The Top 10 Thor Stories

There have been a great many Thor stories over the years. Starting with his debut in Journey Into Mystery #83 in 1962, and continuing through 4 volumes, and dozens of miniseries, one-shots, and spinoffs, there never seems to be any shortage of stories that can be told about the mythological God Of Thunder who has been around for thousands of years, and continues to maintain an active interest in the affairs of us mortals. So it's a pretty difficult task to pick just 10 stories out of all of those, but that's what I've set out to do here. Keep in mind, any list like this is inherently subjective. You might hate some of the stories I picked with a passion; you might be outraged that I left out a story you consider a classic. It's all good. This is my list of the Top 10 Thor Stories, and you are welcome to share yours.


#10 – The Reigning

From the highly underrated Dan Jurgens run comes The Reigning. It officially didn't start until issue #68, but it had been building since issue #50, when Thor transported Asgard through the dimensions and placed it floating above the Earth (yep, Jurgens beat Straczynski to it). The overall storyline is a compelling examination of how much power is too much, and how it can lead even someone like Thor, who has the best of intentions for humanity, tragically astray. 


#9 – Thor Reborn

Most fans today will recognize this run; after Thor had been gone from publication for several years in the wake of Avengers: Disassembled and another iteration of Ragnarok, Marvel finally decided the time was right to bring him back in 2007, and tapped J. Michael Straczynski to do it. Straczynski took what had gone before, and built upon for an excellent opening arc which brought Thor back to his rightful place in the Marvel Universe. Unfortunately, Straczynski didn't stay for the long haul, opting not to participate in the Siege of Asgard crossover, but the issues he did write served as the perfect relaunch for Thor, and enabled writers like Matt Fraction to carry on where he left off.


#8 – The Eternals Saga

Started by writer Roy Thomas, and finished by Mark Gruenwald and Ralph Machhio after Thomas departed the book, this storyline is not just an action-packed epic, it also serves to integrate Jack Kirby's Eternals (and the Celestials) into the Marvel Universe, while simultaneously expanding upon Thor's roots in Norse myth. If you're looking for epic battles on a cosmic scale between beings of immense power on the one hand, and other beings who make them look pikers on the other, this story has it in spades. One trade paperback isn't enough to contain it though; you'll have to pick up Thor: The Eternals Saga Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 to get the whole story.


#7 – WorldEngine

WorldEngine is an odd story arc for Thor, in that it came in the midst of a big upheaval for Thor and the Avengers books in general (remember The Crossing? No? Good), and yet with Warren Ellis at the helm and Mike Deodato on art, it simply sets out to tell a good story without worrying about what else was going on in the Marvel Universe. It's very entertaining to read a Thor story with Ellis' trademark weirdness and high concepts, including a mad scientist rigging a machine to control Yggdrasil, the tree upon which all creation is built, according to Norse myth. And a depowered Thor just raises the stakes.


#6 – Mangog

A billion souls of a hostile alien race snuffed out, and then combined to form one unstoppable evil being? If I didn't know better, I'd think the Asgardians were Scientologists. This story is Lee and Kirby at their peak on Thor; bizarre monsters, gigantic swords, the swashbuckling of the Warriors Three, and Loki scheming in the background. Pure excitement and one of the deadliest challenges Thor has ever faced.


#5 – The New Thor

We all know Thor. Must thee, and dost thou, and shalt I, etc, etc. All very dignified and proper. And sometimes he has an Earth alter-ego, just to provide a little contrast. But what if a regular Joe had the power of Thor… and hardly any clue what do with it? This was the situation Eric Masterson found himself faced with Thor ended the menace of Loki by killing him (!) and Odin banished him to gods-know-where. Masterson, who had been playing Don Blake to Thor for a while now was transformed into heavily-muscled, long-haired, and now-bearded God of Thunder– but it was still his mind in the new body! He designed a new costume, and attempted to cover for Thor in his duties with the Avengers and his personal relationships, but he never quite got the Asgardian-speak down, and certainly never had the godly confidence of Thor. Still, he did the best he could, and eventually rescued the real Thor. As a reward, he was given his own weapon, a mystical mace, and became the hero known as Thunderstrike. To this day, it's entertaining to see people read comics where "Thor" was guest-starring at the time, and watch them say "Uh… why is Thor talking like that?"


