Thor In Animation - A Retrospective

Part One - Part Two - Part Three

With Marvel severely lacking in the number of shows in the early part of the century beyond X-Men: Evolution and the short lived but enjoyable Spider-Man: The New Animated Series, they began to look for other means to adapt their various properties to animation, now that they weren’t really on great terms with any of the main animation networks at the time.

Marvel alliance with Lions Gate gave them 8 direct to DVD animated features to play with. With their Spider-Man and X-Men rights optioned elsewhere, they decided their first project should feature what big guns they had – given the recent surge in popularity thanks to the white hot The Ultimates book, The Avengers seemed like the logical choice for their first DTV.

Announced as a cross between The Ultimates and the classic Avengers, the film would focus on Captain America’s return and the formation of the team as an alien invasion from a race called The Chitauri threatened the planet.

Thor’s role in the feature is quite minimal (this is a running pattern, isn’t it?) but as per usual, it’s highly enjoyable. Design wise, character designer Steve Gordon clearly drew his interpretation from Bryan Hitch’s Ultimate revamp for Thor, minus the beard (nobody trusts a man with a beard). I think the designs of the film are great – they aren’t too superheroic so they fit the tone more, but they still look pleasing to the eye and animated well.

Casting wise, Dave Boat has a blast with Thor. I’ve always been fond of his Norse dialogue – I think it adds a lot more to his character, especially the way it allows him to interact with the other characters.

I going to go out on a limb and say I really loved the ultimate comic’s take on Thor – I especially loved his gimmick that no one was really sure if Thor actually was a God or just some kook with far too much power. I admit to not being a massive fan of the classic Avengers – I thought The Ultimate revamp breathed some much needed energy into the book. There’s a lot I love about it – I especially like the fact they are all mainstream icons in the modern world and a lot of their role revolves around how the media and the taxpayers see them. This turned many fans off the characters and said it made them difficult to root for – not me. I liken it to Spider-Man’s ego – I love big head Spider-Man but many hate it ( I especially love the old school Stan Lee stuff – when he was up for it, ‘The Man’ made Spider-Man one of the most cocky sob’s on the planet and to me, it was absolutely glorious.) I remember one of the main complaints about the underrated Spider-Man 3 was the fact that likeable lad Peter Parker was now too full of himself – most of these fans miss that this was one of the main points of his story, but they were all too busy picking it apart to actually try and enjoy it.

I seem to remember I should be talking about Thor. Anyway, the film was a merger of The Ultimates and The Avengers – I personally would’ve preferred had they gone full on Ultimates but alas, what we did get was a highly enjoyable film. The run time is too short (and still is with all the recent DTVs) but most of what we get is pretty good. The film looks great – from the designs to the backgrounds to the actual staging of the fight scene – the final battle of The Avengers vs The Hulk is a beautiful one.

As mentioned above, the main problem is the run time, which meant that a lot of the characters didn’t get the opportunity to shine as well as they should’ve done – they literally had to make the most of whatever they could. I still don’t really see what role The Wasp played in the film – cutting her out would’ve made little difference to the story, but given more time for the other characters. What we do see of Thor here is good – in particular the aforementioned smackdown with ol’ jade jaws. Of course, as good as this ‘peaceful protestor’ and his fine love of ale was, let’s not kid ourselves – Iron Man stole the show here.

Thor would return for the sequel, Rise Of The Black Panther, which address gives him something of a crisis of faith with his Father, Odin. It’s more of the same, and again, he’s barely touched upon. The film is centred on Captain America and The Black Panther as the Chitauri returns to Wakanda. While again, the film is enjoyable, it does suffer from the same problems as the first one – the run time is too short and the villains are pretty lame. You might notice this paragraph is really short because there isn’t really that much to discuss. The film is defiantly worth a watch though – I can’t quite decide if I like it more than the first one though – it would’ve scored higher points with me if Iron Man had kept his bad ass armour from the first one here instead of replacing it with the War Machine suit for the final battle.

Thor would again return in Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow (after Donald Blake got a cheeky nod in the Dr. Strange DTV of course). He made a surprise appearance towards the end in Asgard to help give his daughter the happy ending this kids DTV warranted. Not sure what he was doing for the first and second acts where the world was halfway to hell, but it was nice to see him again. It’s nothing really more than an extended cameo but it was welcome in my opinion. I’m not trying to rag on the film – I was one of the few people who realised that this DTV wasn’t going to be for me the minute it was announced and quickly forgot about it and looked forward to Hulk Vs instead but it’s… all right, I suppose. I managed to make to the end of it without being completely bored brainless like the Legion of Superheroes episode I tried to sit through but it didn’t wow me. I watched it, grabbed it for the site and haven’t looked at it since. Then again, I’m not sure I was ever supposed to. It’s actually perhaps the best received DTV from Marvel so far – it’s probably worth a look if you’re up for something light hearted or have kids of your own.

As said way back in the opening of this retrospective – Thor was always been a bit player in animation but in the next 2 or 3 years, that looks destined to change. Providing he makes it past The Hulk first…