Thor’s hammer is one of the strongest items -- let alone weapons -- in the Marvel Universe. It has survived apocalypses, the cold of space, the destruction of planets. Forged by Dwarven blacksmiths (canonically the best blacksmiths in all of the Ten Realms) and blessed with an enchantment by Odin, it’s a handy bit of kit that renders its wielder, so long as he’s worthy, super-powered, and is also nigh-indestructible to boot. The use of “nigh,” in this case, is both deliberate and important.
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As fans have seen in the first trailer for the “Thor: Ragnarok,” Chris Hemsworth’s Norse hero will have to go without his trusty weapon Mjolnir for at least some of the film’s runtime. The teaser opens with the hammer being exploded into tiny pieces before his very eyes. Still, it’s not the end of the world (well, technically it is “ragnarok”). It’s happened plenty of times before and there are plenty more enchanted weapons in the cosmos. Here are 11 such past examples where Mjolnir was destroyed, and four times it’s been replaced.
15 OBLITERATED BY HELA (THOR: RAGNAROK)
Let’s start with that most recent example. Hands up who is suddenly unexpectedly hyped for the third “Thor” movie? Out of all the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s interconnected franchises, the God of Thunder’s big screen outings have never quite attracted the same fan fervor as “Captain America” or “Guardians of the Galaxy,” but it looks like the third film may turn all that around. With a fresh new style thanks to Taiki Waititi in the director’s chair and a barnstormer of a first trailer, things are looking up for “Thor.”
At least, in the popularity stakes. The plot of the film appears to be pushing the character far outside his comfort zone, with the arrival of Cate Blanchett’s Hela heralded by her destruction first of Mjolnir, and then the entirety (or so it looks from the trailer) of Asgard. It’s the former which gets precedence in the opening of the teaser, as the demonic villain clutches the hammer in her palm and utterly obliterates it without a second glance. Gulp.
14 THROWN INTO THE RHINE (THOR #294)
The God of Thunder's origins are well documented -- what with them being a part of Norse mythology and all -- but it took until 1980 for the brave creative teaming of Keith Pollard to bring comic readers the backstory for his father, the all-powerful Odin! Having traversed the cosmos and come face-to-face with the true face of the universe, Thor was confronted with the life story of his parent, and found it to be quite different from what he thought he knew. It turns out that the Asgardian gods had, at one time, been replaced be a newer pack of gods who rejected the violent predilections of their predecessors.
In some cases it was a literal rejection, as when they happened upon Thor's now-abandoned hammer. Rather than putting it in a museum, or perhaps using it for home repairs, these new gods expelled Mjolnir from Asgard. It followed a trajectory all the way down to prehistoric Midgard, into the waterway which would eventually be known as the Rhine. There, the hammer turned into Rhinegold, a shining rock which crops up a lot in classic Norse mythology. The hammer the modern-day Thor wields is, like him, nothing but a remake of the original. What a notion!
13 SLICED IN TWO BY A DESTROYER (JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #118)
Thor’s first encounter with a Destroyer didn’t exactly go well. He prevailed eventually, but it was touch and go during his fight against the gigantic enchanted Asgardian armour worn by his forefathers, which had been returned to active duty after being discovered by a human adventurer/white slaver who fused with the metal giant and began wreaking havoc. Facing the enemy in the story “To Kill a Thunder God!,” Thor really struggled to find his feet. And then the Destroyer unleashes an energy blast that sliced Mjolnir in two.
The Odinson survives, but only just, escaping by the skin of his teeth after collapsing a temple on the Destroyer and rescuing the human pilot from its grasp. After picking up the pieces of his broken hammer and trying to use it to leave the scene, he realises its powers have disappeared along with its structural integrity. Luckily he has some “Norn Stones” in his pocket which transport him back to Pittsburgh, whose forgeries are apparently as good as any Dwarven blacksmith’s, allowing him to fix Mjolnir almost as quickly as it was broken.
