every hero has an archnemesis. superman has lex luthor, captain america has nazis, and thor has his brother, loki, the god of mischief. from the moment loki made his marvel comics debut in journey into mystery #85, he was relentlessly built up as thor’s most dangerous enemy. but there is another member of thor’s family who regularly makes loki’s schemes look like amateur hour: odin allfather, ruler of asgard and bottomless pit of depravity.
to start with, odin has a kill count loki has never even come close to touching, to the point where it seems like he hates humanity more than loki. sure, loki tries to conquer the world on a regular basis, but at least he’ll occasionally take a break to turn new york’s streets to ice cream or some nonsense. odin just wants everyone dead. and, to round out his truly monstrous personality, odin’s idea of parenting involves screaming, beatings and vindictive punishments far more than it does heart-to-hearts or any form of affection. despite often being treated as a wise and merciful ruler, odin deserves to be regarded as thor’s greatest enemy. in that spirit, this list will expound upon some of the more prominent examples of odin’s odious behavior.
15. “by the way, you’re adopted”
like all relationships, the bond between a parent and their adopted child requires hard work and open communication to be successful. in particular, one should always be upfront about the fact that the child was adopted, so they know there’s nothing wrong with how they came to be part of the family and never feel shame about it.
when odin takes in a baby frost giant as his own, he follows none of this advice, concealing loki’s origins from him and instilling in him a hatred of his own race. it is only when a confused and horrified loki discovers his heritage by accident that odin admits the truth. making matters worse, odin conveniently falls into the rejuvenating odinsleep before he can provide any real comfort to his traumatized son, leaving loki to handle the shock of discovery on his own. it does not end well.
14. banishing thor to earth
originally, thor’s origin story involved mortal surgeon don blake stumbling upon thor’s hammer, mjolnir, in a norwegian cave and being transformed into the thunder god. this story was later retconned so that blake never truly existed; rather, he was an identity concocted by odin after thor got caught hunting outside the realm of asgard. to give thor a much-needed lesson in humility, odin erases his own son’s memories, alters his body until he is completely unrecognizable, and banishes him to midgard to fend for himself.
it wasn’t a quick lesson, either. thor was marooned on earth for years, long enough for “don blake” to acquire a medical degree and establish his own practice, before odin finally decided he was worthy of his own identity again. we’ve heard of tough love, but this is a pretty extreme way of teaching your kid not to trespass on the neighbor’s property.
13. banishing thor to earth: the sequel
when odin decides that the universe is in need of a new race of gods, he comes up with an elaborate plot to create them. said plot involves bringing ego prime, a deranged living planet in humanoid form, to earth, where he causes chaos and fiery destruction and very nearly succeeds in killing thor and his friends. the battle ends when ego is drained of his energy, unwittingly imbuing three specially chosen mortals with immense power and thus creating the gods odin desired.
thor, needless to say, is not happy that odin endangered his favorite planet, and not even the fact that odin wipes humanity’s memory of the near-disaster can soothe him. odin, shocked and aggrieved by thor’s calling him out for his reckless endangerment of thousands of human lives, exiles him to earth once again. at least he let him keep his own face and name this time.
12. odin the matchmaker
odin was not even remotely amused when thor, as don blake, fell in love with the mortal jane foster, even though odin was the one responsible for turning thor into blake in the first place. did he think thor just wouldn’t talk to anyone during his exile? in a frankly mind-boggling move, odin takes the advice of loki of all people and sends the enchantress, a beautiful immortal sorceress, to seduce thor away from his human love.
when seduction fails, enchantress instead banishes jane to another dimension, only to be thwarted by an angry thor. later, in avengers #7, we learn that odin banished the enchantress to earth as punishment for attacking thor in the course of her mission. if odin disapproved of her treatment of jane, however, he sure never said anything about it.
11. the irritating gentleman
the what if comic series was essentially the watcher’s repository of fan-fiction, wherein he could show us alternate endings to old familiar marvel stories. in what if #10, readers got to see what would happen if jane foster had found thor’s hammer instead of don blake.
after spending the entire issue using her powers to do all the same amazing things thor did in the primary marvel universe, jane relinquishes mjolnir to the original thor and gains godhood in her own right. but it’s a hollow victory, as she realizes that her beloved don blake/thor loves the warrior maiden sif rather than her. how does odin react? by asking jane to marry him. her tears haven’t even dried yet and he’s already sidling in like some clueless entitled dolt in a berthold woltze painting.
10. do as i say, not as i murder
thor: the dark world opens with odin providing some backstory. specifically, he recounts how his father, bor, defeated the dark elves, though “defeat” is a somewhat mild term, considering the asgardians left the battle believing they had killed every last dark elf. nowhere in his speech does odin seem overly concerned by the fact that his father is responsible for the slaughter of an entire race.
this lack of remorse makes it all the more baffling to see him adopt an anti-genocide stance in response to loki’s attempted destruction of jotunheim in the previous film. now, should loki have tried to destroy jotunheim? of course not. we shouldn’t even have to say that. but despite having exactly zero moral ground to stand on, odin expresses such blunt disapproval of his son’s actions that loki decides suicide is the only way out.
9. all of fear itself
“fear itself” may as well be subtitled “odin being a jerk.” he spends the first issue beating the crud out of thor, his supposedly beloved son, even going so far as to make him unworthy of mjolnir, knock him unconscious and drag him back to asgard, where he is immediately imprisoned. that must have been a nice break from being banished all the time, at least?
odin treats thor this way in a wildly misguided attempt to save him from a prophecy that says thor is destined to die at the hands of the serpent, aka odin’s evil brother, cul. odin’s logic here seems to be something along the lines of “no one can hurt my son if i hurt him first,” which is, well, interesting. it’s also cruel and ineffective — the storyline ends with thor sacrificing himself to stop the serpent, just as the prophecy said he would.
