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[Warning: This story contains spoilers for Thor: Ragnarok.]
Thor: Ragnarok‘s revelation that Hela (Cate Blanchett) isn’t just the Goddess of Death, but also Thor’s sister, might have come as a surprise to those who’ve followed the comic adventures of Marvel’s God of Thunder for decades. It’s not that the comic book Hela is unrelated to Thor, but the comic book familial connections between Thor and the ruler of Hel(l) are … a little bit more complicated.
In Marvel’s comic book mythology, Hela is Thor’s niece, being the daughter of Loki, or a Loki, at least; it gets complicated, in that Loki has been resurrected on a number of occasions. In this, she follows the example of Hel, the figure from actual Norse mythology she’s based on (although it’s never been explicitly confirmed as to why the character was renamed from her mythical inspiration when others were not, the fact that Hel shares a name with the realm she rules might have been confusing for younger readers — and, yes, Norse Hel, even the Marvel version, only has one “l”).
As Loki’s daughter, Hela has been a longtime thorn in the side of both Thor and Odin. Since her comic book debut in 1964’s Journey Into Mystery No. 102, she has continually tried to take over Asgard, take down Thor or just generally spread mischief and wrongdoing wherever possible — especially if it means she can add to her undead armies. Of course, being Loki’s daughter, she’s also spent her fair share of time working with Thor, Odin and other heroes if and when it suits her purposes. That side of the family is nothing if not self-serving.
Despite all of this, Thor: Ragnarok isn’t entirely inconsistent with comic book mythology when it declares that the Queen of Hel is Thor’s sister. It’s merely that it gets the sister wrong.
As recently as 2013, the comic book Thor and Loki had no sister. That changed as part of 2014’s Original Sin storyline, which revealed that Angela — a former Spawn supporting character that Marvel had been gifted by co-creator Neil Gaiman a year earlier — was, in fact, a daughter of Odin who had been kidnapped by angels as a child and brought up as an assassin who hated all Asgardians and considered them (im)mortal enemies. (She changed her mind upon learning the truth of her parentage, although she remained estranged from her family.)
Given her own short-lived comic book series — which went through two titles in its brief 13-issue run — Angela found herself literally taking over Hel in the attempt to free the soul of her girlfriend, Sera. She deposed Hela and, for a short period, became the Queen of Hel herself — just long enough, in fact, to bring her love back to life, free the souls of slain angels so they could return to Heaven (sorry, “Heven“; misspellings are apparently a mythological thing for Marvel) and abdicate the throne, leaving the underworld in disarray.
It’s not exactly the story of Blanchett’s vengeful queen — but the forgotten sibling who becomes the ruler of Hel aspect suggests that, while Thor: Ragnarok‘s Hela may take her fashion sense from the original Jack Kirby and Stan Lee version of the character, she’s also influenced by the work done by more recent writers and artists like Marguerite Bennett, Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans on Angela’s backstory. Maybe someone should have asked her if she had a middle name, just in case…
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