Longtime Marvel Comics editor Tom Brevoort served as moderator of the Thor spotlight panel at Baltimore Comic-Con, asking the hard questions and then getting out of the way for the panel members to tell their tales. Such talents included Jonathan Hickman, who is the writer for "Ultimate Thor," coming soon from Marvel; Bryan J. L. Glass, who is working on "Thor: First Thunder," also coming soon; John Workman, who lettered "Thor" during Walt Simonson's famous run and is coming back to letter the current "Thor" ongoing series; and Walt Simonson himself, who Brevoort introduced as "really the only reason anybody is in this room." He then went on to say that Simonson is truly the one creator "most synonymous with 'Thor.'"
Simonson explained that the first Marvel comic book he ever saw was a Thor comic - "Journey Into Mystery." The issue was Grey Gargoyle's second appearance, which Brevoort identified as issue #113. As Simonson was looking through it, he first became aware of Jack Kirby's work due to a credit box that revealed the opening sequence was in the book because Jack Kirby wanted to see it. "Journey Into Mystery" #120 was the Thor story that really hooked Simonson in.
Simonson also credited his interest in Thor to the fact that his father's family had immigrated from Norway, and that has powered his interest in the Norse gods.
In 1967, the fanboy Simonson had an idea to do a comic that would cross all of the Marvel books for the month of June and end in the ["Thor] Annual" to be released in July. He started his work on his annual and decided to hold progress off on that until he could ink better. He described his story as being a very cosmic adventure with black skies and starfields and it was "all filled in with a #4 rapidograph - stars are circles that are white circles, inked around." Simonson revealed that he was unaware of white-out in 1967.
Years passed, and in 1981 editor Mark Gruenwald asked Simonson if he'd like to work on "Thor." After accepting, Simonson was given complete free reign to do whatever he wanted to in the story, including the approval to kill Thor. Simonson said he didn't plan to kill Thor outright, but was impressed at how wide-ranging the list of story opportunities for the character was. He was able to use his fanboy work from fourteen years previous in issues #351-352.
John Workman said, "Since I was a teenager, I wanted to get into comics. I wanted to do everything." Workman said his lettering initially stunk, but he worked hard all through college on all aspects, but really put some effort into lettering. This included swiping, from artists, letterers, and elsewhere. He realized that lettering could break the boundaries of pages and panels, just like art, and start pushing it.
In 1978, Simonson produced an adaptation of "Alien," written by Archie Goodwin and lettered by Workman, and in doing so realized that Workman did tremendous work. From there, Simonson realized that Workman could create the lettering pieces that Simonson either didn't want to do, or couldn't handle himself.
Continuing with his tale of his first encounter with Thor, Workman became aware of Thor through "Avengers" #1, but never really followed "Thor" until Kirby went cosmic with it. "When he became a frog, it was amazing," Workman said.
An editorial meeting at Marvel found writer Matt Fraction marveling at Workman's lettering on "Thor," a connection that will see more interplay in the months to come as Fraction takes over the current series.
Brevoort then changed the subject to "Thor: First Thunder" by Bryan Glass. Glass said the story would be "kind of a 'Thor: Year One'" and that he has been given the Lee-Kirby stories to reinterpret. Glass has wrestled with how to bring the 1963 concepts into the new millennium. The first assignment is to make the early tales from "Journey Into Mystery" resonate, but the trick is to do so without degrading the original work. The first issue of "Thor: First Thunder" hits on September 15.
Jonathan Hickman revealed that "Ultimate Thor" is the origin of Thor from the "The Ultimates." "A solid 3.25 on a Walt Simonson 5-point scale," Hickman remarked to some laughter. The "Ultimate Thor" series features Carlos Pacheco art, for which Hickman said, "It's worth waking up in the morning."
Reminding the attendees of the upcoming feature film, Brevoort asked Simonson what he knew about the movie. Simonson took a trip out to the "Thor" set with Ralph Macchio [Simonson's editor on "Thor"] for a few days. Simonson said that he doesn't really know what the story is, and he doesn't want to. "There are a million opinions, all vouch-saved by guys who don't know crap," he said. Mostly, Simonson wants to make his mind up about the movie by going to the theater and seeing it. However, "I was enormously impressed by the costumes. The best thing is [Chris Hemsworth's] got the Kirby flip on the cape," referring to the cape as rendered by Kirby where it flips over the tops of Thor's shoulders. Simonson met most of the actors and actresses, set workers and crew, and noted that everyone there was delighted to be working on the movie.
Expanding into his personal preferences a bit, Simonson proclaimed his fondness for superhero movies and said that he very much enjoyed the final segment following the credits of "Iron Man 2." "It's the best ten seconds of film in movie history."
The floor was opened up to fans for questions. The first was, how does the Wrecking Crew still have power with Odin dead and Loki gone as well? Brevoort chose to tackle this one, saying that the crowbar and the Crew, once enchanted and empowered, would remain so, as the enchantments are in the weapons and the people.
What went into the design of Beta Ray Bill?
Simonson replied, "When I was given the book to write, I was interested in doing something that had not been done before." Simonson's thinking was that in twenty years no one had picked up the hammer.
Simonson went on to explain the origins of the hammer - it was designed to kill Frost Giants. The hammer would only serve those who were noble, had purpose - albeit in Bill's case the purpose was quite tragic - and were willing to kill for their cause. Simonson dedicated four issues to Bill, which was the longest story arc in "Thor" at that point.
Simonson wanted Bill to have the aspect of a monster, so that at first sight he would appear to be a bad guy. Simonson used a rough visual of a horse skull to project a sense of death upon the visually tragic character. "The sense of death and the sense of monsterhood allied with beauty, which is the underlying purpose of Beta Ray Bill," the artist explained..
Another attendee wanted to know how writers determine when to use "Thee" and "Thou." Simonson said that truly, only Len Wein and Roy Thomas know how that truly works.