The Thunder God, Thor, is one of the Marvel Universe’s staunchest protectors, which means he’s been to strange and dangerous locales, witnessed breathtaking cosmic events, and battled a whole host of powerful and frightening foes. All this within a relatively short period of time, too, since Thor is immortal. Just imagine all the things he’s seen and will see over the course of his long lifespan…
This November, you won’t have to imagine anymore because writer Jason Aaron and artist Esad Ribic will expand the Marvel NOW! initiative with “Thor: God of Thunder,” a new ongoing series that explores the past, present, and future of the titular character. CBR News spoke with Aaron about his initial plans for the series which include a millennia-spanning hunt for a mysterious and powerful serial killer known as the God Butcher.
CBR News: Jason, from speaking with Axel Alonso I know that for the titles in the Marvel NOW! initiative creators were asked which characters they wanted to write. What made you want to write Thor? What specifically drew you to the character?
Jason Aaron: Thor wasn’t a character that I had ever really angled for and I didn’t have a story at the time. That was an exciting period there though when we first started talking about what would become Marvel NOW! I realized that pretty much everything was on the table and all these books were changing hands. Thor was one of the first things that came to mind. Out of the blue I thought I might like to write Thor.
How has it been writing Thor so far? Did you have to struggle to get inside the character’s head and find his voice? Or did he come pretty easy once you started writing scripts?
By the time I started writing I slipped right into the character. Before that, though, he wasn’t a character I was super familiar with and couldn’t really relate to. I had read part of the Walt Simonson stuff. That was my main exposure to Thor and I read that stuff back when it was first coming out. I also picked up the first chunk of the Dan Jurgens run when that started, but that was it. I hadn’t read that much “Thor” growing up.
So it was just something I kind of had to grow into. I’ve always been a big fantasy reader. I love Tolkien, and Piers Anthony. I’ve read all of the Robert E. Howard Conan stories and all the Robert Jordan Conan books. I read a lot of fantasy growing up and this was just the right moment in my career where Thor seemed like the exact thing that I wanted to do.
Let’s talk a little bit about Thor’s mindset and what’s important to him. We know both Earth and Asgard are extremely important places to Thor, but both worlds are also extremely different places. What do you think these places represent to Thor? What do Earth and Asgard mean to him?
We’ll examine those questions in this book from different points in Thor’s life. Earth means something very different to him when he’s a young Thor that we’ll first meet back in the Viking age. Back then, Earth is kind of a playground that he likes to come down to and get into trouble. He’s surrounded by mortals who worship him.
Obviously in the present, Thor is an Avenger. He’s one of Earth’s staunchest defenders, and at that point he’s lived a life where he’s been friends with mortals for years, and had love interests among them. So he has this strong emotional tie to Earth.
Then in the future that remains to be seen. Once we pick up with King Thor in the future we don’t initially know what his relationship with Earth is or if there even still is an Earth at that point.
As you mentioned, present day Thor is one of Earth’s staunchest defenders. He’s also the premier champion of Asgard, but are those the only two worlds under his protection? When your run begins how does Thor view his role in the present day Marvel Universe?
That’s one of the book’s big questions. Certainly this first issue kicks off with Thor in the present off of Earth. He’s in deep space. So his realm of influence, the area he sees himself as a protector of, extends beyond Midgard and Asgard. As to what draws him there and why you’ll have to wait and read the issue.
A lot of what I want to do with this series is take Thor to all corners of the Marvel Universe. So we’ll see him on adventures not just on Earth and Asgard, but all new corners of the Marvel cosmos.
Will any familiar faces be accompanying him on these journeys? Much of Matt Fraction’s Thor run, which ends in October, has been about rebuilding and changing Asgard. While his stories featured a large supporting cast, we understand that initially you’re going in a different direction and primarily focusing on just Thor, is that right?
Yes. In this first big story there’s no Warriors Three, no Sif, no typical Asgardian supporting cast members at all. Iron Man pops up in one issue, but for the most part we just really focus in on Thor to the point where he becomes his own supporting cast in that we have three different versions of him.
From what you’ve told us it sounds like each of the three Thor stories will have their own unique tone. How would you describe the tone of the young Thor story where he’s interacting with Vikings?
It will be similar to Brian Wood’s “Northlanders” in some ways. The young Thor stuff all takes place on Earth. We see him hanging out with different bands of vikings. He’s the God of Thunder and comes down to occasionally drink and fight with them, and even make love to their women. So that’s our initial view of young Thor and his setting. Certainly as this story goes on things expand and grow.
