The enmity between Marvel Comics’ Thor and Loki is now famous the world over thanks to years of comic stories and the Marvel Studios films “Thor” and “The Avengers”. This past weekend’s blockbuster sequel, “Thor:The Dark World,” will introduce audiences to another one of Thor’s most dangerous antagonists, the Dark Elf sorcerer known as Malekith the Accursed.
Comic fans first met Malekith in 1984 when writer-artist Walter Simonson created him in the pages of “Thor” #344, in which the malevolent Dark Elf launched a scheme to take possession of a powerful artifact known as the Casket of Ancient Winters. The character would go on to play a significant role in Simonson’s run which ended in 1986. Since then he’s resurfaced on several occasions, but it wasn’t until writer Jason Aaron and artist Ron Garney kicked off “The Accursed” arc in “Thor: God of Thunder”#13 that Malekith was reestablished as one of Thor’s major foes. CBR News spoke with Aaron about the events of the story so far and his plans for the remainder of the arc.
CBR News: Jason, how does it feel to be writing Thor with the character returning to the pop culture zeitgeist via “Thor: The Dark World?” Did that influence your decision to tell your Malekith story now or was this always a part of your plan?
Jason Aaron: When I found out early on that Malekith was going to be the villain in the movie I realized that November would be a good time to do a story with him. It wasn’t something that was forced upon me or that I had to do. Malekith is a character I really like. I love Walt Simonson’s entire run on Thor and Malekith was a big part of a few different arcs in that run.
So I jumped at the chance to bring back Malekith. He was a villain that I felt had been brushed aside and hadn’t appeared very much since Simonson’s run, and I wanted to bring him back in a really big way. This is not a onetime appearance. Malekith is not popping up just for the sake of doing an arc that can tie into the movie. This arc is about reestablishing him in Thor’s universe in a pretty big way and making him a big part of Thor’s rogues’ gallery.
The ending of “The Accursed” really sets the stage for lots of stories to come. It’s the next big piece of the puzzle. Things are set in motion this arc that will hopefully, if I get to stay on the book that long, play out over the course of the next several arcs and years. So this is a really big arc for the overall story I’m telling in “Thor: God of Thunder.”
Let’s talk about Malekith’s motivations in “The Accursed.” He seems to be on a mission of revenge against his people, the Dark Elves. He also seems to be taking a Joker-like delight in slaughtering them. Is Malekith angry, or is he having his own twisted form of fun?
I think he’s always having fun. He does delight in madness, chaos and bloodshed. What he’s doing in “The Accursed” isn’t just about revenge, though. From Malekith’s point of view his actions are motivated by his love for his people and their land of Svartalfheim. He feels the Dark Elves have lost their way; that they’re not the proud and strong people that they once were. They’ve been beaten down and succumbed to the will of Asgard.
So from his point of view this is more about him saying to his people, “This is what you’ve lost. I’m what we should all be. I represent the power that we once had. I’m so strong that I can go out and kill my own people; murder babies and children, and wipe out whole villages. That strength is something we all should have and could have again.”
So essentially what Malekith is doing is a patriotic, homicidal maniac’s version of tough love?
[Laughs] Yeah, something like that.
Let’s move on to the team that’s been tasked with bringing Malekith to justice, The League of Realms, which features five new characters. What inspired their creation?
Aside from Malekith, the other big part of this arc was that it’s a way to reintroduce readers to the Nine Realms. The first 11 issues of “Thor: God of Thunder” took Thor outside of his usual settings and cast of characters. He was flying through space, going to new planets, and into the far future. We never saw Asgard and we didn’t see much of Earth.
So with this arc I wanted to get back to some of the usual trappings. In the first issue of “The Accursed” we see Asgard and catch up with the Warriors Three, Sif, and the usual cast. Thor’s setting, though, is really bigger than just Asgard and Broxton Oklahoma. His setting is really these nine amazing worlds. We’ve got realms of elves, dwarves, and giants. They’re all part of this big fantastic world.
I really wanted to do an arc that nailed down what each of these nine worlds were. By the end of this I want readers to have a better picture of things like how Alfheim is different from Svartalfheim. I want to show them the geography and culture of each world.
