Aaron on Building an Epic Saga, Revealing "Thor's" Identity

During the course of Marvel's "Original Sin" event, an as yet unrevealed phrase was whispered, resulting in the hammer's previous owner, Thor Odinson, becoming unworthy of wielding it. Thus, when the latest volume of "Thor" launched under the watch of Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman, it was with a mysterious, masked woman becoming the new wielder of Thor's mystical hammer, Mjolnir.

Despite the ease with which newcomers have been able to catch up with the story, the truth is, it's all a continuation of the plot lines Aaron laid out in his previous "Thor: God of Thunder" series, the latest chapter in a long form saga the writer hopes to be telling for years to come.

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With that in mind, we spoke with Aaron about his immediate and long terms plans for "Thor," which includes a confrontation between the two thunder gods, delving into the mystery of the new Thor's identity, the continuing treachery of the villainous Dark Elf, Malekith the Accursed, and building up the characters and cultures of each of Asgard's now Ten Realms.

Plus, we have an exclusive look at pages from upcoming issues of the series, and the first look at Rob Guillory's cover for the upcoming "Thor Annual," which sees the "Chew" artist make his Marvel debut, illustrating a story written by fellow Marvel freshman C.M. Punk.

CBR News: The new title character's identity remains a mystery, but it feels like in these first three issues you've given us a couple of big clues. First, she admits she knows Roxxon CEO Dario Agger, and the second is the mechanism she used to admit that -- her inner monologue. What made you want to give the new Thor an inner monologue that contrasts with the way she speaks while wielding Mjolnir?

Jason Aaron: Part of it is for exactly that reason. I like that contrast between those two different voices. The main reason, though, was because I knew her identity was going to be a secret, and since this is her story, I was kind of limited in terms of how much I could show of her.

So since we can't reveal who she is just yet, I wanted to still be able to dive into her head. I knew I wanted to do thought bubbles. I've always been a big fan of the thought bubble and hate that it's disappeared so much from comics. I really liked the idea of bringing it back in a big way. It also made sense. It gave us a way to show her voice and contrast with the voice of Thor.

For me, the thing that's been the most fun about this is getting back to the original dynamic Thor had back when he first appeared. Back then, Thor was somebody who picked up a magic stick and transformed into the God of Thunder. That's something we've only seen briefly over the years since then, so I really enjoyed getting back to that and everything that comes with it. That means having a character with two different voices, and having a Thor that, when she's away from her hammer too long, starts to change. All of that stuff has been really fun to play with.

It also feels like the monologue is a way to do a 'learning the ropes' style story for a character whose identity is still shrouded in mystery.

Exactly. You only get to do this kind of story where she first wields the hammer and gets in way over her head for the first time once. I didn't want to let that fly by without taking full advantage of it. So yes, I definitely wanted this to be a 'first day on the job' style story.

The identity of Thor isn't the only question you're raising in these first few issues. It also feels like you're interested in exploring how much sentience Mjolnir actually has. Is that something readers should be wondering?

Sure, I definitely wanted to make the hammer seem more like a character in and of itself, and she definitely has a different relationship with it than the previous Thor had. It does seem to be a little more alive in the way it acts when she throws it and the way she talks to it. Of course, the previous Thor talked to it as well.
I definitely wanted to change things up. If we were going to do a new version of Thor, I didn't want her to be exactly the same as the other guy, with the only difference being their genders. I wanted their powers to be a little bit different, and in particular, I wanted her relationship with the hammer to be a bit different.
That's something we'll continue to explore. I've always been very interested in making Mjolnir as special as possible. It should be the most amazing magic weapon in the Marvel Universe. This is another step along that path. Eventually, the idea is that we'll get a Mjolnir stand alone issue; an issue that focuses just on the hammer. We still don't really know the full story of the hammer. There have been different origin stories told over the years, but eventually, I want to tell the real story of Mjolnir.

Mjolnir has always been more than somebody picking up a hammer and swinging it around. The fact that the hammer has an enchantment that can deem who's worthy and who isn't separates it from just being an enchanted hunk of metal. I think I tried to show with the previous Thor that Mjolnir was more than that. There was definitely some sort of symbiotic relationship with them, and if anything, that's only been spotlighted with the changeover.

