With a mighty "Have at thee!" and a crack of metaphorical thunder, the HeroesCon 2011 Thor Panel began. Featuring "The Mighty Thor" writer Matt Fraction, "Thor: The Mighty Avenger" scribe Roger Langridge and and moderated by Heroes Aren't Hard to Find's Doug Merkle, the panel was filled with jokes, good humor, laughter and a veritable cornucopia about Marvel Comics' God of Thunder.
As moderator, Merkle opened the panel by asking the writers their opinion on the recent "Thor" film. While Langridge hadn't seen it, both Fraction and Hickman enjoyed the big screen take on the fallen god. "It was good, I liked the Asgard stuff more than the Earth stuff because the Earth stuff didn't have a chance to cook," said Fraction. He also posed the hypothetical question of what the round glass building was doing in the middle of the town. Hickman weighed in on actress Natalie Portman, saying, "I found her completely watchable, I thought she was charming. I thought she saved all the Earth stuff."
Fraction then discussed his ideas for a "Rocky-style" montage in the middle of the film where Thor interacts with more humans, helping a child build a go-kart and he picks up a tiny hammer. After the laughs of the audience died down, Hickman deadpanned, "That's good; you should write 'Thor.'"
All three creators approached the character Thor from very different angles. While Langridge did most of his research for "Thor: The Mighty Avenger" by reading Jack Kirby's run, Fraction realized he wanted to write Thor stories when he visited his friend Ande Parks, who had a Kirby original piece from "Journey to Mystery." "It was like Paul on the road to Damascus. I fell off my horse and I had a vision where I understood Thor and I understood what I wanted to do, how you could do it, why I had to do it." Fraction then said he "left taunting messages" to then-Thor editor Warren Simons, which led to Fraction's series of one-shots. "I had a year where I produced more issues of 'Thor' than the Thor team."
Hickman's story of how he got involved the Ultimate Universe's version of the character had to do with one of the legendary Marvel retreats -- at a Brazilian meat restaurant. "I was minding my own business eating meat, and Joe Quesada leaned over and said, 'So Jonathan, we're thinking about you doing" Ultimate Thor."' And I said I didn't know if I would like to do Thor, but then he said, 'If you do "Ultimate Thor," the plan would be for you to be the writer of the Ultimates.'" Although Hickman wasn't in love with the character at first, since writing the character's comic, he has become a large part of Hickman's "Ultimates." "He has turned into the centerpiece of what's going to be the 'Ultimates' run," he said.
Since all the panelists are known for their creator-owned books as well as their Marvel work, the topic was raised of the differences between doing creator-owned projects and corporate-owned characters. "You've got the idea that you're only playing with these toys for a little while, so you have to hand them back in the condition you got them in," answered Langridge. Fraction agreed, saying, "It's ultimately not your toy, so I don't get to decide who gets to kill Thor." In terms of creator-owned comics, Fraction said, "it's a very different set of exercises." Hickman continued this train of thought, saying, "I think our creator owned books are inherently more work... Especially if you're in a situation where you're putting it together. I think working at Marvel is like IP protection service. You win if it's more valuable when you leave."
Hickman was then asked if he had more freedom doing "Ultimate Thor" since he was in a different continuity than Marvel's main universe. "I guess [I had more freedom]," he answered. "They asked me to do an Ultimate Thor origin book, which was insanely difficult because there were little bits and pieces that Mark and Bryan built and there was this other stuff that Jeph was doing at the same time and it didn't all jive. My job became making the two of them work together, adding to it and make it not seem like patchwork. I haven't done another book like that. It was an interesting book in problem solving."
The floor then opened up to questions from the audience, with the first involving the family dynamic between Thor and Odin. Langridge's particular ethos in "Thor: The Mighty Avenger" was party a reaction to superheroes in general. "I did want to have a Thor who was thoroughly decent and didn't know why he was getting dumped on from a great height," he said. "I'm sure [kicking out Thor from Asgard] comes from love, but people express love in different ways." Fraction, as stated in his "Fear Itself" panel, is a huge proponent of the gruff, grumpy version of Odin, while Hickman flipped that dynamic in "Ultimate Thor." "I made Odin benevolent and loving. It's purely self-serving because when he dies, it's got to mean something. You'll see a little bit of that more in 'Ultimates.'"
"One of the things [I address] in 'Mighty Thor' is, where did the women go?" said Fraction. "I want the women to come back, I want to start getting back to [the question of], where are these strong Norse women, where did they go and what did Odin do?" Fraction also spoke briefly about Frigga's sparse appearances in "Thor" thus far.
For a moment, Fraction broke off his answer, saying he needed to tell Hickman something later. Then, addressing Hickman through the microphone, he said, "I'm bringing the Human Torch back; is that a problem?" As the audience erupted in laughter, Fraction continued, "The new herald of Galactus, Johnny Storm!"
Langridge was asked about his plans for "Thor: The Mighty Avenger," which was originally intended by the writer to be a 12-issue series. "We were building up to Asgard -- I was saving Asgard for the climax of the story," he said. "Thor was going to confront the villain who wiped his memory way back in the beginning." Langridge's plan was to bring back Thor villain Kronin Krask, a millionaire obsessed with immortality. Thor would end up saving the day by accepting his humanity over Krask's obsession with getting rid of his. As a result, Thor would be welcomed back into Asgard, but choose to stay on Earth instead.
One of the more interesting questions of the panel saw Hickman discuss Ultimate Thor and the politics associated with the character during Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch's original "Ultimates" run. "I thought the brilliant thing about Ultimate Thor is that he was a man who thought he was a god, and you didn't know if he was or he wasn't," said Hickman. "I'm going to get into more of that. I like tree-hugger Thor. I thought it was a fascinating take.
"My 'Ultimates' is gonna be that kind of stuff, but done my way," Hickman continued. "Thor is such a huge part of it. All his political positions and all of that comes back in a way that makes sense with all the junk that's happened, since 'Ultimates' volume 1 to post-'Ultimatum' Jeph Loeb stuff -- all of it gets squished together in a way that I think is going to work really, really well. I'm just excited writing Thor."
As time began to wind down, the creators mentioned some of their creator-owned books that would be releasing soon. Langridge's "Snarked!" releases soon from BOOM! Studios, Fraction has a new issue of "Casanova" coming out from Icon in September that Hickman read the script for and told the audience, "I'm not joking, I went and rewrote stuff after I read it because I felt inadequate," and after a pause, with a pointed look over at Fraction, "...as a man."
Once the crowd's laughter died down, Fraction and Hickman dialed it back up when they somehow came up with the name "Two-Wives, the dwarf." Fraction proclaimed that he was going to use that name and wrote it down on his hand as Hickman laughed.
Finally, Hickman gave a brief plug for his new book from Image Comics, "The Red Wing," saying -- while laughing and glancing over at Fraction -- "It's been completely rewritten; it's pretty good now!"