The old adage says that only those worthy may raise high Mjolnir and wield the power of Thor. Come July, acclaimed creator Roger Langridge shows just how worthy he is when he launches Marvel’s all-new, all ages series “Thor: The Mighty Avenger” with artist Chris Samnee, announced Friday at the Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo.
First appearing in “Journey Into Mystery” #83, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Thor mixed Asgardian mythology with superhero gallantry. The character quickly rose to prominence and became a founding member of the Avengers and one of the most well known characters in the Marvel Universe. The new series by Langridge serves as a re-imagining of the age-old heroic figure in a modern day setting, starting off with the character’s first appearance on Earth after a thousand- year absence. Langridge took some time away from learning how to swing the Thunder God’s mighty hammer to discuss the upcoming series, what draws him to the fun side of comic book storytelling and…Muppets.
The series starts with Thor landing on Earth after some time away and finding the world far different from how he remembered it. “It’s all unfamiliar to him, he doesn’t understand how anything works, he’s been separated from his hammer and can’t get home, and it’s only when he meets Jane Foster in our first issue that his life starts to come together again,” Langridge told CBR. “We’ll be asking the question, ‘In a world, where cosmic beings fall out of the sky and super-powered giants walk among us, what’s so great about being human? The answer may surprise you.'”
Each issue of the title will tell a self-contained story; however, Langridge said that a main subplot runs through the book and comes to a close around the end of the year one. The title features appearances by a number of Thor’s Asgardian brethren, including the usual suspects of Loki, the Warriors Three, Balder, Sif and Heimdal. Langridge said Thor’s relationship with his father is as “fraught and conflicted as ever.” The hero’s constant struggle to win his father’s approval plays a central role in his story. As for Thor’s mischievous brother, Langridge said that the two share a slightly different relationship than the one in the regular Marvel U. “The way we’ll be playing it is that Loki isn’t actually hateful so much as he’s really just looking out for Number One, and if Thor gets in the way, so be it,” explained Langridge. “Loki will even appear to try and help Thor sometimes. Watch that “appear”; there may be questions later.”
Langridge also teased a number of superhero guest stars as well, some of them Thor’s fellow Avengers and others characters not often seen teamed with the hammer-wielding hero, such as Captain Britain – the writer referred to latter’s appearance as “a romp and a half.” And, of course, there’s also the villains. “There’ll be some new villains – evil robots are always a safe bet – and some old ones,” said Langridge. “We’ll be kicking off with Mister Hyde in our first two issues. Initially, I want the villains to either be established Thor villains or brand-new ones, most of whom, in our story, he’s meeting for the first time, In any case, that’s plenty to be going on with for now. Although, eventually I really want to do a Ringmaster and the Circus of Crime story. I’m attracted to their “loser” status; I think there are lots of opportunities for humor and pathos there.”
The writer even hinted at an appearance by a villain he’s all too familiar with, having written a number of Marvel special stories with the green-skinned goliath Fin Fang Foom. “There may be a Foom-ish presence at some point, but to say more would give too much away,” said Langridge. “I love Foom. I love the way he maintains his dignity, no matter what indignities you throw at him.”
Along with upcoming appearances and plot points, the author also spoke very highly of his creative partner on the series, artist Chris Samnee. “What’s not to like? Good grief! He draws like the bastard son of Alex Toth,” said Langridge. “His storytelling is rock-solid, his acting moments are superb, his sense of drama is pitch-perfect, he can draw anything and make it look amazing and his design sense is unbelievable. Wait until you see what he’s done with Iron Man’s original clunky suit. He’s actually made it look good. I am thrilled – thrilled -Â to have Chris as my collaborator on this book.”
Langridge said he first encountered the character of Thor through his brother’s collection of original Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created issues. “I read a few of those, but I never really got into the character,” admitted the writer. “I think because it all seemed to take itself so seriously. Moments of comic relief or human warmth were very few and far between; it was all one event of cosmic importance after another without taking a breath, which has never really been my thing. But the artwork was incredible. I was glad they were around.”
As such, the writer decided to bring in a far more fun and hopeful tone to the new series, one that he said fits right into many of the themes and concepts of the character. “It seems to me that in the super hero concept generally, and the Thor universe in particular, there’s a streak of hope a mile wide which hasn’t been exploited much in recent years, so I’m definitely looking forward to doing something about that,” said Langridge. “I mean, look, one of the central icons of the Thor series is a rainbow. How can you not want to write something uplifting around that? It’s just begging for it. Thor himself, at least the way we’re playing him, should be a fun, likeable character. We’re playing up those aspects of his personality. Moody, sure, and a bit reckless; he needs to grow up a bit. But he goes into battle with a devil-may-care grin on his face, and he’s got a code of honor you could break rocks on. I’m thinking he’s a bit like the original, Siegel-Shuster Superman in that regard – reckless, smiling as he goes into a fight, with an unshakeable sense of what’s right.”
The concept of fun superhero comics is something Langridge admitted he feels is missing in many modern day stories. “I kind of feel like that’s what super-hero comics are for; that’s why they exist. If they’re not fun, they darn well ought to be. I’m all for comics being adult and challenging, but that’s why books like ‘Fun Home’ and ‘Safe Area Gorazde’ exist,” said Langridge. “‘Superhero comics’ and ‘comics’ are not synonyms. I pretty much stopped reading superheroes in the ’90s when the whole thing just became utterly joyless. I didn’t give up on comics; there was plenty to read, but the superhero end of things just became a noisy irrelevance to me. When I read a super-hero adventure, I want to be taken away, uplifted, thrilled, maybe moved to laughter or tears if I’m lucky. There was a balance between drama and humor that was central to early Marvel and it’s gotten lost along the way somewhere. That’s basic to the Marvel sensibility, I think – Marvel 101, if you like. It’s what Marvel was like when those books routinely sold in the high hundreds of thousands every issue. So let’s try that for a while and see what happens.”
Along with comics, television shows such as “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” and “Q” highly influenced the New Zealand-born writer while growing up. “It may surprise you to learn that the Muppet Show had a serious effect on my young mind,” said the writer, who along with the upcoming “Thor” currently pens the BOOM! Studios “Muppet Show” comic. “I’m a huge fan of early newspaper strips like Thimble Theatre and Barney Google. Big fan of Jack Cole, Will Eisner, Basil Wolverton, Dick Briefer, Kurtzman’s “Mad.” And Carl Barks is, in my opinion, the greatest comic-book cartoonist who ever lived.”
As for the possibility of a crossover between the aforementioned “Muppets” series and the upcoming “Thor,” Langridge just laughed and said, “I think the nearest you’ll get is my drawing of Frog Thor on a recent ‘Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers’Â cover.”