Thor: Ragnarok has more cosmic Marvel references than we were expecting…and we were expecting a whole lot!
Thor: Ragnarok isn’t just the best Thor movie. It’s the most cosmic Marvel movie this side of the Guardians of the Galaxy series. And without any pesky, annoying Earthlings (ahem, Midgardians) hanging around to clog up the proceedings it’s got more Marvel references and easter eggs per frame than any of its predecessors. It’s now available to own on Blu-ray and DVD, too.
Thor: Ragnarok is a feast for Marvel fans, and it will probably take me a second viewing to catch everything in it, simply because in nearly every scene there’s a design, a piece of architecture, or a background character who positively must have come from the comics page. So with the full understanding that I definitely missed something (or a few something), it’s up to you, dear readers, to help me out. Spot something I didn’t? Shout it out in the comments, or give me a holler on Twitter. If it checks out, I’ll update this!
What is Ragnarok?
– Ragnarok, of course, is the Norse “twilight of the gods.” Key points of the mythological Ragnarok that are explored here include the death of Odin and Thor losing an eye (although he usually has to do that to himself in order to gain knowledge, but we’ll take the badass fight instead for cinematic purposes).
Marvel has touched on Ragnarok more than once in the comics, most notably in stories by Walt Simonson (whose influence is all over this movie) and more recently by Michael Avon Oeming and Andrea Di Vitto. It was in the latter that we see a couple of small elements in this movie, notably the shattering of Thor’s hammer, the death of the Warriors Three, and Surtur’s prominence.
The first villain we meet in the movie is Surtur, and fans of Walt Simonson’s take on Thor will be excited. While the character has been around since the Lee/Kirby days, it’s really the Simonson stuff that made the character pop on the comics page, and the visual we get here is more in line with his vision.
– Surtur ends up kind of manifesting a giant snake, and I wonder if this is supposed to represent the Midgard Serpent, disturbance of which is another harbinger of the mythological Ragnarok.
Hela first appeared in Journey into Mystery #102 (1964) by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. That crazy headdress has always been part of the party…
Although this page is even more like the look we get in the movie…
Hela’s origin is different from both her comic and mythological versions. It’s way too much to get into here, but we have a whole article about her comic origins for you.
– Her cinematic origins have a lot less in common with her comics counterpart than they do with Angela. Angela is…hoo boy…she’s the lost daughter of Odin and Frigga killed in a secret war with the later hidden tenth realm, “heven.” She was raised by the angels in the tenth realm after it was sealed off by Odin as punishment for their rebellion. She first appeared in the comics version of Age of Ultron and was revealed as Thor and Loki’s sister in Original Sin. She’s currently living out her best life, having conquered Hel to free the trapped soul of her girlfriend, then abdicating the throne.
(Her real life origin is somehow more convoluted: she was created by Neil Gaiman and Todd MacFarlane for Spawn before she got caught up in a decades-spanning lawsuit about the rights to Miracleman and got traded to Marvel when the rights to the latter settled there. It’s seriously wild.)
It’s nice to see Fenris hanging around, not just because he’s a giant, pointy-eared doggie, but because Fenris played a reasonable role in the aforementioned Michael Avon Oeming/Andrea Di Vitto Ragnarok comic.
– Skurge “The Executioner” appeared way the hell back in Journey Into Mystery #103 in 1964, and like so many characters in the Thor movies was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. He didn’t really come into his own until the Walt Simonson days, and the bit in the movie with him having a change of heart and using that pair of M16s to hold a bridge is straight out of Thor #362 by Mr. Simonson.
– One cool thing you might want to know is that the Grandmaster is the brother of the Collector from Guardians of the Galaxy. We wrote much more about his bonkers history right here if you’re interested.
– In the Planet Hulk comics, Grandmaster wasn’t a factor, and the arena battles Hulk fought in weren’t referred to as “The Contest of Champions.” There was, however a Contest of Champions comic book series, where Grandmaster was very much the primary antagonist. That’s his thing, pitting folks against each other, and he’s quite good at it.
– Valkyrie has an extraordinarily complicated comic book history. Fortunately, we detailed it in easily digestible form for you right here.
– Valkyrie is referred to as “Scrapper 142” which might be a reference to The Incredible Hulk #142. While that isn’t her first comic book appearance, but it’s the first appearance of one of the versions of the character…trust me, her comic book backstory is a total headache. Just read the article I recommended and see if you can make sense of it, otherwise we’ll be here all day.