Obviously we’re just giving tastes in this arc; we’re not diving into each world in great detail, but we can still get into geographical differences and things like who lives where. I want to build up the framework for Thor’s world.
Going forward we’ll go back to a lot of these worlds. So the different settings, creatures, and races we introduce and reintroduce will be part of the book for the foreseeable future. The League of Realms was put together as a representation of all these different creatures and peoples of this huge landscape.
They’ve been a lot of fun to write too. I realized writing this just how much I wanted to write a high fantasy story. I was a fantasy nerd when I was a kid. So I was really delighted to write this. I have a notebook filled with things like different names for Dwarves and Light Elves, and different details of the various worlds. You’ll be getting a taste of that in “The Accursed” and I’ll be layering it in as we go.
So The League of Realms is the classic fantasy-style party of adventurers. Could they also be viewed as characters from a Western on some level? Aren’t they essentially an eclectic band of characters brought together to help Thor round up a fugitive?
Exactly. They’re also there to shake up Thor’s supporting cast a bit. I love the Warriors Three, Sif, and all of those characters from his past. I wanted to inject some new characters into the stories as well though. We’ll see everything start to integrate together by the end of this arc, and we’ll see a lot of these characters again too.
As their name implies, The League of Realms includes members from the various realms of Asgard. So they’re a very diverse group with different viewpoints, which has a lot of people wondering can even someone with as a strong a personality as Thor hold the team together?
That’s Thor’s challenge in this story. In the “God Butcher” storyline he was up against a hard villain to beat, but at the end of the day it was a problem he could hit with a hammer. This is not quite so simple in that he’s in a sticky political situation. It’s not a situation where he can just go in with his hammer and beat the problem into submission. If he does that he might ignite a war.
â€¨So he’s saddled with this group that he doesn’t really want to lead, and if he can’t bring The League of Realms together then how can he hope to bring the actual realms together? How can he hope to lead Asgard someday as king if he can’t do this?
â€¨This story is part of the evolution of Thor. Present day Thor is that guy who’s stuck between the young Thor character we’ve seen, that brash young god of the Vikings, and the grizzled old King Thor, who when we first met him was this very broken, bitter king of Asgard at the end of time. So there’s a bit of both of those guys in present day Thor and I think we’ll start to see Thor attempting to grow up and become the guy who could someday be king of Asgard.
What you’re saying has me curious about an aspect of the present day Thor’s personality. He’s always been a part of groups like the Avengers, but he tends to play a huge role in those groups. Do you think Thor is comfortable relying upon others to help determine an outcome or is he most comfortable when he gets to do most or all of the heavy lifting to ensure an outcome?
I think he struggles with relying on other people. There’s still a lot of that young god of the Vikings in him. Thor has been an Avenger since day one of the team, but in the grand scheme of Thor’s lifespan that’s a relatively short period of time. I think present day Thor’s persona is young. I think he was the brash, young Thor a lot longer than he’s been his more mature present day self. So I think he’s a guy that’s still figuring things out. He still wrestles with being a part of something bigger than himself. He’s not ready to be king right now, but he’s working on it. He might not be ready to be a real leader either, but he’s working on that too.
Thor is obviously going to outlive Captain America, Tony Stark, and all these other Avengers. So someday Thor will be the grizzled, old man of the Avengers. I think he’s still struggling with going down that path.
What else can you tell us about the plot and themes of the remaining chapters of “The Accursed?” The solicits suggest the grand climax of the story will take place on Midgard (AKA Earth). Is that correct?
Yep. Over the course of the entire story we’ll visit every single one of the Nine Realms. We’ve visited quite a few already and I believe we go to Jotunheim next. Some huge events happen there. So we go from the wonders of Alfheim to the frozen landscape of Jotunheim, and then to a butcher shop in New York City. By the time the story is done we’ll have gotten at least a glimpse of every world.
So in terms of scope and scale, “The Accursed” is a story of a grand, epic, journey?
Most definitely. We’ll follow Thor and The League of Realms across a variety of landscapes, and like I said, by the end we’ll have laid some major groundwork for Thor stories to come.
