Thor has traveled to strange and dangerous places, gone toe-to-toe with powerful and monstrous foes, and survived thanks to his acumen as a warrior, his divine abilities, and the raw power of his trusty, magical hammer, Mjolnir. A creator could tell an epic Thor story involving any of those elements. But to tell a story worthy of the hero's divine nature, Al Ewing is planning to take Thor's exploits to the next level when he and artist Martin Cóccolo kick off their new ongoing series, Immortal Thor, in August.
CBR spoke with Ewing about his vision for the book and his titular character, the structural similarities Immortal Thor shares with his acclaimed series, Immortal Hulk, the elder gods that will test Thor's mettle in the first arc, his initial plans for supporting cast members like Loki, and more. Marvel also shared an exclusive preview of Martin Cóccolo's art from Immortal Thor #1, colored by Matt Wilson.
CBR: Thor has often had one foot in the world of the mythology he hails from and the other in cosmic, Marvel sci-fi. Given your work on books like Loki, The Ultimates, and The Defenders, were those two things a draw for you?
Al Ewing: It's definitely the case that cosmic sci-fi has been baked into the character right from the get-go. His first adventure saw him fight off a flying saucer full of space creatures, and Asgard, as envisioned and designed by Jack Kirby, is a full-on sci-fi zone. When an editor -- in this case, the redoubtable Wil Moss -- asks me what I think about Thor, that's the imagery that comes to mind. So yes, it was a definite draw from the start. One of the first things I thought about was what my favorite Thor stories are as a general collection. I've always been drawn to the ones where Thor is on some kind of quest or journey into unknown lands. In the past, that's been everywhere, from the land of the dead to the depths of outer space. I've got a new unknown land in mind -- though I'm cheating a little because Thor has been there before in the comics of old and the original Eddas.
In recent years Thor has played three primary roles in the Marvel Universe; superhero, god, and king. What's your sense of how he views these roles? Is there one he prefers playing above others?
Well, "god" is a tricky one because that's just who and what Thor is. What role the gods play and what they mean to mortals might be a bone of contention, but [it] feels like a pretty minor point in the day-to-day life and adventures of an Asgardian. I'd imagine the average Marvel citizen spends at least some time chewing over whether or not Thor is a "real god." I can guarantee Thor spends no time at all on it.
"Superhero" -- I'd say that to Thor, that's just being a good citizen of Midgard. We get into this a little in the first issue. For a living myth, Thor is a very friendly and approachable guy. If you come to him with an injustice, he will help make it right because that's what he does, but that's who he is as a person, not some vow he made or some job he's signed up for.
"King" -- this is the one he's been struggling with a little lately, and for the purposes of a fresh start, by ImmortalThor #1, he's settled into it. It's a level of responsibility he's taken on that's new to him, but he's managing it. Does he enjoy it? Signs point to "not really," but he's learning to play the role in his own style. Sif correctly assesses that Thor's biggest problem with having a throne is sitting still. So I guess the real answer is that he doesn't see these as roles to step into, just integrated parts of who he is as a whole person, and we play it that way too.
Thor is also a son and a brother, and his family situation has been pretty tumultuous lately. We'll touch on your plans for Loki in my next question, but what's your sense of what family means to Thor?
We've seen Thor reconnect with his little sister Laussa recently, but that still leaves a huge immediate family he generally doesn't get in touch with. When was the last time he spent quality time with Bragi, god of poetry? Or Honir the Hunter? Blood is thicker than water, but with such a large family over so many hundreds of years, it spreads pretty thin. Even when he's with Balder on adventures, Thor doesn't call him "brother," and yet even when they were enemies, Loki was always "brother." It suggests that Thor feels the greatest bond with people he's had adventures with, even if they're in an adversarial role.
In Marvel Time, Loki only really got nasty in the last fifteen years, which is an eye blink to Thor. (Maybe sixteen years -- whatever the current length of time is since the FF's rocket flight.) Before that, they were adventure buddies. When Odin adopted Loki, he inadvertently gave his most rambunctious son the perfect sidekick/foil. So obviously, the most interesting familial relationship is Thor/Loki, and we'll naturally be getting into that, but what's also really interesting is his distant relationship with all his other family members. What would it look like if all Odin's children were in a room together? I hate to say it, but that sounds like a story.
You've revealed that Loki plays a role in Immortal Thor. What's it like to return to the character and write them through the lens of a Thor story?
I kind of already did the "one more time for the road" angle with Loki in Defenders, so I've got all the nostalgia out of my system. But I am continuing Loki's path from that series -- though anyone just picking up Immortal Thor #1 will have all they need.