12 FADED INTO NOTHINGNESS (JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #95)
This is a bit of a cheat, but technically a Mjolnir was destroyed in this early Thor story called “The Demon Duplicators!” Donald Blake, the Odinson’s human alter-ego, is browbeaten into helping the desperate Professor Zaxton into building a duplicating ray. When he finally gets a moment alone, Blake transforms into Thor, sneaking off to free Jane Foster, whom Zaxton has kidnapped. Unfortunately, he gets caught, and the professor turns the ray on the God of Thunder!
With an evil double of Thor on his side, Zaxton’s megalomaniacal tendencies come out. Along with the hero himself, the ray creates a perfect copy of Mjolnir. The professor starts creating copies of his copies, hoping if he has enough they can gang up and take down the original Thor, who proves resolutely unharmed by their own hammer blows. It turns out their hammers are not worthy and, upon striking them back with the original Mjolnir, the duplicates disappear from existence -- their hammers destroyed along with them.
11 BUSTED ON SILVER SURFER'S HEAD (MARVEL ZOMBIES #2)
The Marvel heroes of alternate Earth-2149 are not feeling quite themselves. After being infected by a Sentry who had come down with a mysterious virus, the costumed populace were overcome with a hunger for braaaains. From the ashes of their feeding frenzy emerged the zombieverse, as seen in the gore-splattered pages of the various “Marvel Zombies” miniseries, where flesh-eating superheroes travail the multiverse seeking out new sources of nourishment.
Some of them do, anyway. Others are not so lucky. Thor, for example, finds himself resolutely unworthy of carrying Mjolnir after introducing cannibalism into his diet, so abandons his enchanted hammer and opts for a replacement: a cinder block on the end of a pipe. This proves to be close enough for his needs, until the Silver Surfer and Galactus show up. Sensing a cosmically-powered smorgasbord on the horizon, the Marvel Zombies attack, Thor’s makeshift Mjolnir shattering on Norrin Radd’s shiny head but bringing the cosmic being down to Earth for a nibble in the process.
10 MELTED AFTER CRACKING OPEN A CELESTIAL'S BRAIN (THOR #388)
The all-powerful Celestials don’t tend to tangle with the denizens of the Marvel Universe on a personal, mano-a-mano basis. The so-called “space gods” prefer instead to manipulate things from a distance, behind the curtain if you will, with suggestions over the years that they may have had a hand in developing the X-gene and the unique genetic make up which allowed Peter Parker and Bruce Banner to become superheroes after devastating radioactive accidents, rather than being melted.
A notable exception is Exitar, the Celestial’s executioner who makes appearances at planets which have been deemed “failures” and are due to be destroyed. This way of doing things was challenged by Thor, who happened to be visiting one of these doomed planets and takes it upon himself to deter Exitar’s apocalyptic intentions. Battered and exhausted, he at last makes his way to the Celestial’s skull, which he pierces with a huge energy blast from Mjolnir -- so huge it melts the hammer into a useless puddle of metal.
9 COPY CRUSHED BY THE HULK (FEAR ITSELF: HULK VS. DRACULA #3)
As recounted by Stan Lee, the origins of the Mighty Thor reside in his trying to come up with a character stronger than the recently-created Hulk. “How do you make someone stronger than the strongest person?” he remembers. “Don't make him human — make him a god.” They’ve come to blows a number of times, but the real question comes down to this: if Hulk is the strongest being in the Marvel Universe, and Mjolnir the strongest weapon, can the former break the latter?
The gamma-irradiated green giant hasn’t technically broken the true Mjolnir, but he certainly came close. In the pages of the deeply weird “Hulk Vs. Dracula” miniseries, itself a spin-off of the deeply weird “Fear Itself” crossover, Banner has become a Norse god himself. In his guise as “Nul, the World Breaker,” he wields his own hammer, itself an equal to Mjolnir. At the story’s end, a vampire disguises herself as Betty Ross and convinces him to destroy the weapon, which he does by crushing it to pieces with his bare hands. It’s pretty awesome.