That's a good segue way into my next set of questions about the unworthy, Thor Odinson. How dark of a place is he currently in? Is he in danger of reverting back to that god that needs to learn lessons about humility and heroism?

He may be a god who needs to learn some different lessons. That's one of the things I had been showing in the "Thor: God of Thunder" series. That series showcased three different versions of Thor who all sort of had their own issues. None of them were perfect.

The driving force of the middle guy in those 25 issues of "God of Thunder" was to be a good god and question and wonder what that means. "Am I a good god? Are any of us good gods?" Those doubts and that desperate drive are what drove him through that entire series, all going back to the God Butcher story.

That's still where he's at. If anything, the fact that he can't pick up his hammer only exacerbates those doubts and that nagging feeling in the back of his skull that he's not and never has been a good god. I would say he of course still has some lessons to learn -- just maybe not the ones he had to learn when he was the young, rambunctious version of Thor.

Is the conflict that grips him sort of a debate between letting the hammer go and letting someone else do good with it, and saying this hammer is mine -- no one can use it but me?

It terms of what he learns and were he goes, we'll just have to wait and see, but yes -- he's definitely in a dark place. That was the whole idea with the change. We didn't want to do it just for the sake of doing it. We wanted to take him to a very different place. The Odinson is the not same guy he was when he was Thor.

He continues to be in a very dark place, and the fact that he can't pick up his hammer only makes it worse. Going forward, he'll be a very different figure beyond the fact that he looks a bit different with his beard, his axe and his metal arm. He's going to be a different sort of character.

Is it simply his inability to pick up Mjolnir that's causing him to have these dark feelings? Or are his feelings also connected to whatever Nick Fury whispered to him in "Original Sin?"

It's all wrapped up together. I don't want to talk about what Nick Fury actually said to him. We will get to that at some point, but it's really everything wrapped up together that's affecting him: Everything he had been through as Thor recently, what Nick Fury said to him, and losing the hammer and everything he's been through since. It's all really been one dark, winding road leading the Odinson to where he is right now.

In "Thor" #4, the new Thor and Odinson face off for the first time. Set the stage for that confrontation -- what's running through their minds when they first see each other at the end of issue #3?

The previous Thor doesn't know who this lady is, where she's come from or why she's holding Mjolnir. He wants his hammer back, and he has a few questions beyond that, as we'll see in issue #4.

Issue #4 fills in the gap between when we last saw the Odinson and when we catch up with him now. Last time we saw him, he had just had his arm chopped off and had been tossed into the the bottom of the ocean. We'll fill in the gaps there, and then set the stage for a big Thor versus Thor battle.

So the Odinson's first glimpse of this new Thor is when he walks into Roxxon?

Yes. In terms of the timeline, all she's done so far is pick the hammer up on the moon, fly to Earth and get involved in the battle she's currently embroiled in. This is still literally her first day on the job.

You mentioned a Thor versus Thor battle, but there were two other characters in the room with the Thors when they came face to face at the end of issue #3, Dario Agger and Svartalfheim ruler Malekith. I imagine it would be tempting for these guys to just grab some popcorn and watch the Thors slug it out, but what will they actually do?

Yes, when the Thors start fighting each other, those guys do stand on the sidelines and wait to see how that plays out. They're content to let them kill each other if that's what they want to do. Where Agger and Malekith go after that, you'll just have to wait and see.

Obviously, Malekith has been a big part of everything I've been doing and everything I've been building. It's clear he's building his own dark alliances among the various realms. We saw him make this pact with the Frost Giants, and we saw a tease of him reaching out to Muspelheim. He's clearly got a long term plan he's building towards, and now that plan has brought Roxxon into his crosshairs.

Roxxon is another bad guy I spent a lot of time building up in the previous Thor series. They're also going to continue to be a big part of stuff going forward.

Again, everything I did in those 25 issues of "Thor: God of Thunder" all feeds into this series. It's all connected. It's all the same big story. This was never about me starting over and throwing everything out because we were changing our title character. I've said all along, it's still the same story. Everything continues to move in the same direction, and there's still big, big stuff to come.

"Thor" #5 kicks off a new story, and is being drawn by an artist who's become known for his striking cover work, Jorge Molina. Is Jorge just drawing issue #5, or all of the next arc?

