Thought-Form and Marvel’s Thor: What is the Nature of Asgard?

Journey Into Marvel

Story I Read: Tales of Asgard “Home of the Mighty Norse Gods” (Journey Into Mystery #97 Oct. 1963)

 The Norse Men Thinking...

The Norse Men Thinking…

It was only a few articles ago that I suggested comics were the natural heirs to ancient mythology and, now, Marvel has come full circle to prove my point.

Just how Tales of Asgard fits into the Marvel Universe is really difficult to put my finger on. I know it belongs in the Thor stream of comics, because it elaborates on the world that the Thunder God comes from, but it does not follow any main character from that world. It functions more like an appendix to the main events of Journey Into Mystery. Because of its expository nature, it is really difficult for me to examine this comic as I do the others, so I must change my expectations and look at these stories with a more literary eye.

Tales of Asgard works like a traditional narrative. The visual element, though absolutely stunning and Jack Kirby is certainly in top form here, is less important. Information is  the focal point.

This issue settles some nagging questions I have had about how Asgardians are made up.

Though the title suggests that this is a story about the construction of Asgard, it is more a cosmology of the Norse Gods. It illuminates a vastly different origin story then the one I understand from Modern Asgard. If they were later retconned, please tell me in the comments.

According to the story, the Aesir, as the Asgardians are rightfully named, are the creation of the Norse peoples.

“Well,” you are probably saying, “that’s certainly not news.”

Actually, it is, at least in the spectrum of Silver Age Marvel.

Up until now, Thor has been presented as a living breathing creature yet, Stan Lee claims, they are the literary creation of the Vikings. How does this make any sense? Thor is both alive and not alive? He is a literary character that flies around New York sometimes?

I am beginning to think that Tales of Asgard is somehow not canon.

Help me out here commenters. 

Perhaps, Stan is referring to an elemental idea that has long be in around in Theology. This is a cosmology that was recently made extraordinarily popular by Neil Gaiman in his book American Gods. That cosmology is based on “thought-form.” This is the theory, and it is purely a mechanism for literature; I am not some lunatic religious nut that thinks these things are real, which explains the physical existence and creation of deities by mass belief. In short, if someone believes in a thing, that thing becomes real.

If a ton of Marvel Norsemen believe in the Aesir this causes them to exist. Perhaps, in the Marvel Universe thought-form is a natural constant and Marvel Norsemen believing in Asgardians created Asgard.

I thought, they were an alien race that, may be extra-dimensional, but never the less creatures from another physical world. However, according to this issue, this doesn’t seem to be the case.

For more information about ‘thought form,’ look up the works of David Hume, he is the philosopher that created this idea.

Another question this issue answers is the exact location of Asgard. According to Stan’s telling of the myth, and this is extraordinarily accurate in terms of Norse

Mythology, Asgard is part of a large Oak Tree that holds the nine worlds of the universe. Consequently, this is why the oak is one of the symbols of  Odin All-Father.

Asgard.

Asgard.

This is the Norse religious explanation, but how does it influence Thor and the Marvel Universe?

We know, as avid readers of the Marvel Universe, many characters go into space quite often. They are constantly venturing to other planets and those races are visiting ours on the regular as well. This cosmology creates a problem because Midgard is described as only encompassing the Earth.

If Midgard is only Earth, how does the rest of the universe work into this scheme?

It may be unfair of me to take the cosmology presented here and apply it to the Marvel Universe as a whole, but this issue comes out in October 1963, directly following the premiere of The Avengers. This means that Stan Lee has established that all of Marvels superhero characters exist in the same world. Following the logic of the Tales of   Asgard cosmology, means that those Skrulls and other alien threats, live in Midgard. This is clearly not an extraordinarily satisfying explanation.

As I noted before, I am not really sure how the Tales of Asgard title works into the canonicity of Macro Marvel.

Perhaps, it is a genuine attempt at using comics to educate. I really can’t be sure.

You all can help enlighten me.

Rating: No Rating.  I’m too confused.

Pros: Wonderful Art by Jack Kirby. The narrative voice is positively compelling.

Cons: It doesn’t make much sense when included in the Macro Marvel Mythos.

Preceding Review: ”The Lava Man” (Journey Into Mystery #97 Oct. 1963)

Upcoming ReviewThe Coming of the Plantman” (Strange Tales #113 Oct. 1963)

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About Julian Munds

I possess a degree in Theatre and Drama from the University of Toronto. I own my own theatre company called Snobbish Theatre. We focus our work on new versions of classics.

Posted on December 4, 2013, in Marvel, Thor and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

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