Intermission thor 3x3

In which Bob nails down the various Marvel characters deemed worthy to wield Mjolnir.

So, did you see that Avengers: Age of Ultron scene? Pretty fun, yeah – and also gets us one step closer to a visual I’ve been waiting to see since the Marvel Cinematic Universe experiment first launched: Captain America wielding Mjolnir, the hammer of Thor.

In the scene, The Avengers pass the time at what looks like an informal house party with a game of “can anyone else lift the hammer?” In case you’d forgotten: Mjolnir carries an enchantment from Odin that prevents anyone who is not “worthy” of Thor’s godly powers from so much as picking it up – including Thor himself, should he act a fool again. Iron Man can’t do it, with or without his rocket-powered gauntlets or backup from War Machine. We’ve already seen that The Hulk can’t do it. But then Captain America takes a turn… and actually seems to budge it. Not much – maybe 1/100,000,000th of an inch – and The Captain doesn’t even seem to realize that he did it… but Thor certainly does, and it’s enough to wipe the smile right off his face.

A thing that The Marvel Universe quickly figured out about Captain America as a character when they brought him back in the 60s is that a guy wearing an American flag as a uniform who always fights on the side of good really only works if you double-down on how square and goody-two-shoes he is. A quick shortcut for that is having him routinely pass tests reliant strictly on innate goodness (psychic villains looking to hurt a hero via their own dark-side are routinely flummoxed by Cap’s lack of one) and in Marvel terms there’s no test of worth more righteous than being able to hoist Mjolnir, if only for a moment.

Long story short, I’ve been hoping that whenever we get to some big “final moment” for the current iteration of the MCU, the cherry on the Sunday will be Captain America using Mjolnir to deliver the final blow to some ultimate threat. At this point, I imagine it’d come during whatever Infinity War is going to be, but who knows? Maybe after setting it up in Age of Ultron it’ll be paid off there, too.

BUT! Captain America is not the only character who has been able to do this – others have managed, as well. So who says they also won’t get their shot doing so on the big screen? Here’s a brief rundown of who else might conceivably be seen wielding Mjolnir. NOTE: that “conceivably” part re: likelihood of happening in a Marvel movie is why Superman and Wonder Woman aren’t on the list, even though they both proved able to lift the hammer during events that are still canonical to the Marvel Universe. See also: Conan the Barbarian (really!)

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THUNDERSTRIKE
Okay, quick version: At one point, comics were selling so well in the U.S. that Marvel (and also DC, but mostly Marvel) got into the habit of creating characters who were basically duplicates of other co-existing characters just so they could publish slightly different extra books. The most successful of these (relatively speaking) was Thunderstrike, aka Erik Masterson.

Masterson started out as a mortal who found himself able to wield Mjolnir and “become” the new Thor as during a period when they original was sidelined by a brief case of being dead. When Thor-proper came back, Masterson was giving an enchanted Asgardian weapon of his own (a mace, so that’s pretty cool) and became “Thunderstrike,” an angrier, more “street-level” version of Thor. He’s been dead for a few years (I think), but he has a strong fanbase and I can easily imagine a version of this idea creeping into the movies – especially since Chris Hemsworth has made it pretty clear he’s not planning to stay in “Thor shape” forever.

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BETA RAY BILL
There’s probably no peripheral character to the Thor universe that fans are more demanding to see onscreen than Beta Ray Bill, aka “The Alien Thor.”

Long story short: Walt Simonson, often regarded as the greatest of all Thor comics writers, began his now-legendary 1980s run on the book with a story where Thor confronted a crashed spaceship and clashed with a frightening alien creature inside, Beta Ray Bill. During the battle, Thor is separated from Mjolnir and Bill tries to scoop the hammer up himself… and does, immediately finding himself imbued with the Thunder God’s powers (and armor) and spirited off the Asgard.

As it turns out, Bill is a good guy: An alien sworn to protect his starlost race from evil. After some back and forth, Thor gets his hammer back but Bill gets a Mjolnir-esque weapon of his own from Odin that allowed him to keep his powers.

Once, I might’ve considered him showing up in the Marvel movies to be pretty unlikely. But now that a meetup between the Avengers and the spacefaring Guardians of The Galaxy is all-but inevitable? I’d love to see this guy turn up.

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THROG
I promise you, this is not a joke.

At one point during Simonson’s Thor run, Asgard etc was left in disarray after Ragnarok broke out over NYC (it worked out okay) and some politicking needed to be done over who was going to be in charge of things. To keep the tensions ticking, Thor had to be kept away from the proceedings, so the book segued into a lighter, “fun” side-story for a few issues after Loki tricked Thor and transformed him into a common frog.

In the course of getting back to his hammer (and to Asgard,) “Frog Thor” made friends with a “regular” frog named Puddlegulp and his tribe of frogs from Central Park, and became involved in a war between them and an invading tribe of rats. Thor helped defeat the rats, then regained his power – sort of: after “trolling” comics fans with a fantasy-animal story, Simonson teased the return of “real” Thor… only to have Mjolnir transform him into a human-sized frog (he got his powers and armor back, though) in need of further magical assistance.

Many years later, it was revealed that Puddlegulp was himself a human transformed into a frog long before Thor showed up; and that when Thor departed he (Puddlegulp) came into possession of a broken-off piece of Mjolnir. This piece transformed him into a (still frog-sized) amphibian Thor named Throg, who subsequently became a member of The Pet Avengers.

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JANE FOSTER
Alright, this one might be cheating since it took place in an alternate “What If?” Universe (Earth-788 to be exact) but since that universe is effectively identical to the mainstream Marvel Universe (Earth-616) apart from this one distinguishing detail I’m counting it.

So yeah, in an alternate-timeline, it was Jane Foster who discovered Mjolnir instead of her boyfriend Donald Blake, and thus she became a female Thor named “Thordis.” The story in the comic took some bizarre turns: Odin wasn’t initially keen on Thor being a g-g-girl, so he went to his Odinsleep fretting over having only Loki as an heir while Thordis was on Earth having Thor-esque adventures with The Avengers while Lady Sif fell in love with still-human Donald Blake. Eventually they helped save Asgard from destruction by the villain Mangog and, in what was advertised as a “shocking ending,” Odin decreed that Thordis turn Mjolnir over to Blake (so that he could become a “proper” Thor) and then rewards Jane Foster for her service by making her an Asgardian Goddess. Then he proposes to her.

Yeah.

That’s probably not going to happen. But with Chris Hemsworth having only two more Avengers appearances and one more Thor in his contract, Marvel being famous for not bending to talent’s demands easily, Natalie Portman not having found a lead-franchise of her own (assuming she wants one) and a female Thor currently reigning in the comics universe… well, stranger things have happened.

Bob Chipman
Bob Chipman is a critic and author.

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