Owen Vaughan speaks to comic book supremo on Marvel's next superhero blockbuster
"There's so much cool stuff in the mythology of Thor that it's just going to be a huge blockbuster," Joe Quesada told Blockbuster Buzz in a recent interview. "Kenneth Branagh gets the Marvel history of the character, he gets the overall flavour and tone of the Marvel universe. He gets that it's not just about action and adventure and costumes, it's about what's at the heart of the character. It's more about what motivates Thor and Loki and Odin than just Thor swinging a hammer and smashing things."
The Mighty Thor has been a mainstay of the Marvel universe for almost 50 years - he first appeared in August 1962 in issue 83 of Journey into Mystery - but he has never had the same following or exposure as Spider-man or the Fantastic Four. Stan Lee came up with the idea of a superhero version of the Norse god of thunder while wrestling with problem of how to create a character that was stronger than the Hulk. He decided the only solution was to make his new hero a god, so went delving into Norse mythology for a suitable candidate. He then commissioned the artist Jack Kirby, with whom he had created much of the Marvel universe, to bring the hero and his hammer to life.
Kirby gave Thor a winged helmet, flowing blonde locks, a red cape and a blue tunic attached to which were six white discs and that distinctive look has pretty much survived over the decades. In addition to his pop art garb Thor was given a human alter ego. In the comic, Thor's father, Odin, teaches Thor a lesson in humility by wiping Thor's memory and spiriting him into the body of a partially disabled medical student, Donald Blake. Thor eventually discovers who he really is, learns to change back and forth into his superpowered self and embarks on a career of hero. It is this version of Thor that Branagh is attempting, although there is no word yet on who he has cast as Thor/Donald Blake.
Quesada is hoping that Branagh will transform and reinvigorate Thor much the same way Jon Favreau did with another much neglected Marvel hero: "Before the Iron Man movie Iron Man was an also ran character. In the mass market it was all about Spider-man, Hulk, Batman and Superman but now you count Iron Man as major mainstream character." He already has Babylon Five writer J. Michael Straczynski, who was recently nominated for a Bafta for his screenplay for Clint Eastwood's film Changeling, laying the groundwork in the comic. Check out issue 600 in the comic stores - it will knock your socks off.
If the film is successful, Thor is expected to appear alongside his buddies Iron Man, the Hulk and Captain America in an Avengers movie.
Quesada also mentioned Branagh's Shakesperean background as being a big bonus, although I suspect he doesn't want Thor to utter: "To clobber or not to clobber" anywhere in the film.