Jorge is just doing issue #5, and Russell Dauterman is back with issue #6. In issue #5, Jorge gets to draw a smorgasbord of cool Thor stuff. The issue features classic Thor villains the Absorbing Man and Titania. We get to see more of Odin unleashed, and we get two surprising returns in one issue. So there's a lot of big, exciting stuff.

I've been writing Thor for a few years now, and it still feels like there's so much stuff I haven't even touched. I've been having tremendous fun with Odin back in Asgard. I didn't really realize how much I was missing out by not getting to write Odin, so I'm really loving having him in the mix. That, of course, puts everything in Asgard kind of in chaos.
A very different Asgard has been built up over the last several years by [J. Michael] Straczynski, [Matt] Fraction, Kieron Gillen and all these other creators. We had Asgardia, an Asgard with a congress and an All-Mother. It's a very different sort of situation, so I love being able to take Odin, throw him into the midst of that and watch the chaos that unfolds. That's only going to get worse. The fact that this mysterious woman is running around with the hammer of Thor is not going to sit well with Odin, as you can imagine. We dive into a lot of that with issue #5.

Really, in terms of arcs I wanted to break away from the way I had been writing Thor. The previous book was very much about rigid often five issue arcs with very specific beginnings, middles, and ends, and with a few stand alones sprinkled in here and there. I really wanted to get away from that and get back to a more kind of free flowing style. I wanted a little more old school feel; sort of like what Mark Waid does on "Daredevil" or Dan Slott has done on "Amazing Spider-Man" for years, so it feels more like the comics I read as a kid and there aren't really discernible arcs. It's all one long story, with every issue feeding into the next.

That's what I'm trying to do with "Thor" and it makes things a lot simpler, art wise. Russell is doing amazing work, but if he can't draw every issue and we need to bring in somebody to help him out, it's not a big deal. We're not breaking arcs to do it.

So Jorge came in and did beautiful work on #5. Then Russell is right back with issue #6. He had some big shoes to fill following after what Esad [Ribic] did on "Thor: God of Thunder." I think Esad really defined that character for a lot of fans, but I've been thrilled with what Russell has done. I think he's been a huge home run. I think the way he's drawn the Frost Giants in particular has defined those characters for me going forward. He's done a terrific job on everything we've thrown at him, from all the fantasy stuff, which he loves, to the high tech and super hero stuff. He can draw it all. It's great to have him coming right back on with issue#6.

As you mentioned, there's a lot of things going on in these next few issues. So let's break some of that down for fans. One of the story threads you have coming up is a detective-style tale with Thor Odinson trying to deduce who the new female Thor is --

Yes. I've said all along that I want to have fun with that mystery, but it's not a mystery we're going to drag out for 20 issues. It's something I want to dive right into, and that starts with the Odinson literally making a list of all the women he thinks could possibly be under the mask of the new Thor. Then we'll see him start to tick those names off as he goes around and tries to figure out who she is. As he's marking candidates off, readers will be doing the same. That means you might get the answer to who's under that mask sooner than you think.

As I've said all along, though -- that's not the story. The mystery is fun to play with, and I love that it's a way to introduce her, but that's not her story. Her story really starts once we find out who is underneath that mask and what's going on with her. I'm anxious to get that part of the tale.

This isn't the first time you've had Thor play detective. The "God Butcher" storyline in "Thor: God of Thunder" had the Odinson chasing down a killer. It's interesting watching a character who's known for perhaps being a little more headstrong act in a more cerebral way.

Right, I never wanted him to be a big dumb meathead who carries a hammer. He's a guy who's been around for a very long time. He shouldn't be the same dumb kid he was centuries ago.

Clearly, I've liked exploring different aspects of Thor. I was writing three different versions of him, and now we have a fourth Thor who's a completely new version of the character. We'll continue to see those other versions of Thor as well. Old and young Thor both pop up in our upcoming Annual. You'll get to see them, along with the all-new Thor. It's another big story that features three different versions of the character.

Will we see more of Malekith's ongoing play to sow chaos and discord across the Ten Realms in these upcoming issues?

Yeah, we've seen him go from being trapped in a prison cell to king of the Dark Elves of Svartalfheim. Clearly, he's not just content with that. He definitely seems to be marching down the road to war, and plenty of people in the book have commented on that. We've heard the phrase "War of the Realms" tossed about, so I'd say that we're moving towards things getting more and more heated and contentious between all these various realms with Malekith at the very heart of that.

