Thor’s mighty hammer — along with Captain America’s shield — is one of the most iconic weapons in superhero comics. A simple sledgehammer with a shortened handle, it was originally named simply the “Uru Hammer” (after the super-strong Asgardian metal it was forged with) by Larry Lieber, before writer Roy Thomas rolled into town with his fancy book learning.
Since then, Mjolnir has led the God of Thunder on many of his most famous missions. We mean that literally, as it is by swinging and holding onto the hammer’s strap that Thor is able to travel through the nine realms. It also lets him control lightning and create spontaneous rainstorms by rapping the handle on the ground, not to mention facilitating the pummeling of supervillains and evil gods. But what else can it do?? Here are 15 things you didn’t know about Thor’s hammer.
15. IT CAN SHAPESHIFT
It’s a conceit which has been all but abandoned in modern continuity, but when Thor first appeared on the Marvel Comics scene, he had a secret identity, as most superheroes do. His was Dr Donald Blake, a civilian identity created by Odin who would provide a human host for his cast-out son, so he might learn some humility among the people of Midgard. Thor only regained his true identity, and the source of his power, when he went on vacation to Norway and found an “enchanted” cane in a cave, which turned out to be Mjolnir in disguise.
Shapeshifting isn’t one of the qualities Mjolnir exhibits often, but it proved invaluable for Thor during his Blake years. Transforming back and forth between the two identities was made a lot easier when the good doctor wasn’t carrying an engraved Asgardian hammer throughout his appointments. The can also served a tactical purpose when powerful enemies have come in search of the hammer, hoping to steal it, only to dismiss the crummy little wooden cane that couldn’t possibly hold the power of the God of Thunder.
14. IT’S FASTER THAN THE SPEED OF SOUND
How fast can Mjolnir fly? Pretty fast, is the short answer. The long answer has to first acknowledge the fact that, traditionally, Thor’s hammer doesn’t “fly,” per se. It has to be flung by the God of Thunder, and it’s this propulsion which allows Thor to either cling to the handle to fly through the air or toss it in an enemy’s face with devastating force. You may not realize quite how much output such a force creates, however.
Canonically, Mjolnir flies at a top speed of 770 mph. That’s comfortably twice the speed of sound (340.29 mph) and a lot lower than the speed of light, but impressive nonetheless. Those explosions heralding his arrival may not be thundercracks, but sonic booms. That’s only its speed in regular gravity, though. Outside of the Earth’s gravity, Mjolnir has been shown to speed by even faster, being flung away by a pouty Thor during a tantrum outside the Earth’s atmosphere and it returning, having presumably orbited the entire planet, in 60 seconds.
13. CAPTAIN AMERICA IS THE ONLY AVENGER TO WIELD IT
One of the few (and great) moments of levity in “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is when each member of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes has a go at lifting Thor’s hammer, a possibility the God of Thunder dismisses; none of them are worthy. That does indeed appear to be the case as Hawkeye, Tony Stark and Rhodey each fail. The only hero to shift Mjolnir, albeit a tiny amount? Steve Rogers: the pure-of-heart and at least somewhat worthy Captain America. In the comics, he’s managed far more than a nudge.
In fact Captain America is the only long-term member of the Avengers to wield Mjolnir in the comics, and he’s probably done it more times than anyone other than Thor. He lifted it symbolically, inspiring the beaten-down masses at a critical moment in “Fear Itself,” and in 1988’s “Thor” #390 an incognito Steve, going by the nonpartisan title “The Captain,” emerged from a doggy-pile of supervillain henchman by picking up the hammer and knocking the bad guys down like bowling pins.
12. SPIDER-MAN 2099 HELD IT, TOO
Miguel O’Hara has led a fairly charmed life, all told. After becoming disenchanted with his life working for the all-powerful conglomerate Alcehmax, he found a new calling as the Spider-Man of far-flung future year 2099, got into the requisite high-flying adventures and love triangles, and is the sole character from Marvel’s “2099” line to have actually survived into the 21st century. The rest of the line, and the future it predicted, were done away with in 1998’s continuity-capping “2099: Manifest Destiny.”
Steve Rogers is found, once again, in a state of suspended animation and is thawed out to lead a new version of the Avengers, with Miguel by his side. This, in turn, helps lead humanity away from a corporate cyberpunk hellscape into a new utopia, ending in the year 3099. Before they get to that point, however, it’s revealed that Spider-Man 2099 isn’t just a near-future Peter Parker. He’s also, maybe, possibly, Thor 2099, being the only one deemed worthy of wielding an unearthed Mjolnir in the same story.
11. IT HOLDS THOR’S MEMORIES
During the catastrophic “Avengers: Disassembled” storyline, Thor finally met his long-awaited Ragnarok. The end of time approached Asgard, and the God of Thunder willingly embraced his oblivion, hoping to be reincarnated in the next cycle of Norse deities. Instead, a new God of Thunder called Tanarus took the Odinson’s place. The new Asgard turns out to be a fairly rotten place, and everybody has forgotten about Thor. His body immolated, his story forgotten, the only one with any memory of the fallen God is his half-brother Loki.
