clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

When old gods do new jobs: Thor: Ragnarok, explained

All superheroes are mythological, but some of them literally so

Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

On this episode of Issue at Hand, we go through the Thor: Ragnarok trailer, and try and pick out every comic-booky idea that the movie appears to be pulling from. From Hela and Valkyrie to the Grandmaster and a gladiatorial Hulk, find out all the threads that Ragnarok is pulling together in the video above.

This is Thor’s third return in a solo movie, and for the first time in, well, ever, it seems like he’s turning audience heads in a big way. The trailer for Ragnarok broke records as the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most watched-in-its-first-24-hours trailer.

Not bad for a thunder god.

Despite the genre’s origins in science fiction, magic has always had a role in comic book universes — even if the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s insists that its Asgard is merely very technologically advanced — and so have mythological gods. Since the early ‘40s, Wonder Woman and Shazam (nee Captain Marvel) have derived their powers directly from the Greek pantheon. Thor and Hercules are both major players in the Marvel Universe, and Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman established that Norse, Egyptian, Shinto and Judeo-Christian mythology were fully real in the DC Universe.

Or as “real” as any beings whose existence was largely dependent on mortal belief.

Elsewhere in the settings, you’ll find Daimon Hellstrom, the literal son of Satan in the Marvel universe. You’ll know a good story about Etrigan, a demonic being tied to the physical form of an Arthurian knight, by how skillfully it incorporates Etrigan’s habit of speaking in rhyming couplets. And you might even encounter the Spectre, an avenging spirit tasked by a higher power to destroy evil on earth, a nearly omnipotent supernatural force of justice, or a fallen angel serving as the wrath of God in the mortal world — depending on which incarnation you’re reading.

This all despite the fact that both Marvel and DC have core aspects of their cosmology (i.e., how the universe and mankind came to be) that directly contradict with the biblical story of Genesis (to say nothing of the creation stories of any of the other traditions mentioned above). To cite one example, the Big Bang is not only canonical, but a major plot point of DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths.

And though I am an experienced explainer of comic book events, explaining both comic book events and mythological events together might be a rainbow bridge too far.

The next level of puzzles.

Take a break from your day by playing a puzzle or two! We’ve got SpellTower, Typeshift, crosswords, and more.