What about the time time period of future Thor? How would you describe his world?
We’ve seen this Thor before in Dan Jurgens’ run. He did a lot of stuff with the future Thor, but this really goes beyond all that. This goes even further into the future. If you’ve read that run there will be little touches here and there that are call backs, but this is a portion of Thor’s timeline that we’ve never seen before. When we initially see it, it looks like we’re in the final days of the universe. It appears to be the end of time and Thor is the last king of Asgard.
How will these three stories complement each other and intertwine? Will we see all three time periods in each of your Thor issues? Or will you focus in on one or two every few issues?
We’ll see all three time periods in every issue of the first arc, but different issues we’ll have different focuses. The first issue really introduces all three time periods. The second issue for the most part focuses on Young Thor. Going forward in the first five issues we’ll spend significant time with each of those versions of Thor.
Each of the three Thors will deal with a mysterious serial killer known as Gorr, the God Butcher. What can you tell us about the God Butcher and what inspired his creation?
The idea of a serial killer of gods is kind of what it started with. As to who he is, we don’t initially know. He’s a new character; somebody we’ve never seen before. So his methods and rationale are something that’s revealed to us slowly over time. So are his work, powers and really everything.
Since we’re seeing him in three different eras we’ll have three different versions of this one villain. He develops over the course of thousands of years.
Will we see some of this story from the God Butcher’s perspective?
Yes. In this first arc each issue kind of focuses in on a different one of the Thors. The last issue will focus more on the God Butcher himself.
Can you offer up any hints as to how the God Butcher views himself? Is he someone after power and glory or does he see himself as more heroic? Perhaps as a liberator?
I don’t want to spoil too much. He is a scary guy. We’ve seen Thor face god killers in the past, but never anything quite like this. This is very much a dark and shadowy serial killer. When we first learn about him he’s stalking gods in the shadows and butchering them one by one. He’s a villain unlike anything Thor has ever faced before.
As to how he sees himself and why he does this? That’s our story. His origin is one of the first things I came up with, but that’s a story we’ll have to wait for a few issues down the line.
How does the story of Thor versus the God Butcher unfold? What kinds of genres will we see? Epic space fantasy? The police procedural elements found in a serial killer novel? Or grim and brutal historical fantasy?
It’s a little bit of all that. When the three different Thors encounter him in their respective eras we get three different kinds of stories reflective of the type of heroes and characters they are at the time.
Of course the young Thor that encounters the God Butcher in the Viking Age is much more brutal. Thor’s quest in the present does involve a bit of him playing detective, which is not a role he’s typically in. It takes him to some locations we’ve never seen before; brand new cities of gods designed by Esad where Thor goes looking for answers to try and unravel the God Butcher’s plan. Then in the future with Old King Thor, the story becomes the most Jack Kirby-like of the three. Its dark fantasy mixed with a lot of sci-fi elements and just gets bigger from there.
A story about a serial killer targeting gods means you can have a lot of fun with both new and established pantheons of Marvel U gods. Will we meet some of the God Butcher’s targets?
Yes we will. We’ll meet a few new gods who will play pivotal roles as we follow the God Butcher’s path of Destruction. As for who’s going to wind up on the slab because of him? I won’t say. I will say though, that this arc isn’t about tearing down Thor’s supporting cast or anything that’s been done before. It’s very much about forging ahead and taking Thor to new places.
You have more “Thor: God of Thunder” stories to tell after your initial God Butcher arc, correct? Or is this series similar to your work on “Incredible Hulk” and “Punisher MAX” where you told one big story with a beginning, middle, and end?
I’m looking at this as a much longer run. I’ll come back to the characters of young and old Thor for as long as I’m on the book. We won’t deal with all three in every arc like this first story, but sprinkled in amongst a big arc dealing with present day Thor we might have a standalone that catches up with young Thor or old Thor. So as we go forward I’ll continue to come back to them.
Plus, I’ll still be telling a big story with those characters. There’s a big arc there with young Thor and old Thor. I know where their stories eventually end, but those are stories will play out over the course of many issues.
Do your future plans also include stories that will spotlight and add to Thor’s cast of friends and foes?
When I got the gig I sat down and started with Thor’s first appearance and read through all the Lee-Kirby stuff, which was awesome. I don’t think I’ve ever read any of it before. So there are some character from there that I want to play with and going forward there are characters from Thor’s rogues gallery and supporting cast that I want to bring back and play with.
I’ve got a Mangog story I want to do and a Jane Foster story that I want to do. Where those will eventually happen I don’t know. We’ll get to them down the road. Plus there will be a big mix of new allies, villains, and settings, but also a healthy dose of the old stuff.