8 VAPORIZED BY MOLECULE MAN (AVENGERS #215)
Owen Reece has one of the most incredible, reality-altering power sets in all the Marvel Universe, and yet his codename sounds like a Bill Nye The Science Guy-style children’s TV host. Nevertheless, the Molecule Man has had plenty of opportunities to exhibit the abilities which belies his goofy title, most recently playing a part in the reunification of the multiverse in "Secret Wars." What makes him such a dangerous foe is that Reece’s dominion over the building blocks of the universe have made him somewhat...unstable.
Holding complete control over all matter will do that. One of the Molecule Man’s plots, bringing him up against the Avengers, was accidentally inspired by a meeting with the Silver Surfer: he realizes that eating the Earth, as the Surfer’s big purple boss man Galactus does, would perhaps increase his already godlike power. To that end he starts taking over the world, casting aside all comers by evaporating Iron Man's armor, Captain America's shield, the Silver Surfer's board and Thor’s hammer in a single gesture.
7 CUT IN TWO BY A DARK GOD (THOR VOL. 2 #11)
What's a mob to a king? What's a king to a god? What's a god to a non-believer? That last one got tested out during the Dan Jurgens and John Romita, Jr. “Thor” series during the mid '90s. One of the biggest threats Thor has ever faced is the Dark Gods, a group who were the evil opposite of the Asgardian deities, who decimated the realm with their blasphemous magics. They’re jealous that they don’t have nice things, having been cast out to the furthest parts of the universe by Odin when Thor was just a child. When they return, it’s up to the now-adult Norse god to defend his home.
Easier said than done. Repeating the feat of the Destroyer before him, Perrikus -- leader of the Dark Gods -- proves immune to the blows of Mjolnir, returning in kind with his enchanted scythe and slicing the hammer in two. He then hits Thor so hard that he tumbles back into his human alter ego of the time, a drug addict called Jake Olson, who retreats into the sewers of New York with the shattered pieces of his trusty hammer. It’s probably not spoiling anything to reveal he regroups and saves the day.
6 DESTROYED BY LOKI (THOR VOL. 2 #80)
While the rest of the Avengers were being “Disassembled” in the storyline of the same name, Thor was going through his own personal apocalypse. Literally, since the long-promised “ragnarok” finally coming along, thanks in large part by the machinations of his morally ambiguous half-brother Loki. Having located the Dwarven forge where Mjolnir was originally created, the trickster god produces dozens of copies for himself and his followers, made with the same super-strong uru metal.
They lack the enchantments put on the original by Odin, but where the original may be more powerful, Loki’s copies are more numerous. He and his underlings invade Asgard aboard a ship made of the fingernails and toenails of the dead (very metal) and attack Thor head-on, the cumulative strikes of their weapons upon the original Mjolnir yielding an atomic-scale explosion which leaves the hammer broken into a dozen pieces at the feet of the bloodied, beaten and defeated God of Thunder.
5 BROKEN ON BOR (THOR #600)
On and off, Loki has been plotting the downfall of his half-brother, and Asgard with it, for something like several millennia. After the undoing of ragnarok, he took another crack at it in 2009’s “Thor” #600. Far back in the mists of history, Bor -- former ruler of Asgard and paternal grandfather of the Odinsons -- was frozen in a snowdrift by a magician. That magician was a time traveling Loki in disguise, playing the long game, waiting to thaw the furious viking god out in present-day New York.
When he does emerge after eons of imprisonment, Loki casts further enhancements to confuse Bor, so he sees Thor and the Avengers as demons to be destroyed. His path of destruction is ceased only when the God of Thunder unleashes the full extent of his fury upon his ancestor, something which kills Bor and sees Thor cast out of Asgard. Just to add insult to the injury of his exile, the killing blow destroys Mjolnir, which had already been lifted and cast off by the ancient Asgardian during the battle which eventually ended his life.