– The cranky lady who hangs out with Grandmaster and Valkyrie is called “Topaz” in the credits, but she’s definitely not the same Topaz as the comics. Comics-Topaz is a sorceress originally from Werewolf by Night and not a bloodthirsty space badass.
– She may not resemble the comic book version of the character all that much, but that final blue and white armor she wears is definitely a nod to her comic book color scheme.
Thor: Ragnarok – The Planet Hulk Connection
– So, Sakaar is, literally the “Planet Hulk” of the comics. Not that it’s a planet full of Hulks or anything, but that is indeed where it all takes place. In the comics, though, Hulk didn’t accidentally end up hurtling off into space, he was actually sent their by Tony Stark and Reed Richards because he’s such a menace. It…it didn’t end well for anyone involved.
But Hulk did indeed end up as a Gladiator on Sakaar (it had nothing to do with the Grandmaster). However, he didn’t fight Thor in the arena…he fought the Silver Surfer! But since the Surfer is sadly unavailable for Marvel Studios (which is a damn shame…can you imagine what they could do with this character?) they swapped him out for Thor. This fight ALMOST happened in the animated adaptation of Planet Hulk, except there it was the Beta Ray Bill version of Thor in the arena with Hulk.
Beta Ray Bill may not actually be here, but he is in spirit. You can see his face as one of the sculptures on the tower that Hulk resides in (more on this down below, because it’a s LOT!)
– Korg, believe it or not, is a character who has been here since Thor’s very first appearance in 1962. You know the cover of Journey Into Mystery #83 with Thor taking out a bunch of alien rock dudes? Well, it turns out, one of ’em is Korg.
Korg returned for the Planet Hulk storyline (and he’s far less of a goofball there) and along with Miek, was one of Hulk’s “Warbound” crew of rebels/revolutionaries. I kind of wish the revolution element of this movie was a little more pronounced, but whatever, they had bigger fish to fry.
Speaking of Miek…
Miek, the weird little insectoid creature is actually a native of Sakaar in the comics. I don’t think that’s the case here, otherwise there would be more of him.
– Hulk is introduced to the arena as “The Incredible Hulk” which is, of course the name of his comic and the famed TV series. But he is also referred to in casual conversation as “astonishingly savage.” The Savage Hulk has been the title of more than one Hulk series throughout Marvel history. After Hulk’s first solo comic fizzled out in the early 1960s he spent time co-headlining Tales to Astonish, which eventually just became The Incredible Hulk series.
– When Hulk says “No Banner only Hulk” that’s a sentiment he’s uttered at various points in his comic book history. But there have been some notable times when Hulk has remained in Hulk form for extended periods, sometimes maintaining more of Banner’s intelligence, too. Planet Hulk was one of them (although he was far from a full-on Banner style genius), although he definitely was smarter during his years with The Pantheon. We detailed a couple of “no Banner only Hulk” type stories here.
– Hulk’s cool looking bed doesn’t appear to be a design lifted straight out of the comics, although it bears a slight resemblance to the canopied bed he has in the Future Imperfect story. Maybe not enough for me to mention it here, but I’m mentioning it anyway.
Miscellaneous Cool Stuff
So it looks like we’ve finally identified everyone on Hulk’s tower here…
The first face (the one with the elephantine nose) is Man-Thing. Yes, Man-Thing, infamous for appearing in a comic known as, I shit you not, Giant-Sized Man-Thing.
Down and to the right is Marvel’s Ares. Perhaps not coincidentally, Michael Avon Oeming, who wrote the comic book story that inspired much of this movie, also wrote a killer Ares comic. (thanks to @ItsEvoTF on Twitter for setting me straight on this one)
To the left is none other than Beta Ray Bill! I desperately need to see him in a Marvel movie soon.
Well, it might not be Bill, it could be a member of his race, but based on that connection to the animated version of Planet Hulk, I could see him being an earlier Champion here.
Down and to the right is the rarely seen these days Hulk baddie, the Bi-Beast (he’s the guy with two faces). Thanks to Pat for spotting that, because that’s a really cool catch.
Gary M. Miller believes that the bottom two faces are actually little-known Hulk villain Dark-Crawler…
…and legendary Kirby dragon Fin Fang Foom!