Artist Esad Ribic has experience drawing the 616 Thor because of his work on the Marvel Knights “Loki” mini-series, and recently he did some fantastic stuff with the Ultimate Universe incarnation of Thor over in “Ultimate Comics Ultimates.” So what’s it like working with him on “Thor: God of Thunder?”
The Loki stuff was the first time I saw Esad draw Thor. It’s a gorgeous book and there’s even a Marvel Knights animated project of it that people should pick up.
Esad was actually mentioned to me as the artist before I had even come up with a story. So when I first said to them that I would like to do Thor Axel floated the idea of Esad doing it and I was down from that point. Then I had to figure out what we were going to do and come up with an actual Thor story. Knowing that Esad was already on board, though, really opened the door to getting as crazy as I possibly could because I think he’s one of those guys who can pull off almost anything.
He can design these imaginative and exciting locations and pull off the simple character moments that I like to do. So he’s the perfect artist for what I’m trying to do here. He’s also one of those guys who brings so much of himself and so many ideas to the table. One of my favorite moments in the first issue was his idea. It was something that he came up with on his own. So he’s an awesome collaborator.
You and Esad are obviously working closely on “Thor: God of Thunder,” but I understand you’re also talking with some other writers about your Thor plans, namely Kieron Gillen and Rick Remender. You guys all have experience collaborating together from your work on the X-Books and now the three of you are penning the solo books of the Avengers trinity: Remender on “Captain America,” Gillen on “Iron Man,” and you on “Thor.” Plus Rick has “Uncanny Avengers” which also features Cap and Thor. How much interplay will there be between these books?
The three of us have been friends for a while now. We all go to the same Marvel retreats, and we kind of sat down at the last retreat and realized exactly what you just said. We were like, “Hey, we’ve got these three big Avengers now. We should probably start sharing ideas.” We e-mail each other scripts, art, and designs and talk about stuff.
The other day Rick and I were just discussing some Thor ideas that I think will play out in the pages of “Uncanny Avengers.” He came up with some cool ideas to kind of connect what I’m doing in “Thor.” So you’ll see a lot of that going forward. It helps that we all like each other and respect each other. Or at least pretend to. [Laughs]
So from what you’re telling me it sounds like initially you may not have had a Thor story, but working on this book has really fired your imagination and given you plenty of story ideas for “Thor: God of Thunder” as well as ideas for how to connect it to the rest of the Marvel U?
Yes. I think this is the perfect book for me. I’m as excited about this as anything I’ve done in comics. I feel like I’m entering some second phase of my career. I wrapped up “Wolverine” and a lot of stuff that I’ve been doing the entire time I’ve been in comics.
I’ve literally been in comics six, seven years and I’ve been working on “Scalped” for almost all of that time. I’m wrapping that stuff and moving on to some different kinds of books. These aren’t titles I couldn’t have done six or even three years ago. It’s fun and invigorating. It really feels like I’m doing something different.
Also, it’s nice to have a bit more head space. I’m just doing these two books for Marvel and that’s it for now. So I have a lot more time just to focus on “Wolverine & The X-Men” and “Thor: God of Thunder.”
I have been following your work since the first issue of “Scalped” and it does feel like you’re moving on to a new and different phase of your career. Your early comic work was very gritty, grounded, and character driven. Those elements are still part of your current work, but it also seems like with your current crop of titles you have a lot more room to go wild with your imagination and explore strange ideas.
Sure, certainly with “X-Men.” “Thor” will be a different kind of book than “X-Men.” It’s a mix. It’s got those big crazy Kirby elements, but we’re looking at them through a different lens. So I would say it’s as dark and serious a book as I’ve done at Marvel.
There’s still a sense of fun to it though. I’ve done some pretty dark and heinous Wolverine stories and this isn’t like “Scalped” with hammers. “Thor: God of Thunder” will definitely have fantastic elements. In the first three issues we see flying horses and lots of magic weapons, and all sorts of fantastic stuff. It’s still a gritty character drama though, which is the kind of stuff I like to write.
True. Thor will always be grim and gritty in the same way a Frank Frazetta painting is. There’s usually a sense of awesome, epic action in Frazetta’s work, but there’s also usually a sense that things are deadly serious.
Sure that’s a great analogy. Then on the other side of the table I have “Wolverine & The X-Men” where I can just go out and out bat shit crazy. [Laughs]
“Thor: God of Thunder” by Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic debuts in November as part of Marvel NOW!