8. cheating is okay unless you’re loki
after his children annoy him yet again, odin forces thor and loki through a godly obstacle course on skornheim. loki, to the surprise of no one, begins cheating right away, using magic norn stones to help him through the hostile environments they encounter. thor manages to get along on his own until he reaches a chasm he cannot leap across. at this point, he hitches a ride with loki, who uses the norn stones to float across.
but while thor also took advantage of the stones to complete the challenge and therefore also broke the rules odin laid out at the start, he fails to mention this when tattling on his brother. odin believes thor’s version of events without question, allowing thor to get away with cheating while chiding loki for the same. and then they all wonder why loki ended up the way he did.
7. odin the merciful
the villainous mangog, who came within a hair’s breadth of bringing about ragnarok singlehandedly, is a monster with the combined might of an entire alien race. how did that race come to such an end? odin slaughtered them all, of course! thor waves away the deaths by insisting that they attacked asgard first, but that could only justify the killing of the would-be conquerors themselves.
if what mangog says about containing the power of “a billion billion beings” is true, that would indicate odin killed far more of mangog’s species than just the invading warriors. to accrue such a body count, he would have had to murder everyone, even those who had nothing to do with the invasion. or are they trying to suggest that this was race was so irredeemable that even the civilians, children and babies deserved such violent punishment?
6. the back-up thor
long before iron man and mr. fantastic created a clone of thor in “civil war,” odin came up with a similar plan just in case thor wasn’t around when asgard needed him most. without thor’s knowledge, odin creates a lifeless replica of his son with all of his strength and durability. all odin would have to do is place this “essence of thor” into a living being, and that being would become thor’s equal.
he even suggests he may choose a mortal for this job, and given odin’s track record, it’s a sure bet that when he says “chosen,” he means that he himself will do the choosing while the poor sap he selects will have no option but to risk his life to defend the jerks who forced him into this situation.
5. goodbye, earth 1.0
ever wonder how earth was created in the marvel universe? you have odin to thank for that, though you may want to refrain from actually thanking him. in the mighty thor #7, it is revealed that midgard had a predecessor: aesheim, which was populated by humans just as midgard is now.
odin’s older brother, cul, becomes stronger the more people fear him, and since he’s made the people of aesheim plenty afraid, odin decides there is just one way to defeat him: he must destroy aesheim and everyone on it and start over fresh with a new planet, on which he imprisons cul in the deepest ocean trench. we’re pretty sure someone as powerful as odin could have found another way to handle that situation, but we’re not gods, so what do we know?
4. odin’s baby mama
one day, odin gets the irresistible urge to sire a son with a strong connection to midgard. that’s easy enough: all he has to do is bop on down to earth via the rainbow bridge and mate with the earth goddess jord, who is more than happy to oblige. one gestation period later and along comes thor, whom jord lovingly raises until he is old enough to return to asgard with his father.
the problem with this scenario? odin was already married to frigga when he slept with jord. and while frigga seems content enough when odin brings baby thor to her, a thought bubble from thor reveals he was forbidden from discussing his birth mother in front of her, indicating that she wasn’t completely okay with the situation after all. honestly, if we were her, we would have reacted a lot worse.
3. reducing thor’s hit points
in another attempt to separate thor and jane, odin decrees that thor is no longer allowed on midgard. enraged, thor fights his way through literally every warrior in asgard and flees to earth, only to find jane being hit on by hercules. the two gods duke it out while odin ponders an appropriate punishment for his lovesick son. he decides that the best thing to do would be to halve thor’s power.
not one to procrastinate, odin metes out his punishment right away, despite knowing perfectly well that thor is in the middle of a fight and could be seriously injured by the sudden loss of strength. when thor inevitably loses, he decides he is unworthy of jane’s love and leaves her… only for a penitent odin to explain the situation to her and urge her to go after thor. way to send mixed signals there, odin.
2. #1 grandpa
odin’s steed, the eight-legged sleipnir, is the best and fastest horse in all the nine realms, as befits the ruler of asgard. but odin’s connection to sleipnir is deeper than perhaps he’d care to admit. in a particularly notorious norse myth, the gods blame loki for a bet gone bad and force him to get them out of paying the bet. to cut a long story short, loki’s solution involves turning into a mare and sleeping with a horse.
as a result of this encounter, loki gives birth to sleipnir. and since loki is odin’s son — although he seems determined to forget that most days — that would make sleipnir his grandson. so while most grandparents spoil their grandchildren with hugs and cookies, odin treats his as a beast of burden. we’d hope he at least asked loki’s permission first, but we know better.
1. holier than thou
in addition to demonstrating what a terrible father he is, “fear itself” also highlights odin’s disdain for humanity. this has always been a running theme with him, as demonstrated by his intense dislike of jane foster, but in this series it becomes crystal clear. odin dismisses humans as “apes” and “ants,” possibly as a way to justify his decision to stop cul’s evil schemes by destroying earth. never mind that he tried that before with earth’s predecessor, aesheim, and it clearly didn’t work.
odin’s superiority complex is so deeply ingrained that iron man is forced to make a good old-fashioned sacrifice to the gods — in this case, his sobriety — to even get odin to talk to him. when odin does deign to show up, he acts like he’s done iron man a big favor rather than potentially destroyed his life by being an arrogant snob.
which of these odin moments is the worse? let us know in the comments!
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