…And I proceed to get a lot of weird Google traffic, no doubt. But seriously, there are papers out there about this, aren’t there? “Somewhere Over The Rainbow Bridge”, stuff like that?
This post is the result of a combination of a few things, Bloggers: Marc Singer’s hilarious fake superhero theses, the fun I’ve been having lately over at The Fractal Hall, and a little bit of Dave Fiore…whose site I suppose I could just search for “gay thor”, but that would be too easy, and not as much fun.
But really it starts with something RAB said to me while we were doing the Kirby Zodiac: that in the greatest run of Thor ever, the real antagonist was Odin, over and over and over again…and for some reason current Marvel scripters just seem unable to pick up on that thread, to the title’s detriment.
But I’ll go further than RAB, and say that Thor is the queerest of all superheroes.
Quick recap: young studly high-school star quarterback of the Aesir, Thor, is punished by Odin for his lack of “humility” (really a refusal to overlook the greater good in favour of preserving the Order Of Things — although we might as well believe this refusal was largely motivated by ego, because we’re told it is — me, I think he took the car out without asking), and so spends a certain amount of time trapped in the human identity of frail lame Dr. Don Blake.
Unfortunately for Odin, this “humility-learning” works way too well — when Thor returns to activity, he’s lost the ego, but is still set against the Order Of Things.
Our boy’s grown up, and he’s voting Green!
In mythological terms, this has a pleasing comic-book-ization of the story to it. Key things: in the Elder Edda, Odin creates the first man and woman “as yet unfated”, even as he himself is about as thoroughly fated as it’s possible to get. So he won’t escape Ragnarok, but they will. In comic-book terms, then, by making Thor a human being he frees his son from fate too. And in the comic book this is the answer to everything, equivalent to creating unfated humanity in the myth: Thor’s essential humanity, and ties to humanity, will save the gods from foreordained doom in a kind of evolutionary moralistic social-progress 60s TV-show way. At least, that’s the implication. When the gods accept the value of difference and vote to desegregate Heaven, then Mr. Spock will be the one who saves the ship from the Romulans, because the bigoted crew-member will see the light just in time to sacrifice himself to save Spock from being shot…uh, or something, y’know? Anyway, universal brotherhood, and all that, hurray!
It’s kind of brilliant, because of the way it blends up a whole bunch of common household ingredients, and repurposes them into spectacular fireworks. Take Hercules, for example: because that’s really his mythological role, of course, that “half-human chosen one” malarkey, so when he shows up in Thor comics to beat up on our hero because Odin’s weakened him because he’s being too human…I mean that’s some kind of crazy triple-thick milkshake there, that is the old “fighting the opposite number” superhero thing taken to wildly recombinative extremes. And the message is, Hercules doesn’t have Thor’s problems — he’s precisely escaped all of Thor’s problems — so he’s carefree to the point of irresponsibility. Ah. Hmm, yes…
But wait! There’s more!
Odin, of course, did not begin his mythological history as Chief of the Gods. The most important Norse gods originally were Tyr (god of war, natch), and Thor himself, who as the god of storms commanded the fertilizing rain to fall by thrusting his phallic hammer deep — deep, baby! — into the Earth. Yeah, messed-up stuff, but that’s religion for you. Later on the Norse myth gets complexified quite a bit, but at the beginning you have a very simple Father Sky and Mother Earth thing happening with that. And Thor, naturally, is not Odin’s “son” by any stretch at this point…but then when he becomes Odin’s son (by the Earth herself, as it happens), that whole “fertilization” thing gets quite a bit more rummy…
But then we get Balder to come along and pick up the slack with the other flavour of “fertility god” stuff that you commonly see in world mythologies, so it’s okay again. Kind of.
Until, that is! Along comes Jack Kirby, who sends Thor off to the “college” of the human world.
And when he comes back to Asgard for winter break…suddenly everything goes all Coronation Street.
Because as RAB noted, the essential conflict in Thor comics is that Thor won’t give up his attachment to the human world even though Odin tells him he now must. Coming home to Asgard, he is taken out on the town by his buddies, who’ve missed him: remember that time we went to the state championships, Thor? Remember that time we met those girls down by the river? So good to see you, man! So…what’s Midgard like? Have you talked to Sif since you got back? What are you doing Friday night, are you having dinner with the old man, or…?
Ah. Heimdall, Baldur, Fandral…hate to tell you guys, but…Friday night Thor will spend trying to figure out how to break it to his father and to all of you that while he was away at college, well…he met someone…
“Oh yeah? So what’s her name?”
“Isn’t Midgard an all-mortal school? I didn’t know there were any Goddesses down there on Earth…”
Yeah, about that…well…there aren’t.
Now, actually this all works out fine, because Thor, to his friends, is still the Greatest Guy In The World. And they can get adjusted to this staggering change in him. Whew! But then, they’re only invested in him as friends. Odin, though…that’s a different story. He’s sent away his near-perfect son, to punish him as good fathers must, and he’s got back a way better son out of the deal so that’s good…but damn it why is he so gay, now? He must just be doing it to get back at Odin. No son of Odin’s could be gay, right? Anyway he’s got to grow up to run the kingdom! I mean college life is fine, but he’s supposed to come back home later, and take up his responsibilities!
Not get new ones!
Poor Odin; it’s tough, you know what I mean?
Good news for Loki, though!
And poor Thor: his friends accept him for who he is, and realize he’s still the same person he always was (just more honest with himself, which in superhero terms works out to: saves their asses more with a hammer), and even his brother doesn’t really care…so why can’t his Dad see that his sexuality doesn’t have to change anything? It’s not that he’s mad for being sent away…he sees now that Odin was right, and actually it was a good thing, probably the best thing that could’ve happened. Because in a way he was always Don Blake, deep down; this just gave him a chance to see that.
Odin: “So you’re saying this was MY fault?”
Thor explains he’s finally happy with himself. So why can’t his father be happy for him?
Odin says he’s gonna beat the gayness out of Thor if he has to.
So Thor goes back to the Island Of Misfit Toys, after Odin cuts his allowance (in superhero terms: his powers) in half — yeah, that’ll teach him to have learned his own values — and he does a bit of old-fashioned martyr-style noble wallowing. His friends start visiting him. He says, “no, you work for the old man…I don’t want you to get in trouble just because he’s pissed-off with me.”
And on and on it goes…until then one foggy Christmas Eve…
And that’s what it’s all about, Charlie Brown.
Hey, it’s a little early yet, but have a good one, folks!
God, this was a sloppy post…