If you go back and read his origin story in "Thor: God of Thunder" #25, it kind of sheds some light on his motivations and why he does this. He's a guy who doesn't ever want to see the war stop. If anything, the battles and war he's planning towards will get bigger and bigger as we go along.

To paraphrase Michael Caine from "The Dark Knight," "Some elves just want to watch the worlds burn?"

[Laughs] Yes! It wasn't a coincidence that Malekith first popped up in "Thor: God of Thunder" around the same time as the "Thor: The Dark World" feature film. It was because he was the bad guy in that movie. It's never a bad idea to take an advantage of a villain's profile being presumably raised. That's really kind of what we do with every villain. If you're writing Batman, you want to write the villains that are most prominent and important to his world. I think it's the same no matter what character you're doing.

I saw that as a way to not just write Malekith as a one time gimmick villain in a throwaway arc, but to raise him to be an important part of Thor's corner of the Marvel U. So he's been a big part of Thor's world since he came back in the "God of Thunder" series and will continue to be part of it. He's kind of one of the pieces upon which everything is being built. We'll continue to see more and more pieces added to that.

One of the things I wanted to do with the first several issues of this new "Thor" series was to focus on the Frost Giants too. I wanted to bring a new take to those guys. They've been around for almost as long as Thor has been around. They've been a constant thorn in his side, but we still don't know a lot about them. I wanted to show a little more of their culture and their goals. I wanted them to be more than just big scary giants who show up to smash stuff and then disappear.

When I first started writing Thor I couldn't name the Nine Realms and I didn't know some from others. I had to spend a lot of time figuring out what they were, who lived where, and how one was different from others. I'm sure a lot of people who read the books couldn't tell you the difference between some of the realms and their inhabitants.

Good fantasy does that. I think everybody who watches "Game of Thrones" or reads the books they're based on could tell you the differences between King's Landing, Winterfell, Bravos and all of the other different places within the world of that story. That's because those books do a great job of laying out the differences between what they eat, how they dress, their religions, cultures -- really, everything about those people and places.

It's a lot of heavy world building, and I'm trying to do more of that in "Thor." As we go along, if this is all about the tensions between the various realms, I want you to know what those various realms are. I want you to understand what they look like, who lives there, and how they're different from the people that live in the other realms.

Because to me, that's the coolest part of "Thor's" setting. It's not just Asgard, this golden city of the gods. There's all these other realms that come with it, and they haven't been that heavily explored over the years in Thor stories. We've seen bits and pieces of all the realms here and there, but we haven't spent a whole lot of time in, really, any of them. That's my challenge going forward. Hopefully, by the time I walk away from "Thor," whenever that is, everybody who's been reading it can rattle off the Nine, now Ten Realms and be able to understand the differences between all of them like they were real places. Then everybody else who comes along can take full advantage of that stuff for future adventures in Thor's realms.

Let's conclude by circling back to the "Thor Annual" you mentioned earlier. What can you tell us about the stories in the Annual? And how connected is it to the larger story you're telling in "Thor?'

I do a King Thor story in the Annual that features the Girls of Thunder and is very important to the overall story that I'm telling. There's a huge beat there for King Thor and the future of Earth in the Marvel Universe really.
Then there's a present day Thor story by Noelle Stevenson that guest stars the Warriors Three. There's also a young Thor story written by C.M. Punk that's a lot of fun. It's kind of what I had been doing in the book before, where we focused on three different versions of the character. This one has got a little twist in that it's a different version of the present day Thor, so you get three very different versions of the character, and three different and very fun stories.

I think it's a really cool Annual. If you haven't been reading any of my Thor stuff, you can pick that up and enjoy it on its own, but if you have it's another piece of the puzzle in terms of where everything is headed.

The announcement of the new Thor and the response to that was kind of unlike anything I've ever experienced in terms of the level of volume of both good and bad responses. In terms of this new book though, the response has just all been overwhelmingly positive. The first issue has just gone through a fourth printing, and "Thor" is one of Marvel's best selling digital comics. It's been really gratifying. I think people are really enjoying the new characters and they're lovingRussell's art. 
I'm thrilled. As I said all along, my plan is to stay with this character for quite a while. I've laid the ground work for a lot of stories that I want to be around to see through. I want to say thanks to everybody for supporting the book.

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