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As this week’s extended trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron revealed, not everyone can lift Thor’s hammer Mjolnir, thanks to an enchantment that limits its users to the worthy — but apparently, the bar for worthiness is a lot lower in Marvel’s comic book universe than it is in the cinematic realm.
While none of Thor’s fellow Avengers could lift the hammer in the preview from next year’s Joss Whedon feature, many other comic book characters have managed it, including one of the heroes who failed on-screen. Here, below, are some of the most important characters who have filled in for the God of Thunder on the printed page.
Somewhere in an alternate reality that appeared in 1978’s What If? Vol. 1 No. 10, Jane Foster — Natalie Portman’s character in the movies, if you don’t recognize the name — discovered Thor’s hammer and became a temporary God of Thunder before ending up married to Odin. No, really; she married Odin. Somewhere, Anthony Hopkins is pushing for this plot to make a reappearance in the third Thor movie.
Beta Ray Bill
Starting off what was soon to be considered one of the best runs of the Thor comic, writer and artist Walter Simonson used The Mighty Thor Vol. 1 No. 337 (1983) to introduce an alien who, to everyone’s surprise — including his own — could lift the hammer and become an extra-terrestrial version of the God of Thunder. Odin ended up being so impressed that he ended up giving the alien, whose name turned out to be “Bill,” his own enchanted hammer called Stormbreaker.
Conan The Barbarian
Conan is far from the only character that doesn’t come from Asgard to lift the hammer in 1983’s What If? Vol. 1 No. 39 (titled “What If Thor Battled Conan?”) — both Conan’s favorite deity Crom and the villainous Toth-Amon got their hands on it in the course of this needlessly convoluted storyline. By the end of events, Conan has actually inherited the hammer from Thor after the latter’s death saving all of existence. Don’t worry; this story didn’t really “happen.” Thor’s perfectly fine, until the next time he dies in the comics.
Sure, Chris Evans’ Captain America might not be able to do much more than make the hammer wobble, but the comic book incarnation of Steve Rogers was able to not only lift it, but also throw it back towards Thor’s grasp when he needed it the most in The Mighty ThorVol. 1 No. 390, back in 1988. A sign that comic book Cap is just plain better than movie Cap? I couldn’t possibly comment, but only one of them has had experience turning into a werewolf. (More seriously, comic critic Elle Collins has an interesting theory about movie Cap’s inability to lift the hammer here.)
Like Cap before him, this everyday Joe was able to lift Mjolnir to help out the Thunder God. Unlike Cap, he ended up owning the real thing when Thor found himself banished from Asgard for killing Loki in 1991’s The Mighty Thor Vol. 1 No. 432. Eric ended up taking over for Thor for a couple of years until Odin, once again, gave him a replacement enchanted weapon (This time, a mace) and sent him off to become the superhero called Thunderstrike.
Meanwhile, back in an alternate reality, What If? Vol. 2 No. 66 (1994) asked the question “What if Rogue Possessed the Power of Thor?” In the story, the longtime member of the X-Men was a villain who took Thor’s powers during a confrontation with the X-Men. All looked grim for awhile — Rogue ended up killing the original Thor and teaming up with Loki to help take over Earth — until a last-minute change of heart turned her into a hero, the new God(dess) of Thunder, and Odin’s new adopted daughter.
During the final issue of the 1996 cross-company series DC Versus Marvel, DC’s Amazon Princess ended up taking up the hammer in preparation of a battle with the X-Men’s Storm (More about her soon). Preferring an even battle over the power of an Asgardian God, she ended up surrendering the hammer as soon as Storm showed up.
Meanwhile, in a separate publishing partnership between DC and Marvel, 2003’s JLA/Avengers ended with the Man of Steel wielding not only Thor’s hammer, but also Captain America’s shield, as he fought against the destruction of reality itself. Desperate times may have called for desperate measures, but like Wonder Woman’s possession of the hammer, it was fleeting: Superman only managed to have Mjolnir in his hands for three panels on one page before he lost it.
The reasons why the X-Men character came to hold Mjolnir in 2011’s X-Men: To Serve and Protect are somewhat complicated, involving an earlier storyline from the mid-1980s and some trickery from none other than Loki. What should be remembered is that, when the moment came, Storm wasn’t only worthy enough to hold the hammer and become a God of Thunder — she already controlled all the weather anyway — but also strong enough to use the hammer to destroy an entirely different enchanted hammer. I’m not sure even Thor’s managed that trick.
The New Thor
As those with long memories and/or a love for synergistic corporate cross-promotional opportunities might remember, Thor has actually been replaced as Thor, with a new character taking on the hammer in October’s Thor Vol. 4 No. 1. Quite who the new Goddess of Thunder is remains a secret, with writer Jason Aaron making that mystery one of the running themes of the new series. All we know about her is that she’s blonde, determined to do the right thing — and, of course, that she’s worthy.
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