Marvel Comics introduced readers to a decidedly different take on their Thor character in March of 2002 within the pages of “Ultimates” #4. While the Ultimate incarnation of Thor was still a powerful hammer-wielding hero, he was more concerned with social activism than battle. There was also some doubt as to whether or not he was actually a god or a deranged human being with a messiah complex. Thor’s divinity was later confirmed in the final issues of “Ultimates 2,” after which his actions and appearance would become much more similar to the Marvel Universe Thor. Many readers have speculated what Ultimate Thor was like before being introduced to the Ultimate Universe. How did he become the socially conscious reluctant warrior. What part did his fiendish brother Loki play in shaping Ultimate Thor’s destiny Writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Carlos Pacheco will start to answer these questions and more when their four issue “Ultimate Comics Thor” miniseries begins in November. We spoke with Hickman about the project, which was announced yesterday by Marvel at their Mondo Marvel panel at the Comic-Con International in San Diego.
Hickman is best known to Marvel fans as the writer behind books like “Secret Warriors,” “Fantastic Four,” and “S.H.I.E.L.D.” “Ultimate Comics Thor” is the writer’s first foray into Marvel’s Ultimate Comics Universe. “I think the Ultimate Universe books are pretty cool. One of the big perks is they usually have very, very, very good artists working on the books and that’s definitely the case here,” Hickman told CBR News. “One of the things that really appealed to me about the Ultimate Universe is the fact that you get to take preexisting Marvel [Universe] characters and put a new spin on them; look at them in a different light. That’s something that I think I do a decent job of. However, that’s not what were doing at all with ‘Ultimate Thor’ though [Laughs] because it’s an origin story. So you know how the character ends up.
“Plus Jeph [Loeb] is right in the middle of a big Ultimate Thor story in ‘New Ultimates,'” Hickman continued. “It’s really just an opportunity to have a higher profile gig and getting to work with a great artist. It’s just missing that one Ultimate Universe component that I love, but who knows, maybe down the road I’ll do some more Ultimate projects.”
“Ultimate Thor” is an origin story, so the title character is in a much different place than when readers first met him in “Ultimates” #4. Over the course of the story Hickman will showcase the many different facets of his protagonist’s personality. “This is the formative story of a formidable character. So yeah, there’s an arc there. He grows and changes and as the world changes around him he responds accordingly,” the writer explained. “One of the things that I think was apparent and needed to be done in the series was to align mythological Thor, hippie Thor, and Jeph’s Thor into one seamless kind of character and I’m pretty happy with that. I think we pulled that off. I actually just finished writing the last issue of it this week. So I’m already moving on!”
Another prominent character in “Ultimate Thor” is his brother and frequent arch-enemy, the Norse god of Mischief, Loki. Like Thor, Loki too will be in a different place when “Ultimate Thor” begins and readers will see that Loki’s future destructive schemes are motivated by something more than just a psychotic need to cause destruction. “When this series starts off, Loki, Thor and Balder are all comrades, brothers in arms and important players in Odin’s kingdom,” Hickman remarked. “Then bad things happen and – conflict, conflict – Loki and Thor end up who they are in ‘The Ultimates.'”
“Ultimate Thor” is about more than just the dynamic between Thor and Loki. “It’s also about fathers and sons and gods and men,” Hickman said. “Thor was a god and when we first met him in ‘Ultimates’ he was a man. He actually needed the harness and the hammer. Then some point toward the back half of ‘Ultimates 2’ he became something more. So we kind of explain all that.”
Since “Ultimate Thor” is the origin story of a divine being Hickman’s tale starts far back in the past and spans many, many years. “We start eons ago in mythical times when Thor and Loki and a lot of the other gods are all younger kids, and we end around the beginning of ‘The Ultimates’. So we hop around quite a bit,” Hickman explained. “We cover quite a bit of territory. Hopefully, the story reads as epic, and I can tell you that with Carlos’ art it certainly looks that way.”
With such a long history to cover Hickman had a chance to explore and intertwine events from actual Norse mythology with the history of the Ultimate Universe. “There’s a lot of iconography. A lot of that runic mythological stuff was adopted by the Nazis. The SS symbol is the double sig,” Hickman stated. “We use some of that to explain both the change and transition of men in their relationship to gods and we also use it to explain some events with Thor and Loki on Earth. We kind of wrap man adopting certain mythologies into being a cause of action for some of our characters.”
One of the prominent time periods in “Ultimate Thor” is World War II. During the series Hickman will reveal how the Nazi forces helped to incite Ragnarok, the apocalyptic chain of events that ends with the destruction of all the Norse Gods. “I really wanted to use Nazi frost giants [Laughs],” Hickman revealed. “I know it sounds ridiculous, and it’s of course more than that, but I thought that was kind of a cool idea.”
While both World War II and Thor’s childhood are important times in “Ultimate Thor” the series will also explore modern times as well and Hickman’s supporting cast also includes many of the Ultimate Universe’s superheroes. “In addition to the other gods we’ve also got moments with all of the Ultimates, and all the European Super Soldier program operatives and agents like Captain Britain and Professor Braddock, who we were featured in ‘Ultimates 2,'” the writer revealed. “I’ve got this big chunk of mythology and they’ve asked for the origin of Thor. So you go back and pick all this stuff apart to see what’s kind of cool and run with it.”
Hickman feels that the cool parts of the “Ultimate Thor” mythology have been made even cooler thanks to the work of his collaborator artist Carlos Pacheco. “His art is pretty damn great. We just got pages in today of a tournament of champions style event that happens in #2. It’s really, really nice stuff. He’s very, very talented and, more importantly, I think he’s having fun,” Hickman said. “I told him before we started that it should kind of feel a bit like “Arrowsmith,” the World War I fantasy miniseries he did with Kurt Busiek for Wildstorm. It should feel mythological like that. I don’t know if that meant anything to him, but he’s really bringing it. His stuff is amazing.”
While the chance to work with Carlos Pacheco and tell a story in the Ultimate Universe were all extra perks, the main appeal of “Ultimate Thor” for Hickman lies in the chance to write another miniseries for Marvel. “With a miniseries it’s pretty much an in-and-out thing. You get to tell a good short story with a lot of energy and I haven’t been doing a lot of that lately. So that was pretty appealing,” Hickman stated. “Then I wanted to work with some different editors. I’m working with Mark Paniccia on this and Sana Amanat. They are a lot of fun. Plus, at the end of the day, I’m just trying to make myself valuable to the company and not be bored. I’m just constantly looking for something new… and so, now I’m off!”