Thor ’77-’78:

On the Never-Ending Road to Ragnarok, Part 12

The Mighty Thor #273:

The newsman, Harris Hobbs, tells Thor he is going to film a television special about the Norse gods on location – in Asgard. Thor suggests such a request is not his to grant, and that he will have to get back to him later. Hobbs previously visited Asgard once before, but Thor was able to make him forget the events of that visit. Through psychotherapy, Hobbs regained those memories and is now determined to pull off this story to revive his career. Thor leaves with no intention of further considering the crazy request. A stranger approaches Hobbs and tells the newsman he believes his story about having been to Asgard. Hobbs tells the stranger another story, this time of a dream he had about Thor: he saw Thor go out on a boat with the giant Hymir, their goal being to catch the Midgard Serpent. When Hymir prevented Thor’s chance of catching the serpent, Thor became angry, hitting him and flying away from the boat. Hobbs admits he does not know what the dream means, but when the stranger reveals himself to be Loki, we guess he will know its meaning.

After leaving Hobbs, Thor goes to Stark International to remove what remains of the supercomputer F.A.U.S.T. Before he can leave, Jormungand, the very Midgard Serpent that Hobbs dreamed about, appears above the building. Thor battles the Serpent, but it disappears when his hammer strikes it. Thor says, “I would suspect Loki’s fine hand in this, save only that he was lately stripped of all his powers by the All-Father… and sent to wander the Earth as a homeless derelict,” which reminds us, wait, that was the last we saw of his villainous half-brother. How has he escaped that fate? Thor returns to Asgard with the computer remnants, believing only Asgard can be a safe storage place for such evil technology. To his surprise, Hobbs and a camera crew have stowed away inside the obviously giant computer (with Loki’s help of course). Loki then reveals himself, announcing, “Ragnarok Doth Come!!” For real, this time! Setting up, I am sure, another storyline based on Ragnarok that appears repeatedly in Thor comics, the end of the world as found in real Norse mythology. This ends the issue, and our year’s run of Thor comics.

As I set out with the intention of writing about Marvel Comics and religion, with a focus on comparing and contrasting the two, I may have sometimes strayed a bit off the mark. Going through this run of Thor comics, the range of themes and ideas within them touched on issues related to more than just the Catholic Church and school teachings. In this last issue, the story is again grounded in real Norse mythology, just as Roy Thomas promised earlier. The narrative touches on history and memory, the foundations of our own personal perspectives on the world. He also uses modern elements to explore the myths of Thor, here bringing in an early use of reality television (at its craziest, really – a live special from Asgard?!) as well as the use of psychotherapy to explore Hobbs’s life and the myths developed within that life.

Religion is a complete worldview. If you believe in that worldview, it is real for you. However, if you do not believe in the tales a religion teaches, that worldview can still be a mythology for you – a set of narratives, entertaining perhaps, but ones that can also still be used for contemplation as to what they can say about your daily life. Religion for one is easily mythology for another. Comparing our lives to stories is something we do daily, perhaps constantly. In stories, memory and history intersect to play their part in our mythological lives. Even our simplest activities are planned, executed, and judged against narratives we know. We interpret our activities – past, present, and future – by how they fit with stories we know. Myths are special stories for us, reflecting the possibilities in our lives. But when a story is completely believed, as religion asks you to do, it loses its ability to truly help us. Our own interpretations become useless and we allow something out of our ability to influence us. Religious belief often becomes inflexible, and thus less useful because it expects our thinking to stagnate and not be open to other ideas.

So, in this issue, when Harris Hobbs undergoes therapy to rediscover his memories of Asgard, his life expands and possibilities open up. The knowledge that Asgard exists becomes a reality in his life. To the public in the Marvel Universe, the day-to-day life of Asgard may not truly be believed; if anyone cares to think about it, Asgard exists only as the place Thor says he comes from. Reality television (i.e. a live broadcast from Asgard) creates a possibility that had been unknown for its viewers, but might also make the fabled realm appear fake (as most “reality” shows are scripted anyway). Thor wisely tries to pacify Hobbs while ignoring his request; showing Asgard on television would lessen its splendor and cheapen it. One can envision the Marvel man-on-the-street thinking the Rainbow Bridge was a set.

Just as television serves up possible myths constantly, psychotherapy is often used to investigate how all those myths function in our lives. Explanations for our myths are most needed when the myths we live with display the symptoms or causes of problems in our lives. Hobbs was unable to work until he looked inward and regained knowledge that his worldview was larger than he remembered. However, a broadcast from Asgard might have the opposite effect on the regular Earthbound viewer. If one was uncomfortable with one’s life, realizing there were Norse gods living a reality completely different from our own might be a myth that moved people into therapy, not one that eased their minds.

And here, at the end of an analysis of one year of Thor comics, we finally see one of the most repeated storylines in Thor comics: Ragnarok, the end of the age of the Asgardians and a new world rising. Ragnarok was common because it had everything: real mythical elements, end-of-the-world danger and drama, and the perfect problem for Thor to solve. I recall Ragnarok being brought into Thor comics every year or two. Maybe not, but it seems like it was, and perhaps the end of the world was a very real fear in 1978. Apocalypse has been with us forever, and Cold War tension had raised emotion up to constant nervousness. Very little has changed and new events keep the world on edge continuously, making Ragnarok an easy narrative to relate to. One plot point that must remain unexamined, but not unmentioned, is how Loki overcame his dereliction. That story is not explained in this issue and maybe never was. But this we do know: Hobbs had a vision of the Midgard Serpent, and his dream foretold the coming of Ragnarok. That means Loki had to be freed and involved, because it is always Loki who begins the events that lead toward Ragnarok. Can a dream cause the end of the world? Is it possible a dream – or a myth – can save the world?

One last note from the Soapbox in this issue. Stan Lee announces Jim Shooter has been made Editor-in-Chief. A legendary move in the history of Marvel, Shooter’s reign was one that would change the Marvel Universe and cause a fair bit of controversy. For me, the Marvel Universe remains fairly well-defined by what came before this change. Yes, myth is elastic and pliable; but though the mythology of Marvel continued on, changing and multiplying, my personal perspective on Marvel myth is defined by the ‘70s-era comics. Classic Marvel of the ‘60s helped define my conception, but Marvel mythology ended for me soon after this issue ended. The crazy Marvel myths of the ‘80s, the commercially oriented Marvel myths of the ‘90s being sold in sealed bags, and the dark superheroes that followed, and not even what appears to be the new progressive push of inclusiveness in the Marvel Universe – none of these have much influence on my perspective of the Marvel Universe mythology. No, it was the ‘70s-era comics that competed with my Catholic upbringing and won out. No wonder my twelve-year-old brain was so shaped by a mythology so filled with possibilities. The definition of the Catholic Universe was seemingly too rigid to even compete.

Excerpted from “Everything I Needed to Know about Life (I Learned from Marvel Comics” ©2017 Joseph P. Muszynski

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Joseph P. Muszynski, Ph.D., is a managing editor at the University of Chicago Press. Joe earned his doctorate in Mythological Studies from Pacifica Graduate Institute with a dissertation titled “Structure, Form, and Content: Mythology and Comics.” He blogs on comics and myth at “Into the gap…” ( Check out his book “Everything I Needed to Know about Life (I Learned from Marvel Comics)” on Amazon. Email him at

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