#4 – The Origin Of Donald Blake

In the early days of Marvel, the relationship between Donald Blake, the guy who went exploring and found a magic hammer, and Thor, the being that Blake transformed into, wasn't exactly clear. At first it seemed that Blake might just have Thor's power, but as the series went on, it became clear that Thor was a persona unto himself, and had relationships that pre-dated his involvement with Blake, in the heavenly realm of Asgard. Readers were confused and demanded an explanation, and in Thor #159, Stan Lee gave it to them, having Odin reveal exactly what Blake was, and how Thor wound up bonded with him. This issue is an excellent example of how to do exposition without making it seem like exposition; it's an exciting tale that fleshes out Thor's background in a way that defines our understanding of him to this day.


#3 – The Coming Of Beta Ray Bill

Only Walt Simonson would start off a run with an arc that features a horse-headed alien inheriting the power of Thor. Simonson deftly mixes space opera with Wagnerian opera here, and in the process creates a character who has become an enduring favorite (and is currently a member of Marvel's cosmic heavy hitters, the Annihilators). The strangest thing about this arc? After a moment's hesitation, you will take Beta Ray Bill completely seriously– even though he is a hammer-wielding horse-headed space warrior with the power of the Norse God of Thunder.


#2 – Thor vs. Hercules

You almost can't add anything to that title. Thor vs. Hercules. The Norse God of Thunder vs. the Greek God of Strength. The greatest heroes of their respective ages, pitted against each other– could anyone tell this story better than Stan Lee and Jack Kirby? I don't think so. This clash, played out across the pages of Thor #126, wasn't their first encounter– that would be in Journey Into Mystery Annual #1— but I think it's their best. The best part of the story for me is what a jackass Hercules is– Stan gets his arrogant buffoonery pitch perfect, making him hilarious but not necessarily ridiculous. This would have to be on a list of Top Hercules stories as well. 


#1 – Thor, Frog Of Thunder

Another Simonson classic. Like the Beta Ray Bill story, this arc shows off Simonson's talent for coming up with almost ridiculous, bizarre concepts, and doing far more with them than just letting it sit there and saying "Look, isn't that funny?" Loki uses his evil magic to send Thor to the lily pad, but even as a frog, Thor is still a force to be reckoned with. Just an all-around fun story, and one that makes you wish all Thor writers were as inventive and clever as Simonson, but alas, that's impossible. Simonson, like this story, is one of a kind.


Questions or comments? E-mail Matt Adler.


  1. Great list. I’d add the Mighty Thor to the list as well as the Ragnarok story that Oeming wrote.

  2. The Origin of Donald Blake is insane.  When I got to that issue reading the Essentials it kind of blew my mind.  The really early issues of Thor are pretty lackluster, there is no mention of Asgaurd for a long time, and then it just pops up out of no where at some point and THEN well after that, Stan tries to explain it in this issue.  I love it.

  3. The Simonson run was magical! Good list, Matt!

  4. I really want to read Simonson’s whole run.  I’ve been toying with picking up that Omni that just came out.  It’s ridiculously big though.

  5. I enjoyed The Reigning, too, but I think we were in the minority. I remember it getting criticizm at the time for being so long.

  6. Sweet! I’ve been needing some new stories to look for in trade/monthlies! I’m not watching the lame movie but will be making a lost of these comics!

  7. I like the Crossing because it was some of the only comic books I got sent while at Summer Camp. That and the movie novelization of The Phantom.

    That’s when marvel had ¢99  books too that were pretty good.

  8. Does the Robert Rodi/Esad Ribic Loki mini from last decade count as a Thor story?  That’s probably my favorite Thor story.

  9. wow that frog anatomy is rough

  10. @Tork: That was amazing and has been re-released in the last couple of weeks as(I think) Thor: Blood Brothers to tie it into the motion comic of the story that they’ve released. It’s one of the better villain-based books released.

  11. @flakbait  I think it was at the time that writers were being “strongly encouraged” to structure their stories into 6 issue arc for trade collection, so who knows if it was paced the way Jurgens would have preferred. On top of that, the ending was supposedly cut short because the book was being cancelled in the wake of Avengers Disassembled. I still feel it’s a strong story though, taking Thor places he’d really never been before.

    @Tork I agree, it’s a great story, though I probably would count it more as a Loki story. I wouldn’t argue against anyone who had it on their list though!

  12. Number 5 is the prelude to the Thunderstrike series! The Ron Frenz art is so good in those issues.

  13. Anyone read the Marvel MAX “Thor: Vikings” story by Garth Ennis? Man was that f’ed up.

  14. My fav was the Surtur Saga from Simonson. It ran from issues #349-#353. The highlight was just a breathtaking panel with Odin in battle armor with Thor on one side and Loki on the other teaming up to beat Surtur and drive him and his sword of doom from Asgard!