Anyway, Loki's got plans. They've got big ideas. Thor's part of the plan, and that may not be so good for Thor. I think there's something very mythological about that relationship. Sometimes an ally, sometimes an enemy, always the skald, the storyteller. And the storyteller can play no favorites. I think Loki has [the] potential to be a very dangerous person for Thor without sacrificing any of the recent ground they've gained in their relationship, and that's something you can only do with these characters, who are living myths. I've also got the opportunity to visit the distant past and write the Old Loki -- Jack Kirby's Loki. That's a surprisingly attractive proposition. As I said above, at one point, these two were adventure buddies, and I want to see what that looks like! I want to see this old-school Odd Couple needling and bickering with each other.
I've read that the Immortal portion of the title is something you came up with. So, like your Immortal Hulk run, is this one extended story? Will it have crossovers and tie-ins? Or is it meant to be more of its own thing?
I have about fifty issues roughly planned out. That may contract depending on sales -- please buy it -- or expand if I feel like I've got more in me worth expanding for. As for crossovers and tie-ins, what I'd like to do, is what I did on the Hulk run, which is [to] keep crossovers and tie-ins separate [from] the main book so that each tie-in acts as an advertisement. If you picked up the Absolute Carnage one-shot, you could read it as a Hulk reader and get an idea of what story was being told in the crossover, or you could read it as a crossover reader and get an idea of the tone we were using in the main book. That's a methodology that works pretty well, and I'd like to continue for this book since it's got the Immortal adjective on it. However, these things are often decided on a case-by-case basis, so I don't want to make any absolute promises.
Thor is a character you can play a lot of tonal beats with. Initially, what kind of tone are you interested in striking with this character and this book?
Epic fantasy. There's a scene in #1 that was there right from the start, pretty much as soon as I decided to use the Immortal adjective on the pitch. "Well, if I'm doing that, I have to do this." You'll know what that means when you see it. But if Hulk was horror, Thor is fantasy, so from the start, we tell it as an epic tale, told around a fire by a great skald. You can even see that in the solicits, which are all past tense, in a particular rhythm and style (while still trying to give enough information to sell the book with -- a tricky balancing act.)
What I've read suggests the initial arc of Immortal Thor pits the Thunder God against ancient, elder gods. What can you tell fans about these beings? What inspired their creation?
The idea originally came from thinking about superstorms and the out-of-control weather systems wreaking havoc around the world because of man-made climate change. Who's the god of those storms? When mankind's hubris grows too large for us to bear, what comes to punish us? I imagined an Ur-Thor, an ancient archetype descending on the world. Where would that come from? Who else was in that pantheon? Pretty soon, I had the bones of the story -- or that half of it -- entirely built, but I didn't have a collective name for the bad guys or their place of origin until I stumbled across a particular tale from the Eddas and saw how it could all link in. Getting it to fall in line with previous Marvel continuity was the hardest part, but I think I've managed it pretty well.
What's it like working with artist Martin Cóccolo on Immortal Thor? His recent work on the latest volume of Deadpool showed off a flair for action, acting, humor, and monsters.
Martin's terrific. He's really leaning into this, especially when it comes to a couple of the designs Alex Ross contributed. But his Thor captures what I wanted to do with the character at this point, which is to show a Thor who had been through great trials and come out the other side, who's learned wisdom but is not complacent in it. A man of action and thought, a hero "who knows truth and peace," as Jim Starlin wrote about a completely different character.
When Martin's Thor smiles, you feel the warmth and joy, but there's a depth in it as well. Seeing his Thor in the context of New York City, I know Thor fans hate this comparison, but it gives me Superman vibes. (I can't help it -- I have a whole TED talk/interminable bar conversation about how Marvel reflects DC and vice versa. I have a red phone on my desk to alert me if there's ever another DC Versus Marvel brewing.) Meanwhile, we have Matt Wilson on color work, tying it all together into something very special with his usual immaculate work.
We've talked about Thor's immediate family, but his corner of the Marvel Universe is packed with a whole host of fun and fascinating characters. Are there any other Thor characters you can mention that you're especially excited about writing now or further down the line?
It'll be nice to write Jane Foster again, and I always have lots of time in my day for Hercules. The Minotaur will be an interesting character to return to. I've got some plans for him. In terms of characters I haven't written, the big one is Gaea. Her relationship with Thor is about to get a lot more complicated.
I'll end with a big thank you to everyone spreading the good word about this. There are a lot of twists and turns to come in the Thor saga, and we hope you can join us for all of it.
Immortal Thor #1 is due out on Aug. 23.