Left to float through the afterlife, his immortal soul on the verge of being devoured by a terrifying being, it is only thanks to the intervention of Kid Loki and the Silver Surfer that Thor makes it back to the land of the living. He is helped in restoring his rightful place by Mjolnir, which Loki has found in its walking stick form. The hammer finds its rightful owner in the next life and, upon holding it, Thor instantly retrieves his memories. It turns out Mjolnir may literally store the Odinson’s entire identity — his past, present and future — within it.
10. IT CAN FLY THROUGH PLANETS
Mjolnir is one of the strongest objects in the entire Marvel Universe. Forged by Dwarven blacksmiths using the Asgardian metal uru, and further strengthened by an enchantment cast by Thor’s father Odin, it can both dole out and take a fair amount of punishment. It has certainly been damaged in the past — and appears to be utterly obliterated in the trailer for “Thor: Ragnarok” — but not for long. In fact, the superpowered endurance of the hammer may surprise you.
For all the dangerous adventures of derring-do Thor himself has undertaken throughout the centuries, his hammer has been through as many, sometimes alone. As impressive as its planet-saving qualities are, it’s also known to damage them. During an encounter with the Builders, who came to destroy Earth during Jonathan Hickman’s epic “Avengers” run, Thor was able to call forth Mjolnir from down on Earth, boring through solid rock, the stratosphere and then the walls of the Builder ship and the torso of one of the aliens.
9. IT LIFTED THE WASHINGTON MONUMENT
One of the many unique features which distinguished Marvel from DC in the early days of their rivalry was reality. DC tended to situate its characters and stories in fictional locales, while the majority of Marvel’s flagship heroes occupy existing cities in the United States. They even visited tourist landmarks from time to time, as Thor did when he visited Washington D.C. in 1963’s “Journey Into Mystery” #96. He swings by the nation’s capital not for sightseeing, but to do battle with Merlin the Mad.
The legendary wizard immediately comes to blows with the God of Thunder after awakening in the modern day, attempting to flatten Thor by levitating the Washington Monument and throwing it at him like a javelin. The quick-thinking Odinson flings Mjolnir, the loop at the end of the hammer hooking the point of the monument and landing it safely back in its original spot. Not only is that terrific aim, it is a showcase of the hammer’s incredible, magical strength.
8. IT CAN RAISE THE DEAD
The “Invaders” was a ‘70s comic book that depicted the “lost” stories of Captain America, Namor and the original Human Torch, as they teamed up to fight Axis powers during the Second World War. It’s pretty good! It also features some early appearances by what would become Marvel’s heaviest hitters, including, in the 1978 story “A Time of Titans!,” the Mighty Thor! The Odinson almost finds himself on the wrong side of history, having been tricked into serving Adolf Hitler and on a mission to kill Stalin.
It’s a wacky scenario to be sure, but one which revealed one of Mjolnir’s oft-forgotten abilities. As the Invaders try to cease Thor’s assassination mission, the God of Thunder brings the lightning, striking down British superhero Union Jack (in disguise as Stalin.) After realizing the error of his ways, Thor uses his hammer to “withdraw the raging lightning-force” with which he struck Jack down, returning him to life. Turns out Mjolnir has the power of resurrection!
7. IT CAN SHATTER THE ARMOR OF A CELESTIAL
Mjölnir is made of uru, an Asgardian metal stronger than any found on Earth, and is further strengthened by the enchantment placed upon it by Odin. The power contained within this hammer cannot be overstated. It has been said to be able to destroy mountains, has been shown to be capable of enveloping an entire universe in a force field to protect it from destruction, and can create winds powerful enough to lift the Taj Mahal. It also had the ability to kill a cosmic god.
In Marvel continuity, the Celestials are higher even than the gods of Asgard. They are the creators of everything, the creators of the creators some say. They also, on occasion, destroy. In “Thor” #388 from 1988, the God of Thunder tries desperately to stop the Celestial Exitar from tearing apart a planet deemed a failure. Mjolnir is strong enough to smash through Exitar’s armor and allows Thor to make his way to its brain, where a blast from the hammer shatters its not-inconsiderable defenses.
6. ANYBODY CAN WIELD IT (IN SPACE)
That engraving on the side of Thor’s hammer has been the downfall of many hubristic upstarts attempting to wield it. Only the worthy have a shot in lifting the thing. The God of Thunder is one of the select few in the Marvel Universe who can use Mjolnir, and so it remains his (or, at the moment, her) hardy perennial. There are some notable exceptions, however. For example: if it’s out of the Odinson’s hands, the hammer lies inert, affixed to the ground as Arthur’s sword in the stone, waiting for its rightful owner to return. But what happens when there is no ground?
In Ed McGuinness and Jeph Loeb’s “Hulk” #5, Thor comes up against a red-skinned variant on the jolly green giant, who later turns out to be General “Thunderbolt” Ross. With all the power of the original and a great deal more military intelligence to boot, Red Hulk directs the battle into the stratosphere, where the Odinson loses grip of Mjolnir. Turns out, when there’s no gravity around, anybody can technically wield the hammer. And Ross does, beating seven shades of snot out of Thor and leaving him on the Moon.