– Loki references “that time I turned you into a frog” to Thor. This is a wonderful, wonderful reference to one of Walt Simonson’s wackier Thor ideas…Throg. No, I swear to god.
Now, to be fair, Throg isn’t our Thor, and Loki had nothing to do with it, but it’s a real thing because Walt Simonson is a genius.
Thor’s short-haired look has been a thing recently in The Unworthy Thor comics.
It goes along with his new weapons, too…
Thor’s “club” looks looks like the mace that Marvel’s version of Hercules wields. Which reminds me, they really need to introduce Hercules into the MCU.
– As we show up at Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum at 177a Bleecker Street you can hear the strains of a harpsichord, which is more than a little reminiscent of Michael Giacchino’s score for that movie.
And while that movie was very much an origin story, here we get a more fully-formed Doctor Strange, and that’s exactly what I wanted from the movie version of the character in the first place. He should be mysterious and powerful, and when other heroes come to him for help it should be because they have absolutely no idea what the hell else to do with themselves.
Also, the addition of Doctor Strange to a movie that also includes Valkyrie and Hulk can’t be an accident. All three of them were founding members of the comic book version of The Defenders, a team which bears almost no resemblance to the ones on Netflix.
– While on Earth, we get a nod to old comics continuity. Thor’s umbrella is his Mjolnir stand in, and in Norway, he bangs the umbrella on the ground to change from cool streetwear Thor to Asgardian-battle-ready Thor. In the old comics, Dr. Don Blake used to bang his walking stick on the ground to change from human doctor to Norse thunder god.
But don’t start thinking that Thor is supposed to be Don Blake in these scenes! For one thing, we already had a Don Blake joke in the first Thor movie. For another, his more working-class attire and the fact that he’s still pretty clearly, um, Thor, puts him more in line with his Walt Simonson-era alter ego, Sigurd Jarlson.
– Did you catch all the cameos in the play scene? That was Matt Damon as Loki, Sam Neill as Odin, and Chris’s brother Luke Hemsworth as Thor.
– We finally get an explanation for how Odin can have an Infinity Gauntlet hanging around in his trophy room: it’s a fake.
– While we’ve seen the visual cue plenty of times in the movies, this is the first explicit explanation of how Thor flies around: by throwing his hammer and catching it at the last second so it can pull him through the air. I’ve always loved this, as weird and implausible as it seems.
– “Wrath of the Mighty Thor” sounds like it could be a comic book title. And indeed, many Thor comics have been called The Mighty Thor.
Like we’ve seen in both Guardians of the Galaxy movies, so many of the spaceships look kinda like some of the crazy ships that were designed by Chris Foss for Alejandro Jodorowsky’s lost Dune movie.
Here’s one for comparison:
And for real, if you haven’t seen the Jodorowsky’s Dune documentary, I can’t possibly recommend it enough.
– When our heroes are returning to Asgard and they pass out in the wormhole, I can’t help but be reminded of a similar sequence in Mike Hodges’ brilliant Flash Gordon movie from 1980. Both movies are incredibly colorful and bonkers space operas.
Not only is there a strong Jack Kirby influence visible in virtually every character and costume design you can see here, even in the shape of that crazy doorway, but there appears to be literal Jack Kirby artwork on the walls there.
What you’re seeing is a detail from a page from Fantastic Four #64.
Throughout so much of the rest of the movie, you can see that kind of crazy Kirby-inspired circuitry and technology. Nearly everything has “Kirby tech” markings that remind me of details from a piece of non-comics related Kirby art called “Dream Machine.”
Thor: Ragnarok Post Credits Scenes
There are two key takeaways here. The first is that it seems likely the surviving Asgardians will set up shop on Earth, like they did during J. Michael Straczynski and Olivier Coipel’s era on the character.
But more importantly, that is most definitely Thanos’ ship that appears before them, and that is going to throw a monkey wrench into things. Don’t expect “New Asgard” (or Asgardia as it was known in the comics) to actually happen before Avengers 4 is finished at this point. We explained more about Asgardia and what this ending means for the future of Thor and the entire Marvel Universe right here!
OK, these deserve a little more time, so we went into a little more detail on them here.
I’ll be updating this throughout opening weekend, especially as I get more out of a second viewing. But in the meantime, if you’ve spotted something I missed, help us out in the comments or hit me up on Twitter!