4 COPIED BY HYDRA
No sooner has Peter Parker joined the Avengers properly than the Earth's Mightiest Heroes are almost torn apart entirely. After years of diligent planning and research, Captain America villains Hydra revealed their ultimate secret weapon in the pages of “The Amazing Spider-Man” #520. Using a combination of technology and genetic tampering, the evil organization unleash copies of the original Avengers -- Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and Hawkeye -- on New York City, as a distraction for the real-deal superheroes as HYDRA prepare to launch a nuclear missile which will destroy the city.
Among the examples of their evil genius is a God of Thunder who does not wield his famous hammer, but something close to it. When the original was not available, they cooked up a suitable replacement: a similarly-shaped Mjolnir which releases blasts of electromagnetic pulses, powerful enough to shut down the circuits of the heroic Tony Starks's armor. In the end, Hydra-Thor is tricked into disabling Hydra-Iron Man's suit, and the entire plot is foiled by Spider-Man swinging the launched nuke into the ocean. The Hydra clones are never seen or spoken of again.
3 ULTIMATE THOR'S AXE-HAMMER
In the Ultimate universe, Thor was dead. Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s “Ultimates” introduced a handsome Nordic man with blonde hair and a beard who claimed to be the Odinson, leveraging his apparent origin to join Greenpeace and other eco-campaigners. The people of S.H.I.E.L.D. weren’t convinced, but after a year or so of ambiguity, it was eventually revealed that this was the actual Thor, albeit reincarnated into a new, powerless body. Hence his lack of Mjolnir, flight and naturally-occurring lightning bolts.
Ultimate Thor was instead fitted with a “European Defense Initiative Bio-Mechanical Suit” which simulated his natural godlike abilities of flight, super strength and invulnerability, and got given a replacement Mjolnir. A hybrid hammer-axe, his weapon was powered by a fourth-dimensional battery that could manipulate the weather and allow him to teleport anywhere in the world, another decent substitute for the real thing. When he did finally prove his true nature, he got hold of the real Mjolnir, which worked much the same way as in the regular Marvel Universe.
2 CLONE THOR'S CLONE HAMMER
There are times Mjolnir has been replaced, and then there are times Thor himself has been replaced. One of the many, many twists in Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s original “Civil War” miniseries was that the Odinson who had been fighting alongside the Avengers was not, in fact, the actual Thor. The Norse deity was missing, presumed dead, leaving his teammates in the difficult position of no longer having god-like powers on their side. Instead of subbing in a replacement (the Marvel Universe isn’t short on gods-turned-superheroes), they went ahead and built a replacement.
Tony Stark, Hank Pym and Reed Richards put their big brains together to build a robot clone of Thor, but at no point did these super-geniuses consider if it was a good idea. Turns out it wasn’t. Clone Thor was blessed with all the original’s powers, or as close as could be, including a fake Mjolnir, which had the same weather-control as the real thing. The robot lacked the moral fiber of for-real Thor and cut down the hero Goliath with a lightning bolt brought down by his hammer, eventually being reborn as a Dark Avenger -- and later Thunderbolt -- named Ragnarok.
“Original Sin” may have somewhat oversold its universe-shattering implications for Marvel’s heroes, but its effects are still being felt in the pages of “Thor.” The former God of Thunder was suddenly made unworthy of carrying Mjolnir after having had a still-unexplained secret whispered in his ear by Nick Fury. Since then, the mantle of Thor has been carried by Jane Foster, former squeeze of Donald Blake and current cancer patient, whose jaunts as a Norse deity shorten her life with each lightning-heralded transformation.
The Odinson, meanwhile, has had to do without his title and his hammer. It’s not the end of the world, though (or rather, it’s not Ragnarok). He just reached back into his weapons store and dug out Jarnbjorn, the enchanted battle axe he wielded before Mjolnir was even on the scene, pre-worthiness. Also forged by Dwarves, in his early days the Odinson defeated frost giants, trolls and dragons with Jarnbjorn. It’s super strong and sharper than any Earthborne weapon, yet it lacks Mjolnir’s control over the elements and flying abilities.
Are we forgetting anything? Has Mjolnir gone through even more abuse over the course of Thor's rich comic book mythology? Have there been more super substitutes? Let us know in the comments!