In his comic book debut in Journey into the mystery # 83, Thor is among the most recognizable heroes in all media. The God of Thunder was the protagonist of 3 feature films, appeared in many others and will be released again in theaters on July 8 at Thor: Love and thunder.
Although the character stayed for 60 years, he wouldn’t be where he is today without the artists who brought his multidimensional endeavors to life. From Jack Kirby to Walt Simonson to Nic Klein, almost all the designers and inkers who drew the Odinson did it with ease. But not all artists are created equal. Whether it’s due to the design choices they’ve implemented, the iconic fights they’ve drawn, or the characters they’ve created, some illustrators have made a more lasting impact than others.
The first artist to take on the character after Jack Kirby left Marvel Comics, John Buscema’s contributions to Thor lie in his choice to maintain the status quo. The artist could have completely changed the look and tone of the comics, while remaining faithful to the fundamental principles of the character’s world, subtly adapting it to suit his sensibility.
While some might argue that Buscema’s collaboration with writer Roy Thomas left the character in a stagnant state, it’s important to recognize that the two solidified the canon Lee and Kirby had established. Consider some of the iconic stories that Buscema sketched in pencil as “The Day Thunder Failed” and it is clear that the artist’s work was crucial for future creative teams.
After drawing Thor’s comics in pencil in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Ron Frenz’s contributions to the book can be seen in creating characters like Eric Masterson and helping to assemble the New Warriors. Although the former character hasn’t had a major appearance in comics since the 1990s, his time as the God of Thunder is highly regarded.
While none of Frenz’s characters have yet to be seen in the MCU, it appears that his design for the Thunderstrike character influenced one of Thor’s new costumes in the film. He’s slim enough, but the sleeveless leather jacket and ponytail clearly evoke Thunderstrike’s unforgettable aesthetic.
The only artist who has never drawn a solo title of Thor, the rendering of the character of Bryan Hitch The last he is influential in the freedoms he took with the character. It was the first time Thor had been restarted for new readers and Hitch’s choice to do away with the cloak and helmet affected other properties.
The most important aspects of Hitch’s artwork can be seen in the MCU. Thor’s confrontation with the Hulk in the first Avengers movie draws inspiration from a similar fight in The last (Thor’s gaze during this part of the film even drops the cloak.) More specifically, Thor’s current hammer in the movies, Thunderstrike, is clearly derived from the version of Mjolner’s battle ax that Thor wields in the Ultimate comics.
Having illustrated the character as part of several creative teams, Olivier Coipel’s most notable contribution to the God of Thunder can be seen in the chain mail covering Thor’s arms. The choice to enhance Thor’s warrior-like appearance was picked up by other artists in the comics and replicated outright in the MCU, where a bare-armed Thor is used sparingly while chain mail is the standard.
In addition to this aesthetic bloom, Coipel also helped redefine Asgard’s appearance as it was transported to Earth. The decision to transfer the legendary realm of the gods allowed Coipel to counter the fantasy of the series with a more ingrained approach. More importantly, the plot point would go on for several years in the comics and ultimately influence the creation of New Asgard in the MCU.
Taking over from Walt Simonson, Sal Buscema brought a more traditional look to the Thor comics that emphasized the fantastical elements of the characters in favor of the science fiction Simonson had played with. In addition to this, Buscema also illustrated some of Thor’s best issues, such as “The Gift of Death” and “Journey Into Mystery”.
Perhaps the most remembered moment from Buscema’s time as a draftsman was when he helped introduce gold and blue power armor to the series. This design is so distinct that few artists have returned to it, but that hasn’t stopped Taika Waititi from lifting her bib for the new Thor: Love and thunder.
The first artist to draw Jane Foster as the God of Thunder, Dauterman’s influence can be seen in the way he and writer Jason Aaron turned the character upside down without angering (reasonable) fans. Dauterman gave Jane the same reverence that other designers put into their Odinson illustrations, and this respect for the character is why readers have remained faithful to the title.
Another argument for Dauterman’s influence can be found in his stylistic leanings. Deviating from the sacred painted tones of Esad Ribić and the approach founded by Olivier Coipel, Dauterman brought the comic vibrancy that the title had long lacked in the book (a liveliness that was carried over by later artists). In short, Dauterman brought the fun back into the book.
Taking a cue from Alex Ross’ painted comic covers, Esad Ribić offers some of the most elegant artwork for the God of Thunder. The pages of him are breathtaking and help bring out the majesty of the Nine Kingdoms.
The serenity of Ribić’s pages are contrasted by the stories he contributed to. His work with Jason Aaron has given readers Gorr the God Butcher, one of Thor’s most brutal villains, and a character who has taken root in myth despite having only been around for a decade. With him finally making his MCU debut Love and thunder, only time will tell if it lives up to its deadly comic counterpart.
As a writer and artist, Simonson has some of the best Thor comics to his credit. His name is synonymous with the God of Thunder and his pencils have given new life to the character and gallery of his thief.
Simonson may not have created the characters of Skurge, Surtur, and Hela, but when anyone thinks of those gods, it’s usually because of what Simonson did with them during his run. And then there is Beta Ray Bill. Perhaps the greatest Simonson series character in the book, Bill remains a key part of Thor’s canon, one of the few select characters who gain as much love as Thor.
Having illustrated the character from 1962 to 1970, Jack Kirby remains one of the longest-running artists of the character he helped adapt for the Marvel comics. He is the man who designed Thor’s iconic costume and the first to conceptualize Asgard, Hel, Jotenheim and everything in between.
Kirby could have kept the character tightly rooted in the realm of fantasy, but his choice to incorporate elements of science fiction proved to be the key to the comics’ success, and it is this aspect that has continued to inspire artists to this day. Without Kirby, there would be no Rainbow Bridge, Warriors Three or Destroyer. Without Kirby, Thor would not be Thor.
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