sound like something Stan would write Thor saying. Nor does “where forth.” For one thing, they don’t make sense, any more than saying “where for are you” or “where forth are you” makes sense. They don’t mean anything. For another, everyone would rightly suspect it of being a mistaken rendering of “Wherefore art thou,” from Romeo and Juliet. The comma, too, should not be there. “Wherefore art thou, Romeo?” means, “Why are you, Romeo?” That’s not what the question was. The question was, “Wherefore art thou Romeo?” Meaning: “Why are you Romeo?” She was asking that because if he were anyone but Romeo she would be free to love him. I strongly suspect Stan was up on his Shakespeare and, if not, at the very least, his attempts at ye olde English made sense and were grammatical.

  9. One of my favorite Thor moments is when he leaps up happily to greet a recently healed Janet and Hank Pym (*snf*) and declares, “Ye both look fit as Asgardian HE-GOATS!”

    Truly, a great light has gone out in the world.

  10. So thanks to that Stravesty of a writer Stan Lee is now watering down his dialogs? Verily, I say thee nay!

    That’s depressing. Seriously.

    Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

  11. You know what I’d pay for?

    An inter-company crossover with Marvel’s Thor and DC’s Morpheus the Sandman, written by Neil Gaiman and somehow involving a trip to Elizabethan times to meet William Shakespeare. Just to see the surprised look on Shakespeare’s face as he chats with Thor.

    (I know, I know. A version of Thor has appeared in Sandman. But verily, that was not The Mighty Thor.)

  12. Stan was also a master of bouncing verbal patterns ‘gainst each other:

    THOR: (after pinning Daredevil in a match that doesn’t so much as ruffle one golden Asgardian lock): “Though I have bested thee– verily, I say thee– Yea!”

    DD: “Yea?”

  13. Where most writers would use periods to end their sentences, Stan would use an exclamation mark! Now that’s writing, folks!!