5. IT MIGHT BE SENTIENT
It certainly appears as if Mjolnir is an inanimate object. The hammer is mainly wielded as a weapon. Its disinterest in allowing anybody “unworthy” to carry it seems down to the enchantment placed upon it, and its ability to return to Thor after being thrown long distances seems more like a handy way of locating a mislaid possession than an example of sentience. On the most recent evidence, however, it appears Thor’s hammer may indeed have a mind of its own.
During Jane Foster’s tenure as the God of Thunder, Mjolnir has proven itself to be far more forthcoming with completing complex tasks thanks to her lighter touch, and she’s referred to the hammer as “choosing” her. Even when the Odinson was still worthy, the hammer appeared capable of responding not only to instructions spoken out loud but also reacted according to his “will,” suggesting that there may be some conscious psychic link between Mjolnir and whoever is wielding it at the time.
4. VAMPIRES HATE IT
There isn’t really a need for most victims of Mjölnir’s attacks to have any sort of “vulnerability” to it. Everyone’s vulnerable to being hit on the head with a whopping great hammer. It’s the enchantment that adds an extra kick to its powers, and in some cases that really can add an extra wallop to the hammer’s powers. Being the creation of a Norse god, from a setting out of Norse mythology, Mjolnir is technically a religious relic. Same as holy water or a crucifix, if you catch our drift.
Vampires have a few classic weaknesses: sunlight, stakes through the heart, and all manner of religious paraphernalia. Mjolnir apparently counts among the latter, as the times Thor has come up against members of the undead, he has made short work of them with his hammer. In 1983’s “Thor” #332, he did battle with a battalion of blood-suckers — including Dracula! — and finds Mjolnir has the curious effect of immediately turning the vamps into piles of dust upon impact.
3. WONDER WOMAN AND SUPERMAN HAVE BOTH USED IT
“Marvel vs. DC,” the once-in-a-lifetime (or thrice in a lifetime, if you count the follow-ups) full-bore crossover between the Big Two superhero comics publishers was an exercise in fan service. And it was great! Captain America scrapped with Batman, Aquaman faces up to Namor, and Wolverine and Lobo duke it out to see who’s the baddest bastich. Thor, meanwhile, battled Captain Marvel, losing his hammer after intercepting a bolt of “Shazam!” thunder.
Mjolnir landed first at the feet of Wonder Woman, herself in the middle of grappling with Storm. Being a Greek goddess herself, Diana is deemed “worthy” of lifting the hammer, wielding it briefly and having her costume spontaneously transformed into a more Thor-like ensemble. She’s not the only DC hero to be able to wield Mjolnir, however. In the later “JLA/Avengers,” Superman appropriated both Thor’s weapon and Captain America’s shield at the crossover’s end.
2. THERE’S A FROG VERSION (FROGJOLNIR)
The Odinson went through some changes in the ‘80s. In an effort to revitalize a character whose popularity was waning, and to flex his cartoonist muscles a little more, Walt Simonson had the God of Thunder replaced with a couple of animal substitutes: first by the horse-faced alien Beta Ray Bill for a short spell, and then Thor himself is transformed into a frog. He’s befriended during this peculiar adventure with a fellow amphibian called Puddlegulp, who himself claims to be a human trapped in a frog’s body.
They part ways at the end of that particular adventure, and Puddlegulp didn’t appear again until 2009’s “Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers” #1. His return involved joining a team of superpowered animals, his particular abilities coming thanks to his own version of Mjolnir. Created with a shard of Thor’s hammer, chipped off by the hoof of an angry goat called Toothgnasher (we promise we are not making this up), Puddlegulp lifted the shard and saw it transform into his own miniature hammer, named Frogjolnir. He then transformed into Throg, Frog of Thunder, teaming up with Lockjaw of the Inhumans.
1. LOKI HAS WIELDED IT MORE THAN ONCE
If there’s one person you could be sure has never lifted Mjolnir, it’s Loki. The Trickster God, constant antagonist and only occasional teammate of his half-brother Thor, is as unworthy as it gets. And yet, somehow, he has wielded the hammer, if only for a moment, a couple of times. In “What If?” #47, the hypothetical questioned posed is, “What If Loki Found Thor’s Hammer First?” The story isn’t quite as metal as Bill Sienkiewicz’s cover suggests, but is does depict Loki unable to harness the hammer’s power and throwing it into an enchanted forest where it turns into a tree. If he can’t use it, nobody can!
More recently — and in mainstream continuity, pedantry fans — was in an issue of Al Ewing and Lee Garbett’s underrated “Loki: Agent of Asgard” series. During the “AXIS” crossover that saw a number of Marvel characters’ moral compasses switching directions (goodies becoming bad, and vice versa,) a newly pure-of-heart Loki is able to pick up Mjölnir and give his newly-unworthy bro, himself more boorish thanks to the events of “AXIS,” a thorough beatdown.
What other Mjolnir facts do you know that aren’t on this list? Call down the thunder in the comments!