Let’s start to wrap things up by talking about the work of artist Ron Garney. Your previous collaborations have spanned a variety of genres. You’ve done the gritty “Ultimate Comics Captain America” and the “Get Mystique” arc of “Wolverine,” and you’ve also done sci-fi stories like the “Tomorrow Dies Today” arc of “Wolverine: Weapon X.” I don’t think Ron has ever done a story though, at least not in recent years, with this kind of fantasy vibe to it. What has the process been like and what elements and characters does he most enjoy drawing?
Ron was really excited to draw Thor, who was a character that he had never really drawn before. And yes, I don’t think he’s ever drawn anything fantasy related. I don’t know if he knew exactly what he was getting into in terms of how many different creatures and elements I was going to make him draw; different elves, different giants, and different landscapes. [Laughs] Like me, he wants to give each world its own personality, even if it’s only glimpses on a few pages. We want you to walk away from the story with more of a sense of what each world is like.
He’s also really embraced the other fantasy aspect as well. He draws great dwarves and elves, and I love the pages where we see the different maps. Plus, I love the different mounts of the members of the League of Realms.
Ron is always great to work with. He drew one of my first big stories for Marvel, and he didn’t know who the hell I was back then. I think Axel [Alonso] really had to talk him into working with me on that, but after that we’ve never looked back. We get along really well and, like you said, we’ve done a lot of different stuff together, which I’m proud of.
I like the sort of mad mix of stories that Ron and I have worked on. Our “Ultimate Comics Captain America” miniseries is very different from our last arc of “Wolverine,” which is very different from this “Thor” arc. He and I already know what our next project together is and that will be different from any of our previous stuff. So Ron and I aren’t sick of working with each other just yet. We’re still talking about future projects.
Let’s conclude by talking about your plans for “Thor: God of Thunder” once “The Accursed” wraps. It looks like you’ll follow up that arc with a one-off starring young Thor. Is that correct?
Yes, issue #18 is a one-shot flash back that’s a story about young Thor crossing paths with a very large dragon back in the days of the Vikings. My plan is to do these kinds of flash backs to young Thor or flash forwards to King Thor between our big arcs.
Which artist is working with you on this issue?
Das Pastoras, and his art is gorgeous. If you haven’t seen his Marvel work before, he’s done some Wolverine stories and a few things here and there; his stuff is just jaw dropping. It’s rich, lush, and hyper detailed. I think it blends perfectly with the feel and look of the book that we’ve had since issue #1. So I’m super happy to have worked with him on this issue.
After that, our plan is dive into our next big arc, which will be our first All-New Marvel NOW! story. It will be an arc that picks up on some of the stories from issue #12. We’ll see S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Roz Solomon and Thor working together and what their working relationship means. We’ll also see who they’re fighting against. We bring in an old villain that we give a new face.
It’s very much a story about the battle for the fate of the Earth and it will play out over the course of two different time lines. It involves present day Thor, but we’ll also be jumping ahead to the future and showing how it involves King Thor facing his own threat to the Earth. The Earth in King Thor’s time is a smoking, black husk. So we’ll pick up on that and explore the state of the Earth in the future and what’s happened to it.
Thor is a character that demands a grand scope and scale to his stories. He’s a guy whose life span is thousands of years. His family history stretches back almost to the beginning of time. So it made sense to me to trace his time line all the way to the end. Let’s go as far forward as we can go.
He’s the one character at Marvel where you can do a sort of a “Batman: Year One”-style storyline at the same time you’re doing a “Dark Knight Returns” storyline while still tackling all the stuff in the middle. That’s what my entire “Thor: God of Thunder” run will be; three distinct arcs for each of these three versions of Thor that will interweave from arc to arc and issue to issue.
I’ve been blown away by the response to the book. It’s been really gratifying. People have embraced my take on Thor and dig what Esad [Ribic], Ron and everybody else we’ve had working on the book has been doing. So I’m thankful for people taking a chance on us and spreading the word about the book. I’m happy people like the book because, like I’ve said, I don’t want to go anywhere. I want to be on this book for a nice, long run.
I think it’s a lot harder to do long runs these days than it used to be. With the way things are scheduled now and the way comics are in general now it’s hard to dig in and stick around on a book for a long time. So with “Thor” I’m hoping to do just that. The stories I’m building are things that are going to payout over time.
“Thor: God of Thunder #15 goes on sale 11/13.